Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Motivation Monday (A Day Late)

Happy 2021! Here are some virtual goodies that inspire me and perhaps they’ll do the same for you.


For those of you with new years resolutions to exercise more and/or lose weight, this podcast is for you. Here’s some good advice for those who are feeling a bit worn (like me), injured (like me) or are planning to use age as an excuse to quit (like me).


This woman is my workout idol. She’s a 70 year old powerhouse! And what an amazing transformation. If you want to be inspired, check out her website:

https://www.trainwithjoanofficial.com/


And it’s not too late to join in on 30 days of yoga. For free! This year marks my 5th year doing Yoga with Adriene and it’s a great way to start the new year off gently so you can build up to either more yoga or more vigorous exercise.


This last one is a video that will help you wrap up your feelings about 2020 and clarify your goals for the new year in a thorough and unique way. I can’t wait to try it.

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

My complete lack of fashion sense

Spell & the Gypsy CollectiveI originally posted this rant on my Instagram but I thought I’d add it to the blog as well….so even more people can be put-off by my opinion on this matter.

I was talking with a clothing designer friend yesterday about fashion and found myself rather randomly blurting out how I have to rethink my Instagram feed because basically these two outfits by Spell and the Gypsy Collective are all I see. When Coachella rolled around a million versions of these same outfits were worn and then Instagramed non-stop. Why does this grate my nerves, you ask? Well the outfits featured in the top pictures are two versions of their playsuits and playdresses that sell for $159 and the bottom “dress” is $239. Now why would someone spend that kind of money to not be able to bend over or lift their arms without showing the world their cooch? What a misnomer, there is no playing in these suits or dresses! Even the gal in the photo has to put her hands in her lap just to sit down. The gals at Coachella must have had a blast picking their wedgies, not being able to sit down, not being able to wave their hands in the air to fist pump to the music and certainly there was no bending over going on. Forget about that lipstick you just dropped on the ground, Little Missy, because it’s gone now…that’s just the price of fashion! I must say though, the folks sitting on the lawn as you walked by must of got an enjoyable eye-full. You made some people’s day right there!

The gal on the bottom right is the first and only example out of hundreds that I’ve seen to not give it away for free. Thank you for leaving a little mystery there for us. And although I like these outfits (I really do, when they’re worn with pants) they basically equate to expensive Xanadu-ized versions of ass-showing hospital gowns that you more than likely would look back on with regret for buying and wearing to any event that requires you to move.

I guess what really bothers me about this is how much we pay for so little sometimes. It’s not so much about the gals forgetting to put on their pants in the morning. That’s their choice and I certainly don’t mind voyeuristically benefiting from their decision. But when you pay $239 for literally one yard of fabric, machine embroidered embellishments and fringe (and it’s probably mass-produced in a sweatshop), it just makes me wonder where our minds are at. Now, in Spell’s defence, I really like the look of their clothes and they have a wonderful reputation for quality and service, not to mention that their product line is designed by sisters. I love the idea of keeping it in the family; It warms my heart. However, I couldn’t find anything on their site about where the clothes are actually manufactured and what thought goes into the materials they source. There is one sentence that declares that their products are handmade but that could mean handmade by a sweatshop worker for all I know. Sure, they’re hand-designed by the sisters but what happens after that is anyone’s guess. And this post isn’t really about Spell at all. They deserve great success. They’re just one example of the greater whole and perhaps it’s the demand side of this equation that is even more flawed than the supply side.

Now I strongly believe that when purchasing any garment (especially a trendy dress for $239) that your thought process should go something like this: 1. “Does is look smokin’ hot on me?” 2. “Can I truly afford this without going into debt?” 3. “Do I really need this and will I get my money’s worth?” 4. “Is it well made or will it fall apart after the first wash?” 5. “Where was this garment manufactured and did anyone have to suffer or make unfair wages to produce this?” 5. “Did making this garment contribute to polluting the air, soil and water of some far away country?” These questions should be hard and fast rules but I think people just stop at #1. Instant gratification with out-of-sight-out-of-mind consequences.

The bottom line is that I have talented and underutilized friends–and you probably do too–that could make something similar out of eco-friendly materials, tailor it to your body shape AND add some extra material to the bottom so your cooch doesn’t hang out AND they could probably do it for the same price.  Even better, we can all learn to make, or in the very least repair, our own clothes. Our society treats clothes as disposable when the human and environmental impact is actually way too severe for that sort of ignorance. I say, invest in a few, high quality, handmade pieces that suit your style, fill in the gaps with thrifted items and screw the rest. Don’t get stamped out by a cookie cutter.

Ugh, I clearly need to rethink my Instagram.

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment, Making Crafty Magic

More on Goals & Limiting Beliefs

owlsThis is a continuation of my last post on goal setting. I’d like to take this opportunity to delve further into Hunter Thompson’s idea of the decision between going with the flow by designing a life that accentuates your experiences and natural talents OR swimming against the current by re-inventing yourself in order to achieve a goal that may not reflect who you are now but instead reflects the person you’ll have to become in order to achieve that goal. (I hope this is making sense.) I can see the merits in both paths and it’s safe to say that I’ve sampled both.

