Tuesday, January 31, 2012


As I sit here working, I experience an overwhelming peace. Love has washed over me and I pause to savor the moment.

I have a great capacity to love. I love everyone and everything – yes even my ex’s, terrorists, criminals, politicians, members of the medical establishment and those who would do me harm. I love so passionately it sometimes scares people, especially men who confuse this with me having romantic leanings toward them.  Except in rare cases I don’t. I just love you all universally, completely and unconditionally – even though you drive me bonkers sometimes :-)

As this feeling of complete love envelopes me I feel my body relax and become aware of buzzing sensations in different places. My hands and arms are first – they’re usually first. Probably because I’ve done energy work for so long. My throat is next and I feel the urge to sing. Not words so much as tones. I begin humming softly as I exhale, allowing a song to spring forth from the depths of my soul, releasing tension and stress from my body. As I relax more into the love I go into a state of semi-sleep. Not quite dosing off but no longer completely awake either. I become less aware of the outer world and more of my inner world. My perception shifts and I find myself in a world of pure bliss. It amazes me I still have the awareness to type these words, as my eyes are closed, my body sways slightly, and my fingers move of their own accord.

The words “open, receive” come to mind and I allow myself to relax more, opening every cell of my being to receive whatever it is I am receiving. The words keep flowing but thoughts really aren’t part of this experience. Its like I have temporarily suspended thought to just BE.

Love really is the answer to everything I seek. This experience I’m having is the purest form of love I am capable of in this moment, and I want to stay here forever. Such peace.

But stay here I cannot as the ordinary world calls me back. There is work to be done in 3-D time and space and I find my thoughts forming once again and I turn my attention back toward the work at hand.

But I know this wonderful place is available to me whenever I choose – simply a moment away.

Food dreams

For the last few nights I've been having these dreams about food, specifically grains.  The other night it was brown rice erupting from a luscious beef stew.  Last night it was canned vegetables added to a similar stew, which then morphed into a bowl of Life cereal.  As I started eating I had this rather disconnected thought that I'm not supposed to be eating grains - but I didn't care.

Frosted Mini Wheats have also been in my dreams lately, as well as oatmeal.  I wonder what message my body is trying to send me?

Now remember that paleo eating = no grains whatsoever.  And while I haven't missed them in the least, I have to wonder if these dreams, repeated nightly and in various ways, are trying to tell me I'm missing some vital nutrients.

Last time something like this happened was some 15 years ago when I was a vegetarian heading toward vegan.  I'd been having panic attacks to the point I could hardly leave the house, and spent a lot of time in an almost paranoid state.  One time I had to drive across town and that simple 30 minute trip landed me in the emergency room because the chest pain was so bad I thought I was having a heart attack.  Nope - just anxiety.

Anyway, the night before that happened I'd been dreaming of pita bread stuffed with hummus and sprouts.  I was about to take a bit when roast beef erupted from the pita - juicy, rare, luscious roast beef!  As I was sitting in the ER that afternoon trying to figure out what had happened the dream came back to me and all of a sudden I got it's message.  On the way home I stopped at the store and got roast beef from the deli.  I forced myself to eat just 1 slice that day, then 2 the next and the next.  Within 3 days the panic attacks and anxiety were almost completely gone.  I found out later I'd been suffering from a severe Vitamin B deficiency.  In nature vitamin B is supplied almost exclusively through animals.

Anyway, getting back to my recent dreams I have to wonder what I'm missing.  And is it possible to get that without grains? Hmmm........ something to ponder.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Quack Quack... let's line those little ducks up

One thing I've been working on the past few weeks is making lists of things I need to accomplish in order to hit the road this fall (see my dreams page if you don't know what I'm talking about).  What started out on a couple post-its has grown to  half a dozen or more sheets of paper and I'm still adding things all the time.

There's so much to do when you're making a major lifestyle change!  In fact I think I'm planning for this even more than I did for my wedding.  Ha!  Maybe this will turn out better :)

Anyway, I wanted to share some of what I'm working on in case you have similar plans.  You know - so you can start thinking ahead too and getting those things out of the way to make your transition (hopefully) easy.  By the way if you're a seasoned traveler feel free to chime in and let me know if I'm missing anything major.

Ok here goes....

Work - This is a big one and I'm still figuring out exactly what I'm doing for work.  Lots swirling around and not much solidifying as of yet but it will.  The thing is, if you're not independently wealthy or have other means of support you're going to have to bring in some money.  It will be different for everyone of course and it has to suit your personality and interests.  I mean why would you take the plunge into a whole new lifestyle and take work you hate along with you?  I sure wouldn't!  I can't give advice on what specifically anyone should or could do, but here's what I'm thinking about...
If I liked my current work I'd do what I could to see if it could be made mobile.  In order to live this way it's important that you can do your job wherever you happen to be.  In today's world that usually means a computer and internet access as well as a job that can be done remotely.  So if you plan to keep your current job, you need to have that conversation with the powers that be about how to convert it to your mobile office.  Maybe even try to practice for a while by working at home, or in your new, mobile version of a home as you live around town for a while.  You may find it works perfectly, you may have to tweak it a bit, or you may find you need to do something else entirely.  But you won't ever find out unless you make the leap from office working to working at home.
If you want to do something new, or some new version of something old, now is the time to start exploring that.  Whether it's a new job that allows you to be mobile or your own gig you need to have it set up before you hit the road.  Well perhaps not but that's my plan.  I figure adjusting to a different way of living will be enough to deal with - don't want to be starting a whole new career at the same time.  That said I won't wait until said new career is old news.  I'll set up the work thing then soon after hit the road.  
Budget - I already have an idea of how much I'll need every month to meet my needs.  I'm covering the basics like food, gas, phone, internet, etc. but also planning for savings, emergency expenses, and some fun too.  In addition there are a couple debts that I still need to pay off.  I don't have many (and I'm all for living debt free by the way) but I may still have a few short-term obligations after I go mobile.  So until those are taken care of I have to include them in the budget.  Finally, I'm slightly padding the amount I think I need.  It's been my experience that sometimes it takes more money than I think so better safe than sorry.  Hey if I overestimate that's more money to the savings account :)

Paring down - If you're going to go mobile you are most likely going to have to pare down quite a bit.  I've been doing this for years - going from a 4 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom apartment with a huge storage garage, to getting rid of storage, to this one bedroom apartment I'm in now.  Even still there are things I know I can get rid of, and I'm working on it.  One thing to think about though is whether you can SELL things instead of donate them to your local thrift store.  Why?  Because selling them brings in cash, even if it's just a little, and that cash can be used to help pay off debt or add to your savings for other things.  I mean yeah - I'm not selling small things like socks or shower curtain rings. But I do have a few things that are worth a few bucks and I'm going to cash in.

Getting the Rig - I'm nowhere near rig shopping but I do have a general idea of what I want and I've talked to a few people about different options.  I think it's important to shop around try out different rigs just to see what fits your needs.  We have a couple RV places around here that I've looked at, and it's given me a much better idea of what options and features are important to me.  I also have a price range which gives me something to aim for.  I don't have the funds yet and I want to pay cash so I have to wait, but it will come together soon enough.   

Health issues - If you're planning on hitting the road it makes sense to get all your check ups, teeth cleanings, and whatnot out of the way before you go.  You can always head back to your regular health care providers, but you may not want to so I think getting all up to speed is probably a good thing.  For myself I have a few issues I've been avoiding for quite a while and I think now is the time to get them looked at.  I mean I wouldn't hit the road in a broken down old vehicle so why wouldn't I give my body a tune up too?

