Good News Day 2: A Kentucky Domestic Violence Shelter Helps Women Grow Food—and Confidence


IMG_4472 cropI can attest to the healing power of nature. Sometimes just a simple walk outside can make a huge difference in my mood and outlook on life. I also have a close friend who has experienced positive mental and physical health benefits from cultivating her own little farm. This article is wonderful news! ~Tricia

 


 

Many survivors of domestic violence have had their attempts at work and creativity sabotaged for years. On these 40 acres of rolling farmland, they’re being restored.

A version of this article originally appeared at edgeofchangeroadtrip.org.

As mist hovers over the rolling fields of Kentucky and the sun is still low in the sky, the women of Greenhouse 17 emerge from the house they share, clippers in hand. They spread out over a field and cut bouquets of fresh flowers.

The small farm and business on a 40-acre site outside Lexington, Kentucky, provides the women with both shelter and employment, giving them a chance to gain skills, confidence, and a renewed sense of self-worth…

Read the rest of this article at YesMagazine.org

Vernal Equinox: Time to Grow Something New


vernal

“If you want to succeed, you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” ~ John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

I like to think that many of us spend the winter like some of our mammal counterparts, hibernating in our snug homes awaiting spring. It’s been a particularly harsh winter in much of the US this year. Our versions of “hibernating” probably included a lot of time shoveling snow or just trying to make it to work.

However you hibernated, there’s a good chance that you’ve been putting off something that’s important to you, or something new that you’ve been meaning to do. It can be far too easy to stay in that hibernatey rut and keep up the routine of kind of slogging through our days that we fell into over the winter.

If the sun isn’t shining where you are, find hope in the fact that that it’s still up there, (and maybe even eclipsing, depending on where you are!), and the the days of darkness are behind us for a while. This is a great time to stop and reassess where you are and where you want to go. Are you still traveling on the same old familiar road, wondering why it never takes you anywhere new?

Shake off the snow and cold today, or whatever form your winter blahs take,  and make today the day you revisit your goals, start yourself on a new path, or get to work on that spring project you’ve been hibernating on all winter!

Look in Your Mirror


Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.  ~Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ, c.1420

IMG_0925One of the things that always makes me laugh/cry/shake my head/shake my fist/make plans to leave the planet is people who angrily, and all too often violently, berate, belittle, and judge others for their life decisions when they CLEARLY have not got their own shit together.  Forget just the simple idea of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. How about checking what’s stuck on the bottom of your own?

Angry fist shaking aside, you even need to be cruel or self-righteous to find yourself making judgments on how people live their lives. Even the most kind hearted of us are prone to occasionally making uniformed judgments of people, or trying hard to change someone we are certain needs our help.

If there is something about someone in your life you are desperately trying to change, stop and ask yourself if perhaps they are where they are because that is simply where their path has led them at this point in their life. Then, take a moment and ask yourself if something about that person’s situation resonates with you because of something you need to change about yourself.

We find it significantly easier to poke and prod at someone else, and sigh because they aren’t making the changes you expect them to make, than to poke and sigh at ourselves for not making the changes we’d like to make. The problem with that is, the result is usually a worn out and disillusioned you.

So, if you’re feeling irritated with the Picture 240people around you, or trying to make them behave differently, take some time to ask yourself if what is bothering you is really how it reflects something about yourself that you need to work on. It doesn’t have to be an exact mirror, but maybe something similar, a certain impatience, anger or intolerance in some situations that you see reflected back at you.

To quote Michael Jackson:

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror,
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself And Then Make The Change

Red heart

The Politics of Compromise


I don’t proclaim to know very much about politics.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand how a bill becomes a law (Thanks to School House Rock!) and understand the branches of government and checks and balances and all that. What I am not, however, is a politician.

I have my opinions and beliefs, like everyone else, but I am not good at debating them. I have friends with polar opposite beliefs from me, and I tried very, very hard this campaign season to avoid most of the political topics for that reason. I guess because at heart I’m a pacifist and don’t want to start fights or hurt feelings. Probably also because I am empathic and my sensitivity to emotions makes me avoid fights, arguments, disagreements at all costs.