Ever since grade school, I’ve focused heavily on cultivating my natural talents. I played guitar, was in various rock bands, took vocal lessons, wrote fantastic short stories and poetry and won awards for my artwork. Even before that though, I loved animals. I was born into this world with an affinity for and a kinship with animals. So in my senior year I was faced with a dilemma. Should I go to school for art, pursue a recording contract with my band or go to school for Veterinary Technology?

The veterinary work posed various exciting challenges. I was an honors student in remedial math, I wasn’t particularly scientific-minded, and blood & guts made me rather squeamish (a few months earlier I had fainted in front of my entire high school class when we took a tour of an embalming room at a local funeral home and when I toured SUNY Delhi I almost fainted when the guide began talking about analyzing blood samples). Basically, I was going to have to re-make my mind in order to succeed. Plus, it was the only career path that I deemed meaningful at the time. Thus, I enrolled at SUNY Delhi, I got over my squeamishness, and worked my butt off to be a Dean’s List scholar. I poured all my time and effort into swimming against the current, so to speak, at the expense of my creativity. My natural talents began to rust and after a while I was completely unable to write, play music or draw. I had sold my soul for a 3.9 GPA.

After college I began to realize my miscalculation. (Let me be very clear, I have no regrets about choosing that path. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It led me to my absolute best friends and for that I will always be indebted to SUNY Delhi.) It didn’t take long to realize that I had accomplished the only part of the goal that I found enticing: mastering those things that I completely sucked at such as math, playing with blood & guts, enjoying science, etc… When it came time to get a job, the only challenge there was for me was not accidentally killing something during my shift. And the meaning that I desired in my career was sadly lacking. Sure, I was helping some but not in the numbers I’d hoped. It all felt like a big, hollow letdown. And for many years I continued on this detrimental spiral of trying to find meaning in challenging myself to excel at the things I completely sucked at.

Flash forward to nearly twenty years later (I can’t believe it’s been that long!), I still can’t pick up my guitar, I write this here blog but not to the level that I once could, and I have only just started to draw again. But let me tell you, revisiting my creative roots by making all of the things I do and devoting my time and effort to it has helped me to find meaning and it honestly doesn’t feel like work. I am not battling against a constant current and I’m not trying to be good at things that I’m frankly just not good at. I wish I had realized this several college degrees ago because it could have saved me a lot of time, energy, stress and money.Octopi & sea turtle

Now that I’m starting to appreciate the benefits of swimming with the current instead of against it, I want to address some of my limiting beliefs that have made my swim more choppy. I know now that my creative block during and after college stemmed from the belief that one side of your brain is always less developed than the other–the whole right brain, left brain concept. To me this meant that if I devote my time to building up that analytical, scientific side of my brain than my creative side must be sacrificed. As you can tell, I no longer feel this way. You can balance both efficiently by partnering with those who are good at the things you aren’t and just accept the fact that you can’t be a rock star at everything.

Another example is with drawing. I’ve been trying to draw for years and have walked away from all projects feeling completely and utterly defeated. As soon as I’d put the pen to paper my own judgemental monkey mind and internal chatter would overwhelm me. Some of the chatter was about not being as good as someone else which is ridiculous when it comes to art because it’s a subjective experience and therein lies it’s beauty. Some of it is asking if “wasting” my time on something like art is actually contributing to any greater good? Some of it is about goals again and my self-imposed limitations, the biggest one being that I could never make a living this way so why bother? Then a few days ago something changed. I was hired by my friend to make some jewelry for her store. Proof right there that I can make money doing something artistic.

For years, I’ve loathed making jewelry because I’ve never felt like it’s an individual expression of who I am. I would cringe whenever parents looked at my jewelry and said to their kids that they could go home and make the same thing. It made me feel embarrassed and ashamed because I knew I could do better. For the longest time I’ve tried to phase it out but in all honesty, it’s my best seller at craft shows so I can’t rightfully kill the cash cow. My vision was always to make jewelry that expressed my love for animals and art. I’ve been wanting to move in this direction for years but couldn’t get past my own judgements long enough to actually finish a single thing. (Okay, that’s not true, I’ve finished one drawing in the past 20 years and that is the Hazardous Materials skull graphic, which I love).

However, with the deadline approaching for the OC Local Mojo store, I knew I had to bite the bullet and either stay the rather unfulfilling course or tap into those talents that I gave up on so long ago. Last week, I purchased some Sharpie markers, grabbed a few sheets of printer paper and the dam immediately broke. No monkey mind. No peep of mental chatter to speak of. I just dove in and made up my mind to go with the flow by fully honoring my gifts. The drawings have been coming easily and effortlessly ever since and I can’t wait to incorporate them into my jewelry…

After having only completed one drawing in the past 20 years, I’d say these aren’t so bad. In fact, I really love them! Mistakes and all! And it’s absolutely strange because I was always a very precise technical drawer who specialized in extremely tight line-work and was never able to let loose despite my best efforts. Needless to say, I have no idea where this scribble style has come from. Perhaps it can best be explained by this TED talk. I can’t wait to see what some time away has done to my song writing!

