The New Moon Brings New Intentions

Last night there was a New Moon-a perfect time for setting intentions. I have three overall intentions that guide me–my life intention, my calling intention and my healing intention. I find value in setting daily or intermediate term intentions too. The New Moon last night seemed a perfect opportunity to do so.

I found this great article to help you understand intentions as well as some questions to ponder in setting your own. They are quite powerful once set, but you need to keep them alive. I like to recite mine before I go to bed, kind of like my own version of prayer.

I hope you set aside some time to set your own intentions. Feel free to start small to get the hang of it. You will be setting grand intentions in no time!

A note before the article…If you read last week’s blog, I was struggling big-time. I am on the road to recovery, and am still processing some of what I discovered during periods of reflection and a discussion with my life coach. I intend to write about it when the time feels right. Things are a bit too raw at the moment. Now on to the article!

Intentions are the cornerstone of our thought process that give us a sense of direction. It’s our aim or plan of what we want to be, do or have. Without having clear intentions we tend to react to life, getting swayed and jolted around by the circumstances and events around us. When we do have clear intentions, it’s easier for us to see and decipher what of the events and interactions around us is serving us and what is not.

In other words, having an intention creates a destination or a point we want to achieve. Intentions are all about what we want to feel. This is the level that we need to distil our intention words to. 

What is it that we want to feel?

In terms of manifestation and attracting what you desire into your life, you need to match that desire on an energetic level or be a vibrational match for it. Nothing is going to come to you unless you feel in alignment with it.

By choosing to work with intentions and feelings, we bring ourselves into alignment with our desires much quicker.

But what is it that you want to feel?

There may be many things that you would like to feel, and one way you can do this is to pick a powerful word for the year ahead, your overarching theme, and then month by month choose a different intention word that you will work with. You might find all of these words at once or you may decide to do a monthly check-in with yourself to determine what is next. There is no right or wrong way to do this, just whatever feels right. 

A lovely analogy for this method: Think of it like an umbrella, where your main word for the year is the fabric and then each of the monthly intentions are the ribs that together support and give structure to the fabric.

You can choose to find your ribs or your fabric first, just create a beautiful umbrella for your year ahead!

Here are 10 questions to help you choose your intention words:

1 What do I want to feel more of in my daily life?

2 What do I want to feel when I wake up in the morning?

3 What do I want to feel when I go to sleep at night?

4 What do I want to be more of to my family / friends / co-workers / social circles?

5 What is it that I need to achieve my short term goals?

6 What is it that I need to achieve my long term goals?

7 What do I see in others that I would like to be too?

8 What do I need to feel so that I can BE more?

9 What do I need to feel so that I can DO more?

10 What do I need to be my truest, authentic self?

Once you find your intention words, tune into them. Use physical reminders: notes, create a bookmark in your journal, add it as your backdrop or screensaver on your computer, create a reminder on your phone, or go bigger and bolder with artistic expression at home.

Play with the words and see how they manifest in your life, so that you feel more of your chosen word(s) each day!

Source: Intention Article

Recovering from a Day from Hell

Yesterday was not a good day at work.   Without going into too much detail, let me just say that I was in tears after the phone conversation with this person.  Their frustration with an issue was at an all time high and I was the only person they could reach.  Unfortunately I was not the one who could help them, which is not what they wanted to hear.  I was able to reach my boss while she was traveling and she contacted him.  She was sorry I was subjected to his tirade.  It made me feel better–sort of.

I am used to dealing with unhappy people, as I was a supervisor and had all the pissed off people transferred to me to deal with.  I learned that the best thing to do is let them vent and when they are done ask what they want me to do.  Which I did in the scenario above–through gritted teeth as I tried not to start crying on the phone.  What was going on?

I went painting Tuesday night, thinking that some creativity would make me feel better.  Well, my creative juices must have all dried up because I struggled through the whole class, was beyond frustrated, and in the end did not like my grey painting.  It was supposed to be a wintry scene I guess, with pops of reflective gold paint.  All I saw was the color of the snow on the side of the freeway after the snowplows push it to the shoulder.  Yuck.  I left the class as soon as it was over, as I didn’t want any pictures of my “disaster”, and again I was close to tears.  What the hell?

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I came home sobbing and my husband probably thought I was in an accident.  I explained how I barely made it through the painting.  He asked me why I was crying.  I honestly couldn’t tell him.  He just held me and told me everything was going to be all right.  I yelled that something had to be wrong, as I felt like I was breaking.  I went to bed.

As I reflect on my day, I can think of a few things that led me to the breaking point:

  1. I just got back from vacation and was very busy at work.
  2. I still wanted to be on vacation.
  3. I came back from said vacation with ear pain, and while the doctor said it wasn’t an infection, it still hurt like hell.
  4. That same doctor told me my blood pressure was high, which I scoffed at.  Until she showed me the computer screen of the last year or so.  Gulp.
  5. My family has a long history of high blood pressure and medication to treat it.  I don’t want to go on medication.  She told me to eat less salt and less calories.  That equaled DIET to me, a sore subject for the majority of my life.  One step at a time I told myself.
  6. Monday I worked a full day, saw the doctor, then was at school until 10:30 at night.  I was tired.
  7. I was overwhelmed-work, school, my own business, social commitments, potential health issues.

