The Rest of the Story

I loved Paul Harvey!!  Hope he doesn’t mind that I used one of his most famous lines to title this article.

A few days ago I published an article called “Bake a Cake, Light a Candle.”  I shared some things that I am very excited about and those are regarding my physical health.  To be fair to myself, there was a lot going on during that writing.  My neighbor’s kids lost one of their dogs…disappeared into thin air.  Understandably, they were distraught, so I began to help in the hunt.  A storm was coming in with lots of lightning and thunder, so the hunt was more intense.  At some point, the electricity blipped, my computer shut down and I lost the first version of the story.  You guys actually got the third draft.

Suffice it to say by the time I finished that one, my head was tired.  Today, I realized, I only told you one third of the story.  This blog is about nurturing Body, Mind and Spirit.  I only told you about part of nurturing the body through Paleo.  My apologies to Byron Aeon Mulligan, Dana Hooper and Arleene Gregg.  You played an IMMENSE role in getting me on the path (and keeping me on it) to nurturing my mind and spirit.

I’ve always tried my best to be an open book.  I made a LOT of mistakes along the way to becoming 61!!  I’ve accepted responsibility for my actions, and the consequences from those mistakes.  And I try to be an open book to people who may be going through some of the same things if for no other reason than to give people hope.  Hope is something in pretty short supply these days, so it’s even more important to share from the heart.

What I was referring to in 1989 when I was told I had a year to live, I was told I was HIV Positive.  Back then, that was pretty much a death sentence; except in my case it wasn’t.    I have no explanation why except to say God had a different plan in mind for me.  According to everything every doctor told me, I “should” have died.

The one regret I have now about that is I lost a lot of time sitting around waiting to die.  I didn’t plan for retirement–I wasn’t going to live that long.  I consumed massive amounts of things I shouldn’t have–why not??  ‘Gonna die anyway….BUT, five years passed, then 10.  I started getting an idea the doctors were wrong.

I finally got used to that conversation and lived with it until around 2004.  Then it flipped again.  The virus got aggressive and I had to go on meds.  My conversation no longer was about being HIV+, it had gone full blown…that was a tough conversation to get used to…but I did.

I have lived in survival mode ever since then.  The medication I take is doing it’s job (it had better at $2,500 per month!!) I could get political, but I won’t.

I’ve previously posted I became a Reiki Master one year ago.  Byron was/is my teacher.  I won’t pretend to know all about it…I’ve barely scratched the surface.  I began using crystal therapy, tone therapy and essential oils.  One of my dogs, Bentley, nearly died twice from what I believe was a reaction to flea medicine.  No one gave me any hope he’d make it.  72 hours of prayer, Reiki, crystal therapy on his abdomen and white sage and lavender smudging sticks pulled him through.

I walk barefoot as often as possible letting all the negative energy that builds up dissipate into the ground.  I listen to the wind and water and I’m alert to see what animals, or birds or insects show up.  My spirit is full.  I always thought God and being with God was a destination–somewhere out there we have work to get to.  It never occurred to me He’s right here!!  I don’t have to go anywhere….He is right here!!

My mind is free to meditate, create and basically fly wherever I want to go.  The only thing that has us stuck here, is believing we are stuck here.  So yes, I am elated with the progress my physical body has made.  But I am comforted, quite often to tears as I learn to use every tool God has provided for me to discover who He is making me to be–who He has made me to be.    Our bodies were designed to heal itself.  But we get them so mucked up with junk from the first breath we take, we have to do something–everything to get back to a place where we can accept the place we are in.  Part of that begins with not judging things we may not understand.  And above all, understand God loves us where ever we are–the good, the bad and the ugly.  And, His desire is that we learn to nurture our body, mind and spirit.  And now you have, “The Rest of the Story.”

Thank You God…..and Namaste…………b

Why I Do the Things I Do

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As another brutal East Texas summer passes into Fall, and as that glorious Fall gives way to our “winter,”  I keep myself busy cleaning up the garden and composting the left-overs.  I pull up the trellises and stakes, wind up the soaker hoses and water emitters, and I, more often than not, tell myself…”I’m not doing this next year.”

I have every intention of doing (or not) just that.  I have battled sun, heat, drought, floods, bugs and every other obstacle the growing seasons can throw at me, and I’m tired, and now it’s “cold” and…I tell myself I really don’t want to do a garden next year.

