Someone Moved

We moved to Phoenix in mid-June. I don’t yet feel at home. The oppressive heat has been wearing on me, but I can see an end to the furnace-inspired onslaught soon. I find ways to stay positive and adapt.

I like the skies here. 

Last night, a dear friend from Mount Shasta called.

Before I could even lament the heat, he said, “I know you’re homesick. I know it’s hot there. But if you were here, you’d have to deal with the heat AND the smoke. When the winds are from the north, it’s smoke from fires in Oregon. When they’re from the south, it’s smoke from Redding.”

The fires have been giving me a strong case of survivor’s guilt. My heart is still firmly planted in Mount Shasta. What happens there matters a lot to me.

And yet, the wildfires of the last few years were a deciding factor in my decision to move. I really never wanted to leave. But three summers of intense smoke were getting too much to bear. Watching Alex suffer through the smoke while he was so sick last year was really the last straw.

Some compromises were made after housing searches near the coast were proving unfruitful. A visit to Phoenix in May opened a lot of opportunities. We’re renting and not quite sure if we’re permanent valley residents quite yet. People tell me to hold on, hang in there, by fall I’ll love it here. I am surrendering to that.

I like that I can find anything and everything I want here. 

August was to be trips to the coast, and I was holding out for that. One small problem: the Phoenix area school year starts August 8. Not even kidding. I suppose I should have checked on such things. But honestly, every school district I’ve ever known starts sometime near Labor Day. I thought perhaps with the summer heat, school might not start until mid-September. How naive, non-Arizonan!

With the pain of inevitable growth and loss hanging overhead as I stretch out of comfort zones, I catch glimpses of good things on the horizon. Though it is hot, I am venturing out and about and meeting new people. I’ve found volunteering for things that I like makes a new place so much more interesting and fun, so I am doing that.

And writing.

This blog has languished. And I’m getting strong intuitive messages that it’s time to up the commitment to this space and maybe even another. I switched some design elements around and I’m diving into the WordPress Gutenberg editor. Again, more staying positive and adaptation to my environment.

I like Lake Pleasant is close. There are pools everywhere and I don’t have to take care of any of them.

The move has been hardest on me and Max. We both loved our mountain enclave. I miss my neighborhood, my neighbors, my friends. I miss my morning walks through quiet forests. The desert is so different.

Mark much prefers here, and Claire is embracing change and new opportunities.

So, we adapt.

Fun things:

  • I visited Saint Louis and attended WPCampus as a representative for Defiant. I had so much fun with this group of very passionate and connected higher ed WordPress users.
  • The kids and I took a trip up to Sedona. Max asked why we didn’t move there instead. He has no idea of my lifelong Sedona fascination, and yet somehow he knows. He enjoyed it rather a lot.
  • I have all but given up on Facebook. Long story. Privacy, usability, a community of hateful commentary… I’m done. I still use it to check in on some things, but it’s starting to feel like AOL 1999.
  • Work is fascinating. Every time I think I’ve done all I can do and have mastered my world, a new challenge shows up to pull me out of my comfort zones.

I like that I can smell opportunities everywhere. 

And finally, some photos.

Arizona sky
The skies are beautiful, especially with monsoon season.
Max in Sedona
Sedona got this teenager out of the car and taking pictures.
pyramid mountains
Though it’s not exactly Black Butte in Mt. Shasta, it has the same pyramid like feel. I like these hills.
bodhi and sven
The fur-enabled beasties are either adapting or plotting my demise under the kitchen table. 

This post was written and organized using Gutenberg. So far, so good. Here comes the future. 

 

On Writing; the Drought of 2017

A new acquaintance asked me why I stopped writing. “Life. Work. Kids. Mostly life,” I answered.

“Well you have to have all of that if you’re going to have something to write about,” she replied, knowingly.

I had promised that no matter what came along, I would not stop writing. Promises made to ourselves in the quietude of a perfect Sunday morning never get kept, you know. They are the red-headed stepchild of promises.

2017 wasn’t one of my best years in many ways. I lost my dear beloved Alex though I tried valiantly to keep him alive. He acquiesced quietly and obediently, suffering through lymphoma until I was ready to say goodbye. My readiness was fleeting during the pre-dawn hours of a Saturday morning when I sat with him and prayed over his failing body. He took my moment of acceptance as his opportunity to leave.

Seven months later, I’d love to tell you that time heals. It doesn’t. It just makes you forget more frequently. But I think the wounds of losing Alex will always be a raw spot if I need something to cry about.

The experience of trying to keep Alex alive, combined with the ridiculous nature of public discourse these days gave me ample excuse to immerse my remaining brain cells into work. I have been lucky enough to join an amazing team of people I adore doing really interesting work that never gets boring. That, too, kept me from wanting to write. I adore this team in the way people adore long lost tribes. My sense of humor is rarely misunderstood, my passion for jumping head first into challenges is encouraged and supported. I have learned all that I am capable of. And above all I am having great fun.

Politics. I’ve been a political junkie for many years. The election of 2016, starting in the primaries, made me rethink much of that. I’ve always leaned liberal. I drank blue kool-aid before we knew that kool-aid kills. I had a lot of hope for Bernie Sanders. And then the Wikileaks started to drop. I bit my tongue. I was horrified.

I’ve made my peace with what is, and I have hope that things will get better. But not many want to see that yet. They’re too angry, and that’s their right. Far be it from me to dissuade them from a dark night of the soul. Dark nights show us our true power. 

For me, well, life is too short. If it doesn’t make me laugh or feel joy, I have no time for it. And there is much to laugh about in the midst of all of this. I’ve done my time in the salt mines of unassailable frustration. I think we all have. I was shaking my first at the sky in the 1980s. And Mark Twain was shaking his fist during his time. There was political backstabbing in the times of Ceasar. It is the very nature of politics to have discord and indignation.

