Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Step in the Right Direction

Throughout the 8 years that I was a "step-mom", I pretty much always felt inadequate. So, to think that I would eventually put this into writing to assist others would have been absurd to me back then. However, I have recently been sharing these memoirs, mistakes and tips with several people who have been struggling with being a "step-parent". So I will share a few things that I learned after my relationship with a great man and his two amazing kids failed terribly. It was a team effort, but I can now so clearly see where I, and no one else, went wrong...when it comes to step-parenting...

When I first met my future step-sons, they were 6 months old and 3 years old. They were adorable. I was a young and naive 21 year old girl. The idea of being the fun step-mom was appealing. How hard can this be? Pretty damn hard.
Little did I know that in a few short years, their biological mother would pass away from brain cancer and leave me with parting words that still echo in my ears "You are their new mom now. Please take very good care of them."
Panic set in. I suddenly felt even more under the microscope than before. As a family, for another 4 years, we struggled and grew and learned a whole lot from each other. Including how to grieve together. 
A few things that I learned that just might help new step-parents...especially those who do not have their own biological children (yet?):

1.  Every single person needs tons of love. Especially kids. Put them first. No matter what. Your self-centered ego can wait.
PS. Allow them to love you back. Super important.

2.  Kids are messy. They just are. Let go of the need for a show-stoppingly clean home (and car). Fun should trump cleanliness every time. 

3.  Show emotion and vulnerability to kids. This goes for everyone. Don't try to fit the role of "perfect parent" by society's standards. It is an unachievable fallacy. There is no perfect parenting. Be real. Relax. Let your guard down. Give up the control a bit.

4. Being honest with children is more important than being right. Allow them to humble you. It's inevitable.

5. All parents should work as a team. If this isn't happening, it's like trying to cross the ocean in a raft with a hole in it. You'll never make it.

6. Teach your kids (and partner) how to communicate their needs with you and vice versa. Take out the guess work. It will save everyone precious time and energy.

I am certain that I could write a large book on this topic. A book full of mistakes that I made...repeatedly, and how I wish I had a mentor, someone who I could have related to, to help me through those difficult years and be a better parent. But I didn't. So now I feel fortunate that I can share what I know with others. 

The same book would, in addition, include a section of precious memories, hilarious stories, and life milestones for all of us. 

I am so grateful for those experiences as a step-mom. After all, I wouldn't have grown and evolved into who I am today without them. 

Do you have stories to share? Any additional tips for step-parents out there? We can all stand to learn something from others with experience. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Healthy Body, Happy Planet

I feel like I have used this image of Joel before, but if I was better at any of the photo-editing apps I would cross out the word food and replace it with body care products for this blog. Although organic food is pretty important too!!!

Someone suggested that I write about my favorite natural body care products. Whoever it was, thank you for this great idea. If you are not already aware, most of the "normal" body care products that are found in grocery and drug stores are full of toxic chemicals, and are detrimental to both your health and the health of the earth. Many are also lab tested on animals.

I have tried many variations of organic and natural products and some were awesome and others were downright terrible and didn't do what they claimed to do. Some are expensive too. However, I have found quite a few products that I enjoy using and find fairly affordable...and I feel good about the ingredients and manufacturing ethics too!
So I did a mini photo shoot of some of them and I'll tell you why I love them. (You may have to do a little research to see if these products are available in your country or if they can be shipped to you.)

Want a super natural smile? I thought that I had found the best natural toothpaste 6 years ago. I used the same one for a loooong time. Then when we were on our roadtrip to the USA in the fall, we ran out of our toothpaste in the final week, so we had to choose a new one. Wow! The Auromere Ayurvedic herbal toothpastes have blown the old one out of the water! We have tried the minty and mint-free (more like a licorice flavor) versions and both are awesome. The base is natural chalk, which is mildly abrasive and leaves your teeth squeaky clean! Available at many health food stores in USA and Canada.

How about natural shampoo and conditioner? I have tried a crazy number of these. Always looking for the one that will keep my hair healthiest. (And it's fun to try new scents too.) Well there is a man named Patrick Curelle in Vancouver who created this unscented line of hair care that is super natural. I use their unscented body lotion too. I was once told by a store clerk that I could eat it because it's so natural. But he didn't think I should try. The fun thing about this unscented line is that I use essential oils to add the aromas that I love. Patchouli-orange lotion! Mmmmm. (Couldn't find a website for this.)

What about wounds?
We bought our first jar of "magic green cream" at a Rocky Mountain music festival two summers ago. Cloud 9 Naturally is a super cool small company based in Red Deer, Alberta that invented this super-salve. We have used their Organic Comfort salve on sunburn, burns, acne, cuts, scrapes, mosquito bites, rashes, chafing, blisters and more. (I also heard that it's awesome for diaper rash.) It has some kind of magical healing properties in its herbal blend. One jar goes a long way!!! (But we always keep a backup.)
 Order straight from their new improved website:

Fresh armpits. We all want them. Well, I have done my fair share of research when it comes to pit sticks. Anything with aluminum-based ingredients (read your labels!) is a recipe for high levels of toxicity in your body. Throw those sticks away today!!!  Do your body a huge favor and opt to use natural deodorants. Anti-perspirants are also not good. We are designed to sweat. It's one of the ways that our bodies rid themselves of toxins. Our skin is our largest organ. Let's not stop it from doing its job. So. No surprise. I have tried many of the natural deodorants out there and many of them are useless. We then discovered Herban Cowboy natural body care products. They have quite an array of choices for women and awesome ones for men! We love the Blossom scent for ladies and the Fire scent for men. Ps. They are vegan certified too!

