The Clearing

June 11, 2012

It all started with the blue dress. My daughter and her best friend begged me to take them shopping so, never being one to say no to some leisure, I carted them to the mall in Ingolstadt. Pressing some cash into her palm, I told Daughter to use it wisely. She winked. I wasn’t sure whether to be worried or laugh. I chose the latter.

With time on my hands, I browsed various shops, read a book, then got pulled into a store as if by magic.

As with many things in my life, the blue dress called out to me.

“You must take me home with you.” I drew nearer. Was it really talking to me? Now I know textiles don’t talk, but this one was definitely saying something. I found it hard not to listen.

“But I don’t need you,” I whispered into the clothing rack. A few eyes around the store fell upon me. I tried to ignore them.

“Trust me,” the dress whispered back. “Yes, you do.”

I tried it on to be sure I wasn’t losing my mind. It gave me a hug. I could feel it. So I pulled out the cash and bought it. Full retail price.

When I got home, I took one look at my closet and realized I couldn’t possibly hang this beautiful thing next to so many drabby clothes that smacked of compromise, reason and bargain-hunting.

I started pulling out all kinds of clothing that I really couldn’t stand. Dresses my dear, fashionable sister handed down to me that never really quite fit, clothing I bought on an impulse because I thought it made sense at the time, handbags with stained interiors, and one thigh-high stocking whose pair must have gotten lost in the shuffle at some point. A question formulated in my mind.

“Do I love it?” If the answer wasn’t yes, I dumped it.

Not everything I tossed was old or thread-bare: a sweater I only wore once, a scarf someone well-meaning had given me, an old jacket I donned a dozen times. Other items I kept: a cocktail dress I wore to George H. W. Bush’s Inaugral ball (which, by some miracle, still fits), the dress I wore to the theater the night Princess Diana died, a twenty-four year old Victoria’s secret night gown that has seen more tears than I can tell you.

If clothing makes the woman, then I have set myself free.

The message was obvious. We all need to engage in space clearing in our lives. Whether they are physical things, bad relationships or harmful habits, each of us can start anew by making room for new possibilities. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to listen.

Thank you, blue dress. You were right. I needed you more than I realized.

**Editor’s Note: Not sure how to space clear? This post will tell you.

The Nature Conservancy: Protecting nature. Pre...

Image via Wikipedia

You are what you eat, and how you eat it. Locally grown produce, also known as Slow Food, is not only good for you, it’s good for the environment, too.

On this Earth Day, I pose the question about agriculture because the food industry is an enormous one with a huge lobby behind it. Reducing the need for food transport alone by shopping at our local farmer’s market instead of big chain food stores can have an impact on the Earth.

Nature Conservancy is working with various groups to ensure sustainable food for us all. Here are some of the top stories I’d like to share with you.

1.     Grass fed beef in Arizona

An Arizona beef cattle rancher saves millions of gallons of water by switching to native grasses. Something as seemingly simple as planting native grass is actually part of a paradigm shift for the Mercers. Not only is it a change in how they operate, but also who they work with. (TurfMutt would be so proud of this shift! His children’s plat science education program supports the notion of native plants over imports to sustain the natural habitat and surroundings.)

One change is the market for their beef. By feeding their cattle native grass, the Mercers are tapping into the grass-fed, locally grown beef market. The Mercers sell their beef—under the name Sombrero Butte Beef—at local farmers’ markets and at a gourmet Tucson restaurant.

2.     Sustainable Seafood in California

In Morro Bay, California, The Nature Conservancy worked with local fishermen to to establish 3.8 million acres of no-trawl zones off California’s Central Coast. Historically, groundfish — species that live close to the sea floor — have served as the backbone of fisheries in this region. But the overreliance of traditional bottom trawling — a fishing method that drags nets along the sea floor — led to habitat damage habitat, harm to other marine species and a decline in local fishing income.  The partnership is now pioneering innovative ways to catch fish, and this work has already improved the environmental and economic performances of the local fishery.

