Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter Friends

Easter Sunday this year is falling at a time of so much change. So much new life.
The month is changing, the season is changing, and I am changing.

Are you?
Are you in any kind of metamorphosis right now, any kind of renewal?
More than ever I think, things are really truly changing.
I hope you are sensing it, and I hope it is all beautiful and exciting.

When I reflect on the Christian importance of this weekend, 
what my mind most often drifts to is redemption
We have been redeemed from our sins by our Savior. 

We have been traded. Purchased. Protected from darkness and storms
and even from ourselves for a while, 
our debts relieved and our futures bright and open with loving possibility.

 From a million years ago, one of our homemade Easter rituals, commemorating the Passover night.

This is so in step with how I have been trying to manage my own life lately, 
just the word redemption.
For what different things in this world am I redeeming my precious time and energy? 

Spiritually speaking, the question becomes even more challenging.
What trades am I making? What contracts are written with my free will,
after such a costly redemption?

It's plenty to think about, but it doesn't make me sad anymore.
Life is so throbbing with energy right now that I am only motivated, revived, 
and hopeful for the possibility of everything good and amazing!

Break your dormancy, friends.
Erupt through the soil, nourished by invisible things and sparked back to life,
filled with all the life force you need
to grow into your fullest, most beautiful, most useful potential.
Face the sun.
Accept every kind of weather.
Stretch your roots deeply and enjoy the company of bugs and worms.

It's going to be a season for the record books, and I wish you the best of it all. 
Happy Easter!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hope Like Wildfire

   Hope has been sparking in my rib cage and in my bellybutton for months now, friends. I think you probably know that. And despite a few unfortunate days when I allowed Worry to enjoy some small, petty victories (remember my vision of the Worry Door? I didn't see that because I wasn't worrying.)... I have thankfully managed to protect that spark of hope and fan it into a flame. And that flame is taking off like wildfire all through me. It is heating me from the inside out, making external circumstances very nearly irrelevant to my joy. And this wildfire is lighting the way, too, helping me see through some inevitable darkness.


   It's spreading.

   Maybe this is why our regular bonfires have been so special to me. Handsome and I really enjoy opening the farm for friends and loved ones, to light fallen trees in the fire pit and gather around and talk and laugh and have a good time.

   We soak up the heat on the coldest days and evenings and sometimes when it's warm out, too.

   We loiter there at the rocky edge until the skin on our faces seems to shrink and our jeans are so hot we can barely sit down. We trade burdens and worries for ponytails filled with ashes and jackets that smell like wood smoke for the rest of the week. We stare into the red and yellow glow, side by side, rubbing our hands and snuggling and just enjoying every moment.

   We wait for the flames to jet ferociously out of the ends of hollow trunks, then we watch the tree bark turn scaly and black. We search for shapes in the changing fire the way children gaze at clouds on summery afternoons.

   Between jokes and ghost stories we sometimes fall into that  flame-licked trance that slows and strengthens your heart all at once. I love that hot, tympani beat. We move our chairs around the edge of the fire pit every few minutes, to avoid the smoke, and sometimes have to run away laughing because it's so thick. But the cold always scoffs at our isolation, and we happily scuttle back for more fiery abuse.

   There is something undeniably primal about circling around a fire with people you love. I'm always a little sad when we can't host a weekly bonfire for whatever reason, usually the Oklahoma wind, but the most important fire is still spreading in us. I feel it. I see evidence of it. And I am so thrilled to be learning how to protect it from whatever it is that wants us to live without the heat and the light.

   I believe you can celebrate answers even before they arrive, and that such a joyful anticipation feeds that fire. It quickens the answer, too, and makes it even more beautiful.

   Do you feel it too?

   Do you have a wildfire in your heart, threatening to overtake all of your fears and your pain? Let it. Surrender to it. Feed that fire and protect it.

   If you can, please join us for one of our Lazy W bonfires soon. If you can't, then light a fire where you are and think fondly of us. I wish you and yours all the warmth and comfort, all the laughter, and all the hope you need. It is right there available to you.

"One can enjoy a wood fire worthily
only when he warms his thoughts by it
as well as his hands and feet."
~Odell Shephard

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Unsolicited Advice: Final Installment

   My birthday week is over, and let me tell you I was spoiled rotten this year. From lots of time with my beautiful youngest daughter to a completely shocking surprise birthday party from Handsome and a thousand of our fun friends, plus a bunch of really wonderful gifts including some cool mid-century lawn furniture from my parents... Turning thirty nine has never been more fun for anyone, anywhere in the world.