Legal stuff and Insurance - I said yesterday that I made a new will, and I think that's a good idea for everyone to make sure theirs is up to date.  I also ordered a passport and I'm drafting an "emergency instruction" list which I'll leave with a few key people.  So people know what to do in case - of emergency :)  I'm also checking into my insurance policies and seeing if I need to change or do anything about that.  I don't carry a lot of life insurance but I do want to have enough to pay for funeral expenses if needed.  Health insurance will be on the list too, though not yet.   

Mail - My first plan is to simply change my address to either my daughter's or parents' house and have them forward mail to me.  As it is I don't get anything but junk anyway.  All my bills come to me via e-mail and it's rare anyone would have to send me an actual letter.  In the future I may consider a mailing service but right now I think it's unnecessary.

Agenda - When I first imagined hitting the road I mentally got as far as my friend's house about 60 miles away and then.... nothing.  I couldn't figure out where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do.  So I had this vague idea of traveling and seeing the country but without some sort of plan I might very well end up in her driveway forever!  Since then I've been keeping a running list of places to go, people to see and things to do.  It's all flexible of course and the time tables are non-existent but I now that I have some destinations in mind it seems like I have purpose.  Definitely something to go toward and I like that!

That's it for now.  I'll add more as I think of it.  And be sure to chime in with your 2-cents too... I'm open to input :)

Making a will

With all the things in my life that are changing (and going to be changing) I thought it would be a good idea to update my will.  Especially since my old will still lists my ex-husband as primary beneficiary... Ack!

Since my estate, such that it is, is very simple I went online to Rocket Lawyer for a do-it-myself will.  I looked at a bunch of sites but Rocket Lawyer gives you the first document for free so I went with it.

Fifteen minutes later I had my new will ready to go.  Yes Donna, all my stuff is yours (but you knew that already).  Now I just need to get a couple witnesses to sign it and I'm good to go.

In addition to making a new will, I also followed the advice of my financial adviser by specifying that all my bank accounts are "payable on death" to Donna.  If I understand things right, this means that immediately upon my death any money in those accounts will be distributed directly to her.

If you haven't taken care of this type of stuff it's probably a good idea to get it done sooner rather than later.  No one knows when their time on this planet will be up so it's better to cover all your bases. 

Of course if you have more complex lives than I do you'll probably want to have an attorney help you figure out the best route to go and draw up the proper papers.  The peace of mind that comes with knowing your family will be taken care of when you're gone is definitely worth it in my book.

Plus it's good to make sure you haven't forgotten to remove those exes like I did!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mall walking

Today I met a friend at the mall and we took a leisurely stroll through consumer heaven.  It was quite a contrast, as she's a shopper and I'm - well I'm not.  I was a little disappointed too as I wanted to take pictures but my camera wouldn't turn on.  I'd just used it a couple days ago and I charged the battery but it simply wouldn't cooperate. 

Despite my minimalistic lifestyle, malls do fascinate me.  Everything is so bright and glittery, and I'm forever amazed at the useless gizmos and gadgets the stores try to pass off as necessities of life.  I mean really - do I need to spend $199 for a single cup coffee maker when my method works fine and costs me nothing?  And now many knicknacks, throw pillows, and accessories does one house need?  Apparently a lot and they all need to be coordinated too!

And the prices are astounding.  Furniture seems to be priced in inverse proportion to style and comfort.  And the clothes.  One item on sale cost more than my entire outfit.  And I was wearing layers!  In one store I even saw a cocktail dress for $795.  Yes that's SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY FIVE DOLLARS!  My entire wardrobe cost a mere fraction of that, and it suits me just fine.  In fact if - and that's a big IF - I ever showed up at such a soiree the fanciest I'd get is to maybe trade my jeans in for a denim skirt.  That cocktailish enough?

I do like a few mall stores though.  The Bose store always calls my name with it's way cool sound devices and that little theater you can sit in.  I'd sure love to listen to some of my music in there!  Also stopped at Radio Shack to see about my camera battery (in case that's the problem) but they didn't have the right one.  Other than that, nothing impressed me.  Even the aroma of fresh baked pretzels wafting out from Auntie Annes didn't impress me.  In fact it was kind of a turn off - another testament to how much I'm loving this paleo, grain-free living :)

Speaking of aromas, I am of the firm belief that natural is best.  I never have been into perfumes and other scents, and the body and candle shops completely overpower me.  I don't even own or wear makeup (yeah I'm probably the only woman in this country who doesn't) but my friend likes all that stuff so I hung out in the middle of the mall texting (thanks for entertaining me Debra) while she perused to her heart's content.  We also stopped for something to eat, and I got a pretty paleo friendly salad from the Great Steak and Potato Company.  They grilled mushrooms, onions and peppers in with the steak and held the cheese (remember - no dairy this month for me) then piled it on a bed of spinach greens.  All in all not bad for mall food.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

TMI! (too much information)

No - not "that" kind of tmi... what were you thinking?!?!

I'm talking about the kind of TMI that results in paralysis when trying to make a decision.  It starts out innocently enough.  Say you want to buy a new car so you start researching what's available.  Good enough and a smart thing to do.  But at some point it morphs into this huge project, with charts and comparisons and lists of features all over the table.  Then it spills onto the floor until you're buried in piles of Consumer Reports, customer reviews, brochures, lists of options, and dealer quotes.

Ugh!  Just thinking about all that information is enough to make you keep driving your old car forever!

And that's what I mean by TMI.  There has to be a point when you have "enough" information to make a decision and then you STOP looking for more and just do it.  Because if you don't you'll still be thinking about it when next year's model comes out and then you'll have to start all over again with new data.  Now how's that going to help you make a decision?

So the thing I do is this.  I decide what I want, do a fair amount of research, narrow my choices down, research those more thoroughly, narrow down again, and keep going until I'm at my top two or three.  Then I get to the nitty gritty, looking at the details.  I'm also really big on "test driving," whether it means actually test driving new cars, playing with computers at the store, or whatever.  I like to see and touch things before I buy them (even if I ultimately order online). 

Then I pick a winner, and I go get it.

And - this is important - I let go of the need to find the "perfect" thing, whether it be a car or something else.  I know that any choice I make will have a few flaws but hey - that's the nature of stuff.  So I go with what I like best based on my research and forget the rest. 

And guess what.  By doing this I've always been happy with my purchases.  I love the car I drive, love my computer, and the many other little things I've gotten using this method.  Yeah there are probably better models or deals out there.  But so what?  I'm proud of the fact that I did my due diligence and picked what I picked, and I haven't regretted it for even one moment.

So next time you find yourself suffering from TMI stop it!  Try doing it like I do and see if maybe it helps move you forward to decision making and actually owning that thing you want.


For the past few weeks - ok months - I've been doing a lot of serious thinking about those big questions.

Who am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going? Is it where I want to go?  Heck, where do I want to go?

Big stuff.

It seems to have intensified a lot lately, which is why I've found it harder to find things to write about here.  You know - a multitude of  fragmented wisps of thoughts not really congealing enough to be able to articulate them.

I think this is a good thing though, as it is opening new ideas about reality, new perceptions, and greater possibilities than I've seen before.  Pretty cool!

Additionally, I've been running across others who are in a similar place right now.  These early weeks of 2012 seem to have awaken a sleeping giant in many of us, and it's interesting to hear their stories.  Everyone's is different of course, and we all have different dragons to slay and shining new worlds to discover.