3.     Texas Rice Farmer

The Clive Runnells Family Mad Island Marsh Preserve is located near the midpoint of the Texas coast. For more than twenty years, the Franzen family has leased land on the preserve to grow rice, which creates feeding and roosting opportunities for native and migratory birds. The arrangement has benefited their family, the Conservancy and the human and wildlife communities of the Texas coast.

4.     Oysters in Massachusetts

Cape Cod’s Wellfleet, Massachusetts was literally built on shellfish. A century ago, wild reefs bustling with life were so huge ships had to navigate around them, but by the 1970s wild harvesting, pollution and disease had chiseled away the last wild reef.
Now, the Conservancy, Mass Audubon, NOAA and the Town of Wellfleet are experimenting with different structures on which oyster seed can stick, with the goal of rebuilding a reef that would bolster local populations of shellfish and provide benefits like clean water and defense against rising seas.

Happy Earth Day, Ya’ll! Now go hug a tree and bow to the Mother that holds us all!

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A Mindful Christmas

December 6, 2010

POM Pomegranate juice
Image by gabster_ro via Flickr

The month of December is stressful for a lot of people. The holidays add to the tension and for some, light deprivation deeply affects our moods. During this season of light (or lack thereof!), we need to engage in empowering activities that bring the love closer. Because I am sensitive to the lack of light at this time of year, I engage in a self-made winter empowerment program. It involves exercise, lots of pomegranate juice and practices of self-forgiveness during moments of crankiness.

When I came upon Barbara Kilikevich’s book, A Mindful Christmas: How to Create a Meaningful, Peaceful Holiday, I felt a sense of relief. Moving beyond the consumer madness, we can rejoice in knowing our bodies are allowed move a little slower at this time of year. After all, bears hibernate. Why shouldn’t we?

Helpful tips from Barbara’s Website include:

∙ Organize your Christmas so that it is less stressful
∙ Add Meaning to your Christmas season without added expense
∙ Protect the Christmas Spirit in children
∙ Remember what you love most about Christmas (it isn’t gifts)
∙ Avoid post holiday let down
∙ Glide smoothly back into reality after it is all said and done

Celebrate your holiday slow-style by remembering less is more and more is too much!

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Holiday gifts are often as decadent as the parties at which they are given. Occasions for overindulging are frequent for the last weeks of the year, just as physical activity levels decline thanks to shorter, colder days.  Hey, I’m all for munching on a piece of chocolate cake. My motto? Moderation  in all things, including moderation!

Giving the gift of good health is a neat idea.  The folks at ActionForHealthyKids.org sent me some interesting tips I’d like to share because they really apply to all ages.

“The toys and games that kids receive as gifts often encourage sedentary behavior,” says Rob Bisceglie, Executive Director of Action for Healthy Kids.  “Adults can teach and model healthy habits by giving presents that encourage physical activity.”

My son, for instance, insists that we play ball every morning and afternoon. It’s as if the moment he’s eaten something, he’s ready to burn it off. Not a bad idea!

Action for Healthy Kids suggests these easy ideas for giving the gift of health this holiday season:

•        Fresh produce.  Find bountiful baskets at a local grocery store, send a bushel from an online citrus grower, or join an online “Fruit or Veggie of the Month” club. Remember to eat what’s in season because, quite frankly, it tastes better!

•        Join a gym.  Give membership to an athletic club or the YMCA. If you can’t afford a gym membership, join a walking group with friends. Start slowly, walking ten minutes, then fifteen and increase it until you’ve hit a comfortable amount of time.

•        Find a fun fitness class.  Gift certificates are available for gymnastics, yoga, aerobics, rock climbing, tae kwon doe, dance lessons and dozens of other active endeavors. I personally love my gym because they’ve recently renovated their spa area. There is nothing like dreaming of a nice steam room visit on a cold winter’s day!

