Sunday, March 30, 2014

24 Hours of Gratitude

Let's start with the irony of this experiment. I found this image while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook,  which I have complained about plenty of times. (I try not to spend much time staring at my phone screen these days, but sometimes it just sucks me right in. Especially when I know I have something else to get done that I am not excited about.)

Anyway, I am so glad that I stumbled upon that little green square. I said out loud right then and there, "What an awesome concept. I'm doing this. Starting now."

Yeah, right. About 5 minutes later I grumbled when my iPhone wasn't doing what I wanted it to. I said "Does that noise mean that I'm complaining?!" I made a self-reffing call on that one. So, I started over. I think I made it about 10 more minutes before complaining about something or other that humanity does that irritates me. I laughed at myself and realized that this would prove to be much more of a challenge than I initially thought! Pure determination and full presence was what I needed.

Going a bit deeper, I realized that some of my unspoken thoughts were equally as negative as the ones that escaped my lips. How many times in a day do you let yourself be annoyed, irritated, judgemental or just plain bitchy? Yikes! If we all said everything that we were thinking out loud, we could all be labeled as sociopaths and avoid each other like the plague! Ahh. Well, thank goodness that most of us have built-in censors. 

So. I decided that if I DID notice a negative thought arise, as long as I caught it, corrected it to be more true, and moved on, it could count toward the 24 hours of positivity. 

I eventually made it through 24+ hours without being a whiner or negative thinker. The funny part about this whole thing is that I would consider myself a very positive person to begin with. However, when I really got present within my own thoughts, I became frighteningly aware of the reality of the human mind.  It likes to seek out negatives or injustices or unfair things or people that are "wrong" or weird, or little stuff that isn't up to our standards, or, or, or...

I was listening to Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth (literally, for like the 10th time) on the morning of my successful 24 hour may have been part of my success that day... He said, "the mind wants to want, more than it wants to have." It's so true. We need to be grateful for what is and what we have now and stop the thwarted wanting! Geez!

I will sometimes meet people who I refer to as "having an Eeore cloud over their heads". You know, the cute little donkey from Whinny the Pooh that has a pet rain cloud that follows him? Nothing is ever good or fair or fun for these folks. They always seem to find the negative in everything. This. is. so. exhausting. For everyone. It's simply unattractive to other humans. Like a natural repellant. These are the times when I wish I had the art of teleporting mastered. For now, I will try to listen fully. Ask yourself if what they (or you) are being negative about is really the issue. Usually there is something deeper happening that they (you) haven't resolved. 

Sometimes a poor choice they (or you) have made way back has manifested some ugly realities for them in the present. If you feel brave enough, ask them (or yourself) if they are willing to look at the issue at hand from a different perspective. How did they get here? Are they willing to change their thoughts or habits to create a more positive outcome? What is their intention by being so negative? Are they seeking attention, sympathy and commiseration? Don't give it. This will only confirm that being negative and whiny works in their favor.  Compassion and empathy is what is needed here. Listen. Acknowledge their feelings of anger, sadness or discomfort. Then, in a kind way, ask what they plan to do to turn things around for themselves. This might help to turn that cloud into rainbows and sunshine. Or at least a fluffier, happy cloud?

Anyway, to sum up this whole idea: try it yourself. Do a 24 hour gratitude challenge. Invite a friend or your spouse to do it too. (Then you can help keep each other on track.) Ooooh. See if your kids can do it, if they're old enough to understand self-reflection. It will be a great learning experience for all of us. 

Like me, you will be exponentially more aware of those pesky negative thoughts that arise. So we can trap them in a jar, examine the heck out of them, then release them back into the world as positive, loving thoughts. After all, everything is connected, so let's make this life better for everyone. 

I took this photo in NYC back in October. It was painted on a building in an alley. I knew I would use it eventually. 

I am so grateful that you just read this piece of my whirling thoughts.
Have a beauty-filled day. 

Ps. If you have 10 more minutes, watch and listen to this beautiful piece of art. It's worth every second.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seeds of Life

Colorful Veggie Art at work

It's been a funny thing for me to work as an "employee" again, after being self-employed in one way or another for a decade. I have had to practice super-clear communication, as well as humbleness, compassion, patience and humility, amongst other things. It's been a great way to test myself. Am I walking the talk? I am doing my very best. I have struggled some days and am also excited for each new day and the fun and challenges each one brings. Personal growth happens when you least expect it. A diamond in the rough.

I have struggled to find time and inspiration (and energy!) to write a new blog post because I have been busy and tired. But...the seeds have been planted (literally and figuratively) and new life is all around us. Spring has sprung on Vancouver Island! And so I write....

Resident black bamboo by the creek on the property.

For about 10 days now, there has been a chorus of hundreds of frogs after dark in the ponds and wetlands around our home. It sounds amazing. The pink cherry blossoms are beginning to pop out around town. A bee buzzed by me while I examined our winter-flattened garden beds. It's sandal time again!!!

We began planting the seeds for our garden about a month ago. We started the ones that need a longer growing season such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, leeks, basil and other herbs. We also started a variety of Marigolds that were brought back from the flowers grown at the Taj Mahal in India. So excited to see those beauties bloom this summer!

I find that soaking most seeds overnight in a cup of water helps them to germinate quickly and helps them retain the moisture needed to sprout. 

Our tiny house is being taken over by flats of tiny green seedlings. But we are ok with the temporary guests, as we know the payback this summer and fall (and maybe even winter!!!) will be 100-fold with luscious fresh veggies. We took a full-day workshop from a local gardening guru this weekend. It was so much fun and we both feel more confident to dig into the soil in our new climate.