If you're going through it I want you to know that you're not alone!  If you're not than I suspect you will be at some point and hey, if you're already done then watch out - a whole new batch of us are coming through!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quick paleo guidelines and meal ideas

Paleo living can seem mysterious and confusing to people who aren't familiar.  There's a lot of scientific jargon tossed around and within the paleo world there are many camps, all promoting their own version.

But what people really want to know is: What do I eat?

So today I thought I'd share a few guidelines and meal ideas. Sound good?

The basic paleo rules I follow are: No grains, legumes, or sugar and very limited dairy.

No grains eliminates all flour products, breads, pasta, etc. and all grains such as rice, oats, barley, etc.  No substitutes either.

No legumes means no peanuts or peanut butter, beans or hummus. It also means no soy or anything made with soy.

No sugar means no sweetener of any kind. Honey is the only exception to that and I rarely indulge.

Dairy it is controversial in the paleo world and I limit it because I feel better without it.  So while I may add cream to coffee if I'm out or eat cheese if it comes on a salad, I don't eat it at home.  The exception is butter - I eat a lot of that!

While this may seem like a lot of elimination it really isn't.  I never get bored and I don't miss any of those ingredients at all.


What I do eat:  Anything in it's whole and natural form.  Lots of meat, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.  I also eat a large amount of fat which includes the fat in meat, lots of pastured butter, and coconut oil.  I'd say my diet is well over 60% fat with the rest more or less evenly distributed.

I also eat the highest quality food I can get.  That means grass fed beef and pastured poultry and pork, freshly caught fish and game (a rare indulgence when I can get it),  and fresh vegetables and fruits.  Frozen will do in a pinch but I never eat canned anything. I never compromise on the meat products but on fruits and vegetables I don't stress if I can't find organic (though I prefer it).

How I prepare it.  It's just me so I don't have to cook in large quantities.  Plus I'm pretty happy with simple dishes and variations so you won't see me doing a lot of seasonings, sauces and the like.  And I try to cook entire meals using only one skillet... easier for cleanup.  Heck if I'm really feeling lazy the skillet becomes the plate too :)


Meal ideas.  Use these as a springboard and experiment to find your own favorite variations.

Fats: My diet is very high in fat and I opt for fats that have a healthy ratio of Omega-3:6.  So in addition to the fat in meat (I never trim or drain meat) I eat lots of Kerry Gold pastured butter, coconut oil, and lard from pastured pigs.  With the exception of small amounts of salad dressing, I haven't eaten vegetable oils in months and don't plan to.

Grass Fed Beef: This is what I eat most of and it's usually ground beef, which is easy to work with and cheaper too.  Yeah I sometimes get roasts or steaks but day in and day out it's hamburger that I eat.  Sometimes I make an entire meal of it plain, but often I stir fry with vegetables.  Sometimes I make paleo balls which are great for snacking and on the go.  I've also made meat loaf but really - it's much simpler to just cook it on the stove. I also use it in soups, adding bite size chunks of ground beef (or left over roast) to my favorite vegetables with enough liquid to make it soupy.  Oh and I also eat a fair amount of liver, which is very nutrient dense. I typically mix it in with ground beef and eat them together.

Poultry:  Love fried chicken, and I just eliminate the flour coating.  I also occasionally roast a chicken, saving the carcass to make soup later.  If if get chicken breasts I cut them up and stir fry with vegetables.

Pork, fish and other meats:  Don't eat a lot of this stuff so I'm grouping all together.  Pork is usually eaten in the form of bacon and sausage, which I sometimes eat with eggs.  I also chop it up to add to other meats for extra flavor and variety.  I rarely eat fish and seafood (hard to get the good stuff here in Ohio) but when I do it's baked or grilled. Unless I'm making shrimp soup which is lots of shrimp, a little diced potato and coconut milk.

Eggs: I like to eat eggs by themselves, but I also often stir fry them with vegetables and bacon (or sausage) to make a hearty meal.  As an alternative, sometimes I scramble together raw eggs, chopped bacon or sausage, and vegetables, then bake them in a small iron skillet.  This makes a really yummy crustless quiche-like thing that can be eaten hot or taken along to have at room temperature later. Boiled eggs are also convenient on-the-go food and I always have a few in the fridge.

Vegetables: I would never have an all vegetarian meal!  Vegetables are a side dish - an addition to meat which is the star.  I prefer low carb vegetables and I'm fine with either cooked or raw.  In the winter I tend to do more soups and stews while in the summer I eat more salads and raw veggies.  I rarely eat starchy vegetables like potatoes because I feel better without them.  Oh and I always add lots of butter!

Fruits:  I like to eat fruits in season, and if I'm going to have a snack this is probably what I'll go for.  Like last fall I was eating apples and come summer I'll probably hit the strawberries pretty hard.  Except for my blueberry craziness of late, I'm not a fruit fiend so a few fruits a week is plenty.

Nuts: I'm not a huge nut eater but every once in a while I'll have some.  I made this rule though that I can only eat nuts in the shell.  My thinking is that it's easy to mindlessly eat an entire bag of shelled nuts but if I have to work for them I won't eat so many.

Ok that's it.  The key is to understand that paleo living = cooking real food.  If you're used to fixing stuff out of a box or getting carry-out, converting to actual cooking may be the biggest adjustment of all.

Here's to your health :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Girls day out

One of the fun things about being a mom is that I get to have girls day out with my daughter from time to time.  Today we spent the afternoon in Loveland, which is where I grew up.  Though there are remnants of the town I knew as a kid, most things have changed to the point of being almost unrecognizable to me.  But hey... it has been almost 30 years.

Anyway, we had lunch at Paxton's Grill, which is right next to the bike trail.  I didn't think to get pictures of the trail itself, but it's winter so not much to see anyway.  The Loveland Bike Trail is part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy, which is a network of hiking/biking trails spanning the country.  One of the items on my someday list is to take an extended biking trip, perhaps going all the way from the East to West coast. Wouldn't that be cool?

For lunch I had a huge burger, hold the bun, and trust me that was enough!  We sat chatting and acting silly for a while, then decided to go get our nails done.

Funny decision as neither of us ever do this.  But we stopped by the Lovely Nails place around the corner and walked out an hour later with our nails all prettied up.  Gosh... when did my hands get so old looking?!

Then we headed back to Donna's house and she showed me a puzzle she'd done.  2000 pieces and takes up the whole kitchen table... pretty cool!

Then it was time to head home.  All in all a great girls day out!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Emotional upheaval

For the past few months I've been on this emotional roller coaster that is quite annoying and really messing with my life.  One day I'll be sailing on top of the world and the next I just want to die.  I'm extremely sensitive to what others do and say - or what they don't do and say.  Especially those I care about. 

For a while I thought I was bi-polar or maybe manic-depressive and seriously - it was starting to scare me.  Looking for a solution I cleaned up my diet, started supplementing, got therapy, and pulled out every trick I know to fix it.  But it wasn't working.

Then this past weekend I went through such intense emotional highs and lows I thought I was going crazy.  So Monday I called a friend to tell her I was giving in, and ready to just sign myself into the loony bin.  And guess what....

She laughed at me. 

Then she said, "Maria, you are 46 years old.  Did it ever occur to you that you're hitting the big M?"

Big what?

Yeah folks - apparently I've started the very early stages of menopause.  Ugh!  This is something I swore I'd never do :)

So here's my appeal to you... 