I’d just rather laugh.

My kids have been going through their own challenges. We’ve outgrown our idyllic enclave in Mount Shasta. We are ready to begin playing more on a wider stage. It’s time to move, and I’m not quite ready for that either. But it’s happening, and I’m attempting to let go in the midst of a big change.

Even with all of the change and pain, life is unmistakably good. 

We have a new friend now, Bodhi. He’s a beautiful, intelligent and kind golden retriever. He thinks it is funny to make us chase him and he loves everything and everyone as all golden retrievers do. Yes, I know they have a higher incidence of cancer. I learned that the hard way. I would rather be blessed for a short time with a golden retriever than blessed for a long time with any other dog.

Will I start writing again? Do I have relevance? (Do any of us?)

I have rather a lot to say about things, and maybe those things will resonate. I think I’ll try shorter and more frequent writing instead of letting it get too far ahead of me. 

 

Peace in Perfection

It’s been a while since I’ve written. And yes, I have an excuse, but is there ever a good excuse for not writing when you fancy yourself a writer. 🙂

It has been a whirlwind spring and summer, and all of the sudden I find myself looking at the leaves turning colors and the kids are back at school. How did that happen?

This spring, an opportunity popped up in my email to get back into tech work. I went into it thinking, “Hey, I know this stuff, and this might be fun.”

The company I’m working with set everything up as a challenge at first, and that’s the kind of thing that sucks me in and gets me going. Challenges. I tend towards not shying away from them. Some of them I should, but this one has been really good. It is akin to being really into crossword puzzles and finding a new crossword puzzle on my desk every day. And with recent changes, it’s more like, “Take as many crossword puzzles as you want.” (Now I need to learn some boundaries and force myself to take a break.)

I am really enjoying my work and it dovetails nicely into my life. I enjoy the challenges, I enjoy the people, and I enjoy learning something new every day.

The benefits to me have been great, but I’m seeing how inspiring it is for my kids, too. Max at age 15 loves computers, and seeing me work through challenges and succeeding in both big and small ways is inspiring him to work through his own challenges and learn new things. He’s taking a college-level computer class offered at his school, and he’s reading the book in his spare time and finding things that aren’t exactly right and correcting them. (I don’t know where he gets it, this perfectionism.)

Claire, still trying to come up with a new way to get a horse in the backyard, asks me how she can learn what I do so she can make money and buy the horse and all of the accoutrements of equestrian life. Of course, at age 8, the work I do is all a bit much for her to understand.

“Do people have to buy a lot of log files to build a web site?” she asks. Ha. Apparently, I mumble a lot when combing through website log files looking for evidence of intrusion.

The one thing I promised myself is that I wouldn’t stop writing even though my focus was going elsewhere. Huh. Promises, promises. And now that I’m busier than ever, I find the drive to write is getting stronger. Weird, that.

But we’ve got eclipses happening right now, so what better time to make a bit of a shift.

Peace in Perfection

I’ve been struck lately with awareness of how much our lives are absolutely perfect at all moments in time. I noticed it by watching how much my kids are passionate about their own individual things, and how much freedom they have to explore those things. My kids are perfect, just like they are. They’re amazing, inspiring, and impassioned.

I wouldn’t change a thing about either of them. Everything is just perfect with them right now. Sure, we have our moments of discord. They argue and fight. They tease each other relentlessly. But from here, as mom, I can see the perfection.

They still have the “have to do” things in their lives, but they also have a lot more time to explore and become impassioned about their pursuits than I ever had when I was younger. And yet, even that was perfect.

My realization of seeing perfection in them snowballed into seeing everything else in my life as… perfect. Just as it is.

The work I’m doing showing up when it did: perfect.

Ending up in Mount Shasta when I did: perfect.

Everything is just… perfect. Sometimes it’s perfectly broken, but it all happens for various reasons, and who am I to judge?

Even when something goes horrendously wrong, who knows what perfection is right on the other side of working through it?

This peace in perfection I am finding right now is not a normal feeling for me. But it also feels like immense grace showed up and just made me realize that everything has always been perfect all along, and everything will continue to be perfect. Even, or maybe especially, if I cannot see it.

It’s not even an “accept the things I cannot change” type of thing. It’s more of a “the things I cannot change are perfect just as they are” type of thing.

That’s unusual for me. Usually I can find exactly what’s not right about something and know what needs to be done to fix it. Or snark about it.

What am I going to do with my snark now?

Expanding into What Is

In finding not only acceptance of what is, but the perfection of what is, it allows a certain level of freedom. It allows the present moment the freedom to expand into whatever it needs to be. Instead of looking for something that does not exist and attempting to make that manifest, I find that I can allow an expansion of what is to happen.

When we can appreciate the most unattractive thing in our life as beautiful just the way it is, we have the tendency to see the beauty in all things. And the unattractive thing starts to show its magic to us. And then, when we can hold those competing observations of beauty and ugly, judgment and acceptance, happiness and sadness, and allow it all to be whatever it is no matter what it is that we think we see, there’s something really magical in that space.

(Have you been there? Have you been sad, angry, mad, and held that competing emotion at the same time? It’s like being in the middle of the yin-yang and something in your heart opens up and you just… get it. If you haven’t experienced that, I highly recommend it, especially when the dominant emotion is begging you to run away with it.)

We’re not here to whitewash our reality into something other than what it is. We’re here to dance in the dust, sing in the rain, and expand the knowledge of our own individual perfection, beauty, and magnificence. It starts by not picking at what doesn’t live up to the made up standards we picked up over the years. It starts by looking at our mistakes as magical opportunities, it starts with letting go of guilt, and it starts with letting go into the magic of the ride we’re on.