Fall gives way to “winter.”  Winters in East Texas are rather confusing.  One day the temperature may be in the 60s and the next day in single digits.  It may be dry, it may be wet, but the worst of all is ice.  Because of our topography, we don’t get a lot of snow–maybe once or twice a year…sometimes none at all.  But, worse than snow, worse than rain is ice.  It usually starts out with a cold front that dips the temps below freezing.  Then it begins to rain.  The roads are still warm, so it doesn’t stick–for a while–then it begins to freeze and the whole world begins to turn into a rink of black ice.  One quarter of an inch of ice in the East Texas hills can shut the world down.  This past year it lasted for several days.

I tell people we don’t really have that much winter here, but once it sets in, it doesn’t want to leave.  About the time you think it should start to warm up, it heads the other way again.  Until, FINALLY!!! the temperature begins to creep up.  That is usually when I have to go back outside and start digging around in the soil.  I have a severe case of cabin fever, and I smell that fresh earth smell, and I think about planting cabbages, broccoli, kale…anything that can handle that surprise attack around Easter and another round of snow.

Part of why I get so excited is I truly do love to garden.  I love to put things into the soil and baby them and watch them grow, then take hold, then shoot up and do whatever it is they do.  It’s fun.  It’s rewarding and relaxing.  But that really isn’t all of why I do what I do.

There’s some folks I call my adopted family that I’ve known since 2001.  Their daughter had gone to Africa to be a missionary, and I’d moved to East Texas to do the same thing…except for health reasons, I couldn’t be on one of the ships.  I had planned a trip to Africa–got 2 weeks away from my leaving and I got a call that I couldn’t go because I couldn’t take some of the immunizations required to go to Africa.

In the meantime, I had become friends with the Watson’s through Julie, their daughter, and when they found out I couldn’t go, they invited me to stay with them for a couple of weeks.  It seemed a little awkward staying with people I didn’t know, but I figured “what the heck!”  I went, and we adopted each other.  I’ve spent almost every Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July, and every other holiday and birthday with them ever since.

Every time I’m with them is a celebration.  They love chips and salsa, and in particular, they love mine.  So, every year (and I’m not going to plant another garden) I think of them.  So it begins.  I start with a Salsa garden, then come up with a theme–one year was Guatemala, one year was Native American Three Sisters, and so on.

I do what I do because I love other people.  I really don’t eat that much from the gardens I grow…how many tomatoes can 1 person eat?!?  When harvest time comes, I begin canning salsa, green chile enchilada sauce, sauerkraut, jams and jellies…all so I can assemble Christmas gift baskets for my adopted family, neighbors and friends.  This year, I came up with what I think is my best gift idea yet! My adopted Mom is 84 this year.  She had Polio when she was a child and one hand is curled.  She manages to do most things, but it gets more difficult each year.

They eat soup at lunch every day of the year.  So this year, the garden I wasn’t going to plant has become my soup garden.  My goal is do can 52 quarts of a soup base for them–one for each week.  The soup base has tomatoes and onions from my garden, celery and carrots.  I slow-cook them and add seasonings then puree and can them.  All she has to do is open a jar, add some beef or chicken stock, whatever frozen veggies and meats they want…and soup…their favorite lunchtime meal.

So, that’s why I do what I do…I want to show the people I love how much they mean to me.  If that isn’t healing for the Body, Mind and Spirit, I don’t know what is.  Namaste, with love, b.

Staying Busy is My Therapy

IMG_20180505_221722959The list of things I do to keep myself busy is fairly long.  I am a Pastry Chef, Executive Chef, writer, builder, wood worker, stone mason, gardener, painter.  I am a Reiki Master and I study holistic medicine so I can learn to help people heal themselves without pills and chemicals–and now you can add jewelry designer to the list.  It isn’t that I don’t ever sit down and do nothing…on occasion, I do…just not very often.  Truth be told, when I’m alone, I often eat standing up–almost like I don’t finish one thought before moving on to the next.  Some people say I’m crazy, I say I multi-task…a lot.

IMG_20180508_165328283I have an instant gratification fixation.  I love mowing my lawn because I can see where I’ve been and how much better it looks.  I don’t care that I still have an acre to mow–I look at the lane I’ve just mowed.  And it looks good!  I also like mowing because I can talk to myself and no one can hear me.  They don’t know whether I’m singing or what–and all the while, I’m solving the earth’s problems.

