Learning to Deal with a ‘Marley and Me’ Moment

Several years ago I read the book “Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog Ever” by John Grogan. For those who are not familiar with the book, it’s a story of a young family and their life with a dog named Marley. As the title suggests, sometimes Marley makes life difficult – there is an entire chapter dedicated to things Marley ate. Ironically, my dog, Baxter, ate this book. Baxter could have given Marley a run for his money for the title ‘The Worst Dog Ever.’ Every dog owner should read this book. (There is a movie if you aren’t a reader.) John Grogan paints a picture that reflects the love and loyalty that only a dog can offer – no matter how many times they knock the garbage over, and you find yourself surrounded in a disgusting mess.

Over 11 years ago Baxter was rescued from Guardian Angel Basset Rescue and brought into my home. He was 9 months old and scared. He had been beaten as a puppy and didn’t trust anyone. That all changed with a ‘Baxter burger’ (a hamburger from McDonald’s) in the back of a car. Baxter had been run by his stomach, so it made sense that a burger exchange created love with his new family. I worked nights at the time, so Baxter and I spent many mornings strolling through a neighborhood park. I was determined to make this dog feel comfortable. Yet, it wasn’t that easy.

A beaten dog pees on the floor when you accidentally trip, lunges at strangers, and turns into an anxious mess when his people aren’t present. Baxter wasn’t easy. The dog park became a thing of the past. If a visitor came to the house, Baxter had to be put in a bedroom. But he loved his family, and he found joy in sprinting around the coffee table and knocking over the garbage. He experienced gliding in a canoe, camping in the snow, and hiking on rocky terrain. And with each daughter that entered my life, Baxter had another person to love and be loved by.

But 11 years is a long time for a dog…

One day I knew I’d be sitting in a veterinarian office remembering, crying, and letting go of that furry friend that so wholly became a part of the family. Monday was that day. And I didn’t cry; I sobbed. I remembered every silly little thing that Baxter did and then I cried harder. I said goodbye and cried some more. And, to be honest, the screen is blurry because I’m still crying. Those furry friends sure know how to take your heart.

Goodbye Baxter. You’re already missed. Bark all you want. None of the neighbors will care. Promise.

Learning Self-Love

“Self-love is the biggest service you can provide humanity.”

I recently discovered that my 6-year-old daughter, who I thought was really helpful at cleaning her room, just shoves toys, dirty laundry, shoes, and books under her little sister’s bed. I lifted up the mattress and found all kinds of goodies begging to be put where they rightfully belonged.

Now you’re going to ask me what does a child’s dirty room have to do with self-love? Well, how many of us shove our issues into some compartment where we can’t see them? Where they are easier to avoid? Where they lay forgotten? Where they collect dust and become unrecognizable? I bet we all do.

In recent months, I have chosen to clean under my bed, uncover all my issues. When I pulled out all the bad memories, hurt feelings and negative emotions, I wanted to turn around and kick it all back under the bed. But why? They’d still be there waiting to be found another day. I couldn’t. I had reached a point in my life where I was ready – or at least I wanted to be – I wanted to heal; I wanted to face my fears; I wanted to experience joy that resonated with God’s love – not a new job, a significant other, or pretty new shoes. I craved purpose, joy and meaning that came from me.

It’s a challenging journey. And I’m getting there. It took a lot of courage to sit in a pile of problems. Sometimes I wanted to curl up and sob. The room was too messy. The hurt too much. But why? I learned that I hadn’t thought myself worthy, deserving, good enough or lovable. Those are hard things to process. In that moment I discovered the part I played in my unhappy moments, my dysfunctional relationships, my failures.

And I’ll tell you, it’s so much easier to love someone else than it is to love myself. We are our worst critic; our toughest competitor; our worst enemy. But I’m working on it. Some  days it feels selfish. Because choosing to say, “No,” for no other reason than “I don’t feel like that works for me” is really hard for me. I like to make people feel good; I like to heal people; I like to be there for others. And I can still do that. But I realized that I cannot continue to sustain a healthy being if I do this at the cost of my own schedule, my own dreams, and my own love. Loving ourselves isn’t selfish; it’s actually a love that brings us closer to God because it aligns us with our higher purpose, which is to be a witness to God’s love. If we love ourselves, we love others more easily without judgement, without expectations, without playing games. And that is the healing magic of self-love.

What does self-love looks like?