It doesn’t mean we become passive bystanders in life. We still take action, but the intent behind our action is what makes the difference. The next “perfect step” in life has a certain feel to it. There’s a “what if…” sensation, a curiosity, a child-like playfulness that comes along. We don’t stop our work, whether it’s our vocation or avocation. We move into it ready to explore what the next moment wants to be.

 

Less than perfect parent

Last weekend at Target, I came across this journal in the stationery section. It’s a journal with writing prompts for parents to write why we are less than perfect and to check off our parental shortcomings. No, really. I knew you might not believe me, so I took a picture.

Do you need to remember why you sucked today?

Do you need to remember why you were a terrible parent today?

Are we supposed to bring this to a confessional when they graduate from high school to become absolved from being imperfectly human?

I don’t know a parent alive today who needs a reminder of the enormity of the therapy bill they’re racking up just trying to keep it together.  From paying bills, juggling work requirements, keeping the house clean enough to keep the health department at bay, getting homework done, extracurricular activities, making dinner, etc., modern day parenting might need its own diagnosis. Post traumatic parenting disorder? Is it any wonder our hair goes grey so fast?

Being present with our kids — perhaps the only job that really matters — takes a back seat when we’re under that much pressure to be super mom or dad.

Having both a teenager and a 7 year old is a good contrast for me to remember how fast it all goes by. I haven’t forgotten all of the bad decisions I’ve made with Max. Yes, I remember them just fine without a neurotic journal. I have to work to remember the good things I did for Max. I know my intent has been good, though my execution often was not. And hindsight… well, you know.

As parents of the next generation of grown ups, we’ve got a big job. The role of humans on planet earth is changing in ways we’ve never seen before. The old rules of engagement are changing, the old systems of education, work, and relationships are shifting in ways we can only imagine. Information is disseminated in ways we never dreamed of, and the entirety of human knowledge and experience is at our fingertips. Education is morphing into something far beyond chalkboards and number 2 pencils.

We humans created the internet, and the internet is changing humanity. Our kids get this, I think, more than we do. Even having worked in internet-related fields for much of my life, this is still much more my kids’ world than it is mine.

So, what’s a parent to do when the challenges  and pressures are greater than ever, and the wellbeing of the most important people on the planet, our children, hangs in the balance?

I have some rules. They’re mostly to keep me sane.

Grades matter much less than laughter. Creativity and passion matter much more than tardy slips. Appreciation matters much more than attendance. Connection matters more than discipline. And yet, there’s room for grades, discipline, and showing up, too. They just don’t take precedence over what really matters.

Lucky for us, there’s a school that shares my love of life-long learning and creativity without stress, and we’re enrolled in it.

Though the parenting journals at Target might not understand, being aware that I am an imperfect parent teaches me to be a better person. When my kids are facing a challenge, I know that there’s a message for me in there, too. Recently, Max wrote a really amazing poem. His teachers at school were astonished, and when I got a hold of it, I was really proud. And yet, he’d rather not have too much attention called to his writing. That’s a message for me, too, in a way. I can’t encourage him to publish his work if I’m not willing to publish mine.

If I want to see qualities expressed by my children, I need to express that myself. I have to let go of the small stuff and move beyond excuses. I have to follow my own passions and get excited. I have to keep my heart wide open. And I have to stay present and I have to step into my own potential. I have to stay positive in the face of uncertainty, and I have to approach my own life with grace.

After all, isn’t that what I wish for my own kids? How can they find all of that if I won’t allow it for myself?

We’re all less than perfect parents, and that’s entirely okay. Letting go of that need to be perfect, knowing we’re going to screw up somehow, allows us to be who we are to the best of our ability and loving with all we’ve got. There’s freedom in that, for us as parents, and for our kids, too.

I hope that awful Target journal stays blank forever.

 

How horseback riding helps kids

Claire has loved horses for as long as I can remember. For her, it is much more than a passing phase. Of course, living in a neighborhood full of equine enthusiasts amps up her desire for her own horse, a desire I’ve been reluctant to fulfill.

Claire's diaryLast fall, Max was teasing her, as most big brothers do, and found her “diary.” In it, she wrote, “OMG, my mom is so pasave agresave because she won’t buy me a horse.” Of course, I had to share on Facebook. It’s pure comedy, as most days with Claire are. A local friend, after saying how much trouble I am in, suggested that I get her riding and learning about the equestrian world before I even consider buying her a horse.

And I know. As a fan of all animals big and small, I know there is a lot more to horse care than mucking out stalls and buying hay. It’s the little things I don’t know that will get me in trouble, I’m sure. So, I’m trying to learn as much as possible before being responsible for the wellbeing of a 1000-pound flight animal and an over-confident 7 year old. I’m sure it’s not just me looking at that as a recipe for disaster without some proper preparation.

I knew Claire wanted to jump; she knew what a parallel oxer was before she knew how to read. I myself still am not entirely sure what a parallel oxer is, but I’m certain I will one day see Claire jump a horse over one. She sets up boxes, toys, and anything else around the house and jumps them while whinnying. Santa was generous enough at Christmas to help out with a helmet, riding pants, gloves, and boots, and her first official riding lesson at Shasta Riding Club was on New Year’s Day 2016.

claire riding gear

Claire models her riding gear on christmas morning

As I watched her ride, it became ever more apparent how good riding is for her. And over the last couple of months of riding, I’m seeing shifts and changes in her attitude that are quite positive. Riding is helping her in ways I never imagined. With the challenges she’s had at school this year, riding has been the one good experience every week. She’s found a place where she can do what she loves while diving into the responsibility of horsemanship.

Not only does she ride, but she learns about riding gear, called tack, how to put it on the horse, clean it when she’s done, and how to be safe around horses over ten times her size. Though the horses and ponies at Shasta Riding Club are all great with kids and very safe, safe riding habits make worried parents less worried.