•        Make a healthy toolbox, not an Xbox!  Give toys that can be used in the basement or garage during inclement weather.  Include balls, jump ropes, hula hoops, bubbles, and chalk for hopscotch.

•        Embrace the cold.  Snow toys, skis, sleds, and skates make cold weather fun! Be sure to wear the right clothing so no one freezes. As my father-in-law likes to say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing prep!”

•        Plan a family adventure.   Try hiking, biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, or a walking trek.

•        Make the most of screen time.  Kids of all ages love motion-controlled video games, music video dance games, and exercise DVDs.

•        Don’t forget the favorites.  Bikes, tricycles, pogo sticks, roller or in-line skates, and scooters have always kept kids moving!

“A fresh, health-driven perspective can make the holiday season an opportunity for children and adults alike to start practicing healthier habits,” says Bisceglie.  “Why wait for the New Year?”

 

About Action for Healthy Kids

Action for Healthy Kids (www.ActionforHealthyKids.org) is the nation’s leading nonprofit and volunteer network fighting childhood obesity and undernourishment by helping schools become healthier places and our kids learn to eat right and be active every day.  A collaboration of more than 67 organizations, corporations and government agencies supports grassroots efforts by thousands of volunteers nationwide.  In 2009 Action for Healthy Kids reached nearly 4 million children in 8,000 schools.

 

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Slow Exercise

June 9, 2010

In the 80s aerobics was hot. Jane Fonda and those lovely scrunchy socks, the full-body suits and the thong-like overpants. The faster you pumped, the better.

The 90s rolled by me as I rolled by it on my bike (I lived eight miles from University and rode my bike to and fro every day ~ in the snow, uphill, both ways). Ha ha.

The decade following Y2K was filled with raising babies into children who could tie their shoes (and roll their eyes ~ mostly at me). By 2008 I had discovered Pilates.

Ah, the beauty of the slow motion Pilates requires. It asks for the slow burn, the simple movements and charitable forgiveness when you cannot reach your toes as you once did.

Today I closed my eyes throughout many of the exercises in my Pilates class. The taut-bellied size 0 instructor has a way about her that is most nurturing. I smiled from the inside out as I actually asked my body “What do you want today? Does this feel good? Where does my stress reside?”

It was a mystical moment, right there on the mat amongst the others who enjoy the sanctity of slow exercise.

The next time you find yourself in motion, close your eyes (okay, not when you are driving) and you may find you see the world through the feelings slow motion brings.

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Can you bear some change?

January 28, 2010

It was a fruitless exercise, but I was already caught up in the ‘have tos’ and ‘gottas’.

You see there I was, standing at the bakery counter, digging through my purse for some loose change so I could keep my Euro whole that I planned to use later for the shopping cart at the next store (Europe uses coin-operated carts, not bag boys!). My face reddened through the embarrassment and effort, but I was bound and determined to give the woman exact change. She moved on to other customers as I dug some more, fussing over the silliness of it all.

When I finally gathered all the change I needed (which involved going to the car to look for errant pennines under the car mat ~ ridiculous, I know!), I smiled at the bakery clerk. She smiled back in a knowing way, as if she knew the feeling of being stuck in the should’s of life.

The irony? When I got to the car, I had two more coins in the central console that I could have used for the cart, if I had taken a slow moment to look. And when I got to the store, I grabbed a cart whose coin slot was in disrepair, allowing me to use it without the coin I so desperately tried to salvage.

It made me laugh. Some days we get stuck in how things should be. We carefully plan, align our actions with our intentions, and it ends up being a useless exercise.

I wonder what would have happened if I had cheerfully given the bakery clerk the extra change and left it up to God/the Universe to see me through to the next store with or without the proper coin. Most likely I would have saved an extra five minutes and enjoyed the flow that trusting the unknown brings.

Life offers lessons no matter where you are ~ oftentimes they come from the unlikeliest source!

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