So maybe this rant seems rather incoherent. I guess this is my way of saying that swimming against the current and drifting with it both can lead to great places but swimming against the current too far, too long will only leave you spent. I only recommend it in small, exciting bursts.

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Goal Setting

Petunia the pit bull.It’s no surprise to those nearest and dearest to me that I’m a huge Hunter Thompson fan. I have no clue as to what prompted me to start reading his work about fifteen years ago but when I did I instantly recognized a kindred spirit. His words were enormously visual, vicious, creative and calculated. He was a dreamer who was disappointed in the world yet too hopelessly romantic to completely give up on it; he had a strong sense of justice and actively sought any opportunity to fight for it; he was sometimes prone to childish tantrums and had a difficult time differentiating between the outlandish figure the public and media expected him to be and the thoughtful man he really was; he possessed a gritty exterior but at his core he was extremely vulnerable. It absolutely irks me when, because of the popularity of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, people write him off as being a talentless writer of drug novels. Obviously, he was sooooo much more to me, but to each his/her own I guess. And although we lost him back in 2005, his writing is still being discovered and shared and for that I am extremely grateful.

This is the moment in my tedious rant where I redirect you to another site and then ask you to return back here for further discussion. No dilly dallying, please! Click here to read Maria Popova’s analysis of a recently discovered and published letter from a 20-year-old Hunter on how to live a meaningful life and find your purpose. I will wait, no worries.

…..do, dee, doo, dee, doo…lah, lah….

Okay, for those who lacked the patience to read the letter, it was basically about our faulty beliefs around goal setting. We are ever evolving beings and are constantly being shaped by our experiences and surroundings. Correct? So why do we do everything in our power to mold ourselves and our lives around extremely specific, finite goals and make ourselves feel like failures when we don’t measure up?  Shouldn’t the goal reflect who we are instead of the other way around? The letter speaks to honoring our talents and experiences shaping us and going with that flow instead of struggling to swim against the current of our lives and who we really are as individuals. It’s about using our unique knowledge and talents instead of forsaking them to do something that we have to break and re-mold ourselves to do. I’ve done this, I’m sure we all have, and it doesn’t always feel so great. Personally, I’ve done it a lot when it comes to my career (or lack-thereof).

Enter Danielle LaPorte from stage right… To go a step further and put this new thinking into practice, Danielle offers a simple shift in the way we view goal setting which is based on how you want to feel, not what specific goal you want to reach. (In case my video embed doesn’t work, here is a link to her video and in the video description you will find her four tips for discovering your core desired feelings.) She suggests thinking about your life in three aspects: body & wellness, relationships & society, and lifestyle & livelihood and then riff on how you want to feel in each of the three categories. Distill your list down to a few core desired feelings that you resonate with the most. Then every day, week, month and year focus on what things you can do to feel that way. My desired feelings took me about one second to come up with: healthy, secure, valuable, love and abundant. Now I just have to ask myself what can I do each day to feel all of these things. It’s a simple shift in thinking but it’s incredibly important because it feeds and honors our heart & soul in the form of our emotional well-being which in turn reflects our physical well-being.

An unfortunate example of goal setting gone awry that I see often is when people base their lives on earning that degree, finding that perfect job, getting married and having kids. Once they hit these milestones they tend to also hit a wall and although they may feel great satisfaction in their lives, they also feel like something is missing. More than likely, they’re missing the drive that propels them forward to the next hurdle or that feeling of having individual purpose that striving for the next tangible goal in life provides. So that simple shift in focusing on how you want to feel could be extremely helpful because there is no specific end game and there’s potential for daily achievement.

I certainly hope you found these two resources inspiring. I happened upon Danielle’s interview this morning and it conveyed Hunter’s sentiment so perfectly that I had to share the love!

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment, Tutorials

Tis the Season for Tincture Time

DSCF3022Okay, I’ve been sitting on these puppies since April and they’re now more than ready. In that span–while the herbs jovially intermingled with the alcohol–they’ve lived in three different homes and seen their fair share of vigorous shakes. They’ve paid their dues and now they’re ready to fulfill their medicinal destiny. Back in April, I procured organic herbs from the bulk section of my local health food store, recycled some food jars, and purchased two bottles of 100-proof alcohol from the liquor store. (For the love of everything holy, do not use rubbing alcohol or anything remotely toxic if ingested! You can use rum, distilled water, vinegar or vegetable glycerin if you don’t want to go the vodka route.) Easily enough, I put the herbs into their own jars and covered them completely with the alcohol. I labeled the jars with the name & date, stored them in a dark, cool location, and shook them as often as I could (like the non-suggestive version of the Shake Weight). The tinctures were ready to be strained and used, ideally, after six months but it took me a little longer to get my act together. (No worries though because we’re talking about 100-proof vodka here–it’s not going to go bad!) The herbs I chose were valerian, horsetail, witch hazel, dandelion leaf, lemon balm, comfrey leaf, raspberry leaf, lavender, St. John’s wort, chamomile, yarrow and rosemary. I chose each herb for very specific reasons HOWEVER, due to the fact that the FDA would be on my ass quicker than I can even blink, I’ll just have to recommend doing your own herbal homework. There’s a plethora of fantastic resources out there but this is my favorite. Now, whenever I get even the slightest notion that I may be coming down with some yucky illness, I can crack open a jar and take a teaspoon 1 to 3 times/day. More than likely, I’ll probably hide it in my smoothie because I’m a total wimp! The tinctures will last for at least two years so I’ll easily get my money’s worth.