I love watching her ride, hanging out around the barn and watching the horses. They are all such happy and playful horses, and I love getting to know their personalities. This is Ferris. If I forget to say hello to him, he knocks on his stall door.

Ferris

Because Claire is so dedicated to her riding, we decided that it made sense to support one of the horses at the riding club. So, we’re sponsoring Tequila, a gentle older horse, half arabian and half morgan, that is the closest thing to owning a horse that Claire’s going to experience for now. He’s a great horse that does exactly what is asked of him, but not much more than that. Which, if you think about it, is absolutely perfect for a beginning rider like Claire.

Claire riding

Claire and Tequila.

How Riding Benefits Kids

Subtle communication. Claire has always been a strong-willed individual that always finds a way to get what she wants. When she was a toddler, I could tell her no for something she wanted and she would go to every other person in the house and ask them. We joke that she’s a natural salesperson, as hearing “no” does nothing to discourage her from getting what she wants.

When she rides, she has to learn that there are many ways to ask a horse to do what you want it to do. And she’s learning that she can ask gently and get what she wants. She’s learning an art of communicating with her horse that might not have worked in a classroom full of kids or even at home amongst people older than her.

Clear communication. And yet, she has to be very clear about what she wants the horse to do. She has to be clear and firm, and she has to let the horse know she’s serious and clear about what she wants. She has to be clear within herself about what she wants. She can’t think left and ask a horse to go right. There is an intuitive component of communicating with horses, and that inner and outer alignment of intention gets real when you’re in an arena with a horse.

Confidence and self-esteem. As she works with a horse that listens, and forgives when she is learning, she experiences a mastery in the riding arena. Horses don’t have to cooperate. But these horses do. She has a pride in taking care of them and knowing she’s done a good job.

Work ethic. She learns to clean tack, groom horses, clean their hooves, muck out stalls, and take care of the barn areas. Taking care of horses is a lot of work. Life is a lot of work. But when it’s work related to something or someone you love, it’s easy to do.

Listening and following directions. Claire doesn’t like being told what to do, and she’s a perfectionist (where on earth did she get THAT trait). Yet, her desire to ride overrides her stubbornness. She lets go just enough to learn because her desire to learn is stronger than anything else, and she focuses that perfectionism on really assimilating what she learns.

Responsibility. Along with developing her work ethic, Claire has a level of responsibility with riding. Because we’re sponsoring Tequila, she has to earn the money to pay for the sponsorship. She does so by helping around the house and helping me make products, Claire has a level of awareness of her responsibilities and the benefits of that work.

Connection. Spending time with animals, big or small, provides connection and reduces stress. Horses are wonderful companion animals, and Claire has craved interaction with horses since she was a small child. Going for a walk in our neighborhood necessitates at least 5-6 carrots to stop at all of the pastures to visit with our friends.

Clarity. I had listened to a podcast last fall with comedian Whitney Cummings on which she discussed how equine therapy had helped her significantly. When you’re tasked to lead an animal or a team of people, there has to be a level of clarity within yourself about who you are, what you want, and what you need others to do. In the arena, there are no games. Being “pasave agresave” gets you nowhere with a horse. The horse sees you, feels you, and knows you. You have to be completely congruent inside and out with what you want from a horse. You have to let go of the data, the emotions, and the junk of relating that we pick up over the years. You have to show up open-hearted and ready to be who you really are.

And this to me is the biggest gift that horseback riding will give Claire. She’s young enough where she hasn’t picked up too many games of relating that so many of adults have. Now that she’s homeschooling, some of those troubling behaviors can fall away. She’s fairly aware and clear (Claire!) herself, and she gets to solidify that as a part of her character.

I know as she rides more, these positive character traits will become second nature, naturally ingrained in her ability to navigate life. Claire, as you might be able to see in her picture with Tequila, is blissed out at her riding lessons. She doesn’t even realize how much she’s learning. And really, isn’t that the point of all of this parenting stuff… to give kids experiences that will help them throughout their life in ways that make them happy?

Claire grooms Tequila

Claire grooms Tequila.

In some ways, watching Claire develop her equestrian skills makes me a better parent. Intuitively, I see what she’s getting from the experience, and I can step out of the way and let that experience unfold for her, knowing she’s getting all she needs.

 

Catching up

So, where have I been?

I have tried to write a few times since October, but something would always come up. Primarily, I was spending an inordinate amount of time working with Claire and some of the challenges a gifted kid runs into at school. We had decided to bump her up to third grade last year, as she was pacing with the second graders. In fact, she was doing better than many of the second graders, though she was technically still in first grade. We decided to officially keep her in second grade (primarily to avoid having to go through the rigorous testing at the end of the school year), though she would work with the third graders in the classroom.

The Challenge of Gifted Kids

12183864_10153686372922438_6476460127467095901_oAcademically, Claire has been doing fine. Quite well, as a matter of fact. She still has that natural curiosity about her world, and she has the mind to analyze and decode her world. She reads at a sixth grade level and can do both multiplication and division easily. She memorizes facts with ease, and if it has something to do with horses, she’ll probably know a lot more than the average adult. Academically, I have no worries about her or her academic career.

Socially, however, she’s still only seven, though a precocious seven year old that can pace with older kids fairly well. However, the older kids know she’s only seven. And when you’ve got kids that have issues beyond your control or understanding, there can be challenges. Claire has a heightened expectation of how other kids should treat her. She’s very aware of right vs. wrong, and when wrong happens, she spends a lot of that mental power on trying to figure out why things aren’t right or acting out in ways that were rather challenging. That mental activity was better spent on learning and having fun, of course, but she was preoccupied when things were not going right.

I spent time with her at school, which I rather enjoyed. I love her school, her teachers, and it was nice hanging out with some of the other kids. And I did witness some kids acting out for various reasons in ways that were challenging to Claire. I would coach her through it, but at the same time, I had to wonder whether or not it was worth her energy, or my energy, to focus so much on just being okay socially with other kids. And, of course, it’s not all of the kids. But Claire is very good at sorting right from wrong and finding what’s wrong and trying to fix it.

