Sunday, 25 December 2011

Resolutions, Goals, or Promises

Hi all.  I haven't been writing in my blog very regularly.  I guess that's one resolution I can set for the New Year, haha!  Anyway, with the new year coming up quickly and with us entering into winter, the quiet season of inner contemplation, thoughts of New Year's resolutions come into my mind and, I am sure, into the minds of many.  I don't generally take making New Year resolutions very seriously, but I do often think about what I want to change or accomplish in the coming year.  As I have been thinking about it this year, I began wondering what the difference is between a resolution and a goal.  Are they one in the same?  Not really.

Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves, promises of things we intend to do changes we intend to make in our lives.  They tend to be centred on things that we probably should be doing on a regular basis anyway, like getting exercise, saving money, losing weight, and those types of things.  Resolutions can be highly personal and they can be highly effective when taken seriously.

A goal is more of a target, something specific that we want to do in order to reach our dreams.  Dreams are very personal and the goals are the stepping stones along the journey that we take to reach those dreams.  Goals, when set properly, are SMART, Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Realistic-Timely.

I have decided to think carefully about what I want in the coming year.  What do I want to do for myself?  How can I make my life better?  I think we have a tendency in this society to set our resolutions lightly, being just what we are all supposed to do at New Year's.  People follow along in the first month or so and then the motivation wanes as life with all its twists and turns throws us off course.  I don't want that to happen.  If I am going to make a promise to myself, shouldn't I honour it?  If I made it to someone else I would.  Maybe instead of New Year's resolutions they should be called our New Year's promises.  Somehow, that feels like something for which I need to be more accountable.

So what do I want this year?  The promises I am making to myself include getting back into running (started last week) and keeping at it all through the year regardless of what happens, starting daily meditation once again, putting more fresh foods back into my diet, increasing my income by at least $100 per week (this one might be more of a goal), getting more involved with my community, being more social and opening my home up to friends and family more often, learning how to play my guitar, purging my home of all non-essentials (junk and old things for which I no longer have a use), and bettering my survival and homesteading skills.

Whew!  That's a big list, but I very much feel the need to take better care of myself physically, spiritually, and psychologically.  In fact, maybe these are the true promises and the above are the means to help me fulfill these promises to myself.  As I make these promises, I am spending time contemplating what they mean to me and how I will be able to make it happen.  Is it a tall order to fill?  Perhaps, but one thing is for certain - I will take these promises seriously.  I am thinking of checking in with myself at the end of every month to see how I have done and determine what I can do to better fulfill these promises.  In a way, many of these promises are akin to goals in that they are will help me get closer to fulfilling my dream of a fully self-sustainable and healthy lifestyle that is in harmony with nature.

What about you?  What are the promises you plan to make to yourself for the coming year?  I would love to hear about them and about how you will ensure that you follow through.  If you are so inclined, please do leave it in the comments section :-)

Happy New Year!

Find your passion!  Love your passion!  Live your passion!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Allowing Myself to Be Lost

A friend of mine on Facebook recently posted a quote by Henry David Thoreau on her wall.  It read, "Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves."  That struck a cord with me on many levels.  I am lost and I am floundering in my life.  I am fighting against the tide and trying to find a way to anchor myself and keep myself from drifting.  Not anymore.  This quote has given me a release mechanism with which I can allow myself to be lost and see where I end up.

You see, I have a pretty good idea of where I want to be in life, but I can't see any way to get there -- YET.  I flip and I flop in my decision making, thinking I'll do this and I'll do that, but never really committing to anything.  On top of that, I have been on autopilot for the last five years, working and raising two small children, who aren't as small anymore.  I have struggled financially, moved many times, and just worn myself out.

So where does that leave me?  It leaves me lost, but now I know that is OK and that I need to stop fighting it.  I have decided to take December, January, and maybe February off from paid work and focus on urban homesteading.  Odd time of year to do it I suppose, not being able to garden and forage.  However, I have been working on stocking up on food and supplies for winter and I will find other ways to homestead.  Making my own soaps, candles, finding some wool to spin and dye, knitting, sewing, and generally being as self-sufficient as possible.