Put your best face forward. 
I personally go with the motto "less is more" when it comes to body care. Especially on my face. When my eyes feel a bit tired or puffy, I dab on a tiny spot of rich, blue Azulene Eye Cream by Earth Science, and a light swipe of the fragrance-free Almond-Aloe Moisturizer on the rest of my face (by the same company). It's light and available scented or unscented. So fresh. 

An Essential Oil. 
Tea tree oil is a miracle ingredient for any medicine cabinet. I remember when my mom was part of the melaleuca products craze of the 90's.  (It's in the Latin name for tea tree.) So I developed a slight aversion to the tea tree aroma after every product in our home smelled like it. I have had to retrain myself to love it. Ok, tolerate it. There are many brands and most of them are great.
I use a dab of tea tree oil on acne when it's first showing itself. It acts as an antibacterial (which also makes it great to add to cleaning products) and also dries up the area to help it heal more quickly. 

Last year, we both contracted a bizarre rash from what we are guessing was either a swimming pool or a hot tub. After visiting a doctor, we were told it was Molluscum Contagiosum. He said there is no known cure. It looked like tiny fluid-filled blisters on our abdomen areas. As we learned, it can spread very quickly! The doctor told us to google it. ???  He also said that he could freeze them off with liquid nitrogen or we could buy a do-it-yourself skin-tag removal kit from a drug store and burn them off ourselves. We tried that. Don't try that. So painful and leaves scarring. We decided to take matters into our own hands with our knowledge of essential oils. If left unchecked, this rash can spread over most of your body and cause itch and discomfort (not to mention embarrassment).  We read that it could take up to two years to heal on its own. Yikes!!! So we used a sterile needle and slowly and patiently we pierced the bubbles (being super careful not to spread or touch the fluid inside!) and immediately applied a generous amount of tea tree oil to each spot with a cotton swab. We did this for weeks until there were no signs of them left. Yes, it takes patience and perseverance. It worked like a charm. If you or anyone you know has this rash, please share this knowledge. It will save them time and suffering. 

Have anxiety about something?
It happens to everyone sometimes. I remember the day that I first tried Bach Rescue Remedy for air travel. It made me feel at ease after just a few minutes. I felt my body and mind relax enough so that the uncomfortable idea of air travel wasn't such a big deal. A groomer also used it on my cat so she would calm down enough to shave her matted fur patches off. It made her so calm and limp as a noodle. I have also seen it work well to help restless adults and children to get a better night's sleep. It's a unique blend of flower essences and it comes in a spray, liquid dropper, cream and in gummy pastilles. It's so great. 

Ok. I think that's enough to fill everyone's brains for today. Check your local health food stores and if they don't carry these super products, you could nicely request that they carry some of them. 

Here is a link to a source for some of these products and it appears that they ship to much of the planet. That being said, it's always best to try to find things locally first.   :)

Friday, April 18, 2014


Whenever I have a creative lull and don't know what to write about in my next blog, the universe seems to throw me a bone. In this case, it came in the form of a documentary. I don't tend to watch many documentaries these days, because I went through a phase about 6 or 8 years ago where I watched so many films about the devastation of the planet and its wildlife, peak oil, GMOs, and natural disasters that I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. Not a healthy view on the world. I have since then turned to sharing what positive changes I think we can all make to emphasize the beauty of life.

So...I borrowed this one, which appeared to be uplifting, from our library and it was one of the best I have seen in a looooong time. 

Quick synopsis of I AM: a very wealthy Hollywood film director "has it all"- more money, properties and possessions than anyone could ever want or need. Then one day, he has a serious cycling accident that causes him to reflect on what's truly important. He embarks on a quest to answer the question "what's wrong with our world?!" And instead, discovers what's right with our world. It's uplifting and so beautiful. I recommend a movie night.

Be the change and spread the love is the message. We don't need stuff or tons of money or fancy clothes or cars or anything that can be essentially destroyed or taken away from us.  All of that stuff that we seem to accumulate is actually clogging up our minds and spirits and preventing us from seeing through the illusion and realizing that none of it matters at all.

Our love and spirit are what is real and carries on forever to future generations. It seems all to easy to live in our own little bubbles of self-serving actions. Let's work on expanding our bubbles to include the whole world, shall we? And...don't use the excuse "I just don't have time for _____ because I'm Sooooooo busy."  I used to use that one. Then I realized that I have a choice of how I spend every precious moment of every single day. So do you. Prioritize your life.

The next time you think you need a thing to improve your life and make you (temporarily) happy ask yourself if you would be equally as devastated if you were to lose that thing (such as a new car, fancy clothes or jewelry, toys, etc). Then maybe consider investing your money (in essence, your time and energy in the form of numbers) into making the world a better place for all of us. 