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Being genuine in all endeavors

I’m having an unintentional Brené Brown day and I thought I’d share the wealth. As soon as I fired up my computer, YouTube popped up with her latest video and when I checked my Instagram there she was promoting her Gifts of Imperfection art-journaling e-course (the Festivus snail needs to get me this). I seemingly can’t escape her today! That’s not a bad thing though. If you haven’t heard of the wonderful Brené Brown, I’d suggest starting here and then head on over to here. In a nutshell, she’s a social worker, vulnerability researcher, writer and speaker. More than anything though, she’s unapologetically imperfect and endearingly human.

Ironically, I’ve been looking for a good segue into sharing what I had written when I was working on my conflict resolution e-course. Since I didn’t want to make people pay for the course, I figured I would just share my education and experience on the subject on this here blog. But where does one start when it comes to addressing conflict? This is a difficult topic. Well, with me it all starts and ends with being genuine. A good example of this is what I’ve been sort of waking up to lately. I’ve been feeling rather disillusioned by the people and belief systems that I once put on a pedestal. I’ve put them all under a microscope and let me tell you, I realize that I’ve been sold a meaningless bill of goods/bag-o-garbage and little else. For the last few years, I’ve really delved into the self-help genre and am now coming out this advice coma with the certainty that no one can help me but myself. I have all the answers and what I don’t know, life will teach me so I’ll just have to settle for being an attentive student. The most toxic idea I’ve been sold, thus far, is the idea that my perfect life is out there waiting for me and that a few wise and well-paid strangers can show me the way. Yeah…this is total cock and ballz.

Hollywood and sports run a similar ruse. For us crafters, my friend Kathy aptly named it the Etsy Effect. You read on Etsy how these featured artists quit their day jobs and now they’re living the dream. And week after week, feature after gloriously edited feature, you begin to believe in the dream too. They fail to mention how the artists are just scraping by. How they’re completely run ragged and their health is failing because of it. How they think about re-joining the workforce every second of every day. How they never get to see their families and they are on the cusp of divorce. Or how they have a partner who is working their ass off so they can sit home and make stinky candles. None of this is mentioned. It’s all glitz, glamor, and livin’ the supposed high life.

The self-help genre is very much like this too. Take advice from me because I know the secrets to perfection! Look at how fab my life is! Just pay for my book/e-course and you can unlock all of my secrets to living your best life. (Once you’ve paid, they go on to tell you that perfection doesn’t exist and that you really are enough…umm…so what did you just pay for?) Let me tell you, this is all balderdash! And you fall for this because you are tired: tired of being you; tired of being human; tired of being less than what you think you should be; and more than anything, tired of being less than what these people have you convinced you can be. We never feel like we’re enough. We’re always seeking more and wanting what someone else SEEMS to have. But what is this elusive thing that others claim to have yet we can only strive for? What is this “perfection”? Well, it’s subjective isn’t it? It doesn’t really exist as a static concept and honestly, I don’t want to invest my time in something that doesn’t have any tangible meaning. Do you? So let me challenge you to put your idols under that microscope. Are they being themselves? Do they share their faults in equal measure? Do they share with you their bad days or insecurities? Are they willing to be seen as anything less than perfect? Are they willing to show you how their operation is working behind the fairytale curtain? If not, it’s disingenuous.

For me, Brené Brown is a good example of someone who is genuine. In particular, she resonates with me because she’s willing to speak on behalf of her research–despite her extreme discomfort–and in doing so, she let’s you see her insecurities. When you listen to her, you realize that this person is just like the rest of us. She makes jokes at her own expense, she gets emotional, she shares embarrassing personal stories, etc… She’s a regular human being and yet she’s putting herself out there because her message is too important to not share. She rises above her own doubts and fears out of a genuine desire to help. Basically, she’s fully embraced her subject of inquiry–vulnerability–and she advocates on behalf of it.

2013-08-17 21.45.37Soapbox alert! I truly wish more researchers would follow her lead because not too many people become passionate about science from hearing someone spout off a bunch of numbers and point at graphs. Come on, we just lost Nelson Mandela for goodness sakes! Our heroes are now gone and we’re in desperate need of a few passionate people to step up and take the lead on the seemingly insurmountable environmental, social, economic and political injustices happening today. Science, in some form or another, has at least a partial solution to all of these problems and scientists can be at the forefront of these movements for change, yet no one is stepping forward because we’ve been taught to be unbiased, objective robots who are slaves to the scientific method. But that’s not who we are; it’s not human nature; and luckily people like Brené Brown didn’t get the memo. And before you quantitative researches out there start rolling your eyes and telling me it’s not the same because she’s a “soft scientist” (aka a qualitative researcher) let me just inform you that that excuse is just one of convenience and laziness. Sorry.