Surprise parties are tricky business, because sometimes they happen 
when you haven't washed your hair for a few days
because you're planning a big, long spa day that weekend
because it's your birthday, after all. 
Also, you find out what good liars all of your friends are.
To my husband's credit, he did make sure I had changed 
out of my "chores" jeans and tank top before friends arrived.

   So anyway, it's high time I wrap up this little advice column. As I edit my final thoughts and prepare to issue these next sixteen pieces of hard-earned wisdom, I want to thank you guys again for your hilarious comments and emails and for your encouragement to share more of this stuff. It has been a blast! : )


#24Invest in Girlfriends. I have wasted a lot of time in life, not to mention a lot of isolated feelings, underestimating the treasure of female friendships. Even with an incredible marriage (my husband is not only my best friend but also my favorite companion in life, plus the other good stuff, wink-wink...) and a wonderful extended family, having good girlfriends has enriched every aspect of my life. Being surrounded by smart, strong, happy, beautiful women is challenging, summoning the best version of myself when at times I might be tempted to be lazy. It's inspirational, giving me fresh ideas and higher standards worth seeking. And it helps keep me in balance. My female friendships make me slightly less needy as a wife and slightly more understanding too. I have learned so many things from other mothers and wives, and I have gathered untold encouragement from them in difficult, otherwise crippling times. These myriad relationships have also demonstrated the value of individuality. I doubt you could search my bank of girlfriends and find two that are just alike. My life has been richly blessed with spice and variety, and I hope yours is too.

#25. Don't Feed Citrus to Your Chickens. It makes their eggshells weak. I learned this bit of trivia just recently. I had been plumping up my own diet with tons and tons of citrus to ward off cold and flu, sharing the leathery orange, green, and yellow rinds with my flock each day. Then, once the chickens finally started laying eggs again, I found their shells were tender, almost rubbery, and very easily broken. After a little reading I found that most people advise against feeding citrus peels to chickens. Now you know, too.

#26. Use Nutmeg. In Alfredo sauce, in white creamy gravy, in spinach, and in lots of wonderful recipes, nutmeg is the secret ingredient. Nutmeg imparts a really subtle depth, and I highly suggest everyone learns to us it.

#27. Study Your Personal Lunar Cycle. And use it to your fullest life advantage. You now what I mean by lunar cycle, right? I hope you take the time to learn more than just which days of each month your purse needs to contain certain delicate accouterments. If you pay attention, you will discover that certain days of your month are wildly creative and beg you to dive into a worthy project. Other days are introspective and can reward you with valuable wisdom if you seek it. And still other days are good for high energy pursuits, for burning through frustrations and obstacles with a special kind of rage that seems to come out of nowhere. These are all natural and normal chemical events, and I hope you learn to control them and do not feel controlled by them. Please don't become a negative hormonal stereotype. Also, don't let society's jokes about "PMS" shame you out of profiting from this almost magical cycle. I promise you, fertility is about much more than having babies and being easily annoyed.

#28. Build your Confidence. Stop being so easily intimidated by other women. Learn how to see the beauty in others without letting that destroy your view of yourself. It's not always a competition. Enjoy your own individuality as much as you would want those other amazing women to enjoy theirs. I have discovered that some of the most intimidating women are often the ones most worth knowing. It is true that some women can be horrible, truly mean spirited, controlling, vindictive, and manipulative; but thankfully they are in the smallest minority in the world. Most members of our species are open and warm, generous, safe, and trustworthy. Treat each other that way and expect the best. Chances are good that you'll enjoy new friendships instead of suffering through one bout of insecurity after another.

#29. Choose the Big Things Wisely. In youth it seems like anything seems possible, and really it is for a while, but as time passes we eventually realize that everyone has limits; resources are limited; time is fleeting. Everybody everywhere, all throughout history, eventually has to learn how to say no. So do you. So just learn how to more wisely spend your time, energy, money, talents, and other resources. Living life fully and with creative abandon is not the same as being wasteful with your stores.

