Monday, October 9, 2017

Darkness Still Returns from Time to Time

I was in a pretty dark place yesterday.  I've felt it coming on for over a week but I did not know why.  Then my old buddy Depression swallowed me.  I wrote a poem about it which  is a first for me.  Poetry is not usually my medium.

Sometimes there is a storm inside my head.
The clouds gather and I hear voices in the wind:
"You don't matter.  You'll never be good enough.  You don't count."
First, I rail against the wind trying to prove my worth,
but then I just curl up in a ball and hope not to drown.

Well - I did not drown, in large part due to dear friends who encouraged me.  Their love and comfort brought healing to my heart.  They told me that I don't have to carry the world and that not everything in life is my fault.  Also, all I can do is my best and there is no shame in that.  They reminded me that the best way to deal with negative thoughts is to ask God if they are true because ugly accusations like that never come from Him. 

I am blessed to be surrounded by such kindness and love.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

How to Shop at the Farmer's Market

   I've been shopping at my local farmer's market for a couple years now.  I started this habit for several reasons.  I wanted to add more vegetables to my diet and eat healthier. Also, I wanted to support the local economy and the local farmers.  In addition, I don't want herbicides and insecticides in my food and I believe these things pollute our environment.  Most of the farmers at the market use very little or none of these chemicals so it's the type of food I'm looking for.  Lastly, their food tastes amazing!!

I have learned that shopping at the farmer's market is very different than shopping at a grocery store.  Through experience, experimentation, and much research I have figured out how to maximize this resource for my family. I've decided to list some tips here.  I wish someone had given me a list like this when I first started exploring the market.

First - Don't make a list before shopping. 
I know this is so counter-intuitive especially for those of us who love lists.  However, if you make your meal plan first and  then go to the farmer's market, you are going to be disappointed.  Unlike a grocery store which has every product every time you enter, the market only has what was harvested that week.  This is actually a benefit because their food is fresh and nutrient rich unlike the stuff we ship all over the country/world before it reaches the store.  So, to maximize your enjoyment of the market, I suggest you go there first and get whatever fruits and vegetables you like.  Then take them home and plan your meals around those items.  The food you buy at the farmer's market will make all your favorite recipes even better.

Second - If you like it - buy it now!
I learned this lesson by making mistakes.  My first summer I was so excited to see a local farmer selling chickens that he had raised and butchered himself.  I knew this meant the animals had been treated with respect and lived a good life.  Not only is this better for the animal, but it is healthier for the eater as well.  I bought one and took it home to cook.  The flavor was amazing!  I hurried back the next week to buy another one and he was sold out.  There would be no more that season.  I was crushed.  That is when I learned that if I see something I like, I need to grab it right away.  This applies to vegetables and fruits as well.  If the zucchini looks good, grab it today, it might not be there next week.  Local food is seasonal and limited.  I had to adjust to that if I wanted all the benefits that come with it.  This year chickens were available again and I bought three right away.  I only wish I could fit more in my freezer.

Third - Buy more than you need and preserve the extra.
This grows out of rule number two.  If you buy something you are not going to use right away, then you need a way to make sure it does not get wasted.  I know people who do canning and freeze-drying.  I have not learned either of those skills yet, so my main preservation system is the freezer.  I do batch cooking, doubling and tripling my favorite recipes and freezing them to have fast meals later.  Also, I have learned which fruits and vegetables can be flash-frozen and which ones need to be blanched first. (This involves boiling the vegetable for a short time and then submerging them in a cold water bath before freezing.)  I have made many mistakes and lost some food, but these mistakes teach me how to do it better the next time.  I'm hoping to have enough vegetables in the freezer this year so I don't have to buy any at the store this winter.

Fourth - Try not to compare the prices with supermarket prices. 
It is very tempting at first to look at the prices of the food at the farmer's market and turn away because it is cheaper at the local big-box store.  However, please remember, this is not the same food.  Those tomatoes may look similar to the ones at your grocery store, but they are, in fact, very different.  They have measurably more nutrients.  They have not been bred for tough skins to allow cross-country transport.  They are fresh and they were picked already ripe.  They are not covered in harmful chemicals.  They were planted and raised by someone in your own community.  They are delicious!!  They are, indeed, worth the cost.