My new venture–wire weaving to create jewelry from gemstones combines a lot of those things.  I like sparkly things–I love crystals–they make me feel good, and they’re awesome–and humbling.  You want to argue if there’s a God–take a look at a snowflake amethyst with purple, blue, orange and pink crystals and think that a zillion years ago that was a handful of sand.  The perfect recipe of creation–time, heat and pressure transformed that dust into a dazzling thing of beauty.  Miracle?  I say it is.  My designs may not be miracles, but it’s so cool to take five strands of wire and an incredibly thin wire and begin to loop, loop, loop and watch this “thing” grow and come alive in your hands.  Pretty awesome–and gratifying.

I used to use a lot of those busy things as distractions–so I didn’t have to think about things that hurt.  When I would stop and do nothing, the thoughts of “there’s nothing good about me…I’ll never be good enough,” would creep in.  So I did use activity kind of like a drug–escape.  I did those too, and they created their own trap and I had to escape the things I used to escape things.

Things changed when I joined Mercy Ships and for the first time my life was about helping people who weren’t in a position to help themselves.  I had dabbled in it fairly often, but this became my life’s mission.  During that time I learned that as I reached out to someone else in the midst of my own pain, my pain was healed.  Layer by layer the onion was peeled away and I began to be able to look at myself as being whole–not splintered, not broken, not not good enough.  I was a train wreck, but I could still help someone else out.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m still just as busy.  I still work 12 hour days and when I get home, the “other” work begins.  The difference is this work–all this busy-ness is therapy.  It makes me feel good to see a broken stick of a plant take root and grow.  It makes me happy to see the plants in my garden so laden with produce that I have enough to last me and entire winter and have enough to give to my neighbors, my employees and friends.

I’ve often joked that I am a life long student.  I get excited when I find something new to learn.  I can’t just half way do something.  I’m all or nothing.  If something isn’t worth giving 100 percent, it’s not worth taking the time to do it at all.  And, I’m the same way about things I do for fun–because actually, most of what I do I do for fun.  It keeps me sane.  It’s my therapy.  Staying busy is my therapy.  I get up before the sun, and I don’t stop until it’s dark.  Man it feels good to be alive.

A Sensual Pleasure You Don’t Have to Hide

IMG_20180503_162340853From time to time, everyone craves one of those experiences that leave you breathless, that makes your eyes roll back in your head and no real sensible words come out of your mouth.  They are great for a moment and then you feel kind of cheap and you hang your head in shame because you broke your promise again…no more after dinner thrills.

Well, leave the lights on and parade it in front of everybody, because I’ve come up with one of those pleasurable delights I just can’t stay quiet about.  You don’t have to feel dirty anymore.  In fact, you could take this one to church.

I figured out very early in my career that people could easily get irate if their steak was under, or over-cooked.  They’d get red faced over mushy vegetables, but everybody cheered the guy with the chocolate.  Made me want to be a chocolate Easter bunny.

I give to you, a guilt-free dessert that’s actually GOOD FOR YOU.  Yes, Elanor, I said good for you.  It’s a no-bake Dark Chocolate (not quite) Cheesecake.  No dairy, no processed sugar and no gluten.  Lactose intolerant–no problem.  Gluten-free–come on in.  No processed sugar, and it will still smack you in your sweet tooth.

The one thing that brings out the mad culinary chemist in me is dessert.  I don’t eat that many sweets, although I certainly can appreciate and enjoy them from time to time.  But my goal, my own guilty pleasure, is to create something and send it out to someone and hide so I can watch the expression on their face when they take that first bite…that says it all.  No matter what the words are, that facial expression will tell you if you’ve laid an egg, or found the goose that lays the golden ones.  This is the latter one…a whole boat load of them.

How can something so good, so decadent, so rich and indulgent be good for you?  For starters, the crust is made from ground toasted almonds and cashews that are glued together with a paste made from dry figs and dates.  I use fermented organic cacao two ways in this recipe–and a little goes into the crust.  The toasted nuts and the cacao give the crust a deep, rich, almost dark flavor.  Then comes the good part:

The (not) cream cheese filling is made from the hardened cream in coconut milk that you get by refrigerating overnight 3 cans of full fat coconut milk.  When you break through the layer, the water which has separated can be drained off.  I also used two beautiful ripe avocados (to give it that buttery, creamy texture).  It gives you the feeling on your tongue like you’re eating an amazing Neuchatel. The filling also has dates.  I recommend soaking them for an hour or so in warm water to make blending them a lot easier.  You want the whole thing to be buttery smooth like ice cream.

