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New Pathways to Well-Being

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New Pathways to Well-Being

I am not much of a middle of the night blogger. But seeing as I am staying the night in the hospital, I tend to wake up as suddenly as I doze off. I have few hours yet until it is morning and the silence is stunning. Thus, I take advantage of the opportunity.

I just had my tonsils removed and am quite comfortable with an assortment of liquids as well as pain relievers. And yet, my mind is still busy. The silence encourages my thought processes. I have two things on my mind: my physical being and my physical environment. The two of these culminate into one theme: my small business. My role as a writer, my ambitions as an artist, and the family’s desire to become more involved in alternative agriculture.

I think about how this spring I began exploring my understanding of my physical being through writing.  Well, then I got sick. My throat inflamed terribly. A little ironic, I think.

Just a bit later into the summer, amid deadlines, my husband’s surgery, and my continuing illness, I said,

It is a small step in bringing order to my life.

I’m through with waking each morning feeling bad in some way.

I’m through with abusing or neglecting myself.

It’s up to me to know when to say when.

And so, that is why I am here recovering from surgery. Four months of reoccurring throat pain became a great barrier. I spent my days feeling bad. I neglected my garden, I struggled to juggle projects, I couldn’t let go of material things, and I couldn’t move on.

I literally, I could not move on into what the future had in store for me: a space for my office studio. I was told about this opportunity to gain a space the day after I cleaned out my home office. It felt like the universe was fast at work. I was granted access just after July 4.

But here it is October 9th and I have yet to move in. Why? Because the universe was at work in other ways as well.

Here I have access to space in which I can do my work as a writer and as an artist. I had wanted it so badly. But then I came to realize the building has the exact layout of my first apartment. I stumbled. I stumbled back into a time when I felt like my life calling was to be a writer and an artist. I stumbled back into a small sliver of my youth in which I loved being myself.

But, I was only 18 and had so much to learn at that time. It was eerily surreal that this new space recalled many incidents of this time in my life. Some good, some bad. All true, because I was living a true existence. That was until I got derailed, began a pattern of self-sabotage, and soon was unable to pay my bills. It didn’t take long for me to totally abuse my entire physical existence, after all I was only 18.

And perhaps now, I get a chance to do it differently.

Sure, I was scared to make the move into a similar place.

But I know have the courage to say, once again, “That was then, this is now.”

I begin to have a sense that the life I envision is possible.

I think about an article I read this morning about the art of making a living as an artist. 

I think about the business plan I developed one year ago, and how I have the opportunity to revisit that again now.

I think about how far my writing has come in the past year.

I think about a project I am working on now, helping a farmer and local foods activist friend develop her vision statement for an application.

I keep thinking about what she wrote about the growing population of would-be farmers that are prepared to unleash their creativity, but just need assurance that their dreams and plans would be possible.

I think that term farmer could be replaced by any of my potential titles, and she still would have been able to include me in that statement. After all, there are so many possibilities ahead!

And so many ideas floating around in this head of mine.

And more than ideas, but passion as well.

Perhaps in overcoming this barrier of pain, fear, and disconnect, I am better able to pave a new pathway within so that my own great ideas can connect with my true passion in order to freely engage with my own physical environment.

Welcome, Acceptance

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A menagerie is growing. It is peeping and squeaking and soon to be quacking.

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Seven little ducklings have taken up residence in our basement.

DSCF3061 And on occasion, the bathtub.

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Watching these creatures stirred something deep within myself.

Wonder,

excitement,

and a little giggle

of a five-year-old girl.

The same five year old girl that used to chase sparrows around the McDonald’s playground in hopes of catching one,

just to feel what feathers were like.

The same five year old girl that would take her grandpa’s hand and say, “Let’s go look at the garden!”

The same five year old girl that dug up the roots of an apple tree, certain that she had found a dinosaur bone.

That little girl, is me. She arrived yesterday.

A day after the ducklings.

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She wanted to call her daddy to tell him about the excitement of holding these little fluff-balls.

I had to be gentle with her, “Your daddy died last year, sweetheart.”

“Oh, that’s right. I’m sad about that…

But, we know what feathers feel like now, right?”

“Yes, we do. We get to hold birds everyday, if we want.”

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“And we have a garden now, right?”

“Yes, but it’s too cold to work in it. But someday soon the green onions and garlic will start sprouting.”

“And we have apple trees too, right?”

“Yes, we do. Dad helped the boys plant them two years ago.”

“Oh good. So we’re happy and life is good, right?”

“Yes, my girl. You are right. As difficult as things feel sometimes, we are happy. And life is good.”