#30. Travel Passionately. Explore the world to the best of your ability. Look for unique features in different cities, study the history and culture of those places, and talk to the people. Eat at local spots every chance you get, and avoid chain restaurants. Break your routines. Expand your horizons both geographically and inwardly. Eat slowly, absorb the details, and memorize ideas for your own culinary and decorating experiments later. Take an unreasonable amount of photos, and write down the details of your experiences quickly after you have them. You might be surprised what you forget later. When considering travel destinations, explore a variety of places. But then choose a few that speak to you and visit them often. Become a student of those places. Allow the street names and fragrances and sights to take up residence in your heart. Learn the place better each time you visit, and do your best to depart for home on good terms.

As much as rural life nourishes and satisfies me, 
New Orleans sets my imagination on fire. I love it there.

#31. When planting a flower bed, please pay attention to more than the easy colorful ruffles they sell in garden centers twice a year. Design with greenery, shapes, and seasons in mind. Consider scale here just you would in arranging furniture in a room. And remember that garden materials can be salvaged just like clothes, cookware, and furniture. Some of my favorite shrubs and flowering bulbs are either gifts from friends or dug up for free from strangers' gardens. New is not always best, and expensive is not always necessary.

#32.You Have Two Ears and One Mouth. As a parent, as a spouse, and as a friend, whenever possible, and especially when it's difficult, listen a lot more than you talk

#33. Eat Well. Eat more fruits and vegetables than bread and pasta, and drink more water than anything else. Keep it simple. Eat slowly. Also, don't peel your produce. Keep the skin for the nutrients.

#34. Honor Your Parents. I can hardly write about this subject yet. I have made so many mistakes here, it's painful and embarrassing, and I know I am somewhat reaping what I have sown. Just take my advice and  honor your parents for whoever they are and whatever they have done for you. It is almost certainly their best, which means it came at a great price to them.

#35. Manage Your Needs. In my husband's profession, they use the term "Demand Side Management" which refers to reducing energy costs by restricting or managing consumption, not price. This applies to all areas of life. When you feel stretched too thinly, start by evaluating what you think you "need." Internalize the fact that, materially speaking, having more often means simply needing and being satisfied with less. Simplify your life a bit to grow in contentedness.

#36. Celebrate Your Education. Whatever stage you're at, stop looking at school as a burden and realize what a blessing and a privilege it is. Yes, it is possible to return to college later in life, and many people do, but right now may end up being the best possible time for school. Make sure you're not putting school on the back burner for lazy or wasteful reasons. You'll regret it.

#37. Smoothest Legs: The best way to get super smooth, silky, touchable legs is to first be really well hydrated internally. Then, scrub and exfoliate your legs in warm water; lather, shave, and rinse them; then instead of drying with a towel, rub baby oil into your skin and air dry. Pinky promise, this is the best way to be silky smooth. As a bonus, infuse your oil with a fragrance or spritz perfume on your legs as they dry. Ooh la la...

#38.Choose your Battles. Here is another piece of wisdom that people seem to have to learn for themselves, myself included. As I look back on my adult years I see so much unnecessary conflict and tumult that could have been avoided simply by humbling myself a little more or widening my view or just deciding the cost is too great. Yes, certainly, some battles are worth all the cost. Just learn to see them clearly. Your time and energy are so precious. Don't scar your heart or others' hearts carelessly.

#39. Trust God in Everything. Life will give you tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate, and you will have many years of easy trust in God because of His goodness and generosity. But along with this you'll have plenty of reasons to rail against Him, too, plenty of times when your faith will shake violently and you'll question everything. I'm pretty sure that's okay, but be determined to move past that. Set your sights many miles past your current pain (it is temporary) and know deep in your bones that answers and miracles are being prepared for you. Wonderful surprises come out of the blue just as often as painful ones do. Trust God. Life isn't perfect in our eyes, but He is. Do some star gazing on a clear night to adjust your perspective and feel small and safe again. He loves you.


   Okay folks, that's what I want you to know. Life's answers and secrets in thirty-nine pieces. I hope at least a speck of it is useful to you, and I surely appreciate you stopping in! Now my youngest and I are headed out for some fun errands and treasure hunting.

   What advice do you have to add?