We had a short break, then we all got sick. Stomach bug, then a cold hit us all. Claire was out altogether for three weeks. And, I noticed her personality changing… for the better. She started researching things of interest to her, asking more questions about her interests, and exploring her world in ways she wasn’t doing a month earlier.

It seemed that without the pressure of social issues, her mental bandwidth freed up so she could focus on more positive things.

Because she’s in that parroting stage still, the stage of life where kids are soaking up information, it made sense to homeschool for now. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, but her educational facilitator and the director of the school confirmed with me that she would be fine. And intuitively, I got the message that I don’t have to be confident in my ability to teach, I just have to be confident in Claire’s ability to learn. And in that I have complete faith. So, we’re homeschooling for now. She’s happier. I’m more relaxed. We’ll meet with her educational facilitator every so often and we’ll document what she’s doing. I asked her if she’d like to keep a blog about what she’s doing, but she’s told me that blogs are boring. So, there you go.

What’s not boring to her is David Bowie. Since his death in January, both of my kids have been listening to David Bowie. Max, in high school, spent a day at school learning about David Bowie’s influence on the music world. Claire, seeing this, dove into Ziggy Stardust. She is also fascinated by the Blackstar video, and thinks it is a fantastic song. Not something you expect to hear from a seven year old, but she’s no ordinary seven year old, this is for sure.

Cooking up miracles in the kitchen

homemade deodorantAnother project that has taken up quite a bit of my own bandwidth is creating personal care products in the kitchen. Last summer, I made some of my own deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda, arrowroot, and bentonite clay. You see, your armpits are a primary detoxification center for your lymph nodes. I had found some soreness in one of my armpits, and it turned out to be an inflamed lymph node. I decided to ditch traditional deodorant, and I absolutely loved what I came up with.

After talking to a friend who operates a health store, I started making it for his customers. It has been one of the more successful products, which encouraged me to start sharing some of the other things I make for myself and the family, including remineralizing toothpaste, colloidal silver, and calendula salve. I decided to brand my offerings as Shasta Sage Wellness, and all of a sudden I have a new business. The logo is from a painting we purchased from a local artist that hangs in my kitchen, and the name Shasta Sage has dual meanings, of course. Overall, I’m really excited about the business and how well it’s been received.

calendula oilSo much of my work life over the last 25 years has been spent sitting in front of a computer, wrestling with code and words. There’s something meditative about making something physical and tangible. It’s akin to gardening or cooking in my mind, and I am really enjoying the change of pace. For a change, I get to let go of having to sell things and let others do that. I get to make things, and sell a little, and it feels really good. After spending a day making something, I am physically tired yet mentally still awake, and that feels good, too. And it’s also something I can involve both of my kids in the process of creation, too.

My friend recently asked if I could emulate a formula for a competitive product, something I’ve never done before. It took a few weeks of research, experimentation, and ultimately creating something that turned out better than the competitive product. And in doing so, it gave me more ideas for creating complementary products. I actually really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a new product using all natural ingredients that will blow the petrochemical-based product out of the water. It was daunting and completely outside my realm of expertise, but it turned out being exceptional. It’s not a publicly available product yet, as it still has to go through the testing phase, but I’m excited.

Enjoying Mount Shasta

mount shasta californiaThis place… it nurtures my soul in ways I’ve never experienced elsewhere, except perhaps far northern Wisconsin. When things get overwhelming, and sometimes they certainly do, this place sets me right again. I am blessed and so very thankful to be able to live here.  The people here are like nowhere else, and the natural beauty of the surroundings, even when we’re socked in by snow, is beautiful. And if I want to escape the snow for a bit, the rest of California and Oregon provide respite.

Someone I know here that has lived here for decades mentioned to me that the mountain either spits you back out or it won’t let you leave. I had to laugh, as I’m certainly a part of the latter. No matter how I might fantasize about moving to the beach, the universe conspires to ensure I stay here.

When I first visited 9 years ago, I cried when I left. When I visited again, the desire to live here was overwhelming. Now that my kids have also fallen in love with the place, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

And of course, still writing

Even with all of these new and surprising activities, I am still making time to write. Most of the time, its early in the morning before anyone else is awake in the house. I am writing for me, for fun, and maybe for someday sharing.

And I’m hoping to get back into the blogging and podcasting thing now that so much is settling into routine.

 

How to use your emotions and beliefs to gain freedom

We’re still fostering kittens. Sapphire got sick at one point, and it upset me a lot more than I thought it would. Whenever there is an upset and emotions coming up around an issue that feel a lot more powerful than the event warrants, there are usually beliefs that need to be cleared.

Our emotions are not us, even though we might say, “I am sad,” or “I am angry.” Our emotions, however, are wonderful tools for getting at the various beliefs we hold that may cloud our reality.

 

Emotions, beliefs, and freedom

A friend and I have been talking recently about Dr. Bruce Lipton‘s work on the biology of belief. He came across a process, apparently rooted in NLP, that can be used to reprogram beliefs. Using what I have learned from the Emotion Code process, we put together a simple process of muscle testing, emotional identification, and belief shifting while standing on my front porch. I used the process to clear some of these unconscious patterns.

It was kind of shocking how fast it shifted my emotional state. When my friend came over, I was plagued by uncontrollable tears about Sapphire being separated from her kittens. Within a minute of going through our belief shift process, I was free and clear of the tears.

Sometimes we have to dive into something really difficult and go through it so that we can find areas where we need relief and release from the belief data that keeps us from knowing who we really are. But we’re often so fearful of the pain that is there, we’ll do whatever we can to mask or avoid dealing with the emotions as they come up. Some of us even take medications to avoid going there because it is so scary. But by avoiding the work, we avoid going into the dark so that we can pull our soul out of its prison cell.