Where will my journey take me?  Who knows?  I will spend my days homesteading, running and caring for myself, and getting involved with community.  My evenings and weekends with my kids, enjoying life and exploring our natural world.  Maybe I can get involved with urban farming and creating a self-sustainable urban culture in my city.  I know there are those who are working on it and I want to help.  This may put my feet on a new and exciting path and I am now happy to be lost.

For now I will record my journey here, although I may evolve to a different blog that is specifically about urban homesteading.  Either way, I hope you will follow my journey.  I would love to have you along.

Find your passion.  Love your passion.  Live your passion.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Self-sufficiency in an Unpredictable World

Now that life is settling down and I am not in deep concern for our immediate basic needs of shelter, food, and clothing I am able to turn my thoughts back to where they once were -- concerns for our basic needs for the long term.  We all know that the environment is getting worse by the day and there are a lot of things to consider.  Gas prices are rocketing up, up, and up and since so many things in the food industry (two words that should never have been put together) depend upon fossil fuels, the cost of food is going up, up, and up.  Add to this the declining ability to grow food as soil erosion and erratic weather (due to global warming) wreak havoc around the world.  The question is, where does that leave us?

Let's face it.  Humans are complacent.  We don't tend to take action until we are pushed into it, when choice is no longer an option.  I don't want to take that stance when it comes to our future stability.  My dream for the past few years has been to become as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to food, shelter, and clothing and whatever we can't provide for ourselves we rely on local farmers for the rest.  I am now refocusing on this goal.

I rent my home right now, which does not leave me the option of having a yard to work with.  So for food growing I am relying on container gardening on my back deck and a community garden plot across the street from our home.  Between these and farmers markets I hope to amass a large amount of food for winter (stored by canning, dehydrating, and freezing) and I also hope to take us to the level of being able to survive on what we and the local farmers produce.

My 4-5 year plan is to buy a house with a big yard.  Then I will continue my food growing, but I will add in chickens (we can have them where I live, although the regulations are a bit strict) and bee hives.  This will provide us with honey and eggs without having to rely on anyone else.  I will have all the herbs I need planted in a perennial garden and will grow our veggies annually.  I will still rely on local farmers for grains, milk, various other types of food, and wool so that I can spin my own yarn for knitting socks, mittens, hats, scarves, sweaters, and anything else we need.  There is nothing better than hand knit wool mittens for keeping hands toasty in the winter and socks for the feet :-)  Bees wax will be used to make our own candles and if our hives don't produce enough, then I will go to a local apiary.  If I can manage to afford it, I will also go off the grid with solar panels so we don't have to rely on the hydro company and their rising prices.

Throughout all of this I will be learning about seed saving and food preservation.  I am also hopefully going to be joining a local cow share, which will give us fresh raw milk with which I will make yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.  We are vegetarian and I was once mostly vegan, but I am looking at healthy self-sustainable options and quite frankly buying almond milk and margarine isn't very self-sustainable.  I also believe, through much research, that if the dairy and eggs come from the right sources, animals that are left to live a natural life and can graze and eat the way nature intended, that they are high in nutrition and healthy.  The alternatives, however vegan they may be, are also more highly processed and refined and not whole foods.

This is my goal.  It is a lofty one and will take a few years to bring to fruition, but I truly believe that one day we will be incredibly thankful for the self-sufficiency we have obtained, the day when food becomes scarce and what is available is so expensive that it is hard to buy enough to feed a family.  I will also be teaching my children how to do all of these things every step of the way because I feel their lives may depend on these skills when they grow up.  While these may not be the most positive thoughts, I certainly hold out hope for the future.  However, I also have the common sense to know that the way things are going, it is wise to be prepared.  Plus, I simply love this homesteading lifestyle :-)  I find it so satisfying to eat food that we have produced ourselves and I can't wait to take our self-sufficient lifestyle to the next level.