It’s different person to person. For me, self love is:

  • Climbing a tree because I want to. And not being afraid as I rise higher into the canopy. This is living in the present moment and such a healthy practice.
  • Surfing by myself. I have four daughters. I rarely do anything alone, so choosing to do something alone feels very selfish to me. But surfing is so healing, and something I need.
  • Sitting alone in the early morning, drinking coffee, and meditating. Silence is a rare and precious gift in my house. I take it when I can.
  • Dancing. I love to dance. My kitchen is usually my ballroom; it’s where I listen to sexy Latin dance music. It’s where I can get silly with my girls and transform my tile floor into a ballet stage.
  • A bubble bath. This is a place where I create stories and poetry.

So, today I challenge you to take a moment to create space for a little self-love and self-care. You deserve it! And if you have the courage, clean from under your bed. Things will be messy, but eventually everything gets put right where it belongs.

“Live for yourself and be happy on your own. It isn’t any less beautiful. I promise.”

Learning to Cook with All that Food from the Garden

I would like to welcome another guest writer, Sydney Wilk. I met Sydney while attending my permaculture design course. She a health coach and creator of Plant Love Wellness. She understands the importance of fueling our bodies with healthy choices. Enjoy her blog!

Since when did eating healthy become so dang complicated?! Counting calories, weighing portions, eating no fat, no carbs, no sugar, high protein, no grains, following the diet of our ancestors, consuming only raw food… the list goes on and on of what you should or should not do when it comes to food. Each new diet trend claims to be better than the next and is the ‘perfect’ and only way you should be eating. The more mainstream these diets become and the more experts that back them, the more credible they seem. And look I’m not discrediting them, but just because a particular way of eating works for you, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone else, or ANYONE else for that matter. Believe me, I have tried pretty much every diet out there and while they were tolerable at first, I wasn’t able to stick with any of them for more than six months. My issue isn’t with the creation of a new diet to follow, it’s that it claims to help everyone and usually has a strict regiment that you must follow. No one likes being told what to do (honestly they don’t!) especially when it comes to what they decide to put in their mouth every day.

While these diet trends have certainly helped numerous alleviate their illness or gain a six-pack, the best thing you can do to eat healthy is find your own diet that works for you. This likely isn’t going to be some plan that you can follow in a book–although there A LOT of diet books out there. Finding your perfect way of eating is going to involve a good deal of trial and error, and consulting popular nutrition material can be a great sounding board. Though, the key to solving the mystery of ‘what should I eat today’ ultimately begins with listening to your body and noticing how it responses when you ingest certain foods. This method is going to take some time to fully figure out–mostly because there are so many food choices, but it shouldn’t take long to discover a general idea of what works and what doesn’t.

It is a really really good idea to keep a journal (or mental note- if you can remember everything you ate the previous week, I cannot) of the types of foods you eat each week, as well as making a note of how you felt throughout that time. This will allow you to create a food map of which types of food are nourishing you and which you should probably cut back on. If you really want to figure out a sufficient diet quickly working with a health coach, or someone who can hold you accountable, can ensure that you will reach those break-through moments.

I’ve learned that, like most things in life, feeling truly healthy is a journey not a destination. It took me almost ten years to finally find an eating style that suited me and I am still constantly making adjustments. Have fun with the process and don’t get caught up in what is right or wrong. After all, eating nutritious foods is only secondary to keeping healthy (yes, I said it!). You can eat all the kale in the world, but if you are in a career you hate or stuck in an unhappy marriage, you will not experience optimal health. Sure, eating well is an important FACTOR, but it is not the secret ingredient for losing that extra fifteen pounds. Nurturing yourself from the inside out first is when you will see the real transformations take place.

I’m including a couple recipes that have help ME to feel like my most vibrant self, that may be of some use to you as well. And if not, hey that’s okay too! It’s all about the journey anyway.

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Mango-Berry Smoothie Bowl   

serves 1

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen mango chunks

½ cup frozen raspberries

½ cup almond milk or other nut milk

your favorite toppings like sliced almonds, coconut shreds, cacao nibs, fresh fruit, granola

Recipe: Combine first three ingredients into a high-speed blender, like a Vitamix, and blend until creamy. You may have to add more milk depending on the thickness desired. Then add toppings and enjoy!