So, yes, being genuine is the perfect place for me to start. When you’re not being yourself, your ability to communicate suffers. People are perceptive, intuitive creatures. They’ll catch on and realize that perhaps they shouldn’t trust you. You have to keep in mind that people desperately want connection, respect, and trust. If you disconnect with yourself, you disconnect with others. Communication and conflict resolution is about striving to meet others half way. When you disconnect, you’re not meeting anyone anywhere because you basically haven’t even shown up. For better or worse, you’re basically telling the world that you have no respect for it. Equally important is the idea that if you’re finding faults within yourself, you’re probably finding faults in others. It’s not your job to find fault in anything. No one died and made you the judge and jury. You have to let go of this false sense of control and incessant striving by realizing that you’re imperfect, we’re all imperfect, and that’s as good as it’s ever going to get. Accept it, be done with it, and just let it go.

2013-08-17 21.45.33This is crazy but this is actually what I do: Visualize being stranded in choppy seas, ala Titanic without the freezing water. Before your boat sank, you spent hours packing each and every dark secret, insecurity, bad mistake, unpleasant memory, mean boyfriend, etc… into a suitcase and you have a choice of either holding on to it and having it potentially drag you under the water when the next wave hits OR letting go of the handle and watching it drift off to sea leaving you free to swim to shore. This is how I visualize all my baggage–the stuff I can’t do a darn thing about–and it’s actually helped me to let go of it. I find solace in making the choice to let it go and watching it slowly drift away. It is a choice after all, and one that you have control of.

Being yourself, is perhaps the most difficult, time-consuming task in the entire conflict resolution course and that’s why I wanted to address it first. Before you can figure out the motivations of others and fully embrace the diverse characters this world has wandering around, you have to take a compassionate, forgiving, and accepting look inward. This is not about fostering a self-love that promotes feelings of entitlement or feelings of being better than anyone else. And it’s certainly not about becoming so self-obsessed that you cut yourself off from the rest of the world. Many of the answers you’re looking for are not inside you, they’re in shared life experiences. It’s about nurturing a love of being a quirky human being and taking comfort and finding strength in the knowledge that you aren’t alone in any of it. You’re unique little quirks and incongruities are truly the endearing ties that bind. They make people laugh. People may puzzle over why you are the way you are, like it’s some huge mystery. They may find a kindred spirit in you and now they don’t feel so darn alone anymore. These so-called weaknesses are actually individual strengths that can be used to bring out the best in others. They can make you more approachable, put people at ease, or in the very least help to create common ground.

Take comfort in knowing that if you’re criticized for being you, it’s only because of the insecurities and jealousies of others. Each individual has walked a very different path and with very different tools. You are capable of rising above the petty judgements and acting–instead of reacting–with compassion. Then you’ll realize that you are so much more than enough. You are genuinely, perfectly, imperfect and the world needs all of you in it. Being your most genuine self is sometimes uncomfortable but the benefits outweigh the risks. Word!

Farm Life, Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Tips for Surviving Turkey Lurkey Day

Happy turkey lurkey day! Today, I’m missing my family. For several years, my mother, brother, and I spent our Thanksgivings feeding pumpkin pies to rescued turkeys and enjoying a vegan potluck at Farm Sanctuary. These days, things aren’t as simple and it’s harder to get together but there’s always next year, right? …Maybe? However, all is certainly not lost! Tuna and I will be sharing an entire sheet pizza and watching the complete season 3 of Haven. It’s my absolute fave and I never get to watch it.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have a very small family and we’re all basically the best of friends. However, I know many of you have to deal with the exact opposite: a large family with some unpleasant characters. Because of this, you may be absolutely dreading your meal today and the holiday get-togethers to come. Well, that’s just plain sad. Let me offer you a few words of advice to get you through unscathed.

Sweet Pea Turkey Lurkey
Two friends critiquing my hair-do.

1. Be a realist: You’re relatives are never going to change so don’t go into this hoping that your words or actions will somehow turn them into someone who all of a sudden isn’t a jerk face. Like it or not, you’re going to have to meet them where they’re at and completely accept them for the jerk faces they are. In short, don’t expect a holiday miracle.

2.  Manage your expectations: A holiday get-together is no time to push for some kind of Oprah moment. Don’t go there hoping to confront your relative and then expect it to end in a group hug at the dinner table. There’s a time and place for confrontations and this isn’t one of them. Seriously, don’t invest your energy in trying to make that elusive holiday miracle happen. You have a better chance of being disowned.