Fifth - Talk to the vendors and try something new.
At the farmer's market you have the opportunity to talk to the people who raised your food.  You can ask them any questions you have.  You can thank them for taking the effort to keep this food system alive.  Then you can pick up an unfamiliar vegetable and ask them what it's called and how to cook it.  You won't get that at the grocery store.

As you can tell, I love the farmer's market! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sometimes We Lose

Do you have some lessons in your life that you have to learn over and over? 

I find myself, at times, coming back to familiar themes in my life.  It's not like I forget, I just don't use what I know to be true or maybe I hope it's not true this time.

Here is one I'm tired of relearning - I can't fix someone else's problems. 

The thing is I don't want this to be true.  I want to be able to fix hurting people.  I want to relieve their pain and rescue them from their troubles... and I want to be a beloved hero. 

I recently felt God telling me that this is not my job.  My mission is to love broken people, not to rescue them.  It sounded good at first.  I could walk beside people in pain and comfort them.  At the time I had just finished a great week at school.  Classes were going well and I had the opportunity to talk to and encourage a student with severe anxiety.  We held a meeting and discussed coping strategies.  I felt important and successful.  Then the next week came and things fell apart.  There was a shouting match in my classroom and another student had a panic attack.  I guess I blamed myself.  If I was a better teacher these things would not have happened.  I couldn't protect my wounded students from life.  I couldn't keep them safe. 

So basically I fell into the negative thought patterns of attaching my sense of value to my accomplishments as well as thinking I could fix the world.  I can make suggestions and point people to resources, but I can't make their choices for them.  I can't wrap them in a bubble and keep them safe.  I still wish I could.

Last year our school was gifted with some landscaping.  One of the small trees planted was delicate and beautiful with a braided trunk.  I loved that tree.  It made me smile every morning.  The janitor watered all the new plants faithfully, but some of them did not make it.  The pretty tree withered and eventually died.  Sometimes, no matter what you do you lose one.  This is a hard truth for me to accept.

If my new delicate flowers don't make it, I will mourn for them.  They are amazing people and I want them to be successful.  However, it's not my job to fix their lives.  They are strong and resilient. I will give them love and kindness and tools to use and I will cheer for them when they overcome their own adversities and create the beautiful lives I know they are capable of. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Can we really change the world?

I grew up in the generation where we were told we could accomplish anything we set our minds to.  Of course sooner or later we figured out that life was not that simple, but I guess the positive thinking mentality still sticks with me.  I would rather believe that my actions matter than just coast along letting life happen to me. 

The book I've been reading lately, Hope's Effect, describes various people all over the world who are changing their destinies and influencing the world around them.  The premise is to believe that what exists around us now is not inevitable and it can be changed.  We can create what does not exist.  We can help create the world we want to live in. 

I believe that.  I may not be able to create utopia, but I can do something to improve my corner of the world.  I can maximize the resources I have around me and look for new ways to do things.  I can live in alignment with my values.

Unfortunately I see so many people who believe the solution is outside themselves and they are powerless to change anything.  A friend of mine told me how frustrated she was that our town does not recycle.  I was confused and started to tell her where the local drop off spots are and what materials they take.  She interrupted and explained that she meant curb-side recycling.  So, because we didn't have this convenience, she did not recycle at all and she blamed the system.  Now, it is a hassle to sort my trash and collect bags at home and take them across town to the drop off and sometimes I chose not to do it.  Most of the time, though, I make the effort because I believe in not wasting resources and limiting how much trash goes to landfills and I hope that our town council will see that this is important to the public and they might pursue curb-side.  I don't actually mind that my friend did not recycle - that is a personal choice based on values.  What bothered me was that she was blaming 'the system' for not making it convenient.  She relying on 'them' to solve the problem instead of maximizing her own abilities.