I believe that part of what makes America great is that we are all entitled to our opinions and are allowed to voice them without fear of death (for the most part). I think that what I am missing, and maybe what the country is missing, is the ability to calmly discuss these differences of opinion. Maybe you enjoy a good political rant, or get your jollies from a heated argument about policies, but it stresses me out.

Maybe because over the years I have naturally gravitated towards the desire to neutralize volatile situations, as I work with people I try to put a neutral balance to situations. It seems to me that politics could benefit from this mindset. It would be nice if we could drop the incendiary rhetoric and consider a more rational discussion.

Our country has clawed out way out of much worse situations in the last 236 years. There have been much harsher differences of opinion over the decades, as we built our country and rebuilt our country, fought for our freedom and fought for civil rights. Through all of it, it was when the leaders of our country worked together, listened to each other, and yes, argued, but found compromise, that great things were accomplished. When they paid attention the basic foundation set forth by the Declaration of Independence and the most basic ideals the country was built on, that was when we grew, and changed, and became stronger.

Change comes slowly, but it cannot be stopped. Countries older than the US remain stagnated in old traditions, creating far worse civil unrest and violence than we have seen here in our short history. It is not one person’s responsibility to make things better or worse, that responsibility belongs to all of us. That is what separates us from so much of the rest of the world.

My wish, as we sweep up the mess left behind from the political campaigns, finish celebrating, finish licking our wounds, is that perhaps politics can become less of a matter of “Your side is wrong, my side is right.” and more “How can we work together to make things right?”. Change is not going to come if all each party manages to accomplish is to successfully block what the other party is doing.

We the people have the power to take the first rational steps.

Oh the Ruts We Dig


Meadow PathMost human beings are creatures of habit. We get up at the same time every day, have our coffee, got to work, come home, do dinner, housework, evening entertainment, bedtime, do it again the next day… Okay, so maybe I’m oversimplifying just a bit, but you get the idea!

I have written about change before in this blog and I’ll probably end up on the same soap box, but maybe they’re things we all need to hear more than once, anyway. The source of most of our ruts in life is usually something like an aversion to, or fear of, change. Most of us really long for change, but we keep on doing the same old thing and then wonder why nothing new happens.

The Easy Rut

Icy PathChange can seem complicated. For example; we know that maybe our diet is not the greatest, but it so much easier to buy the same groceries and plan the same microwaveable menu each week, or make the same run to McDonald’s for lunch every day. Eating better means we have to maybe do a little research into new things to cook and better ingredients to buy. And who has time for THAT? I have Facebook games to maintain!

Try something new that seems like it would be a little difficult or inconvenient. Just for fun! Find an interesting recipe that involves extra ingredients and chopping up of assorted veggies. Make yourself something fun to take to lunch tomorrow instead of running out for fast food.

The Comfort Rut

IMG_9805We all have our comfort zones. They might also fall into sort of a sense of security rut. Someone might work every day in a job that doesn’t suit them or challenge them, but at least it’s safe, right? At least I get a paycheck every week? I am comfortable here in my cube. Going out and finding something new and different means leaving my comfort zone, having to learn a new job, meet new people. Scary!

Okay so you don’t have to run out and find a new job tomorrow, but you can expand your network a little. Find a group or a class that involves a special interest or something you have always wanted to do. Could be photography or painting or maybe even just a short class on negotiating skills or a sales technique you’ve always wanted to try. It gets you out there to meet new people and starts to expand your comfort zone a little bit.

The Relationship Rut

Sunny PathThis probably also falls into the comfort zone rut, but how many people do you know that are desperately clinging to bad relationship? It doesn’t even have to be a marriage or a romantic relationship. I for one have been guilty of desperately clinging to friendships that were obviously broken and doing me no good mentally or emotionally. We wonder what we will do without that person in our lives, even if it’s the regular rut of being constantly hurt by them.

Take stock of your relationships. Nurture the ones that are good for you and step back from the ones that hurt you. No one person should have control over your sense of well-being or emotional health.