**You really need a good food processor, or one of those tall grey blenders that can pulverize a cow bone to process the nuts into meal, and also to blend the filling ingredients.

Next comes 1/4 cup of organic coconut oil (I buy mine at Walmart and love the flavor).  1 2/3 cups of the fermented cocoa powder goes in along with 1 cup of Coconut Palm  Sugar.  Palm sugar is not processed like white sugar.  It’s the juice from a palm tree that is evaporated and screened.  It tastes a lot like the burnt sugar on top of a creme brulee…In fact, the whole dessert tastes a lot like a super dark chocolate creme brulee. A splash of vanilla and about 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt finishes it.  (I always add a sprinkle of salt in all my desserts, but chocolate especially comes alive with just a touch.)   If it isn’t quite as sweet as you’d like, you can always add a small amount of amber agave nectar.

The fermented cacao powder keeps all the great anti-oxidants and is not bitter like dutch cocoa is.  What fat there is, is a good fat.  Avocados contain good fats as does the coconut oil.  Who knew eating a dessert that feels like silk on your tongue and tastes like a really expensive dark chocolate could actually be good for you!!  OK, so don’t eat the whole thing–that could be counter-productive–but if you’re like me and you really enjoy a little something sweet from time to time, this is the holy grail of after dinner (or before bed), breakfast treats.

I don’t need a room full of people applauding when I walk into the room after serving this one–their tongues slapping their cheeks is accolade enough. (Think Jed Clampett after he ate something he really liked).  Enjoy.


Life Lessons from a Rescue

IMG_20180428_121108879Without question, many of the most intense blessings in my life have come in the form of a rescue.  With each one, I have had to ask, “Who really is the rescued?  Them, or me?”  Rescues come in all shapes and sizes, and in all life forms.  The bond that is formed, the love shown, the intense happiness and gratitude that can overwhelm you, and yes, the intense sadness when they’re gone–all show you have been rescued (too.)

IMG_20180428_121123190My first dog, Little Dancer, was a Papillon rescue.  A friend of mine got her for me not knowing that in doing so, kept me from taking my own life that day.  People never really understood why I called her my little four-legged angel–God sent her to me to give me something to live for.  And, I did live for her, and she lived for me.  Inseparable.

When my friend brought her over to me she was no bigger than my two hands cupped together.  She was so tiny and afraid–she was trembling when I took her.  I held her close and told her it was going to be ok.  She closed her eyes and melted into my chest then turned and licked my nose.  I carried her for most of the rest of the day so she would hear and know my heartbeat and she never really left my side after that.

She slept on my pillow curled up under my arm.  She was the first and only dog I’ve ever known that cried.  When I got emotional, tears running down my face, she would get up on my lap and lick my face, and many times, she had tears running down her face as well.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to let her go.  She had a stroke and went deaf and blind.  She was so scared and confused…I couldn’t let her be afraid like that.  I tried so hard to take care of her, but I could not take away the fear.  Only when I held her would she quiet down.

We had a little game we played–she could count.  I’d say “Dancer I love you,” and she’d lick my nose once.  “Dancer, I love you, love you, love you…” she licked my nose three times.  After her stroke, she couldn’t hear me anymore, but I would tell her every time I picked her up, “I love you.”

The vet came to my house and I walked around the house holding her, thanking her for all the laughter, the tears, the love we shared.  She was almost asleep and I told her one last time, “Dancer, I love you.”  After a second, she opened her eyes, turned around and licked me on the nose and went to sleep.  God let her hear me one last time, and He let me know she heard me.

I have many other rescues in my life as well.  The two roses pictured here are rescues of a sort.  They were being tossed out and I took them home and planted them in my rose garden.  I watered them, I talked to them, I fertilized them…I did everything I knew and they sat there for a summer–nothing–not so much as a leaf.  I left them there over the winter and even into the next spring.  All my other roses were blooming like crazy and they sat there without a bud or a leaf.

I finally decided to replace them and went and bought two new ones.  I got my shovel and was just about to put it into the soil.  Before I did, I looked really closely and I saw a tiny green shoot with a couple of baby leaves just coming up out of the ground.  I thought, “OK…I’ve waited this long…I’ll wait a little longer.  They were tiny and frail and they hardly grew at all.  Through the next spring and the next, they grew a little more but never bloomed.  By this time, it is year four.