Speaking of fresh veggies...I recently started sprouting various seeds again. I learned how to do this from a good friend a few years back, but with our traveling bug, I had gotten out of the sprouting loop. Sprouting is a way to eat fresh, green, living veggies all year long!

Here's how we do it:
A clean glass canning jar
A piece of window screen
A strong rubber band (or one of those orange lid sealers for canning)
Purchase seeds that are specifically for sprouting. This will guarantee success (and not result in disappointment). 

Add 2-3 teaspoonfuls of seeds to the jar (different seeds make different sized sprouts). You will have to experiment with amount of seeds to the size of the jar. Add enough water to cover the seeds. Place the screen and rubber band over the top of the jar. Let the seeds soak overnight. 

Each morning and evening thereafter, rinse the seeds/sprouts with cool water and then tip the jar on its end (opening facing down). Be sure to rest it in the sink or in a dish drying rack on a slight angle so that air can get into the opening. If you lay it flat face down, it will prevent airflow and things could get funky. That's it. So simple. Let nature do its thing. 

It's up to you how long you let the sprouts get. Regardless of the size, once they have sprouted they are living and full of enzymes and nutritional goodness. If you place them in the sunlight in a window for a few hours before eating, they will become brighter green!  Add them to salads, sandwiches, wraps, or just eat them alone. Yum!

Here is a link with some more info on sprouts. In case you need more convincing...

The other craft that I have just began to learn about is wild fermentation. It was suggested to me by several friends and wellness professionals in the last year. So when two people sent me the same link to this YouTube video (posted later in this blog) in the same day, I knew it was about time I tried this at home. 

I recently purchased this locally-made Korean kimchi and it's unbelievably tasty. Sort of like sauerkraut or pickles. Vinegary and so good! So I set out to create my own version, which is substantially more affordable and even fresher!

Here's what I used:

1 small head red cabbage
1 daikon radish
1 small bok choy
1 yellow onion
2 large carrots
Few cloves of garlic
Small chunk of ginger root
Pinch of dried chili flakes
Sea salt (several teaspoons)

As you will see in the YouTube video, Sandor suggests chopping or grating all of the veggies finely. Sprinkle salt over them (to taste) and knead the mixture together to get the juices flowing. (If you want it spicy, add the chilies after the kneading. I learned the hard way. It burns.)

Pack the mixture firmly (with the juices) into a glass jar. Be sure all veggies are submerged under the salty brine. This is key for success. You will have to push them under a couple of times each day, since they will float to the top. Cover jar with a plate or something non-metal to keep out dust and flying/crawling flies etc. Wait a few days and taste test. If you prefer a more vinegary taste, wait a bit longer, tasting every now and again. That's it. So simple. Let nature do the work. 

PS. Do not overfill the jar. Leave more room than I did here. Why? I came home from work to see purple juice all around the jars on day 2. The fermentation action creates air bubbles under and around the veggies, thus forcing the water level up and over the rim. If you leave at least an inch of space it should be ok. Just remember to pack the veggies back down with a spoon (forcing some of the air pockets out) at least twice a day. :)

I'm so excited to try my first batch of kimchi! Here are some of the health benefits:

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

In Remembrance

A special man left our world last week. My father-in-law passed away at home in northern Alberta. I only knew him for a year, but he left a very big impression on me, and hundreds of others, too.  He was full of wisdom, humor and love, and lived to share these with others. 

I remember the first time I met him. It was just over a year ago. It was cold and snowy, but his big mustached smile and hearty bear hug lightened my soul. He was so excited to meet me. I felt like a celebrity during that visit. And most visits thereafter. What a warm welcome.

Luckily, I was also warned about his mean cribbage skills, and I practiced up all of last winter. I was no match for him. But I had fun trying. When we moved up north last spring, I spent many, many hours challenging his mighty crib skills. Mostly to no avail. I think I won a mere half-dozen games in those 6 months. But who's counting?

I often cooked meals in his kitchen. He would sit at the counter, playing cards vs. his iPad while I chopped and stirred.  He was always excited to be my taster when I made up new recipes.

On numerous sunny afternoons, we stood on the deck and reflected on life's challenges and blessings. His perspectives were always appreciated, though not always agreed upon. His advice to enjoy every day and not work like a dog until you die were dually noted.

One morning, I sat at his kitchen table writing one of these blog posts. He asked what I was working on and I told him about my blog. He asked me to show him how to read it, so I offered to subscribe the blog feed to his email. Two days later I asked him if he read any of the blog posts. "I read every one of them", he said. "You have some very interesting ideas. Keep it up." That was very encouraging.

The day we told him that we would be departing northern Alberta and heading for the West Coast was a sad day for him. We knew he loved having us just outside his back door. 

Life pulls us all in different directions, yet we keep a piece of each other in our hearts. We both had a feeling that we may not get to visit him again on that autumn day when we drove the moHo away from the farm toward the coast. Life was calling us to somewhere else, and we answered.
We are so thankful for the gift of quality time with family and friends. How many families have feuds that have been dragging on for months or even years? How many arguments go unsettled, then suddenly someone passes away?  Is there an axe wedged in your family tree that is preventing members from getting along? Is it about something trivial? Have you forgotten why you are even angry with each other?  Ask yourselves if it's worth the ego battles, or if loving each other outweighs being right. Life is short. It's been said a million times. Because it's true. If your family nemesis was gone tomorrow, would you have regrets?

At his remembrance service, we were escorted into a community hall where hundreds of faithful friends and community members came to show their gratitude and respect. I was amazed. I don't even think I know that many people, let alone be blessed enough to have that many show up at a memorial service. That says a lot about a person's life. When you are gone, what kind of legend will you leave behind? When you leave the world, will it be a better place than when you checked in? That is my hope for all of us.