I see the same problem when people say healthy food is too expensive and/or they do not have time to cook at home.  See, I can relate to this.  I was that person.  I actually bought those pre-cooked meats and side-dishes at the store.  I used paper plates because I did not have time to wash dishes. I know what it's like to work long hours and come home to take care of children and not have energy to deal with dinner.  However, I started learning about the dangers of our highly processed diet.  I began to realize that the way I was eating was making me fat and sick.  The convenience foods I was buying were solving one problem but creating others.  I could complain about how the gov't and the food system were not taking care of us.  I could bemoan the cost of organic vegetables and grass-fed meat.  Or, I could make as many changes as my circumstances would allow.  I started making more home-made dishes.  I learned to cook extra and freeze it so I had easy meals to warm up on those busy nights.  I looked for alternatives to some of our favorite processed foods.  I experimented with vegetable dishes and bought organic when the food budget allowed.  I visit both local farmer's markets even though they are small.  I talked to the farmers and got leads on local ranchers who raise cows, pigs, and chickens and sell the butchered meat.  It wasn't easy, and it surely wasn't convenient, but I changed how my family eats and improved our health.  I'm not saying everyone can or even should do what I did.  Some can do more and some can do less, but we can all do something.

I'm certainly not perfect, and I do my share of complaining about the systems around me that seem unfair or unreasonable.  However, more and more I am choosing not to just accept my plight but to "do what I can with what I have where I am." 

Let's all create the world we want to live in.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Does it Really Matter

The school where I teach did several project-based learning units this year.  We took a central theme and applied it to all the various subjects students were taking.  One of the themes was Environmental Responsibility.  We looked at several big areas of environmental problems as well as how these problems could be turned around.

I was very surprised by my students' reactions.  Unlike me these kids grew up with 'reduce, reuse, recycle' and they were pretty familiar with the Garbage Patch and the ocean dead zones.  It was not a new topic so I understood that they were not always spell-bound.  What surprised me was their lack of personal action and their fatalism.  They willingly wrote essays about how industrial farming methods are bad for animals and increase disease in our food supply while finishing up their fast-food hamburger from lunch.  They drew recycling posters and threw their scraps in the trash. It seemed like there was no connection between what they knew and their personal action choices.   One day we were discussing an extreme ecological experiment called No Impact where Colin Beaven worked for one year to reduce his negative environmental impact to zero,  He figured out how to not create trash, he walked or biked everywhere, he and his family ate local food and even turned off the electricity for part of the year.  Eventually, one of my student asked the question, "But did any of that really matter?"  This and other comments made me realize that many of them felt that their own personal actions did nothing to solve the Earth's problems.  They had decided that our world is doomed and there was nothing they could do about it. 

I found this expounded on in a book called Hope's Edge. "...we don't experience ourselves as creating this world; we don't see ourselves as choosers at all.  Our planet-in-decline is just happening... What we have is all there is."

My first reaction was to feel sad that our youth could have such a doom and gloom outlook.  Then I began to wonder if they were right.  Did the bags of paper I dragged out of school to take to the local drop off really matter?  Was my paying extra to get local vegetables from the farmer's market really helping carbon emissions and putting a dent in the industrial food system?  Did my local action even matter?

Here is my answer - I chose to buy vegetables and even meat from my local farmers and ranchers because I don't want food riddled with antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides.  So, first of all it makes a difference to me and hopefully to my family's health.  My money helps support small farmers who are creating a food system that I believe in.  Along with other 'shoppers' we allow these farmers to keep doing what they believe in and not quit or convert to industrial methods.  I think it makes a difference to them.  I like knowing that the meat I eat comes from animals that had a good life.  They got to play and frolic and eat the things they were meant to eat.  Yes, they ended up on my plate, but they did not live a life of torture and disease first.  I think it makes  a difference to those animals.  So, my food choices may not change the world (although the food movement is growing and seeing an influence), but it is influencing my corner of the world, and I think it does matter.