The Creativity Rut

This is also known as writer’s block or artist’s block. We don’t have a good idea for new art or the next great novel. So we hunker down inside our self-defeat and say well, if I can’t paint something GREAT, then I’m not going to paint at all! Or if I can’t finish this seven hundred page novel, then forget it, I’m not writing anything else! So there!

Forest PathThe desire to become the next Andy Warhol or James Patterson can be overwhelming. Don’t hold yourself to an ideal perfection. As one writing instructor I heard about put it, just “throw up” on the paper. Make bad art just because you can. Heck TRY to make bad art, it’s fun! Writer Ann Lamott says “write a shitty first draft”. Your first writing doesn’t have to be pretty, that alone is enough to stop most people in their tracks. That’s what editing and second, third or fourth drafts are for! Write something every day even if it’s just one big long whining rant about your boss and your kids and how the cat threw up in your shoe. Do it!

The Work Rut

Workaholics, we all know one, or maybe ARE one. Work becomes such an easy excuse for avoiding change, growth, and even creativity. We say I’m too tired and busy to go find something new and fun to do this weekend. We take on more work and responsibility and think of it as growth and improvement. But what are we leaving behind?

I’ll use myself as example here. I work from home. I worry about allowing myself to “slack” and not get work done, because that of course means I don’t get paid. Over the holidays business got REALLY slow and so of course when it picked up again I worked like a madwoman to make up for lost time. I had also taken on writing work as well as the work I do in the virtual art community. I wondered after a while why I felt like CRAP.

Woodland PathOh hey, it’s because I’ve been in a work rut so deep I couldn’t see out of it! The nice weather recently really brought that message home to me, when I forced myself into going outside for an afternoon. Oh wow! I almost immediately felt better! It’s nice here outside this rut! The sun is shining, the birds are singing!

It’s the difference between the quantity of the hours worked and the quality. I had gotten so that I was tired and cranky and didn’t want to sit at my desk all day, I’d wander off and do laundry or wash dishes and then come back and stare blankly at my screen for a while. Four hours of work would fill eight hours of the day, so then I would end up working twelve hours to compensate. Once I actually remembered to just give myself breaks, go out and run errands or for a hike to get out of the house, read a book in the evening, the hours that I spent working became less tedious and more productive.

Change Your Course

I’m sure that there are more ruts I haven’t even thought of today, so think about your own ruts in life. You know what they are, and ultimately you are the only one that can get yourself out of them. Write them down and think about what you can do, just one little shift that will get you up and out of that rut and onto a fresher, brighter track. You might be surprised where this new road will lead you!

You Are What You Think


I was in the grocery store the other day, I have started going very early since I’m not overly patient with crowds and the inevitable dodging of carts and fellow shoppers and people stumbling around in some sort of shopping coma. Not particularly enlightened of me, I know. Given the right frame of mind, I can navigate crowds pretty well, but I digress. That’s a subject for another post.

I was not so early shopping that other people didn’t have the same idea. I was in one aisle with another woman and her cart. She attempted to move out of my way, but ended up putting her cart right in front of the section of shelf I was headed for. Being in a fairly congenial mood towards my fellow early shoppers, I apologized to her and said I just needed to get that thing right there. She pulled her cart out of the way, also apologizing, which I thought was nice. But as she pushed her cart away, she said something which struck me, “I’m always in the way, it’s what I’m good at.”

Now, said in one way, you might think she was just laughing it off people sometimes do, a bit of self depreciating humor. But she sounded so resigned to this fact, it was almost heartbreaking.

I recall one of my favorite movies, a 2004 film called What the Bleep Do We Know!?It can be a truly life changing film if you take the time to think about its message. And maybe, as I think back to it now, remind yourself periodically of its message.

What the Bleep Do We Know!? mixes metaphysics, quantum physics, self discovery and a little bit of magic to show us a different way of looking at the world around us, and more importantly, ourselves. From the website synopsis;

“It is part documentary, part story, and part elaborate and inspiring visual effects and animations. The protagonist, Amanda, played by Marlee Matlin, finds herself in a fantastic Alice in Wonderland experience when her daily, uninspired life literally begins to unravel, revealing the uncertain world of the quantum field hidden behind what we consider to be our normal, waking reality.”