"I'm a river. 
No matter whatever
comes my way
I will definitely reach the sea."
~Anypriyo Mandal

Friday, March 15, 2013

Get Stung with Me

   This is honey bee weather, you guys. The days are warm. The breezes are mild. And everything seems to be in bloom. Every single day these past couple of weeks we find our fuzzy little winged princesses foraging in the box woods and fruit trees, and as of yesterday they have even discovered purple clover. Do you know how exciting it is that we have so many bees alive and thriving after last autumn's wax moth decimation? Well it's very exciting. That's what it is.

   I have several hive-related tasks to compete this month and might even be adding more bees, and I am so excited to tell you about all of it. But for now, an invitation...

I also have some deliciously good news about this pretty girl...

   This weekend is the statewide spring conference for the Oklahoma Beekeepers' Association. Honey lovers from all across our great state will gather to discuss best practices and lessons learned, the weather, and some changes in cottage law legislation no doubt. We will also get to hear guest speaker Reyah Carlson, an experienced apitherapist. Check out her blog right here. She is the featured speaker and will be giving talks about, in her own words:

"the health benefits from all honeybee produced substances.. raw honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and venom from the sting. I will also be demonstrating sting technique and application."

   Did you catch that last part? She will be stinging people. With bees. On purpose. I am planning to volunteer, because I don't know when to say no. Family legend has it that my great-grandpa Papa Joe Neiberding, who was a locally famous beekeeper, stung himself deliberately as a cure for his arthritis.

   I kid you not. I am Arthur-free but still looking forward to being reminded of how a bee sting feels.

   So even if you have little interest in raising bees yourself (although you should consider it), please come to the Cleveland County Fairgrounds tomorrow morning and watch me get stung. I don't mind if you laugh when I cry, so long as you bring me a cookie or chocolate covered almond or something as a comfort.

  Okay, gotta go. Handsome is on his way home and we have two wonderful friends coming over for dinner tonight. I hope you have fun plans for this gorgeous March weekend! Thank you so much for stopping in at the digital W.

"When you shoot an arrow of truth, 
dip its point in honey."
~Arab Proverb

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Grateful for my Tuesday

   Because of the time change this past weekend, Hot Tub Summit now begins while the sky is still blacker than black. Even the birds are sill silent at this new hour. Today Handsome and I crept outside with two mugs of perfect coffee and let the scalding hot, bromine scented water deliver us gently from Monday to Tuesday. We watched the brilliant stars fade into a denim blue morning sky. And we spoke softly about our plans for the day. I felt my ribs ache pleasantly because my heart is so full right now. I think he mistook my quietness for something else.

   Life is really good right now, friends. We are not without stress or hurt, for sure, and plenty of important questions remain unanswered. But we also are not without pleasure, hope, friends and family who love us, or purpose. Every day is packed with opportunity and energy.

   Today, while my dutiful and talented guy is toiling passionately beneath florescent lights, balancing industry needs with consumer demands, making difficult and delicate management decisions, and bearing the brunt of ugly and irrational political agendas, I will be holding down this happy fort. Today I get to play in the dirt, soak up the sun, and embrace our silly animals. I get to clean our castle, play chef in the kitchen, and go for a long run. The blessings of my unique lifestyle are not lost on me. And I hope my husband knows how much I appreciate all of this.

For at least a couple of hours today, I get to finish work 
on the new herb bed right outside my kitchen window.

The Lazy W will soon be overrun with perennial herbs, annuals, 
medicinal flowers, and everything else under the Oklahoma sun.

Our honeybees already seem to know what pollen-ish feast
is being planned for this curvy boxwood corner.

   I have lots of birthday weekend stories to share with you wonderful people, as well as one final installment of Unsolicited Advice. But this swell of gratitude could not wait. I wish everyone had someone to care for them as much as he cares for me.

   If you're a Commish friend and you see this today, please be extra good to Handsome for me. Know that he is even better than you already believe he is.

I Love You Sir.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Unsolicited Birthday Advice, Part Two

   You fine folks have been really gracious about my little advice-giving project. I appreciate that so much! Because it seems like no matter how many people I invite to offer me their birthday advice, hardly anyone ever asks for mine! Harrumph. And I have made sooooo many mistakes, you'd think people would be dying to know what I've learned.

   You'd think.

   And so, today, a second installment of...