Women who've gone through it:  How the hell did you survive?!?!?  And what did you do to maintain your sanity and some semblance of hormonal balance?  Please know I'm not looking for pharmaceutical solutions... natural please.

Men who've survived women who've gone through it: What would you have liked to seen your woman done differently?  I mean understand this is part of the natural process of life and we have to go through it.  But is there something that maybe could have been done better?  Or differently?

Thanks for the input everyone... I'm going to figure this out! 

So many jumbled up thoughts

For the last few days I've had trouble trying to collect my thoughts.  Yesterday's post was the result you saw - me trying to express an idea but it coming out incomplete and, to my mind, a bit confusing.

What you didn't see was the handful of other posts I started, then discarded because I couldn't seem to put a simple sentence together.

I attribute this in part to the rush of new ideas, concepts and philosophies, and different ways of seeing and living that I've been introduced to rather recently, the conversations I've been having about them and the attempt of my mind to grasp things that, in some ways, are quite a stretch.

I envision this whole process as trying to get to some shining city that holds the promise of everything I've ever wanted.  But to get there I have to leave the comforts of the familiar, shed perceptions and beliefs that no longer work, and be willing to let go of "what is" so my life can be transformed into what I want it to be.  Big stuff, and uber scary!

And right now I feel like I'm trying to hack my way through this dense jungle of confusion, jumbled up thoughts, and uncertainty.  It feels dangerous here, but I'm too far along to turn back and really, there's nothing left for me in that empty space behind.  So forward I will go, inch by inch if needed, hacking away old and decayed belief systems and reaching for the vines of truth.  I can see that shining city on the hill ahead of me and I know I can get there!

By the way, even though this is a journey I ultimately have to make on my own I am by no means alone.

I want to acknowledge my amazing friends who have helped me immeasurably already and continue to support me through the process.  By keeping the conversations going, providing direct and no nonsense feedback, checking in to see how I'm doing, listening when I need to talk, and seeing my potential when I've stumbled and all I can see is the dirt in front of my face - each in your own wan are keeping me on track and I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.  I love you all and I'm so happy to have you in my life. Thank you for being there!

Edit (01/25/12 @12:56am) - Thanks Debra for suggesting that song!  I couldn't find Jana's version but here's a really good one:

Monday, January 23, 2012

If I had a million dollars...

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend when the subject of money came up.  Don't remember what led up to it but I ended up jokingly saying something like, "I'll be happy to take a couple mil off ya!"

Which got us on the subject of giving someone fish vs. teaching them to fish.

Well the conversation continued and I forgot about it until today when I was running errands and the song to your left came on in the car.

Got me thinking about the real implications of a large windfall and how it would effect my lifestyle, goals, and personal growth.

Obviously the sum of a million dollars, even pre-tax would significantly change my lifestyle.  I could implement my plans now rather than waiting for the funds to come in, get nicer equipment, and travel for quite a while without having to worry about making a cent.  Sounds good so far!

But what would it do to my goals and business plans?  And furthermore, what would it teach me about life?

Truth is if I didn't have to produce income I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.  Sure I'd still maintain this blog because I like doing it so much.  But what about my other websites?  I mean I love my work but really.... given the choice of spending my days meandering down lazy rivers, playing on the beach, hiking in the mountains, and watching sunsets in the desert vs. spending hours a day glued to the computer screen well - what do you think I'd rather do?

I'd play... duh :p

But I'd also lose out.  Because as fun as playing is, it wouldn't teach me how to get better at my business.  It wouldn't make me a better entrepreneur or keep me up to speed with all the latest developments.  So when the money ran out, which it would eventually, I'd be in way worse shape because not only would I be broke but wouldn't have anything to fall back on.

So while it's nice to dream about that windfall, the better route in the long run is to build the skills that lead to the windfall of your own making.

Ok back to work...

Edit - Ok after reflecting on this more and reading comments and e-mails, let's give this another go.  

The point I was trying to make, which I did poorly, is that having things handed to you, whether it's money or fish does not force you to learn and grow as a person, nor does it force you to develop your gifts and talents.  We are all special in our own way and we all have a lot to contribute to the world. 

The truth is that most people, when given a large sum of money don't stand up to the task of putting it to good use to further themselves.  How many stories have we all heard of lotto winners who are back in the exact same financial state just a few years after a huge winning?  Sad thing is once the money is gone these people don't even have the safety net of their former income to fall back on because more often than not they quit that job the moment they got the payout.

As for me, I probably could make the money last the rest of my life.  And given enough time to play I may get eventually decide to work again.  Who knows.  But as I sit here now I don't feel like being given a huge sum of money (or fish for that matter) will take me in the direction need to go.  Not financially but in the sense of stretching myself to be the best person I can be.

Make better sense?  Or did I muddy the waters even more?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sometimes the best teacher is...

Today I was doing some website updates, both to the Muse and Online Business sites, when I came across some articles and old files that needed updating. 

As I started to sort through them, updating links, graphic and whatnot I had to laugh.

See I've been having a little crisis of identity lately, questioning some of my fundamental beliefs.  Actually, I was having trouble even articulating some of them which of course just exacerbated the situation.

But today amid dusty computer files I found the answers I'd been seeking. 

All those things I used to consider primary to my views on life, all those foundational tenants which I live by - they're all there.  All in words I've written myself, in journals, articles, and musings.  Some of them go back a good 10 years or more while others are relatively recent.  It's interesting to see the progression in my thinking over the years.

But the real gem was realizing that I am my own best teacher. 

It is my thoughts and ideas, my work, and my philosophy that has brought me to where I am today.  Finding those files gave me a lot of insight and clarity, reminded me of where my values lie, and set me once again on the course that I know I'm supposed to be on.

And I find that I still believe virtually all of those fundamentals that I first wrote about way back.  Yeah  my understanding has changed a bit over the years - deepened and become more refined - but the essence is the same and now I can stop questioning and start building a life based on those fundamentals. 

Which come to think of it is exactly what I was doing before I got sidetracked :)

Oh and if you'd like to read a few snippets, there are elements in the reports on the Free Stuff page of the Muse website. 

Doesn't cover everything but you'll get some idea of where I'm coming from.  Plus there's some darn help info there too.

Ok... back to reading old files.  Good stuff.

Can vs have to in minimalist living

There's this movement toward simplifying and minimalist living.  I've practiced my own form of it for years, and one goal I have for this year includes paring down even more.

But there's a big difference in people who choose this lifestyle compared to people who are trapped in it.  I've been on both sides of the fence and today I want to make that distinction.

On one had we have the choosers.  These are people who hate "stuff," have come to shun consumerism, and made a conscious choice to live lighter. They may downsize, get rid of truckloads of material possessions, and simplify their life in a myriad of different ways.  But make no mistake.  These people are not broke. They often make a fine living, and I've seen some cases where a single item meant to simplify their life costs more than my entire apartment of furnishings is worth.  They also trade spending for savings, and have plenty of savings, emergency funds, and retirement money.

Contrast that with those who are trapped in this type of life.  They have little because they can't afford more.  When something breaks they don't fix or replace it.  They can't.  They buy their clothes at thrift stores but only on half-off days because that's all they can afford.  They live on ramen noodles not because it's their favorite gourmet cuisine but because they're cheap.  They have no savings or retirement and live in constant fear of a major expense because they know they can't cover it.  They can't even afford to get sick because they can't miss even a few hours of work nor can they pay the doctor bill.