3. Always take the high road: If you are unfortunate enough to have that passive aggressive relative who loves to pepper every conversation with remarks about your shortcomings, it’s perfectly okay to tell the person that their comment was hurtful and rude and just leave it at that. Since you just verbally checked their behavior in front of others, they will no doubt feel embarrassed and will strive to sink you down to their level by goading you into saying more or getting angry. Do not fall for this trick. Gracefully make the verbal check and swiftly move the conversation on before they have a chance to say anything else. Congratulations, you’ve maintained your dignity, stuck up for yourself, and just joined the ranks of Gandhi and King on the high road. You may have to do this several times but eventually that person will realize that if they want to make rude remarks, they will be embarrassed.

4. Avoid conflict: This goes without saying but please avoid all topics that could even remotely lead to an argument. If you are by nature a pot-stirrer, you’re probably thinking about your freedom of speech and how you should be allowed to bring up any subject you darn well please and how everyone is dying to hear your views on Obamacare and the state of the world today. However, please remember that the holidays are not all about you. Let me issue this challenge: avoid anything even remotely having to do with politics, depressing news, the state of the world, gossip, personal judgements, or anything resembling a criticism. This obviously includes the topics of conversation but also consider your TV channel/movie selection and the newspapers or magazines you may have lying around. These are all fodder for a potential conversation gone wrong. If you’re a pot-stirrer, a critical thinker, or are not one to easily reign in your opinion, let’s try either just being quiet and thoughtful (if this requires biting your tongue and sitting on your hands than please do so), asking others about how they’re doing, and/or focusing on something positive happening in your life or the world today. Yup, completely flip the switch for the greater good and comfort level of those around you. Be vigilant of the notion that the holidays are a festive occasion where we come together to feel better, not to walk away feeling worse.

Ling Ling Turkey Lurkey
Ling Ling and a feathered friend, both looking dapper.

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Revisiting my youthful side

2013-02-22 12.48.22Okay, this is long and I’m sorry…

I’d have to say that these last few months have been some of the hardest, best, and most eye-opening yet. It seems like ever since I returned from Yellowstone, life has been giving me fairly steady groin kicks with some face punches thrown in there for good measure. However, I’m no stranger to such circumstances and find that I can move through them with relative ease. It just takes time and perseverance. One thing that I’ve been grappling with lately is being single at 37. Not a huge deal but it can wear thin at times, especially in Fall. Fall is a lonely time if you don’t have anyone to carve pumpkins, get lost in corn mazes and go on hay rides with. Luckily, I have Petunia to keep me company and she’s the best company a gal could ask for, don’t get me wrong. It just seems like this past month or so I’ve been getting an increasing number of pesky (and sometimes rude) questions like “So you don’t have a boyfriend? What’s wrong with you?”, “Don’t you think you’d like to settle down and start a family?”, “Your biological clock is about to run out, what are you waiting for?” I don’t feel like I have much control over any of these issues so I’m not sure why people ask. I will say though, that for the past three or four years I’ve been purposely single because I wanted to focus more on myself. However, these last few months the concept of dating has grown on me and I feel like maybe it’s time. I finally feel like I’d be an excellent, caring, and compassionate partner who has a lot of offer. I didn’t always feel that way though. I needed those years alone to really gain that perspective. I’m from the you have to love yourself before you can love someone else camp.

These days, I’ve found that dipping my toe into the dating waters has become more complicated than I’d once remembered. Someone recently told me that I have to remain “open” and “not so closed” and then the “perfect” person will miraculously come into my life. What the heck does that closed/open crap even mean? I’m open. I’m friendly. I’m outgoing. I just told the world that I’m cool with dating. How much more open can I be? Plus, I’m not out to meet someone “perfect.” And I’m not from the you have to wait for something miraculous to happen camp. I’m more from the make it happen camp. (Lot’s of camping going on here, sorry!)

So a few months went by with nothing exciting to speak of. I tried going out to bars and events. Nothing. Flatline. I just felt disinterested in every possibility. Something wasn’t sparking. Am I dead inside? Have I lost the ability to deeply connect with another person? Perhaps, I was too intertwined with one of my closest friends and maybe I fell for him on accident? Maybe I’ve cohabitated with Petunia too long and I’ve turned myself into a dog? Truthfully, all of this began to freak me out. I began to wonder if I was closed off in a way that I was unaware of but which was blatantly obvious to the general populace. Maybe people can smell it on me–like pheromones that scream EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE! Needless to say, for the past month or so, I thought there was something wrong on my end. I even went as far as re-labeling my several year dating hiatus from being an introspective journey to being a cowardly attempt at not wanting to be disappointed again.

Then it all hit me. Last Saturday, I received the perspective I so badly needed. It came in the form of an adorable, much younger, fella I met at the farmers market. We’ve been best buds for the past few months and as I sat there (on his lap, sharing his food) I realized that this adoration and affection is what I’ve missed. This is the connection I’m looking for. It’s like being a kid again–before you had to deal with all the baggage that you and others bring to the table. This is like being at a table with no baggage, just shared food and only one chair between the two of you. No fears of being hurt. No fears about showing someone you care. No one is embarrassed to tell the world that they’re with you. Heck, they’re proud. That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for in another person. I need someone who isn’t afraid to love me–goofy quirks and all–and who isn’t afraid to show affection. Sadly, there’s a catch 22 to all of this (one of my favorite books, by the way). This albeit temporary, yet eye-opening, little crush made me realize that most people my age are completely afraid to love (I’ll exclude married folks in this generalization because clearly there’s at least some lovin’ happening there). And I can’t blame them. By the time you’ve hit 37, you’ve taken some pretty hard knocks. You’ve been emotionally crippled at least once.  You’ve earned your wounds and display them proudly like a badge of honor. Heck, they probably give you much-needed comfort and serve as a constant reminder that you will never let yourself be hurt again.