Unsolicited Birthday Advice 

#15. Karma is Real. Call it karma, call it the Golden Rule, or just say "what goes around comes around," deep in my bones I know it's more than just an old saying. This life has some truly reflective properties as well as a tendency to operate in circles.

One of our sweet, brand new foals, summer of 2010, 
catching his own reflection in a glass shop door.
He's too young here to understand that what he sends out into the universe, 
he will eventually collect again.
But he does see that he is a handsome little devil.
And that's a pretty good start.

   I read The Secret last year, with a mix of caution and curiosity, and realized it's just the same Christian principles of reaping and sowing, only articulated in more direct absolutes. It also promotes the notion that every action begins with a thought, something I have always felt to be true. In other words, choose your thoughts carefully.
   Maybe give this book a shot. In the mean time, friends, I think it's pretty safe to remind you that your life will reflect back to you what you exude, more or less, for better or worse, sooner or later. Let that guide your path a bit. And know that, like this foal, you were created with great natural beauty. Go ahead and be a little fascinated with yourself and with each other.

#16. Speaking of modern, cash-cow self-help books, treat yourself to Love Languages. It's short and easy to read, and it is available everywhere. I think Love Languages offers a great view of how different we all are but also how understandable. We don't have to be content with not "getting" each other, whether our spouses, our friends, or children. Read this book and just experiment with the ideas you find. See if treating a loved one in a slightly different way (a way prescribed for his personality, not yours) makes him behave any differently toward you. See if a cooling relationship can be warmed with a fresh approach. Learn each other's hearts and enjoy the adventure of nurturing.

#17. In fact, read so very many books! Read a variety of books, until you fall desperately on a style that you crave. Then read the heck out of that style. Then challenge yourself to read different styles. Then join a book club. Or start one.

My Beloved Dinner Club With a Reading Problem, most of us...

   Read a lot when you can and nibble little things when you're short on time, and build up to reading a spectrum of authors and genres. Surprise yourself. This habit works special, mysterious muscles in your brain and unearths glittering treasure in your soul.
   Don't think you're a reader? I feel like the key to falling in love with reading is discovering the perfect physical setting for you. For me, it's a clean, quiet, comfortable place with my feet either propped up or curled beneath me and something yummy to drink, either hot chocolate or icy cold Diet Coke. It's best if all of my work is done and my phone is far, far away. Throw in either some dramatic weather or a sun worth bathing in... and I am in bibliophile heaven.

#18. Take Care of Your Body. Girls, ladies, young women, daughters, sisters, friends, it is so important to care for your body inside and out, from head to toe. Your health and vitality, even your beauty, underscore everything else you do in life. Don't be shamed into thinking that it's all vanity, as long as you don't stop your efforts at vanity. Let your healthy and beauty be servants, not masters. (Thank you for that phrase, Edie! xoxoEat right, exercise, exfoliate and moisturize! Pay attention to changes and take charge of your own well being. Enjoy your femininity just because you can. And the earlier you start the better, because a woman's appearance evolves every couple of years. Young ladies, pay attention. This is not a lesson you want to wait thirty nine years to learn.
#19. Reduce Household Waste. Learn what kitchen scraps can be composted (not everything), what can be fed to different animals (you might be surprised), what should be recycled or burned, and how many times you can reuse different items. It's fun to see how long you can go without filling a trash bin for municipal collection. I bet you can go a lot longer than you thought!

I painted this sign back when Paris Hilton was still super popular.
My sweet Momma is apparently the only person who gets this joke.

#20. "Elevate the Ordinary." Here's another phrase I can't claim to have coined, but isn't it great? It just means to make the everyday stuff of life more lovely than it has to be. Not fussy or complicated, just special, whatever that means to you. My Momma has always kept her counter top sugar in a beautiful cut glass lidded bowl, and now I do the same. Hang artwork in your pantry. Wind your garden hose up into a giant urn instead of laying it on the grass. Play music in your bathroom. No rules here, just an urge to tuck beauty and pleasure in the mundane corners of your world.

#21. Don't wear a short skirt to get a pedicure, unless you want to. I have my gorgeous cousin Jennifer to thank for this hilarious memory and pearly piece of wisdom. About twenty years after our junior high school makeover party in Florida, she took me for a very grown-up professional pedicure right here in the Red Dirt State. It was a first time experience for me, and I wore the worst possible garment for the occasion.
   I cannot think of a better person to have with me for this fallout, which seems like a terrible word choice suddenly. I love you Jen! And I am happy to share this advice now.