We are not our emotional states. Emotions are transient. They check into the hotel of our being and stay for a while. Some, like the rockstars they are, trash the place. But we are not our states, as much as we try to convince ourselves that we are. Even our language dictates believing that we are our emotions. (e.g., I am angry, I am sad, I am happy.) We are the larger part of ourselves where we are free and clear of our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.

Meditation makes the distinction

I am a huge fan of meditation as a tool to get out of the traps of emotions, beliefs and thoughts. You start seeing who you really are in meditative state, and it shows us how we are not our emotions, our thoughts, or our beliefs. Our emotions, thoughts, and beliefs are tools that we use to navigate the matrix of life on earth. If we think that our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs are the things running the show, however, we’re imprisoned. As soon as we get the distinction, we become free.

Emotions show us the path to freedom

Our emotions, however, are quite useful. By allowing them to flow, allowing them to be what they are, they can show us what room they’re staying in within us. They let us know what beliefs we’re carrying around that cause us to make decisions about our life. Our emotions show us where our beliefs are, and it shows us what thoughts are plaguing us.

In the case of my sadness about Sapphire, I realized that I have been plagued by fears and anxiety related to abandonment and loss that stop me from taking certain risks in my life. I feared making certain changes because I was afraid of loss. Even asserting my desires and wants were becoming difficult as these erroneous beliefs were causing me to back down in fear whenever I was challenged.

I didn’t even have to spend hours in therapy looking for the erroneous beliefs. It doesn’t really matter where they came from, and it doesn’t really matter how they’ve caused me pain in the past. I just had to look at what was happening, and ask if it was something I wanted to change.

Often times, we want to make changes in our life, but we’re not quite sure what to do. We may be aware of our emotions, beliefs, and thoughts being separate from the real self, but we’re not quite sure how to leverage those emotions to find what we’re looking for. But our consciousness knows, and if we ask, we’ll get the pathway for clearance loud and clear. Our emotions are the key. The more we ask about what we’re feeling and the beliefs it’s associated with, the easier change becomes.

Quite literally, I was able to reprogram my beliefs without much analysis of where they came from, just by identifying what beliefs were operating, and intuitively determining the new belief and emotions that I would rather experience instead.

In the case of Sapphire, I decided that I would rather just know that no matter what happens, I am okay. So, I reprogrammed my unconscious to believe “I am okay with abandonment,” and “I am okay with loss.” Because really, we’re always okay. We might not like something, but we’re always okay.

Asking the body

Muscle testing is a pretty cool tool for getting at what is going on under the surface of our conscious mind. You know, the part of you that thinks it’s in control and knows what is going on, but the one that also is freaking out about the emotional state taking over. I have known about muscle testing for decades, but I am really lousy at reading it myself. And sometimes how we ask questions of our body can be tricky. Muscle testing is an art form that requires a bit of practice, and feedback from someone else who can help determine whether or not you’re getting something strong.

I started to write up everything that I did, and I realized that it was turning into a short novel. I tried to record a podcast about it, and realized I needed to do this visually. A friend, Armando, contacted me about doing a webinar about what had happened. Come to find out, he knew this process well, too.

So, we did a webinar, specifically about reprogramming the beliefs that create debt. You can view it on YouTube and get an idea of how this process works, and how you can use it to clear unhelpful beliefs. I also go into some detail on how I was able to help other people.

I am hoping to do even more of these webinars, sharing all that I’ve learned through various healing modalities. If you’d like to participate, join the mailing list for announcements!

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Consciousness ascension is happening

For the last few years, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about ascension. From the myths of Mayan calendars ending in 2012 to various other predictions, there has been much discussion of humanity’s ascension. The field of spiritual personal development is overflowing with products promising awakening, ascension, or discovery of missing secrets. There have been some folks predicting the end of the earth, spaceships  coming to whisk us all away to 5th dimensional reality. I’ve even seen people assign dates to all of this. Nothing comes to pass. It’s all overwhelming and it feels like I’ve been chasing red herrings. I’ve been trying to piece together what they’re talking about in order to understand my own experiences.

I know something is happening. I can feel it. I can see outward expressions of it. I know we’re going through a shift. The old way of experiencing life is dying, and it has been for a while. Look at Wall Street. Main Street. Our geopolitical affairs. It’s just a symptom of the overall consciousness shift. We’re going through a cycle or death and rebirth on a global, maybe cosmic, scale. I don’t know if it has always been this way or not. I just know what is happening now.

I can’t be crazy. Or am I?

My experience of time is shifting. It feels like time is elongating and shrinking. I tend to lose track of time very easily these days. Weeks are flying by, my dreams are more intense, spirit is more playful and funny with its symbolism in outward experience. My intuition is stronger, when I listen. There seems to be a blending of my dream state experiences and my real life experiences. Others report similar experiences to me. So I know something is going on.

I finally get the bright idea that perhaps I need to ask my own higher self what is going on. The answer came instantaneously, but I think it took me a while to really get it. I’m dense that way. (Actually, the whole experience of life right now is rather discombobulating, so it’s really easy to allow fears to block us from connecting.)

So, giving full credit to whatever source of Spirit gave me these impressions, here’s what came through as a download. Ascension is real. It’s a thing. It’s happening. We’re all on our way to a completely different life experience. The stresses of reality right now are just birthing pains as a new system of reality comes into being.

However, we’re not leaving. We’re not going anywhere. Ascension isn’t a trip to a new place, ascension is bringing a new place here to earth. It is bringing more of who we really are and making that manifest here on earth.

We’re ascending in our consciousness, pulling in more of who we really are from a much larger part of ourselves. That larger part of ourselves is much more aware, much cleaner (without the blocks that mire us in negativity here), and more able to manifest reality very quickly. Ask and it is given happens a heck of lot more quickly when we allow this ascension process to happen.