So to quote the great band Heart, “What about love?” You’ve been there. Done that. You’ll never “open yourself up” to making the same mistakes again. But I think my girl, Brene Brown, indicated something to the effect of (and I so clearly paraphrase): you can’t have love and happiness if you’re not open to all of the other not-so-awesome things that may come with it. (See this “open” and “closed” concept coming around to bite me?) I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve spent the last several years working through and ditching my baggage. I’ve said this before, but I feel completely baggage free (apart from being perturbed by our inability to open and honestly communicate with one another). I’ve learned my lessons but they don’t own me. And they certainly don’t govern how I treat someone else. I won’t measure someone with same yardstick as someone who has hurt me in the past. Everyone deserves a clean slate. And everyone deserves to enjoy that giddy little school girl/boy that you once were. The one that was completely unafraid of all the bad things that may never happen. But sadly, I look around and I don’t see the same in others. Instead, people are guarded and some even overcompensate by being almost predatory. We’re too afraid of everything and everyone now. Perhaps that’s why I’m finding it hard to connect with people my age. And perhaps that’s why I was able to connect with someone who is younger, unguarded and unafraid.

So am I saying that I’ve embraced my inner cougar? Not necessarily. (Although I do see a pattern developing.) All I’m asking is that we take a moment to ask ourselves if the shit we hold on to is really doing us any good? Are we afraid to be unafraid out of fear? (Like that sentence? I think I just committed so many grammatical errors that it’s mind-blowing!) Are we holding ourselves back from connecting? And if so, don’t you think it’s time to work on that? Do you want to realize what you’ve missed out on when it’s too late?

Look, I’m not going to end up with that young fella and that’s not the point. I won’t see him for the next few months, if ever. Plus, he has other lovelier and younger ladies to occupy his time. That doesn’t change the fact that his unconditional affection was a gift. He gave me mutual adoration during the most romantic season of the year. And for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t so lonely. It’s not about sex. It’s about showing someone that they’re not alone in this sometimes isolating world. It’s about letting someone know that they’re cared for, unconditionally. This is a feeling and a gift we can all give to others if we only allowed our ourselves to do so.

I know that you’re thinking that this tirade is extremely long. Well friends, it’s going to get a smidge longer because I want to say that I love Kris Carr. Just putting that out there. And for those who are uncomfortable with the idea of love and affection and are in desperate need of some baby steps, here is her blog post on How to Show Your Love. Now you have no excuse!

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Building more than I burn

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh October, I’m not even through my first day of you and already you have me grabbing my ankles! I’m already at an emotional disadvantage because I told my better half that I needed October off to get my head on straight and now I find myself laid up with a sinus infection from hell AND my job has been further downsized to only one day a week. What the heck is happening here? How am I supposed to get through this seemingly never-ending downward spiral? Well, like the cockroach I am, I know deep down inside that I’ll be the last one standing. I’m stubbornly tenacious like that. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARight now–instead of completely panicking–I’m trying to take the zen approach to these recent setbacks. The reality is that I need to build more bridges and burn less of them. I need to expand Sweet Pea’s Groceries, sew more Hazardous Materials, create more jewelry, and really put my shit out there. I think there’s been this internal assumption that no one wants what I offer. Crazy but true. I didn’t even realize it until last week when I meekly contacted a store owner to ask if she was interested in carrying my products and she was like of course I want your stuff, duh! This was a revelation for me. People want my stuff. Who would have thought?! Why aren’t I giving the people what they want? What’s my problem? This could be my full-time job if I only built the proper bridges. Uh Duh! (Is this what Oprah calls a lightbulb moment?) So October, that’s what you’re going to be about. I’m reaching out, not shrinking back. I’m silencing my mother’s voice which is on an ingrained continuous loop in my subconscious mind. Thirty-seven years of teaching me that failure is something to be feared. Thirty-seven years of teaching me that it’s better to never have tried than to have tried and failed. I can’t do it anymore. (And no, this is nothing against my mother in any way. I’m grateful that I have her. We all have fears and she’s certainly not the only person to have projected them onto his/her kids as a means of protecting them.) Oh October, you’re either going to be good for me or the death of me and I’m not giving up until I know for sure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also want to take the chance to express my gratitude for the bridges that are continuously being built by others that lead directly to me. I’m so lucky to meet people through this blog, my websites, through Etsy, and at tabling events who completely take my breath away. A perfect example is Lisa. She contacted me a few weeks ago through my Etsy shop because she wanted to learn more about my natural laundry soap. Come to find out, Lisa’s a single mother with end stage liver disease. I was completely blown away by her honesty, humor, and determination. Well, we’ve been trading information on insomnia cures, health insurance and soap making ever since. Let me tell you, she has the most amazing sense of humor. Her emails leave me rolling! She recently published her own website–www.checkinguout.wordpress.com–where she writes product reviews. Hopefully, she will write more about herself in the future because she’s such an inspiration. Knowing her, even briefly, has definitely helped put my life in perspective. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe above photos were taken of and from the Wurts bridge which extends over the Roundout Creek in Kingston. I absolutely love this bridge. Petunia and I try to walk it several times a week. Ironically, I read a passage from Anne Rice’s The Tale of the Body Thief last night that captures my sentiment (and it’s about New Orleans so it’s doubly apt):

