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I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

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I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

It’s been almost two months since I’ve written a post. You must have been wondering where in the world I have been.

I wish I could answer that question with something fun and light-spirited. But alas, my fun and light-spirited parts of myself have been in hibernation.

Only my serious and intense parts have been seeing the light of day… as well as the dark of night.

I’ve been struggling. I’ve been sore and sick. I’ve been in the clinic, seeing doctors, getting tests run, and filling prescriptions. I’ve been hurting at my very core. My muscles, my ribs, and my spine. All the way down to what my children call “the spirit heart.”

For the first time in my life I have been able to sit with discomfort, tend to it, listen to it, comfort it. Just like I do with my young boys when they wake up in the middle of the night ill and out of sorts.

Recognizing and listening to the pain has been nothing short of terrifying. I lay on the couch, propped up my pillows at 3am, listening to meditative music, sitting with the pain. Suddenly some other sources of pain surface. I want to deny them. Tell them they aren’t welcome. But I resist. I try to treat them with compassion. I try to listen to their story.

This second kind of pain was deeply emotional, and buried for nearly twenty-years. It was my source of self-hatred that emerged during my early teens. It was the most destructive and loathing part of myself. It was the darkest part of my being. It is a part of me I have been ashamed and afraid of, keeping it hidden, deep within.

Why would this inner-yuckiness surface now? I’ve been “doing so well.” I’ve been healthy. I’ve been happy. What gives!?

Well, during the daylight hours, I have been sharing myself with others. I’ve been building vibrant friendships as well as professional partnerships. I’ve been accepting myself and others as they are, in the moment. I’ve been striving for excellence in place of perfection. I’ve been learning to love myself. Truly, truly love myself.

It’s not an easy task. But when my 4 year puts so much energy into describing the scale of his love for me, “All the way up to the sky, Mom” or “Down the river and to the bottom of the ocean, Mom,” I can’t help but realize how big love is. Truly.

And to make room for the magnitude of energy that love occupies, it might make sense that I would need to clean out my inner closets. I need to recognize the times in my life that hatred was bigger than love. Times that I didn’t believe that I deserved to be loved. I need to shine light on those dark times. Recognize them as a part of me… but not a defining part of me. I need not to fear them. I need to grieve the sadness this part of me feels so deeply. I need to know that my actions, no matter how destructive and painful are in the past.

It’s not an easy task. Not at all. When I wake up in the morning to have dreamed of people I cared for deeply and knowingly hurt… it makes it hard to want to get out of the bed. It makes it the physical pain all that worse. But somewhere, within all of this, I know there has to be truth. Throughout those years, as a scared 12 year old… as a suicidal 15 year old… as an idealistic 18 year old… I was learning about myself. I was learning about the power of relationships. I was learning about how to share myself with others. I slipped and failed many times… but now as I begin to understand the magnitude of love. How big it is in the universe and how big it is within ourselves. I know that was what I was missing.

In those spaces where the pain resided, I imagine a little hope held on. After all, that’s how I made it through, right? And all those places where fear took hold, I imagine there is space for love to grow. Love that extends throughout the present, but also into the past.

For those I cared for and clung, I can now extend love to… truly and fully.

For myself, who was broken, shattered, and scared to go on, I can now extend the love… truly and fully.

It is with these roots, deep within my core, that I know my love can grow into the future… for myself, for my family, and for my place in the universe.

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Where the Story Left Off

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Here I am warm and safe at home after a long weekend networking and strategizing with many other local food growers and advocates from around North Dakota and beyond. The Dakota Grown Local Foods Conference is always a such a delight. I have been attending for the past 4 years, each time in a different role. Each time with a new understanding of the challenges facing the development of a locally-based food economy within the state.

But that’s not why I came to my computer to write tonight. I came to follow up on an area that I just keep thinking about. Yesterday, for the first time, I presented to a full audience about telling our story. I used by story as a springboard to discuss content marketing, especially in the local foods.

This audience you see, they have a vision. They follow their hearts and their dreams. They follow their passions and are only sometimes slowed by the voice of reason. But yet, they are small business owners, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sons, and daughters trying to make a living in a way that brings them happiness.

We discussed ways they can better convey the stories of their business by uncovering the story and finding a voice. We explored what success means and how our vision and actions may or may not reflect our values. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 11.08.04 PM

I shared the values I identified as I uncovered my story. I encouraged the audience to pair up with someone and complete these three sentences:

My passion is to:

My purpose is to:

Someday I would really like to:

The room filled with dynamic chatter. Dreams were being shared. Connections ignited. It was a wonderful sound. But some how, in the excitement, I remained silent. I didn’t share that part of my story. I talked about how I got to where I am, through mishaps and intense life changes. I claimed responsibility for most of my husband’s white hair, mostly because I wanted to quit my job to “be happy.”