It was a shitstorm for sure.  It happens from time to time.  I was determined not to remain mired in the negativity.  I had to DO something.

Step 1…I woke up this morning determined to banish that grey.  I pulled out my paints and covered my entire picture with white paint.  I then painted a colorful sunrise with trees reflecting in the water.  I used just about every color paint I had.  The trees didn’t look the same in my new painting, but I told myself nature is like that.  I felt better.  Kudos to my friends who all said they liked my old painting too.  It just didn’t resonate with me.  I have done over 50 paintings and they are all super colorful.  The grey one ended up reflecting my bad mood.  I knew if I left it alone it would be a reminder of my awful day at work.

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Step 2…I downloaded an app on my phone called “Lose It!” and have started tracking my food intake.  I went through my crock pot recipes and went to the grocery store.  I stocked up on vegetables for rice bowls (which I love) and ingredients for at least 4 crock pot meals.  One change at a time.  This week the focus is on cooking more and eating out less.  I am motivated by my desire to NOT be on medication.

Step 3…with my back issues, I have been not going to the gym, but instead seeing my chiropractor.  Not working out for over a month has been a serious bummer, but my back feels a lot better.  I see my chiropractor tomorrow and I am going to find out when I can go back to the gym and what I can do.  I need workouts back in my life!

Step 4…establish priorities.  Work is going to happen, so I can’t really change that.  School just started, so my homework is low, but I have to drive an hour round trip 3 days a week for class.  I love school, so the driving is a sacrifice I am willing to make.  Health issues addressed in #2 and #3.  I am looking forward to a low key weekend, and they are forecasting snow, so maybe Mother Nature is determined to help me out.  As far as my own business, I have a lot of thinking to do.  It is a labor of love, but when it becomes just labor, I will have decisions to make.  I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

It is likely you will have a day like mine.  Maybe you are still stewing over a bad day that happened a while back.  I say to you, spend some time in reflection, then develop a plan.  Spend your energy moving forward instead of remaining in idle, or possibly reverse.  Take the wisdom, stand tall, and forge on!

Just typing this all out is making me feel better.  More in control.  A woman with a plan.  I won’t let one craptastic day ruin my week.  I will go forward and conquer!

Well, as soon as I turn my shirt around–I just realized the tickling on the front of my neck is the tag.  Yesterday I would have cried, today I just laughed.  On the road to recovery!

Closing 2017 and Opening 2018

For many, 2017 has been a year they would rather forget.  A year filled with WAY too much politics, scandal, weather disasters, shootings, celebrity deaths–it was definitely a tough year.  I say we let 2017 go gently into the good night and begin 2018 on a strong note.

What inspires me are quotes and nature, so I thought why not put them together?  Contemplate the words of wisdom and enjoy the beauty.  I think that is a wonderful way to remember 2017 and prepare for 2018.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” – Eckhart Tolle

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“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu

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“Be Yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just Be.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”
– Alice Morse Earle

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“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

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“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
– Mother Teresa

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“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.” – Maya Angelou

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“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” Jim Rohn

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“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“People are always asking about the good old days. I say, why don’t you say the good now days?” – Robert M. Young

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“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

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My blog will be on hiatus until January 10, 2018.  Have a safe New Year’s Eve and I look forward to connecting in 2018!

If you enjoy my blog, I encourage you to sign up for my *NEW* monthly newsletter debuting January 2018!  It will be filled with even more ways to live a whole life and connect with nature, information about plants, flowers and herbs, ways to empower your wellbeing, and even a few surprises.  I will never share your information and you can opt out at any time.

Click HERE to sign up!

Spelling Out Gratitude

My birthday was last Saturday, and it always makes me reflect on what I am grateful for.  There was so much that came to mind, but I thought I would have some fun with it and spell it out.

G is for Great Friends.  I was reminded of them on my birthday when my friend Gail called from Colorado.  When many wished me well via Facebook, and several joined me out for a few drinks.  It was reinforced at a recent event where the end of the evening was filled with warm embraces that made me realize how lucky I am to have these people in my life.

R is for Rest.  I bought a new bed, and I have to say, it has made a real difference in my sleep quality.  I am dreaming more so I figure I must be falling deeper asleep.  Sleep is critical for well-being, so if you are not getting enough, or good quality sleep, it may be time for changes.  A new bed, a no pets policy, an extra blanket or a lower thermostat could all make a difference.

A is for an Amazing Family.  In a few weeks I will be visiting my parents, and I realize at this time of the year how much I miss them.  I am grateful for my brother who continues to introduce me to new music.  I am grateful for my in-laws who have always made me feel a part of their family.  And I am grateful for my extended family who I will remember fondly over the Christmas season.

T is for Teachers.  From the actual teachers I have at Cincinnati State to the not so subtle ones that frustrate me, test me and make me angry.  They all serve a valuable function in my personal learning, and for that I am thankful.