#22. Also, seek out new experiences. Break your own molds. As with books, surprise yourself. I think habits are good and useful, but they can also be trapping. Habits which you are unwilling to escape now and then can make your spirit grow stagnant. Some of my favorite memories are of things Handsome and I have done spontaneously or against the grain. And some of our best friendships have been forged out of passionate adventure-seeking. Dive into life! Don't waste time being overly shy. It doesn't really benefit anyone. And yes, this is another thing it took me a long, long time to realize.
   Here is one of my favorite silly quotes, drawn from an actual road sign somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness where the deeply scarred muddy roads can trap vehicles for a long, straight drive:

"Choose your rut carefully. 
You'll be in it for the next 200 miles."

#23. Delay Pleasure. I realize lots of people say that we should eat dessert first, and I have probably said so myself a few times. But now I've changed my mind. These thirty nine years have taught me that over indulgence in anything can ruin the enjoyment. Collecting a reward prematurely, eating food too quickly or too excessively, rushing any good thing, including those of the romantic persuasion... it's all sabotage. To really enjoy something special, delay it a bit. Deny yourself just a little and push the climax away so you can force your mind and your body into a more complete experience. It's all about redirecting energy. Contain it, feel it, and use it to your advantage.
   Eat more slowly and in smaller amounts, and not just to lose weight. Do it to taste things more fully. Train yourself to begin your meal even as you are cooking it, and the experience becomes more sensual, more delicious and interesting.
   Let your appetite for all kinds of worldly pleasure build with the power of anticipation. Good things become amazing when you purposefully enjoy them from beginning to end instead of just racing to the finish, to the full stomach or the finish line or the opened gift. Give yourself more complete and nourishing experiences in life, not just a bunch of quick finishes.
   Hang on a sec, this sounds like it might contradict advice #22, but it doesn't. Seek out new experiences with abandon, but once you are settled on a pleasure, experience it fully. Use your stores of energy for a complete pleasure, not an abbreviated one.


   Okay, I hope some of this is useful to you guys. I have a lot more advice to share, so clear your calendars! ha-ha-ha...
   Right now I am off for a long, rainy Saturday run. I have so much love to digest. I spent most of the day yesterday with my beautiful and affectionate youngest daughter. Then I read a million wonderful birthday messages from truly the BEST people on the planet. Then, after a confusing afternoon of being banished from my own home, Handsome and a thousand of our hilarious, loving friends surprised me with a birthday celebration I will never forget!

   My life is way too good for one silly heart to contain, and now I need to go press these positive vibrations deep into my molecules. Have yourself a fantastic weekend, friends. Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Unsolicited Advice for You. You're Welcome. (1-14)

   My birthday is fast approaching, you guys. My eleventh twenty-ninth birthday to be exact, and this year I have decided to celebrate by giving everybody a ton of unsolicited advice. This is not without precedent, though; it has for many years been my habit at other people's birthday celebrations to ask the honoree, "What have you learned this year? What advice can you give us from another year of living?" I feel like it goes without saying that the average birthday person answers by staring blankly at me, offering no new wisdom to the wanting.


   So this is my revenge. For my thirty-ninth birthday I have written thirty-nine pieces of really solid, hard-won life lessons for you. In my heart, this information is sort of dedicated to my nearly grown daughters and my little sisters and nieces, as well as to any women or girls who might bend a listening ear. If I think I know anything in life, it's only because I did it wrong first. Repeatedly. I believe it was it Elanor Roosevelt who said, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." Okay. Today, here are items one through fourteen.

Unsolicited Birthday Advice

#1. Life passes by so quickly. This may sound cliche, but cliches are often rooted in truth. Take life slow and easy when you can. Choose to be happy every single time you realize you have a choice. Soak up as many details as possible. Notice your people, count your blessings, and breathe deeply.

#2. Wear sunscreen. If you are a little younger than me, than you were probably raised with this habit anyway, but I am here to tell you that even if you like some summer color (I happen to like a LOT), you absolutely must protect your face, shoulders, collarbone, and hands. Find other fun ways to "blush."

#3. Be careful how you witness your most passionate beliefs to others. What you think of as zeal can in fact be a very destructive act of self glorification. True spiritual witnessing should be loving. If you're brandishing political beliefs, then you probably already know the risks. Good luck.