Obviously I hope that if you embrace the minimalist lifestyle it's because you want to - not because you don't have any other options.  But I wanted to talk about the contrast because it illustrates the difference between doing something because you want to, not because you have to.

When you read about the choosers how did you feel?  Then how did you feel when you read about those who are trapped?  If you're like me the chooser scenario feels positive, happy and pretty cool.  While the trapped scenario made me feel overwhelmed and hopeless. 

Now think about your own life, whether you're a minimalist or not.  Are you living the way you live because you want to?  Or because you have to?  And how do you feel about that?

In my own life I have a bit too much of the "have to" going on right now and I'm working to flip that to the "choose to."  Its the forward momentum that keeps me going, because I know that if I just keep moving a little at a time eventually I'll get to where I am choosing my life rather than being stuck in it. 

Can't wait for that day to arrive :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Berry crazed!

Ever since right after Christmas I've been on this berry kick.  I can't seem to get enough blueberries.  Or blackberries either.  Some days I've eaten over 2 pints of blueberries - that's craziness!

I even made a special run to the store today just to get more.  I now have 4 pints of blueberries and 4, 6oz. packages of blackberries in the fridge.  Hang on.... make that 3 packages of blackberries.

At first I thought my body needed the anti-oxidants and vitamin C, which maybe it did since I was sick around Christmas. Speaking of sick, thanks to my paleo eating habits and a few tried and true remedies the stomach thing was gone in a day and the sinus and chest congestion lasted just a week.  Pretty amazing considering I know people who have had it over a month!  Paleo eating is definitely the healthier way to go, and even if you do get sick you bounce back very quickly.

Ok back to the berries...

On one hand I'm sick of them.  I don't feel so good after I eat them (ok maybe it's the quantity) and they're not nearly as yummy as they were in the beginning.  On the other hand, I really can't seem to stop.  I'm constantly thinking about who has the best deal and juiciest berries, and conjuring up different ways to prepare them.

There are plain berries, berries and coconut cream, berry smoothies, berry syrup, frozen berry sorbet, berries sauteed in butter, and lots more.

I'm even dreaming about them!  Just the other night I had this dream I was in a huge field of berries, picking and eating to my heart's content.  Wonderful dream - up until I turned into Violet from Willy Wonka. Ack!

Anyway, as soon as this last batch of berries is gone I'm declaring a moratorium on everything berry.  I have to get back to more sane eating habits! Let's just hope I can hold out...

What is this?

Passed this truck on the highway the other day.  What are those things on it?  Anyone?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On the Jukebox...

Ok folks time for another edition of on the jukebox!

I have a ton of music on my computer.  When you have multiple people in your house and only one computer it becomes a repository for everyone's stuff.  That's what happened when my daughter was in high school, as she and her friends loaded it up with all sorts of music I'd never heard before.  Some of it's pretty good but some of it I could have lived my entire life without ever hearing!

When I got this computer I decided to consolidate all my music so I ripped all my CDs to the hard drive then copied the music from the old computer, thinking I'd sort it out later.  Yeah... like that's gonna happen.

So here I am with lots and lots of music spanning almost every genre imaginable.  One thing I like to do is put media player on shuffle and see what pops up.  Sometimes it gives me quite a shock as I'm chilling to some nice meditation music which is then followed up by some head banging craziness.  I mean I like variety but there's a time and place...

So today I have the music on shuffle, and I'm going to share the next 5 songs that come up.  Should be interesting and I'll post YouTube links too:
  1. Love Changes Everything - Sarah Brightman - Note to Donna: I didn't do this on purpose!
  2. Don't Ask Me How I know - Bobby Pinson - The only song of his I know but I like it
  3. Georgia Rain - Joshua Kadison - Off the Painted Desert Serenade album
  4. Can't Get It Out Of My Head - ELO  - Electric Light Orchestra for you kiddies out there
  5. Diary of Jane - Breaking Benjamin - Until right now I'd never heard this one before
  6. Bonus - Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit - Jimmy Buffet - Hit next and just had to include it :)

Does this make me a bad person?

I was surfing the internet late last night when I came across a story of a couple kids with a rare disease.  Part of the story recounted their heroic struggle to find a cure and the rest was an appeal for donations to help with their astronomical medical expenses.

Instead of feeling moved by the story I found myself a bit disgusted.  Not because I'm cold hearted - I hate to see anyone suffer - but because I'm jaded and a bit cynical.  See despite the well written and heartfelt appeal of the author, I just couldn't bring myself to believe it was entirely true.

The sad truth is that my experience with the internet, and virtually all media for that matter, is that a large percent of the stories I come across are nothing more than inventions of some con artist trying to swipe a few bucks out of our pockets.  And even for the ones that are true, by the time they reach you and me the truth is often so exaggerated and twisted that it bears little if any resemblance to what's really going on.

I've seen this played out time and time again, from the local news who reports a completely different story than the one told by the people who were actually there to first-hand accounts of military operations in Iraq and other countries which are vastly different than anything I've ever seen in our media here.  And of course we all know about the thousands of internet hoaxes, from spam e-mail to websites set up to solicit funds to help a dying child who, it turns out later, doesn't even exist.

I want to believe people are honest - I really do.  But I've seen too many instances when what really happened is so vastly different than the story of what happened that it borders on the ridiculous.  Plus I've seen first hand people who completely take advantage of the system, whether it be government aid, milking friends and family, playing the media, or a myriad of other things while people in real need trudge through life as best they can asking nothing from anyone. And even the "established" causes are often called on the carpet for being poorly run, misappropriating funds, and not providing a fraction of the so called "help" they claim to provide.

So yeah, I guess I've gotten jaded and grown a bit cynical over the years, and more often than not I find myself saying NO to causes, charities and hardship stories because I just can't believe in their authenticity or their ability to actually use my donation for the good they're claiming to do. Does this make me a bad person?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Flat tire and the lizard brain

Earlier today I was on the way back from an appointment when this little light showed up on my dash board. "Hmmm... I thought. Wonder what that's for?"

It didn't look like an oil light or anything serious so I kept going, thinking I'd figure it out later.  Ok guys... stop laughing at the silly female!

Then the brakes started sounding funny, so I pulled over in a gas station/mini-mart thing to check it out. Turns out it wasn't the brakes at all but my tire, which was very low. As I pumped it up I saw a nice large nail stuck in-between the treads. So instead of heading on to my next stop, I hung a left then a right then sat a while in rush hour traffic until I made it to the nearest service station. Thirty minutes and $10.69 later the nail was removed and the tire was, as they said "good as new."

Nothing big by most standards, but it brought up a huge issue for me.

On the outside I was calmly sitting in the waiting room but on the inside I had this terrible, sinking feeling that life is just so hard, I'm never going to get where I want to go, and I may as well give up right now.

I know where this comes from.

For many years I was dead broke. During that time I drove a string of junk cars, many which I should never have been driving. Because they were junk cars they often needed repairs and it never seemed to be a 50 cent fix either. The bill was always in the several hundred dollar range, sometimes broaching on a grand or more. So needless to say a lot of things just didn't get fixed. Which meant I drove on tires balder than a baby's behind, brakes that could barely stop me at all, and wheels that were visibly cock-eyed. And to top it off my (now ex) husband, who I trusted to take care of "car stuff," often stuck things together with duct tape, wire ties and unknown goo. No wonder I had (and still sometimes have) major driving anxiety!