I is for In the Woods.  Over the past year I have spent more time in parks and on trails than I have in my entire life, and it has made a difference in my well-being.  The air quality is better among the trees, and watching their transformation from Spring until now shows me just how much I can transform in my life.

T is for Therapy.  Therapy for me has a variety of meanings.  It could be creativity, such as painting.  Or it could be concocting my wellness products with essential oils and dried herbs.  Or it could be taking care of my houseplants.  It all provides a respite for me from the grind of day to day, and is important for me to maintain a life-work balance.

U is for Understanding.  It has been a tumultuous year for many of us, me included.  It has been hard to understand why certain things are happening and what the long-term repercussions will be.  But it has made me up my empathy game, and try to understand the other side’s viewpoint, why individuals may think the way they do, and not generalize traits to an entire group of people.

D is for Dennis.  My companion for almost 20 years, and my husband for 15.  He is the most real, down to earth person I know.  He supports me in all phases of my life, and has never let me down when I needed him.  He is my rock and my best friend.

E is for Everlasting Learning.  I have bounced around many different topics, but I am so grateful for my love of learning.  It could be yoga philosophy, shamanism, tree identification, herb medicine, or psychology–I love it all.  It encompasses many of the other items on this list as well.  Through learning I have made new friends, been introduced to new teachers, had homework in the woods that could actually be therapy, and did a lot of reading to understand.

What could these letters spell out for you?  I encourage you to take some time, especially this time of the year, to reflect on what you are thankful for.  Maybe even write it down and spend some time each day reading and adding to that list.  It can work wonders for your well-being.  I will close with saying how grateful I am for YOU.  Thanks for reading and thanks for your encouraging words.

Tips to Stay Healthy this Holiday Season

I don’t know about you, but it seems many folks around me are SICK.  Coughing, hacking, sniveling, well, you get my drift.  For me it is almost like I can see their germs surrounding them, and I have to force myself not to physically throw my arm across my mouth and nose and run away.

As a child, and even into my adult years I would get sick either:  before Christmas, during Christmas, or right after Christmas.  I don’t know if it was all the excitement, late nights, different foods, or just more germs that did it, but I was sick of it (pun intended).  I vowed to stay healthy over the holidays, and really all through the winter season.  Lately this has led me to study and use immune boosting herbs, to wash my hands religiously, and wear a scarf so I can discreetly pull it up if people are coughing around me (especially important during air travel).

I decided to dig a little deeper and find some more tips on how to stay healthy this season.  An article by Leana Wen, M.D. caught my eye, and I share her 8 tips below with my own comments.

#1. Eat well. It’s common to pack on 5-10 pounds during the holiday season, but there are ways you can eat both healthy and well! Know which foods are high in caloric content and low in nutrition. Don’t deprive yourself of such treats, but indulge in moderation. Eat smaller meals instead of “saving yourself” for one huge buffet. Opt for healthy options at home, and when visiting others, bring a healthy dish to share. Be careful of liquid calories, including alcoholic beverages.  Whew, this one is a tough one for me.  There are certain things that scream Christmas food to me, and most aren’t especially healthy.  I try to limit those special foods to Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  Of course if the cookies make it past those days, I may a nibble a couple!

#2. Stay active. Exercise is just as important during the holidays as any other time of the year. You should be active at least four to five times a week, preferably with some aerobic exercise every day. The weather may be cold outside, but the winter offers additional fun, too! Ice skating, sledding, snow sprints — all of these can be great exercise. Enlist your loved ones to join you for quality bonding time.  I got this one.  I have always enjoyed exercising, and don’t even mind bundling up and heading outside to do it.  Working out in the morning ensures I get it done before all the chaos starts, so I recommend it.  In my book decorating counts because you are likely lugging boxes, bending, and stretching to put up the treasured holiday keepsakes.  And don’t forget dancing!

#3. Prevent illness and injuries. Colds and the flu are most prevalent in the winter. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same. Stay warm by dressing in layers. Sprinkle sand on icy patches. Watch young ones and assist the elderly, who are at increased risk of falls and other injuries during this time.  Washing hands is really key to keeping germs away.  I caution against just relying on hand sanitizer–make sure you are also going the old soap and water way too.  Be mindful of where you are walking and take precautions to prevent slips.

#4. Check your heating system. Making sure your heating works and is safe. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Install a carbon monoxide detector and test it once a month. Keep grills and generators out of the house, and don’t run your car for long periods of time in the garage. Most residential fires also occur in the winter; never leave fireplaces, stoves, and candles unattended.  I actually just scheduled our annual furnace inspection today.  We have had instances in previous homes where our gas furnaces were leaking and had to be shut off.  Not so great in the middle of winter.  Get it checked early to avoid a really cold couple of days.  Carbon monoxide detectors aren’t expensive and are so valuable to warn you.  And we are assured of at least one story about a candle that set an apartment or house on fire this holiday season.  Be vigilant!