Ascension isn’t something you do. It’s not something that happens to you.

It is something you allow yourself to become.

You are a multi-dimensional being. You always have been. You are already 3rd, 4th, and 5th dimensional, ad infinitum and you’ve been that way for a long time. However, you have only expressed a very small part of yourself in this reality. You’ve been asked — now a little more forcefully — to express more of who you are into this reality. When you allow those multi-dimensional parts to be expressed in your reality here on earth, you allow yourself to become ascended. As each of us does this, we ascend as a group consciousness together.

If you’re still holding on to the past, to the things that felt safe in your old life, then it’s going to be a bumpy ride. You’re going to have a discombobulated experience of trying everything but having nothing at all work.

I tried this. I had a fearful experience pop up last fall. So I said yes to some things out of fear. It became more and more apparent that I said yes for all of the wrong reasons. I meditated on the problem, realized I was doing things based on past beliefs and fears. It wasn’t working. I was running into blocks, half-truths, and finally a closed door. I couldn’t make it work no matter how hard I tried. It was a dead end and a wild goose chase.

What a blessing! I’m so glad that didn’t work out! Now, I am being led on a journey of exploration, to a new experience that expresses more of who I really am. I have immense gratitude for this mistake.

If you’d like to make it a smoother, less bumpy trip, here are my recommendations. Actually, these are the things I’m doing for myself on this journey. Have others? Let me know.

Meditation. I have a few meditative activities including getting lost in nature, sitting in meditation, and listening to music designed to expand consciousness in non-duality. It literally keeps me sane. Studies everywhere show how meditation is good for you. Why? Because it brings in more of who you really are — that pure love light being that is only partially expressed here on earth. How can you fully be more of who you really are if you don’t explore yourself? Your mind is a mansion of many rooms, and you’re using just a few of them. Leave your comfort zones and start exploring other areas of your consciousness.

Dream. Some of the most profound explorations of consciousness happen in dream state. It’s the place where you allow yourself the freedom to explore yourself, your beliefs, your desires more than you do in waking life. Before you go to sleep, tell your unconscious mind to have a blast, and that you look forward to the journey. It’s one place where your ego stops trying to be in control and other parts of your consciousness gets exercised. The more your can work with your dreams, the more you can explore who you really are.

Invite your multidimensional self to express itself. Just ask. You’ll be surprised, pleasantly so, when you’re greeted with some amazing, miraculous, even quite humorous experiences. What if our higher selves, our multidimensional selves, were just waiting for us to ask for an ascended experience? Ask and it is given. You’ll laugh and feel joy a lot more than you might expect.

Speak the truth. There are no more secrets, no more lies in the new reality. Your truth, no matter what it is, is the perfect exploration of who you really are. The more you can speak your truth, the more of your true self you can make manifest here. In the new reality, we’re not able to pretend to be someone else just to get the girl, the job, or whatever game we’re playing. When you pull in more of who you really are, your passion becomes your life’s work. You get rewarded for who you really are. There is no more room to say yes to projects for money instead of passion. Speak your truth.

Demand honor for yourself and others. In the ascended world, there is no room for dishonoring anyone. We’re all being asked to honor ourselves and honor others. Sometimes this means calling people on their crap. Lies are becoming incredibly apparent these days. If someone isn’t truthful, we are becoming increasingly adept at seeing the untruth and misrepresentation. Allowing someone to lie to you dishonors them as much as it dishonors you. There is no more ends justifying the means anymore. If our actions are not in alignment, nothing works.

If you need evidence of this, just look at the political, banking, and intelligence agency news. The lies and secrets are being exposed on them as much as they’re invading our privacy. We cannot lie, they cannot lie. There are no more secrets. Everything is being exposed, and that which dishonors is crumbling away no matter how hard they try to prop it up.

Forgive and forget the past. The past no longer exists. The rules of the past no longer apply. The rules of the game have changed. It has actually always been this way, but it is even more evident now. It used to be that we could make predictions on outcome based upon our past experiences. But since the past does not really exist (we actually re-create the past every time we remember something), this has been a bit of a fallacy. Now, we’re being asked to stay present, to be present, and to make decisions based upon our current connected intuition.

Cultivate gratitude and appreciation. The state of gratitude and appreciation of our reality and your growth and ascension process allows for a rapid acceleration of the process. There is nothing to fear. This is an awesome journey!

Thank your ego. So much of the new age movement tells you to forget the ego. Sure, the ego can be a pesky master if you allow it to run the show. When you thank you ego for its involvement, it tends to quiet and allow other parts of our multidimensional self to come forward and provide input. The ego is great when you need it. It just isn’t such a great driver.

Be thankful for the stresses! In asking my higher self why I have had experiences lately of stress and mistake, of being lied to, of not being able to complete projects, I was told that without the stresses I would not understand the urgency of my need to connect right now. I cannot find the answers to my problems on the internet. Other people’s explanations are not working for me. I have only one source I need to connect with right now — whether you call that God, higher self, Spirit, the Divine — it is just waiting for you to open to it.

Let go, be here now. It’s an adventure in consciousness, this whole process. There is nothing to lose that is real. Anything you can lose is unreal. Everything that is stressful and fear-inducing is temporary. Be here now. Explore a tree. Love your family. Go within. Follow your intuition. Just be. Stop reading the internet news! Pet a dog. Give the cats some catnip and enjoy the show. Go swimming, sit in the sun, take your shoes off and walk in the grass. Have a snowball fight. Just find ways to enjoy where you are along the journey. In reality, it’s all you can do. You cannot change the past, you cannot predict the future. Today is all you have. You’ll be someone completely different tomorrow, and you can enjoy – or worry – about that then.