Although this post has centered around environmental issues, it really touches on my whole worldview.  I believe in local action, I believe in people influencing and helping people.  I believe in living out what you say you believe.  I believe that God works through each one of us to make this world a better place.  We are each the little boy in the poem who keeps throwing starfish back into the ocean because, "it makes a difference to that one".  Go save some starfish.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The choir

I have a choir of voices in my head. They have been there as long as I can remember. They tell me things like "You are worthless," "Everything is your fault," "You are broken," and You are unloveable." (not audible voices of course)

Through counseling and meditation I was able to shush them, but they always came back when life got tough.  Where did they come from and why couldn't I get rid of them?

I have had a revelation. Those voices are not evil spirits or people from my past. They are me. At different times in my life things happened that I processed negatively and the beliefs were born. I can't just bury or erase them because part of me believes they are true. I envision each of these past troubles as a voice speaking it's truth to me.

I think each of these little people inside me needs to be heard and healed instead of ignored.

I started with the youngest one. She (I) is a little baby who was held tightly and shushed by her mother whenever her Daddy was doing his college homework. I visualized her and asked her what she had to say. It was a lot. She said she learned that her needs were not important. She learned to hide her feelings because they were bad and displeased other people. She believed that it was her fault if other people failed and to never make someone else mad.

In my mind I held her and sought to speak the truth to her. I told her she was loved. I reminded her of pictures of her daddy playing with her and kind words her mom spoke through the years. Then I told her that she was not responsible for other people's choices. Her dad could have gone to the library; her mom could have taken her for a walk. Her fussing was not responsible for any trouble he had studying or any arguments they had over it. You had a right to express your needs at the time. Lastly, your mom and dad did the best they knew how at the time and they loved you.

In the end I could envision that little baby sleeping contentedly in her mom's arms. I don't think her voice will be in my choir any longer at least not the same way.

I am excited to start this journey. I believe it is the path to peace.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

OA- I'm Not in Charge of the World - Thank Goodness

Step two - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step three - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I've been listening to a podcast step study and reading the AA Big Book to solidify my recommitment to the program.  In the Chapter called "How it Works" I found myself:

"..any life run on self-will can hardly be a success."

That sounds reasonable.  Not too many people hold up selfishness as a positive attribute.   Not many of us claim to be selfish, but...

"Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show... if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great.  Everybody, including himself, would be pleased.  Life would be wonderful... "

 Ouch - how many of us think life would be better if only people would listen to us?

"What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well.  He begins to think life does not treat him right."

That sounds like my favorite complaint - It's not fair!!!

 "He decides to exert himself more."

  Me - I just have to work harder.

"He becomes... more demanding or gracious... Still the play does not suit him... He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying... a producer of confusion rather than harmony...sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave..."

So - yeah that pretty much sounds like my pity-party depression episodes. =(

So the real problem is "self-will run riot, though he usually does not think so."

I have been so busy trying to keep things running smoothly at work and at church that I did not realize the "I" was the problem.  I'm not responsible or capable to run the world.  I don't get to hold the reigns unless I want to crash. (and I have been crashing) 

So - what is the solution? 

"Above everything, we alcoholics (Me- dare I say, we humans) must be rid of this selfishness..."


"God makes that possible... we had to quit playing God... in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director... He is the Father and we are His children.."

So when I am tied up in knots trying to please everyone and do everything that needs doing, I am trying to be in control  I am the director of my play.  It's about what I want.  I'm being selfish.  Big ouch.

Does that mean I don't do anything?  Nope - "We had a new Employer.  Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well."  My job is to stay close to the creator and do His will and His work, not mine.  Not my "little plans and designs" but instead "contribute to life". 

Giving my will and my plans over to God is the "triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom". 

So - I can have freedom and peace and purpose.  All I have to do is resign as the Queen of  the World? 

 I'm in -God, teach me to surrender each and every situation to you.  Help me to do your will and let go of the results.  Help me to remember You are in charge of the world.  I am only a servant - thank goodness.