But I realize now, I didn’t share my dreams with my audience. I let my dreams be muted. I didn’t breathe life into my next steps by saying them out loud! And I apologize! I suppose, as a creative person, my initial phase of creation is through writing. For me, writing brings ideas to reality.

So here is my chance! To share these ideas that are just coming together. Here is your chance, to witness my dreams take a closer step to finding a place in reality. Here I go, telling my story, just like I encouraged others to do this weekend!

My passion is to grow. I nurture ideas. I cultivate relationships. I have the courage to try new things. 

Who says I can't climb a tree?

My purpose is to share my experiences with others, to build connections and be grounded in the present. I raise my children to be curious and aware and I raise myself to embrace creativity, openness, simplicity, and peacefulness. 

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Someday I would really like to have a farmstead with several animals, a great garden, and several greenhouses. We’d run a bed and breakfast, providing guests with learning opportunities and amazing meals with real, fresh foods. I’d have a comfortable rhythm in life and enjoy fresh air everyday. Someday. 

For now, I raise chickens for eggs and ducks for butcher. I tend a garden. I make and sell jams and jellies. I am learning to make cheese. 

DSCN7158Just last week, I completed the Farm Beginnings course through FARRMS. It’s hard to believe I have a plan in place! It doesn’t seem real yet. But you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Why not start here? 

For the past year and a half, my venture into the business world has become deeply intwined in my endeavors of personal growth and health. I have learned to respect my skills and talents. I have redefined my perspective on work, play, creativity, and success in ways that promise to help me maintain balance and honor my strengths. My business plan relied on seasonal variation and various incomes in hopes to have a way of life that benefits my relationships with my family, community, culture, and nature. 

But now there is a farm plan in place! And its not just mine! It emerged through discussions between me, my husband, and sons. 

As a family, we want to develop our small venture in backyard gardening and poultry livestock to respond to opportunities in our local community. Our passion is to grow fresh food, while balancing quality and diversity. Our purpose is to share not only quality product, but also our experiences. 

Family Photo 2012

Family Photo 2012

We want to begin raising poultry for egg and meat production and grow vegetables for direct sale and use in value-added products. In the next month, we’ll be building local relationships, making our orders, and enhancing our technology and tools. We’ll then be busy through November raising chicken, duck, goose, turkey, lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard for direct sale. We’ll be building a greenhouse and designing cold frames.

Winter Density Lettuce

Winter Density Lettuce

We’ll be growing beans, beets, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes for salsas and pickles. And for the preserves, we’ll be picking wild and cultivated varieties of currants, chokecherries,  juneberries, apples, and grapes. We’ll be continuing our sales at farmers markets and consider opportunities to grow through partnerships in our community. 

Variety of veggies from the garden, ready for pickling.

Variety of veggies from the garden, ready for pickling.

It’s going to be fun! It’s going to be a learning process. It’s going to be hard work. But best of all, it’s going to be ours. Our story. Our farm.  

And perhaps you wonder what we’ll be calling our business? Well, for now, the poultry operation falls under the name of Four Feather Farms. And our garden and greenhouse? It will be known as Green Leaf Gardens. 

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Will it all come together just as we imagine? Mmmm, probably not quite. Will we encounter challenges and get discouraged? You better believe it. Will we see this as a great opportunity to grow? I am sure. It is our story after all.

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Anything but Bitter, In the Bitter Cold

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Anything but Bitter, In the Bitter Cold

I’ve noticed a bit of a change in North Dakota the past couple days.

We are through the holidays and on to the new year. We have taken the time to celebrate and rejoice. We took down our holiday decorations and braced ourselves for bone chilling cold of deep winter.

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We watched the temperatures drop. Not just to 0 or even -11. But to -27.

When the wind blew it felt like -55 in our backyard.

Yes, that is cold. Bitter cold. But are North Dakotan’s bitter? Not at all. If anything, I get a sense of optimism as I connect with people.

They know there is peace and they know there is hope. I am beginning to think this has something to do about how we manage to survive such harsh winters.

It gets cold. We wear layers. We invest in good socks.

We find ways to enjoy the winter. We bird watch. We ice fish. We take photographs. Ready to fish

We build our networks. We strengthen our relationships. We spend time with the ones we love.chilly kisses

We find excuses to stay inside. We find good reasons to turn on the oven.

We cook. We create. We read. We plan.