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~

What an amazing sense of arrival, to know what is truly important to the core of my being.

And to know that through all the struggles,

through all the discontented and quieted bits of my inner self,

that the young child,

the one with the quietest voice,

is the most accepting,

the most appreciative,

and remains close to the ones gone from this world.

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“Recovering a Sense of Abundance”

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What would a nontoxic god think of my creative goals?

I am exploring and experiencing my fluid understanding of a creator, creative abundance, and money. I’m halfway through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and this weeks topics are challenging in many, many ways. Too many times I have made decisions based on what I thought what I was supposed to do and completely ignored what I truly wanted to do. Where does that come from? Likely it has something to do with ideas about behaving in ways to please a Creator. Is it really necessary to think of our God as a paternalistic authority? What if what I wanted to do was what I was supposed to do, even if it wasn’t sensible? What if it would have cost me money?

What if Shakti Gawain is right in saying,

“The more we learn to operate in the world based on trust in our own intuition, the stronger our channel will be and the more money we will have.”

What if Julia Cameron is right in saying,

“Looking at creation, it is pretty clear that the creator itself did not know when to stop. There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. No two alike. This creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative ventures.”

What if Paul Hawken is right in saying,

“Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.”

Last week, I shared the ambitions I have for the year ahead. And just like I have said in previous posts, sometimes writing and sharing ideas is what makes them become true. At times, abundance seems to arise out of the little bits we give into the universe. It is up to us to think in terms of abundance rather than scarcity.

Yes, I know that is starting to sound like economics. For me the only way to learn economics was to learn from a Bateson. I wrote a little about my favorite people that I’ve never meet on one of my first entries. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson and his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson are social theorists that see productivity (of any kind) depends on the discovery of new forms of flexibility. In Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson explores the human engagement in two distinctly different economies: The economy of finite resources and an economy of flexible and expanding resources.

A system that relies on finite resources is based on scarcity. In every day human life, activities are competing. All exchanges become zero-sum games. “If I go to the grocery store, then I can’t spend my afternoon with my creative endeavors.”  “If I put off buying those supplies I wanted, then I can pay that bill.” The logic of Ifs and Thens require us to approach the most important aspects of life sensibly. We spend our time saying, “if only” and “I wish I could __________________”

Cameron reminds us, “Creativity is not and never has been sensible. Why should it be? Why should you be?”  But how many times have we said, I’d like to do the creative things I love, but….

The other system of economics in which everyday life unfolds relies on flexible and abundance resources.  Activities are mutually enhancing. In the economics of expanding resources, the more you give the more you get. The games are no longer zero-sum. They become win-win. In this system, our energy does not just come from food and rest, but from using energy. We gain energy by exercising or having lively dialogue with a friend. We gain more by allowing more to happen in our lives—by allowing ourselves to become unstuck. In order to truly embrace the dynamics of this system, we must be willing to give ourselves the things we need to function at our best. Too often we let fear and guilt deprive us of the joys and luxuries that we so deeply want.

I want to encourage you to try something.

If you didn’t fill in the blank in the “I wish I could” statement, please do so.

Now put whatever it was you wished for in a new phrase. “I wish to ______________.”

Does it sound different? Does it feel different?  Do you think perhaps our creator hears it different?

I suppose God has the Internet, because God must be reading my blog. I cannot begin to describe the degree to which I have been experiencing abundance in the past week. I’ve been allowing myself to meditate, write, and read in ways that work for me. I’ve sold two books, had orders for jewelry, met a local writer, found opportunities for part-time teaching, got involved in an awesome artistic and instructional collaboration for the North Dakota Junior Duck Stamp Program, started working on a (paid) grant project, was asked to serve on four grant review panels this spring, made an amazing connection with one of my readers, and had some great phone conversations. I rearranged and decorated an office for myself. I designed five new jewelry styles. I made my bed in the morning. I did the dishes at night.

The speed in which all of this has happened in just a few days is startling. But, I know I could not experience this abundance if I had not made the choice to give myself the luxury of time.Beautiful morning

Ready. Set. Goal!

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So I spent the last days of 2012 drafting a “portrait” of a balanced life for myself. I mapped out the foundation of my life, the interface of my relationships, and the assets I have to offer and benefit from. Here I expand the details of these goals—after all, there is much power the written word.

Give myself 20 minutes of meditation daily. And it is important to note, that if one is meditating properly, they should not be snoring! I have come to learn a bit about tuning into this process over the past year. But, there is always more. I’m looking forward to becoming more aware in the moment and more conscious of my life. I gave myself a gift, that I hope to use every morning. Yesterday and today, I awoke to read a page from Shakti Gawain’s Awakening: A Daily Guide to Conscious Living. A short, inspiring passage and a daily affirmation should give me a place to start with meditating each day.