So now, even though I'm not flat broke and drive the coolest little cheap new car ever, every noise and "weird feeling" brings up those memories and sometimes I still grip the wheel in terror on even slightly wet roads.  And the trip to the service station today temporarily took me right back to that place of having absolutely no money at all and I cringed at the idea of a repair I couldn't afford - even though I knew it would only be a few bucks.

I think everyone has something that takes them to this place.  You know - we try to be rational and logical human beings but sometimes that irrational side - the "Lizard Brain" as some people call it, takes over and we find ourselves reacting (or should I say over-reacting) to normal, everyday situations.  It's a scary place to be and I know there have been times I've been completely immobilized by these things.

So what do you do about it?  For me awareness is the key, as I can't fight something I'm not aware of.  So learning to recognize that feeling and then figuring out the trigger is really important.  Then once you know what the issue is and what sets you off you can develop some tricks to take care of it when it happens.  Because it will happen.  These fears are very deep and basic and simply dismissing or trying to talk yourself out of them won't make them go away. 

Some tricks I use for the car issue are to make sure I have roadside assistance, keep up on regular maintenance, and maintain a separate savings account just for car repairs.  Every time I add to that account, even if it's just a few bucks, I feel a little better about having to deal with some huge unknown expense in the future.  By the way, my car is under warranty but the savings account is psychological insurance.  That's mega-important!

If you can't kick it on your own, EMDR is an amazing therapy to release Lizard Brain issues that immobilize us.  EMDR is what enabled me to be able to finally buy a new car last year (another huge deal) and I highly recommend it.  Oh that link is to Cincinnati EMDR Therapist Ruth Ellerbusch who's amazing!

Some final thoughts:  We all have fears and sometimes they can be huge, no matter how they appear to the outside world.  It's ok - no, critical - to acknowledge your fears, even if you think they seem silly.  If they terrify you they're not silly or insignificant at all.  They're important and the way to move forward is to face them, not hide from them.  You deserve to live the best and happiest life possible.  You deserve to move past that Lizard Brain and dispel those fears :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Scaling your mountains

I was watching this video, sent to me by my friend John, when it hit me:  

We all have our own mountains to climb and cliffs to jump off.

They may not be nearly as exciting or death-defying as this stuff... at least to the untrained eye.

But our stuff is every bit as big a deal to us as scaling a sheer 3,000' cliff is to these guys. 

I've personally scaled the mountains of talking to strangers, driving to other cities by myself, taking my car in for repairs, and a whole host of every day things that others don't even give a second thought too.  In fact there was a time answering the phone was beyond my capabilities, as was ordering my own ice cream cone at the whippy-dip.  Yeah that goes way back but the point is we all have our own mountains to climb, and yours are just as real and huge to you as mine are to me.

It's all good, and the way you climb them is to keep your eye on the summit, slowly and steadfastly grab on to the next hand-hold, make sure you have a solid grip, then pull yourself upward.  It helps to practice on little hills too, as small achievements give you the skill and confidence to go for the bigger ones.

I've done this with many things in life, and continue to climb ever higher mountains, reaching for my own personal summits of achievement.  The view from the top is amazing and the exhilaration of knowing I DID IT can't be beat!

What about you?  What mountain are you going to climb next?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Finding Clarity

Even though I've committed to reaching these dreams I have, getting clear on HOW to get there has been eluding me. 

There is what I "want" to do for work, which I realize will take some time to develop.  Then there's the work I can do "right now," which is guaranteed income but which may make it too easy to put my dreams on hold.  Then there's the work people keep asking me to do but that I really don't want to do - stuff that could produce a lot of income but that makes me cringe every time I think about it.

What to do?

For the last few days I've been telling myself over and over "find the peace."  What this means is to let go of all the "shoulds" and "musts" and simply be at peace with what is.  It also means quieting the mind chatter enough to finally hear my inner voice - you know - that little voice we all have that tells us the right course of action.

Finally today I got clarity.  I know what I want to do and have a good idea of how to go about it.  This relieves a tremendous amount of stress and allows me to drop everything else and focus on what's closest to my heart.

Money wise this will mean an immediate drop in income.  But that is only temporary.  Because it will also free up lots of time and energy to pursue the things I want to do, which will more than replace the lost income in the near future.

Gosh it feels good to finally be clear!

Business tours - Tri Star Cleaning

One of my favorite things to do is tour places of business.  The ingenuity and determination of the human spirit fascinates and inspires me, and I love to see how things are made and distributed and how services are performed.

Years ago I had my own distribution company, then later a manufacturing company and trust me when I say no one realizes all the detail that goes into producing even one little product.  Seriously - it amazes me that stuff is so cheap when I think about all the work that goes into it.

So last week I stopped by my Dad's plant, Tri-Star Cleaning.  At nearly 80 years old, he's still running his industrial laundry full time.  He got into the retail dry-cleaning business before I was born, then switched to industrial laundry when I was in Jr. High.  I worked for him through high school, and no - not some cushy "daughter of the owner" office job.  I started in the plant with everyone else making $3.35 an hour sorting, patching and packaging industrial gloves. After high school I started working in the office and before I was 20 I was running the whole admin. side of the business.  Yes, I was going to take over the world back then!

To give you a little idea of what we're going to be looking at, my Dad takes soiled rags from industrial companies and cleans them.  These rags are full of chemicals, solvents and other goo and if it weren't for him they'd have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.  That's a LOT of dangerous stuff adding to our landfills!  But my Dad, being the smart man that he is, came up with a process to extract the solvents and other hazards from the rags and reclaim them.  The result is rags that can either be reused or disposed of as non-hazardous material (they're just clean cloth at this point), reclaimed solvents and chemicals that can be purified and re-used, and a small amount of hazardous waste (can't get rid of all of it).

He's been passionate about doing his part to clean up our environment for years, and he even has patents on his process for extracting solvents.  By the way, this is a DIRTY job!  Even the other industrial laundries send their stuff to him because they don't know how to deal with it as effectively as he does.

Ok, here are some pictures of my visit last week:

These are the extraction machines.  If I remember right they are modified dry-cleaning machines that use centrifugal force to literally spin the solvents and chemicals out of the rags.  The solvents and chemicals are collected (how I'm not sure), purified and recycled.

After this step the rags still need to be washed.  This 400 pound washer holds a heck of a lot of rags. And my Dad has 3 of them!

And here's what it looks like empty.  The whole machine actually tilts back to make loading easier (stuff falls to the back):

After the rags are washed, they have to be dried of course, which is why there are dryers.  When my step son's were 14 & 16 (long time ago) we hired them to do some cleanup work over a weekend and wouldn't you know they somehow locked themselves in those things!  Good thing they weren't hooked up at the time.

Here are some clean rags waiting to be boxed up to go back to the customers (or sold if the customers don't want them back):

And finally, here's a picture of only part of the water treatment system.  My Dad has a complete water treatment and purification system in place; because even after the rags are clean enough to be washed they're still dirty by most standards.  NONE of the water used goes into the sewer.  It all gets treated before going into the city sewer system, and the result is almost pure enough to drink.  Pretty cool!

Well that's it for the tour.  My Dad is happy to take on customers of any size (he has smaller machines too for smaller orders), and also sells rags, gloves and industrial safety products.  Just sayin' if you know anyone in the market for those things :^)

And by the way, if you have a business you'd like me to feature let me know.  If you're local I'll get to it right away and if not I'll put it on my itinerary for when I start traveling next year.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another yummy paleo dinner

Yeah I know it's almost 11:00pm here but one of the things about being paleo is you eat when you're hungry - not when the clock says it's time to eat.  So I just got done making and enjoying yet another yummy paleo meal.