#4. When making changes to your home, be careful that you do so with a good, positive spirit. Your mood and your memories from that day have a way of imprinting themselves into the paint, the upholstery, and the curtains. It is no fun to repeatedly see a dried paint drip on a light-switch plate that reminds you of a harsh word said out of impatience. Conversely, it's wonderful to pass by paintings and pillow covers that remind you constantly of very real love and very deep laughter. Let  those redecorating days be fun and loving, silly and memorable, for all the best reasons. If you're cranky, try to turn that attitude around before arming yourself with a paintbrush or even rearranging furniture.Your physical home is definitely made up of non-physical details.

#5. At all costs, protect your natural teeth. Avoid stepping on metal garden rakes that want to smash your mouth and steal your two front teeth. While we're on this topic, also never ever do something called the "Duck Walk" on a slick gym floor; never walk backwards in a hallway with concrete walls; and never do underwater flips in concrete pools with your eyes shut. Also, go to the dentist regularly. Find a great dentist you don't mind visiting and brush, floss, and swish that pretty mouth like your future smile depends on it. Because it totally does.

#6. Cultivate Joy. Joy-making is a constant process, and it is attacked from all sides, all the time. So you must continue to plant seeds of joy everywhere you walk and do your best to protect them, grow them, and share their fruits whenever possible. The joys you cultivate in life will feed you through hard times, and they may even help someone else. Also, I am pretty sure you are responsible for your own joy. It's very personal, so do not depend on anyone else to grow it for you, not even your closest friend or your soul mate or your parents or children. They all have their own to tend, and the better everyone does individually, the more we all have to offer.

#7. Speaking of cultivation, try growing your own food. At least once, try growing something edible, either a salad or some herbs or a few rows of sweet corn or tomatoes. Wherever you live and whatever your lifestyle, there is some gardening you can do to feed yourself, and the experience will change you. Just try it. Don't waste energy being intimidated by science or success-fail stories; all you really need is dirt, sun, water, and seeds or plants. Give yourself this gift.

#8. Hold a service job. I am of the strong opinion that young people, before they truly step out into this big beautiful world, should spend some time working in a service industry. Wait tables, work a retail sales job, clean, do kitchen work, etc. And do it well. Earn your money doing physical work that relies on having good manners, a strong work ethic, and a dash of humility. It will serve you later in life in ways you cannot imagine. And enjoy and appreciate that job! Make happy memories. Be proud of your work product no matter what your title or position.

#9. "Under-Promise and Over-Deliver." This is a lesson I learned from one of those retail jobs I held, a thousand years ago. For emotionally driven, enthusiastic souls like me this mantra is tricky to execute, but the results are lovely. How much better is it to surprise someone with much more than they expected rather than disappoint them with less! My husband is really good at this, and I am trying to be better.

#10. On that note, try not to make promises when you're really happy or permanent decisions when you're really mad. This is another something that sounds cliche, but it's good advice. Let your emotions normalize a bit before slashing and extending things all crazy-pants style.

#11. Meditate. Investigate different methods of meditation, find one that suits you, and practice it regularly. I happen to see yoga, for example, as a nice compliment to a healthy prayer life. I also have learned to prize the time I spend running; it helps me clear my mind and scrub away negative emotions. Some people find certain hobbies meditative. Walk circles, chant, burn incense, draw mandalas, string beads, read scriptures, read, write, do whatever steadies and frees you, and do it often. Find little rituals that help you maintain a clean and healthy center of being.

#12. Learn to love thrift stores, garage sales, auctions, and castoff treasures. Even if you are wealthy beyond measure and can afford to buy new stuff, give yourself the gift of the hunt. Besides saving a ridiculous amount of money, you will learn things about yourself. You will discover your own sense of style instead of being a trend follower; you will feather your nest with layers of things that no one else has; and you will ever so gently fight the tide of consumerism. It's a great skill to hone in youth, when resources are usually limited. Then later in life, when you have a little extra money sitting around, you will be happy to know how to hang onto it. Handsome and I like to say that we don't shop that way because we're poor; but it's because of shopping that way for so long that we're not poor. Wait, did I say that right? You get the idea.