Attend yoga class at least 26 times this year. New Rockford is fortunate enough to have an instructor who offers classes in yoga and Pilates twice a week. In doing the math, I realize that I’ll be only utilizing only a quarter of my opportunity. But, I’ll start with what works for me. And well some nights, and some weeks, I expect it just won’t work out. It really is a first and big step for me to begin nurturing my physical self. Rather than just paying attention to my health when something goes wrong.

 Maintain and refine Pages of Paradigm blog. I started this blog in November this year and cannot begin to explain the impact it has had on my well-being. I’d like to continue posting at the rate I have been, keep my material fresh, and build networks within the blogosphere.

Submit articles to 6 publication sources. I’ve been told I have a gift for writing, I enjoy doing it, and am beginning to believe that I can say something to the world. I have a variety of topics I can write about and could submit articles to publications such as On Second Thought, Hobby Farm Home, and Mother Earth News. Whether my writings get published or not, I’ll never know if I don’t try.

Write 10 applications for grant projects. This is a professional goal that would hopefully help bring some financial enhancement. Grant writing is what I decided I would rely on when I left my previous position. I specialize in projects related to community development, sustainable agriculture, and environmental education. Until this point, I haven’t done much to market myself. In many ways, I needed to dedicate my energy and attention elsewhere. Now though, I feel like I have made some great progress in understanding some of my workaholic tendencies that drove me to push myself too hard. I am prepared to offer my services and am confident that I will be able to maintain a sense of balance, even under the pressure of deadlines.

Have 5 opportunities for teaching and training. I am preparing my resume and gaining insight to what topics I could provide training and teaching on. I’ve taught many classes at the college level. The course topics include ethnobotany, sustainable agriculture, wildlife biology, environmental science, natural resources, water resources, environmental research, and cultural studies. What I am looking at now is opportunities to lead workshops or events. A weekend workshop on fermenting pickles, gardening, identifying birds or edible plant species, wildlife sketching, cooking wild game, or even hunter education. Those are all topics I could teach without a second thought.

Become engaged with other birders. I like my birds. I can’t really help it. Whether it is waxwings or robins that have come to the crabapple tree, I find delight in seeing them flit from branch to branch. And in the unfortunate incident that our cat brings a dead bird into the house, I take the opportunity to show my boys how to identify it. At this point, that is as far as my birding goes. So, I’d like to meet and go out with some other bird-brains, uh I mean folks interested in birds. I’d like to look into local groups or organization that I could be a part of.

Complete 12 pieces of art. I sometimes forget to call myself an artist. I was drawing as early as I can remember. I won a coloring contest at the McDonald’s on the St. Louis Riverfront when I was four. I had a piece featured at a regional art show when I was in kindergarten (it was just cotton balls glued to construction paper to make a snowman, but apparently people liked it.) I  always took art classes every chance I got. Art was my rock all through high school. I even thought about applying to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I took drawing and photography classes in community college and had a published archaeological illustration in Illinois Antiquities. After that high point, I kinda slowed down. Maybe it was the pressures of college courses. Maybe it was that I didn’t feel like a real artist. But, I know that art is still in me. I can still draw! I will still draw! And paint! And decoupage! And whatever else strikes me!

Photograph of the Baumer phase dog burial from the Kincaid site (a) in situ and (b) with a drawing superimposed over it (Illustration credit: Rachel Pepper).

Make 3 pieces of jewelry a week. It was last year for Christmas that my husband got me books, beads, and supplies. I’ve been learning and having such fun. There was for a long time that I didn’t even wear jewelry. It was when I started working with an amazing beading artist at the tribal college that the inspiration began. She was generous to hand me down her seconds and I soon realized the power that resides in a beautiful pair of handmade earrings. The jewelry I’ve been making in the past months displays some of the Native influence from that was so present in her work, but it also holds aspects of nature, expressed with beautiful feathers from pheasants and waterfowl.

My jewelry designs are inspired by natural elements as well as some Native aesthetic.

My jewelry designs are inspired by natural elements as well as some Native aesthetic.

Post 2 new pieces a week on the Pages of Paradigm Etsy Storefront. If you’ve never taken the time to check out the delightful works on Etsy, I suggest you do. It is an amazing online marketplace for gifts, vintage items, and inspiration. I’ve got my Etsy storefront set up. But, I need to take the time to stock it, so to speak. If I can post 2 of the 3 jewelry items I make each week, I should have a growing storefront.