You can fear it. You can worry about it. Or you can just let go and allow it — and allow yourself — to become whatever it is.

“You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle.”
— Eckhart Tolle

 

Forgive Yourself

Do you have that one person who drives you absolutely nuts? They push your buttons every chance they get. You forgive, you forget. You move on with your life  — but the next thing you know, they’ve done it again.

A lot of new-thought teachers that teach gratitude and love as the most powerful forces in the world. And I agree that they are. But you cannot put a band-aid of love and gratitude on top of negativity. The negativity seeps out, poisoning the well again and again until you do one thing.

Forgive yourSELF.

I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes. Mark came in and cracked a joke. The kids started cracking the same joke. No one could tell that my feelings were really hurt. I mean, seriously hurt. It was all in good fun for them. Had it been about anything else in the world, I would have probably laughed along with them. For some reason, this “joke” brought tears to my eyes.

The stark difference in their experience and my own experience was telling. I allowed myself to feel the emotion, knowing it was only a pattern and that it wasn’t really me. And then I asked myself how I could stop this pattern from bringing me to tears.

Spirit, which can be rather loud and unmistakable here in Mount Shasta, spoke.

It said, “Forgive yourself.”

I immediately got a higher-self impression of a past-life experience. A part of me that I did not understand or even know felt guilt surrounding this experience, and as such I have chosen a pattern of karma to balance that experience in this lifetime. That’s all it was.

Now, I cannot tell you specifically what that lifetime was. I don’t know. I cannot even tell you specifically what the pattern was or how it balances that guilt that a part of me is feeling. I don’t know why this dropped into my experience at that time, but I do know that I am supposed to write about it and share it with you.

In that split-second moment of awareness and understanding, I got a massive gift. I got a clear understanding of how and why ho’oponopono* works, I got a clear understanding of the teachings of the Buddha, and I got a deep understanding of what Christ said when he said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

(*Ho’oponopono is a ancient Hawaiian practice of “making things right.” It heals past hurts in relationship and cultivates forgiveness. It’s a powerful process, but it really is simply cultivating forgiveness and love. Mark has more about it on his blog.)

Forgiveness of the self, all parts of the self, all parts of creation, is the key to our freedom.

The Buddha’s primary teaching was that Nirvana was not something outside of us. It is within. He became his own guru, sat under the bodhi tree, and became enlightened, discovering the clearing of karma that is Nirvana. This awakening, this enlightenment, was not something he learned outside of himself. His search as Siddharta for his guru was fruitless. And for all of us, the path is similar. We look within. It is all within, because our experience is all us.

If it comes into our awareness, it is our own creation. The exterior is a mirror reflecting all that is within us. Yes, it is even reflecting parts of ourselves we don’t yet fully know. And the more we clear, the larger our sense of self becomes.

We do not need to ask the Divine to forgive us. We do not need to ask anyone else to forgive us. We don’t even need to forgive another person. We simply forgive ourselves for whatever is happening and however we brought it about.

The basis of most spiritual teachings is about taking personal responsibility for everything. If it shows up, you clear on it. Clearing is forgiveness. It is allowing whatever shows up to be what it is, but letting go of whatever is showing up with forgiveness.

As this new awareness came in, I began meditating, asking my Inner/Higher Self for guidance in what parts need forgiveness. And I forgave those parts of me. I let them go. Let go of your own hurts caused by others, and claim responsibility for whatever karmic balance is bringing this experience to your attention.

Forgive yourself, all parts of yourself, and know that all is right between you and others. Nirvana is within you. We simply must let go of all beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and patterns that stand between you and the enlightenment that is waiting for us to open to it.

 

Bring Back Summer

Winter has never really bothered me. I’ve heard people say that as we get older, all we talk about is the weather. So, maybe that’s it. I am old now, and I talk about the weather.

This winter is really getting to me. On Halloween, as I was standing outside around a fire at a friend’s house after trick-or-treating, I went into a near fit of depression as my fingers went numb, realizing what was before me. Summer had lasted longer than we expected, and I had a spectacular summer. As I stood there freezing and suffocating from the smoke, I felt overwhelming sadness at the end of summer.

Given the fact that I’ve lived in the upper midwest for most of my life, I feel like a wimp. I’ve endured 4 Shasta winters, only one of which really tested me.

We had only been in Shasta a few weeks. It started snowing. Our friend had lived in Shasta for 0ver 20 years. I kept asking, “This cannot be normal, can it?” He kept saying, “Sure, it snows like this a lot.” Then it really started coming down even harder. I think we got about 5 feet of heavy, wet snow in a couple of days. As we sat in the dark huddled around candles and the wood stove, we heard tremendous booms that shook the house. Trees were collapsing under the weight of the snow. Mark, our protector, asked us to move to the center of the house to avoid any trees falling on us.

Four days later, we dug out. I headed to Motel 6 for the longest hot shower I have ever taken. A few hours later, we got power.

Even after that nightmare, I still consider a Shasta winter not that bad. In comparison to Chicago’s ice storms, freezing temperatures, and brutal wind, I’ll take the sporadic massive snowfalls.

Also, escaping snow in Shasta is a short drive south. So, yeah. I have nothing to complain about.

The other part of winter that has been awful is that everyone in my family has had at least 3 illnesses already this fall. A couple of colds, flu, stomach viruses, and some larger and more frightening health challenges that I’ve had to support. It’s not been pleasant. At least now I know definitively that I am not cut out for a career in nursing.

But everyone seems on the mend here. Claire kept her breakfast down. I’m keeping Airborne in business with my own personal consumption. And it’s finally Christmas. Of course, it’s a Christmas I am wholly and totally unprepared for, but it is Christmas, and we’re here together. The weather is not so bad, and the days will again get longer.

I’ve got a few new projects I’m starting for the new year, and I’m excited about them all. Bring it on, 2014. I’m ready.