#5. Travel safely. Whether you are going down the block or halfway across the world, follow extra precautions. Give yourself plenty of time in the additional holiday traffic. Never drink and drive. Be on the lookout for reports of extreme weather and heed warnings. If you’re traveling away from home, make sure to pack and take your medications. Know how to contact your doctor when you are away and have a medical problem, and where the local ER is.  I think most of this is common sense, but I do like the reminder of how to contact your doctor and where the local ER is.  If you did not follow #3 and #4, you may need this information.

#6. De-stress. Holidays can be a stressful time. You may be working, and feel the stress of managing your work duties along with additional commitments to your friends and family. You may feel the financial stress of gifts and the interpersonal stress of conflicts. Try to anticipate sources of stress and develop a plan to manage them. This may involve committing to fewer get-togethers or setting a tighter budget. Don’t feel guilty; you have to take care of yourself before you can take of others.  I always say stress is a buzz kill, and no one wants that during the holiday season!    Don’t let FOMO get the best of you and over commit to holiday parties.  Have a budget.  Be gentle with yourself if you go over the budget.  More strategies for busting stress can be found in my blog here.

#7. Help others. Depression and suicidality (sic) increase during the holidays. Watch for signs of depression among your friends and family. Take an active role to support those in need. Invite those colleagues or friends who are alone over the holidays to spend them with you. Volunteer and give to those less fortunate.  Be mindful of those that seem to withdraw, or those you haven’t heard from in a while.  I know, there’s a lot going on right now, but a simple text or phone call could be the difference for those who are feeling lonely and disconnected.  Feel free to assign family members and friends to check on others – it doesn’t have to be entirely your responsibility.  In the past I have given to charities in other people’s names as gifts.  This is a great (easy, stress-free) way to shop that keeps giving.

#8. Treat yourself. The holiday spirit is about helping others around you, but you also have to make time to take care of yourself. So treat yourself with something over the holidays. It may be something as simple as sleep. Wake up late and enjoy a day of rest; you need it. How about reading that book you’ve been meaning to for a long time, or getting a manicure or massage? Take the time to do the things that make you happy.  This goes back to “you can’t pour out of an empty cup”.  Self-care is not selfish, it is necessary.  Spend some quiet time reading or relaxing without guilt.  Go to the gym.  Bless yourself with the gift of YOU time.  Need more info?  Check out my blog on Self Care in a Stressful World.

Be healthy and safe this holiday season!

 

 

Earth Friendly Practices for the Holidays

I was driving home from the gym around 8 a.m. and some people still had their holiday lights on.  That made me wonder what their electric bills were going to be like come January, but it also made me think about how we can conserve over the holidays.  I posted the information below last December, and I think it bears repeating.

I ask that during your rush to buy and decorate, you keep a few (or more) of these items in mind.  Some of them may even provide gift ideas and ways to de-stress during this busy time.  It doesn’t hurt to keep Mother Nature and the planet in our thoughts over the holidays (and beyond) as well.  Enjoying the holidays in concert with the Earth is a win-win for all.

Buy Less

Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and need to be bought new. But many gifts are really gestures of thoughtfulness. You can give more while spending less.

• Not all gifts have to be store-bought. 
You can give more while spending less by giving gifts that are personal and unique. While young children may favor the bright, shiny store-bought item, most adults appreciate anything that shows thoughtfulness. 
• Simplify the ‘gift-go-round’. 
Feeling overwhelmed by a gift list that’s just too long? Here’s an idea to help shorten your list and simplify the family gift-giving ritual. We tried this in our own family last year and it was appreciated by all…Take turns picking one name per adult – the name you pick is your gift recipient.

Buy Smart – think ‘green’

• look for locally made gifts
Many gifts in today’s marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. And gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, since the artisan and the origin of the gift are known.
• choose gifts made from recycled sources 
Many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials. 
• give ‘battery-free’ gifts 
According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. 
• avoid children’s toys that promote violence 
There is too much violence in the world, and the new wave of video games for children is disturbing. Remember the theme of Christmas is “Peace on Earth”. There are many toys and games that are fun, and nurture childrens’ creativity and sense of active play. 
• ‘re-gifting’ is OK 
There’s much discussion these days about the etiquette behind the trend to ‘re-gift’, that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need. What’s to discuss? Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don’t need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don’t need is wasteful.

Connect with Nature

Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, friends and community. Start an annual, earth-friendly Christmas family tradition! It will also get you outdoors for a few hours to build an appetite for the big dinner.

Annual Christmas Day Bird Count 
Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a course through your neighborhood, local park or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see, and make a note of it in your journal. At the end of the hike, list the species seen and number of birds per species. There’s always a surprising discovery, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends. 

Compare the results from former years and you’ll become experts on your local bird population and migration habits. This is a great family activity because even the youngest eyes are just as good at spotting the birds and contributing to the event.

Family nature hike 
A peaceful walk through nature on Christmas day will be remembered and valued more than the score of the football game. Plan your walk before the holiday meal while everyone still has lots of energy. The walk will also pique appetites and provide a shared topic for conversation during mealtime.