I am really beginning to enjoy the peaceful renewal winter brings.

We embrace it because we know it won’t last forever.

We let ourselves soften.

We look to our dreams.

We appreciate the moments we have.

We look toward the light of warmer days.

One day, spring will bloom again. We will plant the garden again. And it will grow.

 

Lessons in Entreprenuership: Balance

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Lessons in Entreprenuership: Balance

Last month I began writing about what I learned about balance during my first year as an entrepreneur. The thing is, just as I began to write this piece to share my lessons learned, I learned something else.

I wrote over 800 words about the challenges I encountered while learning to balance professional responsibility, home management, and emotional health. Then for some reason, I stopped writing. Not just the draft I had been working on. But I stopped writing anything at all. I stopped making time for it.

I was busy balancing several professional projects, establishing new contracts, preparing presentations, and wrapping up the last art class of the year. I tried to stay on top of household chores and I even took time to cook with my boys and enjoy simple moments in life. Sounds like balance to me. It feels like quite a sense of relief.

For years, I felt like I was juggling umpteen different tasks, spending my waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours spinning plates. I lived in fear that these plates will come crashing down as we walk the tight rope.What an exhausting feeling!!

Sounds like a circus act. But really, does life have to be a circus act?

Sure, we all struggle to balance the housework as kids, pets, and mishaps. We struggle to find time to have fun without neglecting our workload. We try to hard to get those bills paid, holiday gifts bought, and credit card balances down.

Sure, we live in a world of excess. But we don’t have to do it all.

I struggled with balance long before I was an entrepreneur. I think back 12 years ago, to when I was taking classes in community college. I took classes 4 days a week. I had three jobs, which I worked 6 days a week. Remember, thought there was only 7 days in the week.

It made no sense. I never had time to breathe.

The closest thing to “escape” I had was my homework. As I wrote papers, I found a bit of peace. I wrote about culture, economics, society, food, history, science, nature, and philosophy. I found a place where I liked to reside.

No wonder I went on to excel in academics. No wonder I was crazy enough to write my thesis while on bed rest with my second pregnancy.

I did good to get stuff done. But I failed miserably at balancing my life.  In time it caught up with me. Exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue. Complete meltdown. Profound insight. Whatever you want to call it. I clearly had something to learn about living in balance.

And so now, after a year of being an entrepreneur, having been involved in more than twenty different projects, having addressed some of my core emotional issues and unpacked a load of baggage, having decided to home school my first grader, I think I have learned something.

We have to stop finding relying on distraction as a driving force in making decisions.

We don’t want to put away the laundry. So we pretend like its not there. We find a distraction. Preferably a more important distraction. “I really needed to clean my home office.” When we do this, we try to manipulate reality. It’s different than procrastinating, because for a moment we believe that other task is gone. You know that one task you dread and try to forget about. Maybe it is a grant report, a conversation, or shoveling the snow. It’s fine and dandy to put things off and procrastinate.

But when we use one thing to forget about another, we are actually abusing the preferred task. Think about it.

Does your office deserve abuse? Or that creative endeavor? Or that chocolate cake you want to bake?

No. They don’t. They deserve your attention. They deserve the respect of your choice. It’s time to make that choice be part of our conscious decisions.

We have to realize that it is up to us to manage our own time.

When we let ourselves be too busy, we are doing something wrong in our lives. We negate the power of personal choice.

I’ve always loved the perspective that when we say, “I don’t have time” we are really saying “I don’t have time for that.” Essentially, we are choosing not to give a task our time. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as others who may be counting on us are not neglected.

Today, I am choosing not to give certain projects my time, because I trust the judgement used to make my priorities. I know that I will tend to them fairly when their time comes. But for now, they shouldn’t get in the way of today. The projects I choose to give attention today deserve that attention. It is my choice to use my time.

We have to let some things go.

We hear a lot about sustainability these days. You know, the idea that we should be able to continue operating in the way we currently are, without detrimental effects in the future. Are you able to continue functioning the way that we are right now, without facing collapse? If so, then it may be time to make some changes. It may be time to step off the tightrope, set down a plate or two, or even question our role in the circus all together.

We have to make time for ourselves a priority.

Let me say it again. We have to make time for ourselves a priority. We all have the thing we love to do in life. It helps us be our best. It speaks to our soul. For me it writing and drawing. In the past month, I haven’t taken time to even make a journal entry. Taking the time to draw or paint for myself is even harder. It is too easy to put these activities last on our list. Not anymore. It is time to give our passions more value than that.

What is your passion? Does it deserve more priority than what you give it?