Tonight it was grassfed beef mixed with liver (from the same cow no less), and asparagus with lots of butter.  Real butter, though not from the same cow as the beef.

For dessert I'm going to have a bowl of blueberries with cream.  Not dairy cream, as I've decided to forego dairy for the next month, but unsweetened coconut cream.  I start with frozen blueberries then just pour the cream over the top.  The result is a frozen treat that is so delish!  Try it.

By the way, I know none of my dishes match.  That's the cool thing about my kitchen.  Almost nothing matches.  I just love the variety!  Oh and by the way even though it doesn't look like it, that's a dinner plate at the top and the bowl with the blueberries is about the diameter of a salad or dessert plate.  So while I'm not skimping by any means, I'm not gorging either.

Getting organized and new office space

After committing to taking massive action to achieve my dreams, I decided it was time to clean up and re-arrange my apartment.  I work at home most of the time and you know how it is - something gets set down here and left there and all of a sudden you look around one day and wonder what elves have been sneaking around wreaking chaos!

So I spent the day organizing, throwing stuff out, cleaning the carpets and re-arranging the furniture to bring in fresh energy.  Want a laugh?  I discovered I have not 1 but 4 carpet cleaning devices!

I live in a very small apartment.  What possible use could I have for 4 of these things?  Upon testing, I discovered 2 don't even work so they earned a trip to the dumpster.  The carpet cleaner I only use a couple times a year but it's worth keeping for now so it and the remaining vacuum are all snug in the front closet. 

The office area looks really good too!  Things tend to accumulate on the computer table over time so it was good to get rid of all of it and start over.  This time I'm DETERMINED to keep it neat and tidy!  Feel free to check up on me in a couple months and see how I'm doing :)

Here's the new office setup. How do you like it?

I love the double monitor and external keyboard and mouse!  My keyboard even has keys on it that allow me to pause or skip music... awesome when I'm listening to tunes as I work. 

As an intuitive and spiritual counselor, I work a lot with subtle energy and I'm surrounding myself with things that represent prosperity and luck.  That's why you see the dollar stuck to the wall.  It's there to remind me of money coming my way. 

On top of the monitor is my good luck troll... he's so cute and he reminds me all the time of how lucky and blessed I am. Not just with money but with friends, opportunities, ever improving health, dreams and the drive and support to carry them out.  I'm already rich in so many ways... the bank account is going to catch up soon :)

Above my head is what I call my "lucky lamp."  The shamrocks are for luck and because hey - I'm part Irish and I like them.  The lamp itself is shaped like a UFO because it's cool and also to remind me that we are actually divine beings having this human experience. In fact if you ask me my ancestry I'm liable to say, "Well you know I'm only half human..."

Ha!  Try to guess what the rest is :)

So excited about having this fresh new space to work in.  Now I'm off to design new business cards.

Friday, January 13, 2012

White stuff and getting down to work

Around noon I headed out to do a few errands and found this on my car.  Not a lot of snow for sure but still more than I like.  Especially since the windshield wipers were frozen in place.

This cold snap along with some other things that have happened lately have given me more than a few reasons to consider my current situation, the dreams I have and how I'm going to get from here to there.

The conclusion I've reached is that it's time to COMMIT.  That means no more talking, daydreaming, and thinking about what I want.  I need to get laser focused, organized and formulate a concrete plan that will enable me to reach my goals in the shortest time possible.  Or sooner even!

And I need to take massive action.  Swift, decisive action that will catapult me out of my current reality into the new on I'm creating.  Big change.  Massive change.  Whirlwind of planning, action and momentum to break the cycle of "what is."

This is an important point folks.  It's nice to talk about baby steps, going with the flow and all that good stuff but when what you want to completely change your life that isn't enough. A paradigm change that big can't be eased into.  You have to take the bull by the horns, clear out the old with the force of a tornado and plunge with both feet into that new life.  We're not in Kansas anymore :)

And to think... all this from a dusting of snow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mediumship and funny signs

Tonight I went to a mediumship circle.  Mediumship is the art of communicating with people who have crossed over - i.e. talking to dead people. While this isn't really my specialty, it's good to stretch your bubble now and then, and I had lots of fun and got some really good messages.  Even had a funny mule pop in (yes you can communicate with animals too) with a message about letting go of things that no longer serve us and reminding us that we don't have to take on the burdens of others.  While the Horace (that was his name) was directing the message at a specific person, I think that's something we could all take to heart.

On the way home I stopped to snap a couple pictures of a Quick Lube sign.  These guys always have such cool messages!

New Pages

Just wanted to let you know I've added two new pages to this website.

My Work is obviously about my work.

And My Dreams are about what I intend to accomplish this year.

That's it. Thanks!

Spending time with friends and dinner out

Sunday afternoon I'd had enough of the city, so I headed out to visit my friend CheLe, author of the Abbie Dosh blog.  We've been friends for a long time, and it's nice to visit and catch up once in a while, as well as have a place to escape the city.

I've always been a small town/country girl at heart, and living in this concrete sea that is the city these last few years hasn't been fun.  But it is what it is, and I know the end is in sight so I can handle it!

Anyway, after hanging out at her place for a while we headed over to the Country Inn Restaurant in Mt. Orab.  It's a really nice little family place, the staff is wonderful and very helpful, the prices are reasonable and the food is great!

After a couple trips to the salad bar, a wonderful steak cooked exactly how I like it, and a cup of decent coffee I was pleasantly full and feeling really good.

Over all a very nice dining experience with a good friend.  Great way to spend a Sunday evening :)

By the way, it's the highest compliment for me to say the steak was exactly as I like it.  Usually even when I say rare they over cook them so it was refreshing to actually see the red inside for once.  Way to go Country Inn Chef!

After leaving the restaurant, I tried to get a shot of the night sky but it with my little camera and mediocre photography skills it didn't turn out so good. Looks to me like something out of a sci-fi movie in fact.  But it isn't. It's the moon trying to peek out behind the clouds.  Spooky huh?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm Soooooo over this passion thing!

Ok so all last week I got stuck in this rut of pondering passion, joy and purpose in work and life.  It really became a drag, and took me to a place emotionally I don't like to go.  If my friends are reading this and I whined to you then thanks for putting up with me and even whacking me over the head... I needed it!

So here's where I am with this passion, joy thing.  When thinking about work...

  • Some people have one thing they pretty much devote their entire life to.
  • Others jump from thing to thing, never quite settling on any one thing.
  • And still others jump around a lot but seem to have certain themes.  Like they work in many different industries but always have the same type of job.

And what I realized after pondering all this...

Your passion has nothing to do with how long you work at one thing.
It has nothing to do with your work at all.

Passion, true passion, is about your joy.  It's what you love.  It's what makes your face light up and your eyes sparkle.  It's what makes you lose time when you're involved in doing it.  It's what makes your friends scatter when you bound into the room to talk about it yet again!  It's like being in love - that dazzling honeymoon type of love and that familiar, timeless 50th anniversary love all rolled up together.

If your passion is also your work then congratulations.  You are in sync with your true nature and you intuitively know how to blend the two and create a life you love.  For the rest of us - it's time we learned :)

While passion can hit some people like a ton of bricks, for most of us it grows slowly over time.  Like a relationship, passion begins with a simple introduction which blossoms into a friendship which grows into a commitment which matures into a wonderful life together.