Nature restoration activity 
Planting a small tree together symbolizes the value of nature and offsets the ‘taking’ of the Christmas tree. An hour spent cleaning up or enhancing a natural area also enriches the giver and acknowledges nature as the source of our well-being.

Decorate a tree for the birds
Place seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your yard, preferably a tree in the open where cats can be seen easily by the birds. To attract a wide variety of birds, use varied seed types such as black oil sunflower seed, wild bird mixed seed and nyger seed bells. This is a great activity for kids, and offers an important food source for birds during the winter.

Lower the impact of holiday lighting

In the past, the house with the most decorative holiday lights used to be considered the ‘best’. Times have changed. The cost of electricity goes way beyond the utility bill. Electricity drains natural resources. 

• Reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays 
A smaller presentation of lights can still be attractive, and more appropriate in the ‘season of giving’. Saving electricity is also a way of giving, since conserving resources benefits everyone.
• Use LED lights for house and Christmas tree lighting 
LED (Light Emitting Diode) holiday lights use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30-day period, lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18.00 while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19. As an added bonus, if one of the LED lights burns out the rest of the strand will stay lit. 
• Outdoor Mini-lights will also save energy
A 100-light string uses only 40 watts. If you’re buying a new set of lights, compare based on equal ‘lighted lengths’. Some higher priced brands have 100 mini-lights for only 8 1/2 feet of length, while some 100 mini-light strings cover up to 40 feet in length. For the most efficient outdoor holiday lighting, consider the new solar LED strings now available.
• Turn tree lights and outdoor house decorative lighting off at bedtime
It’s simply a waste of energy to leave the holiday lights on at night after everyone’s gone to sleep.

Reuse/Recycle

Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. And added to this is the carbon cost in transporting all these trees to the landfill. Much of the environmental costs associated with the holidays can be reduced by simple awareness and some pre-planning.

• Reuse or recycle gift packing materials
Bubble wrap can be stored for reuse, or recycled. Foam packing chips are not as easily recycled; if you don’t want to store this material for reuse, take it to a shipping center like Mailboxes. etc, who will accept it for their own use. Cardboard boxes should be opened flat and set out for recycling; storing and reusing these boxes is even better as no additional energy is used in remanufacturing.
• Save any special gift wrap, ribbons and bows
When unwrapping large gifts, save the paper for reuse; it can often be cut down for smaller presents. Creased wrapping can be ironed flat. Ribbons and bows are easy to save and reuse.
• Recycle old electronics 
New flat-screen computer monitors, laptops, cameras, cell phones and other electronic items are common holiday gifts. Older models which are being replaced are usually still in working order, however, and should not be discarded to a landfill. 
• Christmas trees can be recycled too 
Live trees that have been cut are a useful material for composting. Composting requires a carbon source and Christmas trees are just right for municipal operations which use chippers to shred the material. Look for tree drop-off locations in your neighborhood. Artificial trees which are up for replacement can also be recycled. These trees are usually made from twisted metal which is accepted by most recycling centers.

Source:  http://eartheasy.com/give_sustainchristmas.htm

A Key to Loving the Job You Have

I am waging a battle within myself.  My current job in IT provides a good, steady paycheck, the ability to work from home, a flexible boss, and great benefits.  I am currently going to school for Landscape Design, and every week I am introduced to people out in nature making a difference.

Some days the grass is looking A LOT greener in the landscape industry compared to my IT job (pun intended).  Almost daily, and especially after a bad day at work, I ask myself, when is the right time to make a move?  Of course after a bad day the answer is NOW.  On good days it seems more plausible to get more education and experience before considering a transition.

In addition to my IT job, and the potential of a new one in landscape design, I have my own Reiki business, and have been dabbling in making natural wellness products.  This “job” brings me immense joy.  The results are immediate–people come in anxious and stressed and after their treatment feel relaxed and at a peace.  It is wonderful!  Making wellness products like salves, salt scrubs, and flower essences allows me to express my creativity and make something that can directly benefit an individual.  It is so easy for me to love this “job”, but it is just beginning, so I am unable to rely on it for steady income.

How can I come to love my IT job when I have all these other possibilities out there?  Find meaning.

This first came up after a particularly bad day at work.  I was talking to my life coach, Lauralee Alben, and she suggested that I reflect on my IT job to find meaning.  If I could not find one, then the answer was pretty obvious.  I could think of a few ways my current job was meaningful, but I needed more help.  I found some guidance in an article titled, Finding the Meaning in Your Work (pretty easy, right?).  It discusses “five dimensions of meaning” as it relates to your career.  I list them below, along with how I related it to my IT job.  Perhaps it will help you if you are in the same boat.

Money. Ever since the recession, money has been the primary driver of articles about “best careers.” Best career choices (not to mention college majors) are reduced to which fields will pay the most—”engineering good, social work bad” goes the common wisdom. This is not an illogical thinking process: one should consider future income when thinking about how much college debt to take on, for instance. But, at the same time, reducing career decisions simply to earning power can cause one to lose the broader perspective. How much income do you want/need? Are you setting your own monetary goals or complying with someone else’s? What is a comfortable living, and what careers might fulfill that? What career fields might suit you in other ways from which you could also earn a reasonable (from your perspective) salary? (See my earlier post on should we all become engineers.)