This year, they were two of the first ones showing new leaves.  They aren’t covered in blooms, but they are blooming and they are two of the sweetest smelling roses I have.  So, if you want to know unconditional love…find a rescue.  Nurture it, love it, take care of it and you will be rewarded beyond measure.  Never give up.  You may find that you were the one rescued…just like I have been.   Namaste.  b


Look for the Flowers

sunriseOne of my very favorite Easter memories happened nearly 30 years ago, but I can see it as clearly as I could that day.  I was part of a small church in Austin, Texas called “Hearts Set Free.”  Coming from an ultra-conservative church upbringing, the name was a little strange for me, but it was also a beautiful promise and declaration.  How I had longed to come out of the darkness my world had become to enter a world of light and color and peace.

I had recently graduated from culinary school and I loved to share my passion in the kitchen with those around me.  I lived in a small cabin on a hill overlooking Lake Travis way out in the middle of nowhere.  I loved the peace and quiet.

One Sunday at church we were talking about Easter and I had a great idea:  I invited everyone to my cabin to have a sunrise service and then an Easter breakfast.  Everyone was so excited.  I stayed up the entire night before preparing food, lighting candles and picking out the music.  My goal with anything I do is not just cook the food, but to create an environment for people to enjoy and feel comfortable and loved.

People began arriving around 5 a.m., and soon my little cabin was overflowing with friends and excitement.  We laughed and sang and shared the love we felt from one another, and especially the love we felt from God.  As the time drew closer for the sun to come up, I got more excited.  I was exhausted, but elated.  Finally the darkness of the pre-dawn sky began to change from jet black to light grey.  You could just begin to make out the silhouette of the trees outside.  Birds began to sing.

As we began to gather outside, my elation turned to disappointment as a heavy, thick fog rolled in over the lake.  It was so foggy, you couldn’t see the lake.  The beautiful sunrise I had anticipated was not going to happen.  But, I theorized the sun was still coming up, we just couldn’t see it.  We began to sing and pray, but my sadness sort of stole the moment.

And then, I heard it…that voice in my head (God, if you will) told me to look down at the ground.  It didn’t make sense, but I looked down and to my amazement, the hillside we were standing on was covered with a blanket of tiny wildflowers.  I yelled out, “Look at the ground!!”  The colors of the sunrise may have been covered by fog, but they were at our feet, all around us.  The miracle was that there had been no wildflowers growing on that hill before that morning.  If you have seen photos of the blue bonnets and Indian Paintbrushes blooming in Central Texas, you know how breathtaking it is.

The lesson I learned was God understands our disappointments and always provides an answer to them.  They may not always happen immediately like the wildflowers that sprang up out of nowhere, but they will happen.  The other lesson is to not let ourselves be disappointed by the fog that can often blot out our vision…just look for the flowers.  Happy Easter.  Namaste.  b

Do I Stay, or Do I Go?

pyramid copyYour heart, spirit, intuition–whatever you want to call it will always know something isn’t right long before our minds will accept that concept.  Some people call it “that small still voice.”  I call it that higher part of me that like an eagle flies far above the circumstances and can see with clarity what is, and what lies ahead.  My mind, however, will often become the trap that keeps me mired down in situations my spirit wants to get out of or be free from…yet I stay.

Why??  Fear?  Yes.  Self doubt?  Yes.  Feeling like a failure if I walk away?  Yes.  Are those feelings real?  Yes.  But where do they come from?  They come from that part of me that wants to make sense out of everything–that part that says there has to be a logical order so that the outcome that is produced is also logical.  And how do I feel while in the midst of that process?  Miserable, defeated, trapped and hopeless. Miserable to stay, afraid to leave.  Not a particularly meaningful way to exist…certainly not fulfilled, excited or content.

I know I’m headed into that vacuum when I see less and less color in my life…everything begins to lose the sparkle of life and turns into a monochromatic monotony.  It’s easy to make a glowing list of all the reasons it would be beneficial to extricate myself from the situation, and it’s just as easy to make an ongoing list of all the things that would make removing myself complicated, or at least uncomfortable.

When things have been set into motion to get you to remove yourself, there is no arguing with the outcome.  Remaining stationary in those situations, really comes down to one basic emotion for me….fear.  Fear of the unknown is a completely controlling emotion until I make the decision to not be controlled any longer.  As soon as I begin to move in the direction to do something about it; as soon as I put something into motion; as soon as I make a declaration that this, too, will change….BOOM!!!  the universe hears me and doors will begin to open.  And I wonder why it took so long to make the change.