Selfless acts of service are one of the best things you can do for yourself and everyone else here on this magical planet. Send a fried an actual tangible piece of mail. Yup, that's still a real thing.
Volunteer. Babysit a friend's kids. Plant a garden for someone who isn't able. Purchase a house cleaning or meals for a new mom. Bring a sick friend some flowers and a hearty meal. Pick up litter. Plant some trees that you may not live to see bear fruit, but that coming generations will enjoy. Or Smile. Just smile. Smile at everyone. Even when you don't feel like it. What do you have to lose? 

Are you doing something (even tiny) every single day to raise the level of love in our world?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Nature: The Original Internet

This morning I was feeling a little out of sorts. Low energy and very little motivation to do anything before I had to be at work. I had noticed that some excess moisture had built up on the windows of our cabin over the winter months, due to drying laundry inside and also from all of the moist seedling trays we have in there at night. So I made a tub of natural cleaning solution and scrubbed away for over an hour. While I scrubbed the mold, I felt an intense sadness, but I didn't know why. Then I climbed onto a chair to clean the top of one window and was startled by a snake skin that a former tenant must have placed up there. Interesting find. Shedding old skin?

When I finished the cleaning, I opened up all of the windows to the sunny spring air and lit some Nag Champa incense to clear the house. Ahhhhh. Much better

I decided to go sit in the morning sunshine on a log in the garden.  As I sat and felt the warm sun on my face and the gentle breeze in my hair and on my neck, I closed my eyes and I soaked in all of the sounds around me. I heard a woodpecker loudly knocking in the distance. I heard a pair of frogs down in the creek calling to each other. I heard the bees buzzing in the patch of heather flowers on my right. I could hear the neighbors flock of geese and some wild geese playing in the pond just over a small hillside. I heard a hummingbird squeak. I opened my eyes and saw him in a fruit tree nearby. He zoomed away. Then i noticed a pretty orange butterfly amongst the bees and purple and white heather. 

I heard another tiny clicking sound and saw something out of the corner of my eye. I looked to my left and it was a very cute, round, brown mouse. He was trotting happily along the bright green garden hose that was stretched along through the garden.  I sat very still watching him. He stopped periodically to nibble things. Then to my surprise, he made a bee line ...straight toward me. He came right to me, as if he had heard me calling his name. He came closer and closer and then jumped right up onto the toe of my boot. He seemed to say hello. Then he hopped down between my boots, and sat for a minute chewing on some clover. Next to him in the grass sat a small bumble bee warming himself in the heat of the sun enough to be able to take off on a mission. The mouse looked up at me and made his clicking sound, then made his way to the heather patch to join the bees and butterfly. I sat there smiling and enjoying the sun and the magic of nature. Then I thanked everything that was present around me and realized that the sadness and angst had disappeared. Nature IS the best therapy. The information contained within the wilds of Mother Nature is endless. 

Here is something interesting that I read:

Not so long ago, we came from nature. We are nature at our core. Eckhart Tolle says that birds, crystals and flowers are the three most enlightened forms of matter on the planet. They are the things that we humans adore and the things that we aspire to be. Light, flight and beauty. Its so true. As I typed that last line, a hummingbird buzzed around me garden chirping up a storm. She landed in the top of a cherry and tree and is watching me as much as I am watching her.  When I was little, I found a lifeless hummingbird in my father's airplane hangar. I picked him up and admired his rainbow of feathers. I said a few words for him and buried him in the forest underneath a flap of moss that covered a huge rock that we neighborhood kids had a secret fort at. We dubbed it "hummingbird rock" after that. Hummingbirds have always fascinated me. So tiny and so fast and so quick to appear and disappear. They are abundant on this property. Sipping nectar from the peach blossoms and playing tag in the sun. 

Mother Nature is the origin of every single one of us. As children, many of us spent the majority of our time getting down and dirty outdoors. It was hard to tear us away from the endless wonders that nature supplied us with. Nature, not electronics, used to be the best babysitter. We were one with the wildness. Yet, as we age and "grow up", many of us humans disregard her and treat her like a moody teenager treats their parents. Eye rolls at the weather, disrespect, attitude, lack of gratitude, entitlement of her resources. Sound familiar? We all know folks that have this view of the planet. Then, one day they feel guilty, so they go visit her because they feel like it's what they are supposed to do every once in a while. An obligation. This is family disfuction at its finest. Respect your mother (earth). 

Spending time with her is what we ALL need more of. Hands down. She holds the secrets and answers to everything, and many of us have forgotten how to ask with our hearts because the e-version of the worldwide web is at our fingertips. What about the original World Wide Web of Life? The one that is engrained in all of us? So many have forgotten how to access it. No wifi required. No electricity even! Time to shake off the dust and relearn to connect with your true roots.

Get into the wild. Into the forest. Into the sun and rain and mud. Into the garden. Get into the rhythms of the sun a moon and the seasons and the plants and animals. Plug yourself into the original source. Make. the. time. Even 15 minutes each day. For you. Notice how you feel. Really notice....