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Eggplant Pasta  

serves 2-3

Ingredients:

2 large zucchinis

2 medium sized tomatoes, diced

1 eggplant, cubed

2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 bunch of greens (romaine or spinach)

¼ cup diced onion (white or yellow)

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 TBS pine nuts

1 bunch fresh parsley

1 TSP dried oregano

1 TBS sesame seeds (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

Recipe: Start by turning your zucchini into pasta via a spiralizer and set aside. Then add the minced garlic and onion to a large frying pan on medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes until garlic is fragrant. You can add water, 1 TBS at a time, to prevent garlic and onion from sticking. Add the diced eggplant to the pan along with a couple TBS water and cook until eggplant starts to get tender, but isn’t finished cooking yet. Next, place the zoodles (zucchini pasta) into the pan. The zucchini will release a lot of water while cooking, so be careful to not have too much liquid in the pan beforehand. Stir mixture together, and after a few minutes add the tomatoes. Add the balsamic vinegar and dried seasonings (oregano, salt & pepper, sesame seeds-if using) and combine well. Continue cooking on medium to low heat until eggplant is done and tomatoes have broken down some. When the mixture is done, but still hot, add the greens and stir constantly until they are wilted (this works best with spinach), then remove pan from heat. In a separate sauce pan, toast the pine nuts on high heat until golden brown. Place eggplant pasta onto serving dishes and top with freshly chopped parsley and pine nuts. Dig in!

IMG_0299Sydney graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2018, where she received her certification in health coaching. With her passion for all things food related she started Plant Love Wellness, a health coaching practice that helps women discover how food is affecting all areas of their life. She regularly holds cooking workshops at her local grocery co-op and is in the midst of writing a plant-based recipe eBook. When she isn’t in the kitchen, she is in the garden getting her hands in the dirt or chasing her bite-sized dog around the yard. She currently resides in the horse capital of the world, but thinks she is more suited for a place that isn’t quite so land locked. You can keep up with her food creations and adventures on Instagram or Facebook @ plantlove_wellness

Learning to Dance in the Rain

 

One of my male friends once told me that a woman is ten times sexier with her hair wet. And then there is the iconic love scene where one of the lovers appears at the door soaked through because whatever they had to confess couldn’t wait until the sun came out. Well, I call bull shit on appearing sexier with unwanted water dripping from my hair into my eyes. I feel like a drowned rat. And being rained on is actually really uncomfortable, especially if you are wearing jeans. I live in Florida, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a “warm” rain. So I’m cold right now. There is a reason for umbrellas and raincoats and boots – to keep us dry. Rain can also be accompanied by lightening. Do you know how dangerous that can be? Deadly.

And, yet, rain is necessary, peaceful, and truly beautiful. A night sky filled with jagged lightening is miraculous. The power behind a thunderstorm is just a part of nature’s divinity. Rain is growth.

Today I decided to accept that I was soaked to the bone, wearing those uncomfortable wet jeans, but instead of complaining, I decided to dance in the rain. I looked up into the gray clouds and let the raindrops fall down my face. I welcomed the wet grass beneath my bare feet. Sure I got a little muddy, but I also found peace in the  musical pitter patter. I thanked God for the rain because my orchids were getting a much needed drink of water. The rain saturated the soil and made all my gardens very happy.

I have seen some of the most stunning displays of rainbows in Florida. And during the soft rains I sit on my lanai and meditate to the raindrop orchestra.

 

Today wasn’t really about the rain or getting wet. It was about taking a chance to feel uncomfortable, so that I could appreciate being in a new moment. We all struggle with this. How many times are you planning your next meeting while someone is trying to share a story? Or you’re worrying about what a friend thought, when you could be taking in the flavors of a home-cooked cuisine? Or you ignore your emotions because all you hear is a television, radio or phone? The list could go on.

If we don’t slow down, we’ll burn out; we’ll lose ourselves; or we’ll forget why we’re living. Not every moment is adventurous or filled with pizazz. But it’s your moment, on your journey, and if you don’t truly experience it or the person sitting in front of you, it will disappear. You won’t get it back. So, let’s try to be present in this moment. And don’t be afraid to get a little uncomfortable dancing in the rain.

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” -Anonymous

Sisterhood Within – Women’s Soul Retreat

 

amazing-balance-blur-312839I’m so excited! There is no way I can convey my joy in words. But I will try…I am proud to present: The Sisterhood Within, an event that I’ve co-created with my former PDC (Permaculture Design Course) ladies. Lori Anne Mayor, founder of Be Leaf Family Co-op, created this vision, which will take place on November 8-11, 2018 in Brooksville, FL.