My thoughts:  My current job pays me a good wage.  That wage allows me to pay for my schooling out of pocket.  It also allows me to pay for the supplies I need to make my wellness products and let my Reiki business grow organically.  Staying debt free, enjoying my hobby, and less stress from my own business are three things that have a lot of meaning to me.

Status. How does status or respect fit into your definition of meaningful work? I like to think of this as a form of pride: do you take pride in what you do each day? Pride is subjective—you can be proud that you simply show up every day and do your job despite obstacles.  There is honor in that. There is also honor in teaching children, building a bridge, designing a building, writing a novel, or making a hamburger in a restaurant. Status as defined by others is compelling yet seductive—at what point did you select your current career to please someone else or meet someone else’s definition of status or success? How concerned are you with others’ definitions? As with money, it would be a mistake to rely solely on others’ perspectives: take some time to determine your proudest moments at work and in life. That may give you some perspective of what constitutes “status” to you. Does your current position provide you with the sense of pride and status you desire?

My thoughts:  Status used to be a driver for me, but after I climbed the ladder it felt really lonely, and not for me.  As I reflect on my current job, I realized I am the “go-to” person for the systems I handle, and I like that.  I can be reached easily and reply quickly.  I am organized and follow-up to make sure things get done for our clients.  I don’t need a fancy title to have status, I just want to be respected and appreciated for what I do.  My boss does an excellent job of making me feel appreciated, and the majority of the time I feel respected by the people I work with.  We all have those special “teachers” in our life that test us on occasion, and I have to work at not letting them overshadow the majority.

Making a difference is often relegated to the background in those “Top Ten Career” listings.  And yet this is a common desire in job-seekers. Treated sometimes as a naïve or youthful pipe-dream, making a difference, is in fact, an extremely important component of a job. What is your definition of “making a difference”? Making a difference isn’t always about saving the whales or other large humanitarian projects; you can also make a difference when you compile the payroll for your company. Teachers make a difference every day– but the results aren’t always seen immediately. What does “making a difference” mean to you?  Are you perhaps underplaying the difference you make in your current job—or would a different job provide more fulfillment for you in this area? Is making a difference important to you—or do other factors trump this desire? Only you can decide.

My thoughts:  At first, this one was tough for me.  When I think of making a difference, I think about my Reiki business or planting a beautiful herb garden.  What kind of difference am I making in IT?  If I help my clients do less work behind their computer and spend more time in front of their clients, that makes me feel good.  A strong, trusting relationship can only exist with quality interaction time.  I believe in the financial services industry this is even more critical.  If my clients have more time with their clients, they can help them plan better, live happily in retirement, and maybe even leave a charitable legacy.

Following your passions is a long-running and oft-derided theme in career decision-making. The image that comes to mind is that of a musician or artist off “following their passions” but unable to pay for dinner that evening. (See my post on Can You Really Do What You Love These Days?) Like many things, the truth often lies in the middle. How important are your passions and interests? Have you investigated the variety of careers where your interests could be used? How have other people made a reasonable income out of their passions? Must you be a starving artist or are there other, perhaps better, models to follow? Once again, there are no hard and fast answers here.

My thoughts:  I have some passion for IT–I like working in databases and helping people be more efficient with technology.  But I am IN LOVE with nature, natural healing, natural products, plants, trees, well, you get the picture.  I find meaning in my IT job here as it provides me time to pursue what I am truly passionate about.  I am a planner, not a last minute person.  Now I can carefully plan and prepare for my next career step, as opposed to making a stressful transition or doing so when I’m not ready.  I have time to manifest a job that I am passionate about that also supports me monetarily.  And I have time to indulge in my passions through my hobbies and my own business.

Using your talents is closely related to following passions. Presumably many passions are also talents. But here’s where you look behind the passion to find the talents/skills that lie behind it.  For instance, you might be passionate about raising orchids, but careers directly related to that passion might be limited. So what talents are behind that passion? Could it be your patience?  Or attention to detail? Or the researching skills needed to learn how best to care for the orchids? Or your appreciation of beauty/aesthetics? Consider your top 5 skills or talents. When you are at your all-time best, what are you doing? And how can you find a job that lets you do more of that? 

My thoughts:  Many of my skills are put to use in my current job–organization, writing, people skills, prioritization, etc.  But remember those “teachers” I talked about earlier?  The people you interact with that are never happy, always complaining, negative, etc?  In my job I get taught A LOT.  I love to learn, and while it may be utterly frustrating in the moment, I always come away with lessons learned.  Therefore in my IT job my skills are being put to use, improved, and ultimately expanding.

If you are contemplating a career change, or maybe even a job change within your current company, take some time to reflect on the five items as I have.  I think it will make your decision a little easier, and it will definitely shed light on the job you have.  You may be surprised at how much meaning you find in what you are doing right now.