Throughout your lifetime there are many potential passions.  Think about how many things you've been interested in over the years.  But like relationships, not all of them work out.  Sometimes you lose interest; sometimes you realize you're just not suited for the thing; sometimes you simply grow out of it; and sometimes other things take precedence, causing the original interest to simply fade away.  Obligations also get in the way, as we trade what we love for what we think we have to do in order to get on in life.

So let's cut to the chase... here's my advice to you (and myself):

If you know what your passion is and aren't living it then what are you waiting for?  Don't waste another moment!  Stop what you're doing right now.  YES, RIGHT NOW! and take one small step toward merging your passion with your life.  I mean it!  Big changes people and it's time to get moving!

If you don't know what your passion is then it's time to find out.  Pick an interest of yours and start thinking about it as a lifestyle.  How would it feel to have a life centered around this thing that you love?  Start researching and taking steps toward making it a bigger part of your life.  In short, commit to making it a priority rather than just a past-time.  As you go along you'll find out if you really want to build a life around this thing, and if not then you can choose something else.  But again, get moving... life's too short to do otherwise.

And if you're like me and have many, many interests and they all seem all glittery and irresistible then do what I'm doing.  Forget the need to find "a passion."  Concentrate instead on enjoying life, having fun, and living to the fullest no matter what you're doing.  That in and of itself is a passion and something that will bring you joy, happiness and fulfillment.  That's my choice.  And with that choice a great burden is lifted and I can confidently say  -- LIFE IS GOOD :D

PS Plug for me here.  If you need help with this then let's talk.  I'm really good at this type of thing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

More on sweet potatoes and plant toxicity

After writing my post on eating raw sweet potatoes as a snack, I received an e-mail from a friend informing me that they are in fact toxic.  I'd heard that about regular potatoes, but not sweet potatoes so I decided to check it out for myself.  After all I don't want to be recommending anything that might make you sick - no matter how tasty it is.

My friend was kind enough to send me this link, which talks about the toxic properties of sweet potatoes.  But being the curious person I am, that wasn't enough so I kept searching.  And what I found out is rather interesting, so I'm sharing it here.

First, virtually EVERY food on the planet has some toxic properties.

Second, no matter how pure or healthy a food is invariably there will be some people who are sensitive to it.

So what are we to do?  Just stop eating all together?  Of course not.  The intelligent thing to do is to review the available data then come to our own conclusion about what is right for us.

Ok so back to sweet potatoes...

From my research I found that there are two possible problems with them.

First, and this is rather annoying but minor, they contain raffinose, which is a sugar that can cause flatulence.  This particular sugar cannot be digested by the upper digestive tract, so it is instead fermented in the colon, producing gasses which you then get to share with your friends at most inopportune moments.  Apparently the amount of raffinose depends on the growing conditions of the sweet potato, and personally I haven't experienced this effect at all (whether eating them raw or cooked).  But then I don't eat a ton of these.  Incidentally, raffinose is found in many common foods including beans, cruciferous vegetables, and whole grains all of which are widely eaten.  So this isn't really the issue.

Second, and this is by far the bigger issue. Sweet potatoes in their raw form contain trypsin inhibitors, which inhibit the digestion of protein.   Since paleo people generally consume a high protein diet, it makes sense that they wouldn't want to eat something that may slow down digestion of said protein.  These inhibitors are neutralized by cooking - a good argument for cooking rather than eating raw.  On the other hand, I couldn't find hard data on the amount of trypsin inhibitors contained in sweet potatoes (apparently it varies from 20% all the way up to 90%) nor could I find solid data on the amount needed to cause problems (is it a single bite of raw sweet potato or an entire bushel of them) or on the practical effects on humans.  Or even on rats for that matter.

So anyway, after spending much of the afternoon researching and learning far more than I ever wanted to know about sweet potatoes, I've come to this conclusion:

I am going to continue to eat them raw, occasionally, as a snack. 

Why?  Because I like them.

If they cause me trouble I'll stop.  Easy enough.

And besides, lots of foods are said to have anti-nutrients in them.  Heck lots of foods are said to be toxic, including ones that millions of people eat every day (yes, even the paleo people).  So I'm not going to get all up in arms about this raw sweet potato thing.  

I just wanted to make sure I presented as much information as possible so that if you decide to try them you'll do so with open eyes.  Like I said at the beginning - wouldn't want to lead anyone astray.

Another Paleo Snack

Well I never saw this one coming but it's turned into a convenient and tasty snack.  I had sliced some sweet potatoes to fry up with dinner the other day, but I'd only used about half so I stuck the other half in the fridge.  Then last night I was starving so I went rummaging around for something to eat. There weren't any leftovers and I didn't feel like cooking so I grabbed the sweet potatoes and took a bite.

Yes, raw.

And guess what?  There's good. Really good!  In fact I like them better this way than cooked, and also better than carrots. 

Who knew?

Now the benefit (other than the obvious convenience) is that raw vegetables contain the enzymes needed to digest them.  Actually this is true of all raw foods.  By making use of the enzymes available in the foods themselves, you take the burden off your body's enzymes.  At least this is what the raw foodists say.

And knowing what I know of enzymes and digestion I agree.

But this still doesn't mean I'm going to be pigging out on these. Overall I keep carbs on the low side, which means root vegetables and tubers are an occasional thing rather than a staple.

Still... it's nice to know I can just slice and eat :)

Edit - after writing this post I got feedback that raw sweet potatoes may be toxic so I did some research and came up with more information here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Time to make the doughnuts

Since way before I was born - probably before my mother and her mother was born - there's been this tradition in my family.  Every year on the feast of Epiphany, the day the three Kings came to visit the Baby Jesus, we would have doughnuts.  Special doughnuts.

When I was young my grandma made them and they were such a treat.  They were homemade and to signify the gifts the three kings brought, our doughnuts had coins in them.  There was one quarter - that was the real prize!  But there were also dimes, nickels, pennies and a few duds.

When I hit my teenage years I started helping Grandma with the doughnut making, and when her health didn't allow her to do it anymore I took over completely. For over 20 years I made doughnuts, sometimes 200+ a year, for the family.  When my daughter got old enough she started helping me, and in recent years she's taken over the tradition.

This year she didn't do it at my place, which was kind of sad.  At the same time though it was fine, as my paleo lifestyle isn't too doughnut friendly :)

Anyway, here are the pictures from her doughnut making adventure.

First you have to make the dough.  This is a refrigerator, potato roll recipe (you can find it in the older Betty Crocker Cookbooks or I'll be happy to send it to you if you want) and it has to rise overnight so it's a two day deal.

Then after the first rising you punch it down (that's actually the picture to your left) then you roll it out and make the doughnuts.

Then you let them rise again...

And then it's time to heat up the oil and fry them.  The oil is ready when the candy thermometer reaches around 375.  It's a little high here but that's ok.  You have to monitor the whole time and adjust the heat accordingly.  If the temperature is too high the doughnuts will get done on the outside before the inside is cooked and you'll have a doughy mess.  If it's too low they'll take forever to cook and soak up too much oil, making them greasy.

Here is Donna putting the first ones in to fry...

And here is the finished product.  All that's left to do is put the coins in and sprinkle on powdered sugar, which melts into a nice glaze.  By the way you use clean coins, scrub them and boil for 10 minutes to make sure they're sterile.  Oh and there were a lot more doughnuts than this... she was just getting started!