Woven throughout the storyline, top scientists and mystics offer commentary and discussion. “They are also there to introduce the Great Questions framed by both science and religion, which divides the film into a series of acts. Through the course of the film, the distinction between science and religion becomes increasingly blurred, since we realize that, in essence, both science and religion describe the same phenomena.”

While I’ve slightly digressed again from the point of this blog, the movie itself is a helpful tool to understand what I am sharing, which is mainly the power of words. Particularly the effect your words have on yourself. How often has the woman at the grocery store said “I’m always in the way.”? Think about saying that about yourself with such resignation frequently, maybe even daily. What effect do you think that would have on you, on your psyche? How long before you truly feel that maybe you are useful for nothing except being in the way?

Another reason I brought up the movie is because of a specific aspect of it. Part way through the movie, the protagonist comes across an exhibit of some of the work done by Masaru Emoto, whose work includes studying changes in the shape of ice crystals in water exposed to various stimuli. Using purified water, he first studied the effects of music on the formation of ice crystals and found that “All the classical music that we exposed the water to resulted in well-formed crystals with distinct characteristics. In contrast, the water exposed to violent heavy metal music resulted in fragmented and malformed crystals at best.”

Next, they wondered what would happen if they wrote words on paper and wrapped the paper around the bottle with the word facing in. Although it didn’t seem logical that the water would ‘read’ the word, the music experiments had led them to realize strange things could happen. They wrote “Thank You” and “Fool” on two separate samples, and the results did not disappoint. “Water exposed to “Thank you” formed beautiful hexagonal crystals but water exposed to the word “Fool” produced crystals similar to the water exposed to heavy-metal music, malformed and fragmented.” A nice synopsis of the study can be found here.

We could hang ourselves up on the science, argue that water can’t read words, wonder at what other forces could contribute to the changes Mr. Emoto found in the water crystals. But maybe it is simply intent. Thoughts. Energy. As the movie’s protagonist examines the photos of ice crystals in the exhibit, a stranger in the crowd turns to her and says, “Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? If thoughts can do that to water, imagine what our thoughts can do to us.” (See the scene on YouTube)

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

It is hard, I know first hand, not to let your thoughts become the weights that drag you down. Even if you are tired, does repeated thinking, or saying “I am so tired” help you in any way? Or does it simply contribute to the energy of tiredness around you, magnify and intensify, perpetuate the tired feeling. Maybe you feel silly saying out loud “I am energetic!” But perhaps something like that, redirecting your thoughts, focusing on something other than being tired, takes away the amount of energy you put into thinking about being tired, dwelling on it, and making it real. If you are always waiting for the next bad thing to happen, it probably will. Think instead about the positive things you hope to accomplish in your life. Redirect your thoughts to those things.

I choose love, joy and freedom, open my heart and allow wonderful things to flow into my life.

A significant proportion of the human body is water. While you’re not likely to freeze yourself solid and examine your ice crystals, you can imagine what they might look like if you did. What would your water crystals look like if you were constantly telling yourself that you are fat, lazy, useless… or always in the way? Imagine the toxic state we put ourselves in by not having kind words for ourselves.

It applies to our physical being, it applies to our life situations. If we think all the time how tight money is, how perilously close to broke we are, how we’re always struggling to make ends meet, are we perpetuating that situation by constantly feeding energy to it? If we can change our focus to positive thoughts regarding our finances, can we change our fortunes?

All the things I want and need come to me.

Years ago, we learned a little positive affirmation trick for money.

Thank you, God, for a miracle involving money today.

Repeat that to yourself. Then, when money comes to you, even if it’s just loose change in the couch cushions, repeat your thank you for a miracle involving money today. It works!

If you find yourself in this rut of negative thoughts and feelings, stop for a moment. Stop the words. Find something nice to say about yourself, or choose a positive affirmation to repeat to yourself and change your thought pattern.

I am beautiful, positive, happy and thankful that all good things flow to me.