It’s a retreat created for women to explore their inner power. Because that power exists inside us. Sometimes it’s masked by our demanding schedules, screaming little ones, or lack of space for a quiet moment. But it’s there.

Please join us for an exploration of the chakra system through spiritual connection in art, writing, meditation, yoga and dance. I look forward to meeting everyone! Find all the details for the event here!

P.S. Letting you in on event details is also letting you in on another amazing project in my life…

To find peace, sometimes you have to be willing to lose your connection with people, places and things that create all the noise in your life.

Learning to Let Go

Letting go is hard. It can be painful. It can be challenging even when we know it’s good for us. Some things we need to let go of because it’s a toxin to our lives (i.e., alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, abusive relationships, etc.). Some times we are forced to let go of things because we move on in life – we get a new job, graduate from college, get married, have children. Here we may let go of former co-workers, friends, familiar landscapes. But we let go because we know it’s time, and we’re ready for the next stage in our life. Sometimes we’re blind to the idea of letting go, and when we finally realize we need to, it can cause great sadness. No one can avoid letting go, and it’s rarely easy.

I’ve lived in Florida for 5 years and before I moved I knew my life was about to undergo a profound transformation. Of course this was a given because I was moving hundreds of miles away from everything familiar – my friends, my house, my church, my entire life. I was scared, and I didn’t want to. It was the first time in my life, I let go of my own wants and completely surrendered everything to God. This was difficult, but I knew there was a reason God was moving my family to Florida. That reason didn’t fully come to life until this year when I discovered my true inner potential and was awaken with a Divine guiding hand to a bigger purpose in life to help victims of human trafficking. In this process, I have explored who I am and what life means to me. It’s been a spiritual journey where I have learned to grow and let go of many things.

What I’ve let go:

  • Anger: Anger is a difficult emotion. It covers up what’s really happening inside. This one was a challenge for me and very painful. I uncovered rejection, abandonment, competition and disappointment. These emotions are far harder to deal with than anger. By understanding my own anger, I have learned to respond, not react. This has been much healthier for any relationship I’m involved in.
  • Fear: We are all afraid of something. My biggest fear is being abducted. Do you know how hard it is to read about kidnappings of human trafficking victims? But my own fear has pushed me to take a positive action step to help awareness for this cause. I am also afraid of failure. I think we all are. But I’ve recently decided to take a huge risk, and I’m seriously hoping to open a business within the year. I discovered once I took the first step toward my dream that I wasn’t as afraid as I had thought, and I’m having a lot of fun watching things come together.
  • Expectations of myself and others: We all do this. Unrealistic expectations tend to cause disappointment. We should all have standards, but keep in mind that these standards reflect the reality of the relationship, the situation, the feelings. And we must realize no one is perfect and expecting perfection from ourselves is impossible. So let’s give ourselves some slack and let go of the stress that comes with unattainable expectations.

Bryan Divisions, a musician, inspires and encourages to let go in his song entitled, Let Go. Please check out his song. It’s been a great reminder.

Sometimes we let go and never look back. Other times, we let go and shortly after run right back to that which we let go. It’s not always the letting go that we must understand, but instead the lesson to be learned and knowing that we’re walking toward something that is happening just for us at the right time. Find peace in the process, and it will take you a step closer to true joy.

What is something in your life you need to let go of?

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.” ~C. Joybell C.

Dear Mr. Repairman:

Nothing is ever wasted in nature. Every dead corpse is recycled as food for life; everything has its place and contributes to a very sophisticated balance in the system. ~ Giovanni Dienstmann

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Photo provided by Pexels

Dear Mr. Repairman,

You ruined my garden. I appreciate all you’ve done in replacing my water heater for a more energy efficient water heater. This will save me money. This will help save the planet. Still, you killed my plant.

How did you not see the beautiful purple shrub I had planted? I feel as if I lost a precious treasure. I grieve for the new blooms that will not be, the roots that may still move underground, but have no branches to forge new leaves. There is an empty space where there was once life. The plant will live on as compost creating nutrients for it’s fellow neighbors, but that had not been it’s intentions. It was supposed to inspire beauty through it’s own soulful blooms. Yet, that can not be.

I do not ask you to replace my shrub. I merely ask that next time you look where your big boots step before installing a water heater because you could be squashing the soul of a poor defenseless plant that can not even scurry out of the way.

With a heavy heart,

A Mournful Gardener