It was an empty field close to the wharves, stretching beneath the giant pylons of the freeways which led to the high twin river bridges which I have always called, since the first moment I beheld them, the Dixie Gates. I must confess these bridges have been given some other, less charming name by the official world. But I pay very little attention to the official world. To me these bridges will alway be the Dixie Gates, and I never wait too long after returning home before I go to walk near them and admire them, with all their thousands of tiny twinkling lights. Understand they are not fine aesthetic creations such as the Brooklyn Bridge….They do not have the solemn grandeur of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. But they are bridges, nevertheless, and all bridges are beautiful and thought-provoking; and when they are fully illuminated as these bridges are, their many ribs and girders take on a grand mystique.

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Trust

The famous singer/pianist Tori Amos sang in one of her songs, “…the sexiest thing is trust” and I’m certainly not one to question her authority. The sexiest thing is most definitely trust. Trust that someone will put your best interests on the same level as theirs, never purposely hurt you, never keep things from you, and have your back during even the most trying times. Yup, that is definitely sexy, no doubt about that. But trust can also be a slippery little bugger that adamantly refuses to be half-assed. You can’t trust something or someone a little bit or partially. No, it’s an all or nothing deal. At some point in life, there may come a time when you rudely awaken to the harsh, un-sexy reality that your relationship completely lacks it. It’s presence may have been assumed but never confirmed; its existence was never agreed upon by both parties; or maybe the other party has been burned by trust one too many times and now has no respect for it. Any way you slice it, when trust abruptly leaves, it can and will shake you to your core. This moment feels akin to non-stop groin kicks; however, the absolute worst part is realizing that you can no longer trust yourself. Your once sound decision-making skills have all but left you. In order to move on, you’re forced to wade through the rubble of several demolished relationships: the one between you and the other party, perhaps the one between you and the other party’s entire gender, and certainly the one between you and yourself. You desperately turn over each piece of evidence searching for the foundation of what went wrong. Eventually, you realize that it was your own judgment that led you so far astray. You’ve finally located the seismic epicenter where all the aftershocks of self-doubt and questioning have been rippling from. There were so many ignored signs that you refused to see which are now all too obvious in hindsight. You’re shocked to realize that your judgment stealthily high tailed it out of there even before trust showed up to the party. Once you move past the existential blame, you look inward and YOU are called into question. All of your senses involved with making a good decision are highly suspect at this juncture.

Now that you’re reminiscent of nothing more than an emotional heap, you have to face a critical crossroads and what you do with this lack of self-trust can be the determining factor in your road ahead. You can choose to go the victim route by wallowing in past unpleasantries and fashioning a nice little crutch from regret, blame, and entitlement. You’ll more than likely pursue the affections of emotionally unavailable people in order to validate your self-worth–trusting that their affections will be enough to heal the rift between you and your commonsense. And then, when the same cycle is repeated, you’ll spend the bulk of your time wondering why you weren’t good enough for someone else. So before this ends up being you, please eject yourself from the ever spinning tilt-a-whirl, pixie dust yourself off, lift your chin up, and proceed in an upright zig-zag away from this s&m ride.

Take a breather and work on re-establishing the trust that matters most–your own–knowing full well that the validation you’re seeking cannot be found externally. Do not entertain regrets but instead see past mistakes as sometimes ugly but necessary learning experiences. Realize that all actions are informed by our extremely individualized past histories so don’t judge your worth by using someone else’s yardstick. Stay true to your own history and the inherent value of it. There are lessons in there that you need to learn, grow from and overcome. This rich history of follies and foibles is the foundation of your judgment. Remember to use it by choosing to forgive yourself and others. No one is truly perfect. We’re all a little messed up in our own way and sometimes our ways simply don’t jive with those of others. Leave them unharmed and gravitate towards those who challenge you to be a more joyous and giving person. Accept the wrong that’s been done to you and move on, vowing to be a better listener and follower of your inner voice the next time around. For judgment and self-trust are both fleeting things if not firmly gripped; however, they will never cut and run again if you maintain this intention of being your own best advocate. Remember that trusting someone else is a leap of faith but trusting yourself first is the only way to provide a solid platform to make that leap. More than anything, keep your chin up and never give up on yourself and others. You will be pleasantly surprised!