If you are struggling and down on yourself, ask someone who loves you to give you positive things about yourself. Think about the positive things in your life, think about your ideal self and voice it out loud. You are a beautiful person, you are a miracle, it is time you treated yourself like one…

One Step Backward


Sometimes I feel a bit like a salmon. Pushing my way upstream against all odds, getting battered and bruised, feeling exhausted and wondering when I will get to where I am going. I think that I feel as though I have to stay the course no matter how strong the current is. I get washed back downstream again and again. It takes weeks, months, even years to get back to where I was.

A little common sense may make you realize that most salmon die once they get to where they are going. Granted this is a bit extreme of an analogy, but it kind of suits my purpose. How much longer does a person keep pushing and getting battered and discouraged before they realize that maybe this is the wrong stream? Before their bodies finally give out and stress or worse takes its toll? How many waterfalls do YOU have to leap up and get washed down again before you realize that maybe there is a different, better path?

I talked about this in Resolve to be Happy, to an extent. Many of us spend years, even a lifetime, beating ourselves up within our so-called comfort zones, simply because the thought of something new, no matter how much better it might be, is simply too scary. We put on our suit and tie, take our taxi to work, clock the time clock, complain about our job, sludge back home and sit in front of the television. We call this living!

Okay, so my situation is really not THAT extreme, but yes, I have had my share of feeling like I am struggling and struggling to get somewhere, but when I stop to think about it, I am not really even sure where I am going, and if I get there, is that really where I want to be? Are the washes downstream really setbacks, or just the Universe trying to point out that I missed that left turn at Albuquerque? (One of my favorite Bugs Bunny lines!)

So, sometimes, what feels like a sacrifice, a failure, giving up… maybe its really going back to find that left turn. I have friends who have shown me that getting fired or laid off, while scary and upsetting, can be the kick in the pants needed to make a life change and turn that step backwards into two steps forward. Another one spends day after day in a job that makes them miserable and unhappy because it pays well. Now they look at the idea of taking a step backward and turning onto a new career stream, swimming outside of their self imposed comfort zone in search of something more.

For years and years my art, and now my writing, have taken a back seat to this comfort zone. Those of you who do follow this blog probably have noted the fairly long gaps between posts. Its not for lack of ideas what to write about, its more for lack of energy. I always say, tomorrow I will paint, this weekend I will write a blog post. I have two books and an in depth article sitting on the back burner for that day when I am suddenly, miraculously less bogged down by being tired and unmotivated.

I said in Resolve to be Happy that I didn’t mean you should necessarily quit your job tomorrow. But shouldn’t you? Are you doing what you really feel like you’re meant to do? How many subtle hints and trips back downstream again do you have to have before you burn out, or get eaten by a bear? How are you doing on that journal, that list of things you always dreamed of doing? Have you become what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Don’t take the leap without thought and preparation of course. A step backward is still a step backward. There’s still other streams to navigate, though with good planning the trip will hopefully be a bit gentler on your body. Don’t just race back downstream and take that left turn without a good idea what rocks and waterfalls there are to navigate, but don’t be afraid to do it, either.

For thirteen of the last twenty years, I have worked in the veterinary field in some form or another, from my first job as a kennel attendant, to emergency care & shelter medicine, to the last two and a half years at a fast paced, high tech, advanced care veterinary practice. The further I have gone in the veterinary field, the more I know I would not be happy in a practice that only did well care. I love the mental challenge, the mystery solving, the advanced client education, the amazing potential for growth and learning.

My body, however, has different ideas. My body and my brain have been at war for a while now. I am one to push myself to keep going, keep battling upstream as my body whines and complains. There’s only so far you can push before things start to break down. That list is a whole other blog post and really not necessary, as most of you 40 and over can appreciate.

Suffice it to say, I have been shoved back down stream many, many times. This week, I decided to go check out what I missed at that left turn in Albuquerque. The bad news is, I am leaving the veterinary field. Maybe for good this time.

The good news is, (I hope anyway) you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of me on this blog, and with good planning and luck, on the internet and in magazines. It has not been done with out a lot of careful thought and planning, and it IS scary. It’s a step back, briefly I hope, in search of my two steps forward.

So, I give my fellow fishes a hug – many of them are already in the right stream and well up over the waterfall – take a deep breath and go with the flow back downstream.

I’ll let you know what lies beyond Albuquerque!

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