It reminds me of a story I’ve heard many times (and every time been able to see it applies to me).  A man stands on the edge of a cliff–the voice in his head telling him to take that leap of faith.  And he asks, “But, what if I fall?”  The voice answers, “But my dear…what if you fly?”

At some point in the life of every sparrow, every hawk, every eagle, there came a time where they were faced with taking that leap out of the nest.  Without it, they would never fly, but by taking it, they learn how to soar.  I guess I just answered my own question.



Good Things Will Come (It’s Good to Reward Yourself)

We grew up on a farm.  We didn’t have a lot of money or material things, but we were definitely not poor.  In fact, in the important things in life, I’d say we were rich.  We had the blessing of growing up with nearly our entire family close by.  We spent every Friday night with my dad’s Mother, Mammaw Esther.  She let us do things our Mother would never let us do…like toast marshmallows on the stove, eat in the living room and every Saturday morning we had Dr. Pepper and fresh biscuits while we watched cartoons in our pajamas.

Our Mother and Daddy didn’t have a college education, but they were brilliant in the things that mattered.  We certainly didn’t get everything we wanted, but we always had everything we needed.  My Dad was one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known. (But every farmer worked their fingers to the bone and pushed themselves beyond exhaustion and when something came up, they pushed themselves further still.)  For example, they had worked sun up to sun down, and a cow had a breach calf…the worked til dawn the next day to bring that calf into the world….Momma and baby alive.

And, my sister and I didn’t “act a fool” in public places…we didn’t dare.  Don’t get me wrong, our parents NEVER beat us, but we knew we faced a fate worse than that if we acted up.  Momma would snap her fingers, or spank our hands if we reached for something we had no business handling.  Or even worse, fate of all fates, was to get our first and middle names used in a voice louder than “inside voice.”

But that’s what I mean…our parents loved us enough to teach us respect, what was right and what was wrong.  We (or at least I) were convinced of the fate that awaited us if we didn’t “act right.”  That’s what’s wrong with multiple generations today…no one ever says “No.”  One time I wouldn’t stop giggling in church.  Momma told me to stop, but I kept on.  For whatever reason she pinched me on the inside of my thigh and I screamed….”Stop pinching me!!!!”  Immediately I regretted that as she jerked me so hard I thought my shoulder came out of the socket as she marched me outside to yank my shorts down and blister my backside on the back seat of the car.  Today it would be called child abuse…back then it was called discipline.  Can we please go back to then??

One thing I didn’t learn growing up (and it was absolutely no one’s fault) was how to respect myself.  I didn’t learn a lot about self-control and subsequently rewarding myself.  For every way I stayed “in line” as a kid, I strayed away from when I moved away to college…I didn’t know how to tell myself “No,” and I didn’t know how to wait on things.  If I wanted it, I grabbed it, or bought it, or charged it.

I didn’t learn those lessons until much later in life.  In 2001 I basically gave everything up to become a volunteer with Mercy Ships.  It’s the greatest thing I could have ever done for myself at the time.  Back then, I was killing myself day by day by drinking and anything else I could get my hands on.  I didn’t become a volunteer with a missions organization because I was such a great humanitarian…on the contrary:  I knew if I didn’t do something that drastic I would eventually kill myself.  I thought nothing of drinking until I couldn’t see, or talk, or walk for that matter and drive home.  At that time, I secretly hoped that’s what would happen.  My only concern is that I didn’t want to take anyone else with me.

It was more act of desperation rather than honor that I moved to a teeny little town in East Texas.  But in giving everything up, I got my life back.  I became a “missionary” so I could go somewhere and help people, and just like in the movie, “Dances With Wolves,” in doing that, the people I went to help saved me, and I got my life back.

I had been to hell.  I had survived the “Dark Night of the Soul.”  And, bit by bit, step by step, I regained….ME.  I had to do without for a long, long time because I had so many debts to repay.  I had so many wrongs to try to make right.  Eventually, though, the scale began to tip in the other direction

I had  a student loan I hadn’t tried to pay back for a number of years–to the point the government was going to garnish my pay…but I became a volunteer.  While I was in Guatemala I said out loud, “God, if you’ll give me another chance, I’ll start to repay that loan.”  The day after I got back to the U.S., I got a letter from the student loan people saying “contact us…we’ll work something out.”  I did.  Because I was a volunteer, it was a tiny amount, but I made the payments.  They were satisfied, and I was out of default.  That was in March, 2000.  By the grace of God, I have never been late on a payment since then.  My credit rating at the time was “don’t even think about it,” and today, it is “Excellent.”