Improve home organization and management Gah! This is a difficult, but important one. I’m not a very good housekeeper. (Of course, writing this blog is keeping me from cleaning something.) It’s not so much about having a clean house as it is a comfortable home. When I first started working from home, I seriously had to peruse the internet for resources on how to be a domestic manager. Tsh Oxenreider knew there were mom’s like me out there and runs a site called SimpleMom.net. But more importantly, she wrote a wonderful book called Organized Simplicity that really helps families to create a haven out of their home in a way that is beneficial to their unique purpose in life.

It is time to simplify. This year, many of dad’s things became part of our household. In addition, many of our older things no longer have a place in our life.  I’ll say it again, it is time to simply the home.

Learn about taxidermy. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with animal bones. I began collecting them. Then, I began drawing them. Then, in an undergraduate assistantship at Southern Illinois University, I began cleaning them. I made friends with the guy who sold antler chandeliers on the roadside in Grand County, Colorado. I worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife testing deer, elk, and moose for Chronic Wasting Disease. I found that one can learn a lot about life through death. I thought seriously about learning taxidermy. It was my back up plan for if I didn’t get into graduate school. It is time to check back with those interests. This year, I’d like to at least talk to local taxidermists about their hobbies and get a sense of how the process works… especially for birds!

Me and Harvey, talking hides, horns, and bones.

Me and Harvey, talking hides, horns, and bones.

Hunt, fish, and gather. It has been too long. Way too long.  This year I hope to go fishing six times, go hunting four times, and gather wild asparagus, berries, or other edibles 3 times.

Me, with a fish in Spring 2008. I told you it's been too long...

Me, with a fish in Spring 2008. I told you it’s been too long…

Traveling. There is so much of North Dakota I have not yet seen or have not seen enough.  I know there are plenty of folks who can’t imagine what there is to see in this state. But when you have an aesthetic eye and an appreciation for the moment, beauty abounds.

Cultivating Vibrant Relationships. I’ve been learning to make healthy friendships. They are a wonderful thing. This year I’d like to host a dinner party for friends at least three times, meet other parents and arrange playdates for the boys, and even just “hang out” with friends six times.

Get involved in community gardens and farmers markets. At my previous job I developed and oversaw a community agriculture program on the Spirit Lake Nation. I loved this aspect of my job. LOVED helping folks plan their gardens, teach them how to preserve their harvest, and organize a farmers market. Come this past August, I was plenty busy enough with my own garden and was delighted at the opportunity to sell herbs, jams, and sunflowers at the Sheyenne Farmers Market. This year, I am looking forward to joining the activities with the New Rockford Community Garden and the Sheyenne Farmers Market.

Tomatoes from our garden this summer!

Tomatoes from our garden this summer!

Continue to garden and build a greenhouse. In the obvious spirit of the previous aspect. I feel alive in the garden. The smell of green on my clothes. The feel of dirt under my fingernails. This is the glory of living. A small greenhouse will do. Just enough to start plants in the spring and continue the season for greens in the fall.

Preserve, bake, and charcuterie. Food is such an amazing source of energy for me. Cooking is the best way in which I can share my love. I make a variety of jams and jellies from garden produce. Jalapeño jelly is just the start. Basil-Pepper, Chokecherry-Crabapple, Apple-Basil, Yellow Tomato, Spiced Tomato, Lemon-Tomato—those are a few of last year’s preserves. In 2013, I’d like to make and share 12 varieties of jams. I’d like to get in the habit of baking four times a week or so: bread, pastry dough, rolls, bagels, and so on.

And what is charcuterie, you ask? It is the art of curing meat. Salamis, procuittos, bacons, dried, smoked, fermented, or confitted. These are wonderful methods that my husband and I have been learning over the past six years. We have a half a beef and a whole pig to work with this year. In addition, we have the wild game in the freezer. Plus, some phenomenal resources to support our endeavors. Our most relied upon authority when it comes to wild game charcuterie and other recipes: Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook. Check it out, if you ever come to a dinner party at our house, you’ll likely be served something derived from his blog.

My husband with a new favorite book. Salumi by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

Create and share a food blog. Finally, we’ve come full circle. Most of my cooking is seasonal. The only “problem” with that is that with the changes of the season comes the point at which my husband and I look at each other and say, “How did we do that last year?”  So this holiday season, we began documenting our recipes on a blog. For now it is listed as “private” but someday soon, it will make its debut.

So that’s about it… it seems like a lot. But then again, it doesn’t. These goals are interconnected. Even better, they are productive. They have the potential to give back and make a stronger foundation.