Until next time,

Find your passion.  Love your passion.  Live your passion.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Helping Hand

It has been a while since I last posted, but life has been chaotic.  However, what I am learning is that sometimes we just need to ask for help.  I cannot truly speak for anyone but myself, but I suspect there are many of us in the same boat.  Growing up I learned about either being dependent on someone or independent.  I did not learn about being interdependent.  Mostly, I have been too independent my whole life, not really even realizing that I need help, let alone asking for it, but sometimes a situation comes along and you give your head a shake and realize that not only is asking for help necessary - it's OK!

I am learning that to be interdependent is the best and healthiest thing.  After all,  we all need help sometimes.  When one person needs help, someone else picks up the slack and lends and hand and once the person who receives the help feels better, that person can then give help to another person.  This is how it should work.  This is what makes a great relationship.  This is what makes community.

So for all of you who are struggling, whether it is with work, finances, childcare, fixing something around the house, or how to cook a certain dish for dinner - it is OK to ask for help!  I did it this week and I am glad I did, because I really needed it!

Find your passion.  Love your passion.  Live your passion.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Contemplating Life

My birthday was last weekend and once we get into our 30s and beyond I think many of us tend to reflect on our lives when we have a birthday.  Where are we?  Where do we want to go?  Are we happy?  Have we accomplished all that we wish to accomplish?  I know I tend to do this and I like it because it becomes a good inventory of where I am and the direction in which I am heading.

I am now 37 and since I plan on living till I am well past 100, I am only slightly past the 1/3 point in my life.  That means I still have TONS of time to do the things I want to do and see the things I want to see.  The past year or two has been really rough for me financially, but slowly, slowly I am beginning to see the light and things are getting better.  With that increasing sense of security comes an increasing desire to explore life (which is hard to do when you are truly struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table).

What is in my future?  I plan to train as a holistic nutritionist and possibly a personal trainer and/or a yoga instructor.  I want to become very involved in the natural health movement, do research on diet and nutrition as they relate to health and wellness, and write books, attend conferences, speaking engagements, and study, in depth, the ideal diet that humans are designed for, the one we have evolved to eat.

OK, so that's a lot to accomplish, but I've got the time and the passion.  Aside from this I want to get into rock climbing, kayaking, canoing, run marathons, travel the world,buy a house (maybe a farm), possibly open a retreat centre one day, and live to enjoy my great grandchildren :-)  And I am sure I will find many more things to do with my life as time goes on, as I reflect on future birthdays.  For now I will enjoy my children as they grow into amazing young women and I will keep moving forward so that I can accomplish all of my hopes and dreams.

I encourage everyone to take the time to reflect on life, whether on your birthday or another point in life.  It can be so easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the day-to-day business of living that we forget to slow down and take the time, but when we do this we grow and flourish inside and out.  Take care and Happy Easter to those who celebrate it :-)

Find your passion.  Love your passion.  Live your passion.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Let's Talk About Stress

OK, I need to talk about stress, partly so that I can de-stress due to my busy, stressful past few days and next few days to come.  Who knows, I might actually take a few days to write this all out, but here it goes.  Stress -- we all experience it from time to time and we should.  If we never experienced any stress and we never had any problems we would be dead because life doesn't happen without stress and problems.  That being said, there is good stress and bad stress.  Good stress is planning your wedding and getting married, buying your first home, having a baby, getting a new job.  These are all great and are short-term stresses that end and about which we all feel good.

So what about the bad stress?  Well, often times these are short-term too, such as the death of a loved one (depending on the circumstances), having to meet a deadline at work, or going for a job interview.  These too are OK and our bodies are designed to handle stress on a short-term basis.  Then, once the stress is gone, our bodies have time to rest and recover from that stress.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.  I can surely attest to that.  I think that it is very common for people to undergo chronic stress in our present society.  Job stress day in and day out, financial stress that doesn't go away, caring for a sick loved one, getting a divorce and dealing with all the repercussions that can go with that.  These are long-term stresses that wear away at the body, the mind, and the spirit.