Footnote:  This week at work featured one of my latest teachers, and it left me drained and weary.  I thought my interactions with him were meaningless.  Come to find out, he was singing my praises to my boss and has even implemented some of my suggestions!  That is how the universe works–it shows you the meaning when you least expect it, but it always shows you.

Feed More Than Your Belly on Thanksgiving

Can you believe it’s already Thanksgiving?  It seems like yesterday that the trees were green, the flowers abundant, and the sunshine was HOT.  Well, the air is decidedly cooler, the colors a little duller, and the only flowers right now are on my indoor cactus.  But hey, we get to eat, right?  Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?  FOOD?  Food can feed the physical aspect of ourselves, but what about our minds, emotions and spiritual self?  We need to feed all parts of ourselves to be whole.  How might you feed those other components of self?

Mind:  Instead of vegging out in front of the TV, do something that feeds your brain.  Read a book, meditate, sit quietly–find something that puts your mind at ease.  Especially if you have a hectic day of travel, hosting or family interactions, this will set you up for a successful day.  And don’t get me wrong – I will be watching my fair share of football, but plan to spend the morning feeding my brain.

Emotions:  This can be a tough one, especially if you are spending time with family or friends that may trigger you (politics, anyone?).  It is important to recognize the physical symptoms of your emotions.  Does your face get hot?  Do you start to sweat?  Does your heart race?  When Uncle George starts up about what a great president Donald Trump is, or your Aunt Matilda asks if you have a girlfriend yet, inevitably the physical symptoms will erupt.  Breathe.  Count to 3 before responding.  Then say you have to go check on the sweet potatoes.  Body awareness can help you mange a tricky emotional situation with poise and dignity.

Spiritually:  While it is kind of obvious, giving gratitude feeds your spirit.  Being thankful for what you have right now can help us see things in a new, positive light.  Other ways to feed your spiritual self: take a walk in nature (bonus-you feed your physical self here too!); give someone a call (real live voices here, friends) and tell them how much they mean to you; or spend some time in reflection with the universe, or whatever religion means to you.  With all the hubbub of the day, we can disconnect quickly.  Have your plan ready to stay connected.

Need some gratitude tips?  Check out the ones below from an article called Don’t Be Grateful on Thanksgiving.  Don’t be fooled by the title!

  1. Subtract one good thing. If you are interested in boosting gratitude, start by taking something away. Researchers refer to this as mental subtraction and is a way to boost appreciation for what matters most in your life. Imagine your life without your favorite relative, without having a place to go to celebrate the holiday, or without the ability to feed yourself. Reflect on your life without that person or experience for a moment. How would that feel?
  2. Focus on a “little thing” and savor it completely. Researchers have found that the science of savoring is an important well-being and gratitude booster. For example, bring your attention to the smile of a family member or to one bite of turkey or stuffing. Notice the details, absorb yourself in the feel-good sensations. Savoring is about elongating the positive experience.
  3. Name 3 blessings each night. At the end of each day this week – and NOT only on Thanksgiving Day – reflect on your day and name 3 things that happened during the day that you are grateful for. Researchers have consistently found this boosts happiness and decreases depression in the long-term.
  4. Say what you mean. If you’re like me you’ll probably say “happy thanksgiving” 50 times this coming weekend. How many of those times will you be “present” to versus merely saying words in an automatic, mindless way? How many will you be saying with meaning and heart? This is the practice of mindful speech. Focus on the words as you say them. Think about the meaning of what you are saying – are you offering the other person a wish to be happy…an intention for them to be grateful and complete?
  5. Express appreciation for others’ strengths. The science of appreciation – especially appreciation of the strengths of those close to you – is becoming a hot topic that comes with many benefits for yourself and your relationship…

The more tools in your toolbox, the better your probability of thriving during the holidays.  Happy Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to feed your mind, emotions and spirit this holiday in addition to your belly!

 

“How I feel like I’m starless”

“I’m ready to fade now
And how I feel like I’m starless
I’m hopeless and grayed out”
-“Starless” by Crossfade

That is how I was feeling a few weeks ago.  You may have noticed that it has been a month since my last blog.  I was struggling.  I had my usual load of gym, work, home-life, social life, and added school to it.  Just when my school work escalated, so did my work, and for that matter, my social life.  Something had to give, and unfortunately my blog was one of them.  But this situation gave me the perfect fodder for this blog.

I pride myself on living a balanced life.  My blog has discussed numerous ways to do this, brought to you by yours truly and experts in the field.  Yet everyone has a time (or several) where you find yourself on a rollercoaster.  I realized that I was unraveling – I couldn’t keep the balance, I was being hurtled downhill and into loop after loop.  My work was beyond frustrating as well as busy, so I was burning a LOT of energy to keep my professionalism high and my integrity intact amidst things heaped on me at the last minute.  I loved doing homework, but found myself dreading it as just another thing on my to do list.  The energy needed to get to the gym in the morning, spend time with my husband, and attend many social events was in short supply.

I was burned out and things started to drop.  I mentioned the blog, but I also couldn’t get up to go the gym, so I missed days.  I wanted to nap every day after work (my usual homework time).  I realized I hit rock bottom when I told my boss I could cry because I couldn’t open a password protected document.  What she didn’t know is that I was crying.  Bawling in fact (I work from home thankfully).  I was clearly losing it.  I needed to regain my balance.