I bought a house with a rent house next door, hoping my Mother would move to East Texas with me, but she remarried…this time she had met her soul mate.  I had someone renting the guest house at the time and they moved out.  When I went next door, I was dumbfounded….it was destroyed.  I literally tore out everything leaving only the floor studs and the wall joists and I rebuilt it by hand by myself…except the plumbing and electrical….don’t do those!!!  (I can, just don’t like to!!)  I took out a loan for $10K to remodel 600 square feet.  In the meantime, the engine on my beloved boat blew up (literally!!)  I wanted a new one so badly.  But, I told myself, I wouldn’t allow it until I paid that loan off. The day I paid it off, I began to look for a boat (pictured above).   I got the boat of my dreams for a song and dance…the engine alone was worth $16K, the boat, about $10K, and I got boat, motor and trailer for $7K!!!!!!!!!!!

I wanted a garden badly.  All I had was a shovel and a pair of gloves to bust up the East Texas clay that had baked in 100+ days for months, but I carved out a garden.  I wanted a tiller, and I could have used a credit card to charge it…but I wouldn’t.  One day I saw an ad in a local Ad column for a brand new tiller for $100….retail $799.  I waited months for that ad, but I got it.

And yesterday, I bought another lawn mower.  I live on 1 acre.  My 20-year-old Snapper mower blew out last September.  I finished the mowing season (October-November) by using a push mower.  I wanted a new one so badly, but I kept telling myself, “No!”  Yesterday, I got another one.  Not brand new…better…I got a 2000 year mower that had been rebuilt from stem to stern…every bolt, belt, pulley, light bulb and filter..rebuilt by a small engine mechanic.  I got a brand new mower in an older shell….I can relate to that.!!  Instead of $1800, I paid $775.

The point of all this is I had to go a long time without allowing myself a lot of “rewards.”  I set guidelines for what had to take place before I would let myself purchase those “things.”  It’s been hard.  It’s been rewarding.  It has shaped who I am today as opposed to the irresponsible person I was back in Sept. 2000…  And, I can say….”It is good.”

The lessons I learned were hard…but I learned them.  I ticked off bill by bill, one at a time to put myself in a position to get some things that years before I could only dream of.  Reward yourself!!  But, before that, do the work.  Do whatever it is that you already know you need to do, in order to get from Point A to Point B.  Then allow yourself…you’ve deserved it.

Really, what has happened to enable you to get to that point, is you have learned, no matter how difficult…what it means to be a person of integrity.  Become that…then reward yourself…you’ve earned it…and the Universe celebrates with you.

God Bless You!!!  Please reward yourself…please.


Celebrate Your Victories

valley waterfallToday begins week 7 of my Paleo journey.  I have reached the half-way point of my weight loss goal, and have lost 5 inches from my waist…seem to be kind of stuck on that number, but that’s OK–in fact, I’m thrilled with that!!   The weather has been gloomy, cloudy, misty, rainy and mostly too cool to get outside and do very much in the yard or my garden.

In all honesty, I could do it, but I don’t like the cold, and I don’t like the dampness.  So for now, I’ll spend my time indoors looking through past issues of Mother Earth News, and seed catalogs.  More and more my interest has turned to heirloom vegetables.  There’s a lot to be said for the old varieties–mainly that they taste so much better than their beauty pageant counterpart hybrids.  They taste better and they are easier to maintain so who cares of their are not quite as pretty and perfect…most of us aren’t either.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves that we all too often forget is to celebrate our victories.  You need to let them in.  It’s easy to critique ourselves and see all the things we haven’t done or still need to do.  It’s easy to say “I’ve reached my half-way point,” (and then we say louder with more emphasis) “but I still have so much more to go!”  You just missed your celebration.

We have been trained to focus only on the end goal that we often don’t see or appreciate the journey.  How many hills do we have to climb to reach the mountaintop?  How many valleys do we have to go down into in order to reach the next hilltop?  Rivers and streams only flow downhill.  They wind their ways into valleys and spread out onto plains before reaching their ultimate destination…the ocean.  Just look at all the gorgeous scenery in between!  Rivers celebrate the journey.