Now, I am not planning on discussing the physiological aspects of stress, the chemicals that the body releases and their effects.  That is important, but I want to talk about it from a real level of dealing with it.  I have personally been dealing with long-term stress for a couple of years now in the form of financial stress.  I have literally known what it is like to go through each and every month not paying my rent on time, running so low on groceries that we hardly had anything to eat, getting those nasty red cards from the hydro company.  It has been really tough to catch up and over time it wears away at a person.

Fortunately, I have good coping mechanisms and I handle stress well.  That coupled with a healthy diet and exercise (a.k.a. a healthy lifestyle) has seen me through the worst of it in fairly good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If it wasn't for the healthy lifestyle, I can honestly say that I would have had a nervous breakdown many months ago.

Of course, things are getting better, but slowly.  I used to homeschool my girls, but now they are in school so that I can spend more time working and improve my financial situation.  Thankfully, they really enjoy school and I have been able to really start catching up on bills and other things that have been outstanding.  Whew!  However, I have been able to experience first hand that basic of all stresses, the base of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the need to provide the very basics of life.  That level of stress is beyond terrible while you are experiencing it and when you are, it is sometimes very difficult to care for yourself.

I guess that's why I am writing this.  Sometimes during the stress I have felt very alone, not being able to imagine that anyone else is in this situation.  I know that isn't true, but there it is.  I know there are others out there who are experiencing financial stress and other types of long-term stress and I want to send the message that if you are experiencing stress, whether short-term or long-term, please, please still make the time to care for yourself.  Even if it feels that you are spending time doing something you just don't have the time for, do it anyway.  In the end it will give you more energy, help you focus better on the task at hand, and help to improve your situation overall.

If it hadn't been for my ability to run and to eat a very healthy, often high raw diet, I would be so much the worse for wear.  I am also very good at taking negative energy, that poor me and the fear that goes along with financial stress, and channeling it into moving forward one step at a time and getting done the things I must get done to improve my situation.  Sometimes I feel like giving up and giving in, but I always manage to pull myself out of it and life is looking better than it has in a long time.  I encourage anyone else experiencing stress to care for themselves even when it feels like the last thing they should be doing because really and truly, it is the first thing you should be doing.

Find you passion.  Love your passion.  Live your passion.

Friday, 8 April 2011

What Your Fingernails Tell You about Your Health

I am fascinated with nutrition as it relates to health.  I don't know if I can pinpoint one specific incident that put me onto this path.  It has been more as if someone has gradually steered me onto it and pointed me in the right direction.  I am learning that there are a myriad of signs and symptoms that tell a person if they are deficient in vitamins or minerals and that if you know how to read them, you can improve your overall level of health.

The state of your fingernails is one easy way to determine your level of health and nutrition.  You just need to know what to look for.  So, what can your fingernails tell you? Well, have you ever had those white spots on your fingernails?  Those are generally a sign of either zinc or iron deficiency.  Those annoying hangnails?  A sign of vitamin C deficiency.  Splitting and peeling nails?  Any one of vitamin A, C, or D deficiency or calcium, iron, or protein deficiency.  Flat nails can indicate iron, protein, or vitamin B12 deficiency.  Nails curving up can indicate iron or zinc deficiency and nails curving down can indicate vitamin B12 deficiency.

This is just the tip of the ice burg and it is important to realize that there are other more serious underlying health problems that can cause these types of nail abnormalities, but much of the time it is a simple vitamin or mineral deficiency that can easily be solved.  And vitamin and mineral deficiencies can actually cause the more serious underlying health problems.  You can always contact your doctor if you have any concerns about it.

This all fascinates me so much and I haven't even gotten into hair and skin health yet.  My goal in life is to train as a holistic nutritionist and continue my own self-learning and self-development and one day work with people to improve their level of health simply through changing their diet and supplementing where necessary.  I truly believe that getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals is a huge part of our health and that deficiencies in these are the cause of many of our major health issues.

So onward with my studying and nutritionist training next year so that I can move into a career of helping others achieve optimal health and fitness. :-)

Find your passion.  Love your passion.  Live your passion.