#13. First things first. Prioritize your work and stick to your plan as wisely as you can. Let the less important things fall away first. This style of working has a cumulative effect on momentum.

#14.  Train your heart and your mind to be positive. Through experiences, with some effort, train yourself to see the best in people and to see the upside of whatever you are facing. This is not the same as just sticking your head in the sand. Instead, face your problems squarely but learn to see the best possible outcomes before they happen. Trust that good things are in store for you, and love people for the best version of themselves, even your perceived enemies. That's what you hope they will see in you, too, right? Be confident in the possibility of everything. Life is so good and beautiful!! Don't waste it by dwelling on darkness or difficulty. Except for the lesson learned, I wish I could go back in time and reclaim all the hours and days and years lost on negative thinking.


   Okay, those are my first fourteen pieces of birthday wisdom for you. I know your head is just spinning right now and that you can't wait for more! (hahaha) Tune in as the week progresses for two or three more installments of Unsolicited Birthday Advice.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Turning the Page to Springtime

   Ah, early March...Right now I am resting in a pleasant reading lull following the big book club project Bonhoeffer. This is good timing, too, because the seasons are changing and I have more and more gardening tasks to consume my negotiable hours. Hallelujah!!!

    For a couple of weeks I'll be indulging my paper-thirsty soul in three books. First is Typee, a tantalizing Herman Melville novel set in the South Pacific, which transports me to heat, sand, eroticism, and cannibalism. Next is Barbara Kingsolver's fantastic one-year memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm actually exploring this for the second time. Don Quixote is the next book club selection, and while I won't dive into the text until later this month, it has lots of pre-reading worth doing. Sometimes this just helps revv up your engine, which is often helpful we reading an old, old, old book like this. The pre-reading for a classic is like a well planned appetizer; it primes your mind and your soul for the literary feast that is coming. This translation in particular has tons of yummy things to offer, and I'm grooving it.

Also, when the house is otherwise quiet, Pacino likes for me to read 
the introductions and author notes and such aloud to him.
His is a very bossy and snobby bird who fancies himself an intellectual.
But he's really not. He just likes to hear people talk. Especially Momma.

Don't even get me started on Romulus.
Something tells me this llama expects me 
to read him Don Quixote en Espanol.
No va a suceder, hombre. 

   Anyway, were you here at the digital Lazy W last spring? Do you remember the rantings and ravings I issued forth about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? I basically could not shut up about it:

   Well, this time around I am pretty much just reading what I marked from last February (which is only every other sentence), because the Kingsolver family's locavorism story has already been imprinted on my heart. Now I can afford to just reread the tenets, the quotes, and the light bulb paragraphs. What last year suddenly became my gardening manifesto is this spring proving its staying power. I feel a February reading tradition growing here, you guys.

   My early mornings lately have been perfumed with sentences like this...

"Respecting the dignity of a spectacular food means enjoying it at its best." ~Barbara Kingsolver


"That's the sublime paradox of a food culture: restraint equals indulgence." ~Barbara Kingsolver

   These only inspire me further towards a more loving, deliberate approach to our food growing efforts here at the W. Then a few days ago I saw this quote floating around cyberspace as the rain was falling hard and cold on our thirsty fields...

"I said to the almond tree 'Speak to me of God' and the almond tree bloomed." ~Niko Kazantzakis*

   Isn't that true and beautiful?? I cannot think of any sphere of life where God proves His creative, redemptive power more consistently or with more poetry than in nature.

   In Oklahoma we are starting oregano seeds indoors and scattering poppy and cilantro seeds outdoors, where the chickens can't see. Obviously. We are scooping up natural fertilizers and digging new beds. We are counting the weeks, the days, and the hours till the first fresh little verdant harvest bowl. Springtime is arriving with lots of much needed moisture, proving the almanac right once more. Ladybugs are swarming, honey bees are foraging, and the wide blue skies are thawing. One prayer after another is being answered gently, too. We are excited.

   I feel so thankful to have a comfortable place in my life for reading. I am really enjoying these books so far, and I also really really love this rich inspiration for the new gardening season. Last year was good, but this year is going to be amazing.... Can't you feel it??

   What are you reading right now? Have you started anything in your garden yet? Have you noticed any prayers being answered?

"They must often change,
who would be constant in happiness or wisdom."

*Twentieth century Greek philosopher and writer


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