If we only look at the beginning and the end, how much breathtaking scenery will we miss in between?  How many victories will we miss out on if we consider the end result the only thing worth celebrating?  Let it in!!  Congratulate yourself…pat yourself on the back.  And above all, do it with gratitude!  Every time there was a slip, trip or fall, there was a lesson in there somewhere.  Be grateful for the lesson and get back up.

I have a friend who was a really good student.  Learning came easy, and they always made good grades.  When graduation came, they finished with a 3.9.  Someone told them “if you had tried harder, you could have done better.”  Obviously that was crushing…and that’s the way he learned to view his life. There was never any accomplishment.  There was never any celebration–the only thing he could see was what wasn’t done or what he still needed to do.  Because of that outlook, his life had no color…only grays and browns.

Instead of always looking ahead at how far you still have to go, turn around sometimes and see how far you’ve come!!  Do a little dance, sing a little song–do whatever it is you do, but celebrate your victories and paint your life with color.  Enjoying the journey is just as important as reaching the goal…and you’ll be much happier along the way.


Pushing the Plateau

wastelandSooner or later when we attempt anything new–adopting a new lifestyle, beginning a diet, trying to break out of old habits–whatever it may be, we all face one of the most frustrating, discouraging elements of that quest:  we encounter the dreaded plateau.

If we are dieting, we reach a point where the weight doesn’t come off anymore.  If we are changing the way we eat, as I have to Paleo, it gets boring.  When we try to break free of an old habit, we may forget why we’re doing it, or we get overwhelmed by a craving for whatever we’re trying to change.

Sometimes I set myself up for that frustration.  I’ve heard we should only get on the scales once a week…but I must check my “progress” daily.  If there is a change in the right direction–great!!  If everything stays the same…bummer.  If the change goes in the wrong direction–AARGH!

That is when keeping your word to yourself, persistence on the plateau, can be the most difficult.  (Remember declaring “I AM going to do this!!)?  It’s easy to stick to the plan when everything seems to be going your way.  When it’s not going according to plan–well that just sucks.  Pushing the plateau through that time is when new sides of the new you will begin to show up.

I had been on the scales for 10 days with no change–well, there was a change–I gained 2 pounds!  I hadn’t changed anything, hadn’t cheated, hadn’t eaten anything I wasn’t supposed to…that’s when you reach the point of saying “just forget it.”  “If I’m going to gain weight and I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, then why not grab that piece of cheese, or chocolate chip cookie!!  DON’T DO IT!!

I have no idea why, but one day I checked, and I lost 1.2 pounds.  Yesterday, I lost another pound.  Today when I checked, I lost 1.8 pounds!  What started the engine again?  I didn’t change anything I hadn’t changed…the only thing I can figure is that at some point, especially with diets, our bodies adjust to our new calorie count and our metabolism matches that new count…so there I am, and we level off.

I’ve done this long enough to know, also, the best way to jump start the engine again is to exercise.  To me, that word should be spelled exorcise.  I’m already on my feet all day.  I rarely sit.  When I do sit, it’s more like an up and down, up and down, up and down.  My sitting is like most people’s jumping jacks.  My butt rarely touches the chair because my feet always hit the ground.  Nevertheless…I know the best way to get things going again is to exercise more.  And that’s when I begin to convince myself the view from up here isn’t so bad…in fact, it’s kind of pretty…it wouldn’t be so bad to stay right where I am.  That’s when I will most likely drop a pen on the floor, or need to tie my shoe, or put on my socks, and I can’t do it and breathe at the same time…ok, ok, ok…I get it!!

For me, the best way to get going is to put on some fun music really loud and dance…I may be 60, but I still can dance.  That way, it’s fun, not exercise…as long as I don’t pull or tear something and look like Fred Sanford the next day.  One of my biggest fears is that I’ll fall and end up looking like a turtle on its back–arms flailing, neck stretched and getting nowhere.  Eventually most turtles do make it back over.  That’s when you get up and start all over again.

The point is…stick to your goal.  Keep your word to yourself…it doesn’t matter to anyone else…you have to do it for YOU.  Meditate, have a Reiki session whether it’s on yourself (if you’re a practitioner) or see someone who is trained to do it for you.   Whatever it takes, keep your word to yourself and eventually you’ll break through.  And then you’ll be really glad you did.

Namaste…love yourself.