So after I stopped crying I started to reflect–why was I feeling this way?  I could be tired because a full moon was coming (don’t laugh, the moon affects us all differently and this is how it affects me).  I realized I was thinking that everything had to be done TODAY.  Most of it didn’t, I was putting unrealistic deadlines on things based on the way I was used to doing things.  When my work wasn’t super busy I can reply the same day, but as  I got busier, some things did not need an immediate response.  I started to calm down a little bit and give myself a break.  I was doing the same thing with school.  I was working on a paper that was due at the end of November like it was due tomorrow.  I was putting this pressure on myself that wasn’t warranted.  Do you see a trend?  There is a lot of “I” popping up.  I was clearly to blame here.  One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t affix the blame, fix the problem”.  So how was I going to fix me?

  1. Ask for help #1:  I reached out to my life coach and scheduled a call.  I dumped out all of what I was feeling.  She reminded me of my triggers AND my solutions, and we worked out an action plan for how to find meaning in what I was doing and regain some control over my situation.  I actually had bullet points of what I needed to do, specifically for work.  I am happy to say that I discussed the issues with my boss and she was agreeable!  Don’t have a life coach?  A trusted family member or friend can serve the same role.  Telling someone about what is going on has huge benefits, and you can also brainstorm on how to address the situation in a calm, reasonable manner.
  2. Ask for help #2:  Luckily for me, my husband is not only understanding, but also had extra vacation days to use.  He took some of those days to take care of winterizing our deck and yard, things I would have done in the past.  He grocery shopped and cooked, which helped me considerably.  Don’t have a partner?  Ask your friends and family for help.  When you are feeling like yourself again you can return the favor when they are in need.
  3. Realize it is OK to let some things drop:  I didn’t go to the gym a few days.  Consequence?  None.  The next week I was back on track with my routine.  Say no to an invite?  YES.  Sometimes staying home and doing nothing IS doing something.  Of course you have to be judicious about this – we all have things we have to do, and for me it was going to work and school.  Other things however, were expendable, and I didn’t regret even one thing I let drop.
  4. Take time off:  My husband had time off, so I decided to take some too.  I took a couple of Fridays off to spend with him, and we did things like hiking at the local nature preserve and visiting out of state taprooms.  The mornings were spent lounging (I may have snuck in a little homework) then we were out and about.  It was a scheduled “drop” that was desperately needed.
  5. Reconnect to Spirit:  I should have realized I was disconnected when I was using words like “at a loss”, “adrift”, and “apathy”.  When you say aloud you don’t care, that is a red flag.  My life coach reminded me of the spirit teachers and spirit animals I have to rely on in situations such as this.  Finding meaning so you DO care also reconnects us to spirit.  Spending time in nature is a huge connection for me, and I realized as the weather got colder and rainier that I was not spending as much time there.  Fix?  Dote on my houseplants.  I wasn’t doing Reiki–on myself or anyone else.  Fix?  Schedule some time to do self-Reiki, and start promoting my services to others again.  I wasn’t making anything with my herbs and essential oils.  Fix?  I found a simple lip balm recipe and whipped up a batch.  All of those things had unintentionally dropped away, and I was feeling it.  I believe it will be one of the first things I look for if I happen to experience a situation like this again.

The holidays are fast approaching, and all that hubbub may send you reeling just like I had experienced.  Maybe you don’t even need the holidays to relate to what I was going through.  But now you have five tools in your toolbox to help you.

You aren’t alone, that is the most critical thing to remember.  Spirit, whatever that means to you, is always by your side and has your best interests at heart.  Reach out.  Take time out.  Reconnect.  And carry your tool box so you are ready for whatever comes your way.

 

 

“…The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”

The title is an excerpt from a quote by Benjamin Mays I posted yesterday that got me thinking about goals.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, a goal is, “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”.  Right now my main goal is to do well in school and obtain my Landscape Design certificate.  Why?  Because through careful thought over a period of time I realized that at this point in my life, my place is in nature, not behind a desk.  It is a journey of personal growth that brings me great joy.  I love going to school and learning and I look forward to bringing nature to others and literally getting my hands dirty.

I wondered why this all felt so right.  Turns out, studies show the way I set up my goal contributes to feeling good about it.  Things like picking your own goal (as opposed to having someone choose it for you), focusing on growth and contribution vs. beauty or wealth, enjoying the process and choosing a goal that brings purpose to your life can lead to choosing the right goal.  You may want to reflect on your current goals and see if they fit this criteria.  Did you choose the goal or did someone suggest it for you?  What outcome do you envision?  Are you enjoying the journey?  Does the goal bring meaning to your life?

I know, it can be overwhelming.  Lucky for us, happify.com has an infographic that can help.  And those studies I mentioned?  They are just a small part of the excellent information that is included.

Are you ready to discover what your goals are?  Or evaluate your current ones? And how to work towards them?  Read on.