Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zen #atozchallenge

As April draws to a close, this teeter totter that we have been on, while still rocking seems to be finding some homeostasis.  Much like the crazy fluxes of our Wisconsin weather, as my lilacs start to open and the peonies send robust shoots up, there is the hint of soon a warming into Spring.  The expected rain is starting to fall and going over the list in my head is not a stress, it is simply that, a list, that I know will get accomplished in due time.  As I close out this A-Z Challenge I do so in a moment of Zen, one that I will hold onto as long as I can and hope to be able to tap into and return to when needed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yawn

the windmills of La Mancha, Spain

The week is winding down, and though a busy weekend awaits, it is a good outdoor kind of busy with soccer games and garden and household tasks.  Maybe it will be intermixed with a family game or movie, some reading and grabbing a bite to eat out.  Even a busy weekend is a relaxing change.  It is less regimented by the work and school requirements of the week, and there are fewer have to get done's.  Tomorrow also marks the end of this Blogging A-Z challenge, and with that, I can stretch out stifle a little yawn and relish in a writing undertaking completed.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xander #atozchallenge

Whew, X was a tough one, and I was scrambling a bit, until my mom said "what about Xander"!  Well there it was.  This is Xander, our overly confident 18 pound farm poodle. We work closely with a wonderful rescue organization at work and he was evacuated from a puppy mill.  At 10 weeks old B did heart surgery on him to close a hole in his heart and from that time on, he was ours.  He has always been full of energy, and like many smaller breed dogs, thinks that he is three times his size! He never shies away from keeping the livestock in line or running the fences on patrol :)

Several years ago Xander was also diagnosed with Addison's Disease, which in a nutshell, is adrenal gland failure, is little body cannot keep up with cortisol production so he does not deal well with stressful situations.  He is managed well on medication and for the most part, certainly does not let anything slow him down.  In our household,  he bosses around Emerson, our boarder collie, but is pudding in the hands of our five pound kitten, Juno.  They wrestle like they are both canines, and many a time Juno comes out on top!  I took this picture last weekend he was covered in dry leaves and dust from patrolling under the porch.  He was just out and about in the sunshine watching over the homestead, as any farm poodle would do.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Wellness #atozchallenge

It is funny how things in your life just come full circle, especially with mothers and daughters.  But it also seems that some of the age old resistances minimize from one generation to the next.  When raising kids, maybe we start from that place of additional insight from day one based on our experience, or maybe it is just an evolving collective consciousness over time.  When my mom first began her journey into trying to support and heal herself as she began living with MS some 35 years ago, she looked to natural solutions.  She began yoga, educated herself on Chinese medicine, vitamin supplementation, acupuncture, QiGong, Ayurveda, etc.  My pre-teen self was exploring my own way, and in typically rebellious nature was less than open to all of this.

Fast forward to present.  We moved to our homestead to teach our kids about their food sources, to respect more free play, and try to experience life separating, if only a little, from the constant day to day pressure of the society we live in.  As an adult I absolutely love yoga, strive for natural cleaning solutions and am a DoTerra Wellness Advocate.  After an eighteen month journey learning, experimenting and experiencing I am feeling strong enough to begin to teach and share what I have learned about how to use essential oils to support our bodies' own natural systems. This is especially important because the outside factors that passively effect our health when we do not even realize it continue to grow. I have learned that the marriage of traditional medicine and the 'old ways' lead to a whole person approach that is necessary today.

 My daughter, who is an avid chef in training has become very focused on seasonal, local, natural, whole foods and how superfoods assist and affect health.  Though in true teenage form she does not listen to all that I am trying to teach her.  However, as mentioned earlier, the resistance is less than what I felt when I was her age.  She feels more comfortable researching on her own and re-wording or correcting me where she deems it necessary.  That said, she is more than willing to try what I tell her about, and for the most part, ultimately returns to it later on.  Everyone's journey into wellness is unique, personal, and embarked on for different reasons, though initially it can be overwhelming, as you gain confidence it is well worth the trip.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Variety #atozchallenge

Variety is the spice of life right?  One of the most stunning things we encountered while in Spain were the beautiful markets.  As we grow most of our own food, eat fresh while we can, try to store as much as possible, cook with wild abandon and were at the end of Winter at home, these 'merkat's' were complete eye candy.  There was everything from farmers market style groceries, to sushi, tapas, and anything else you could imagine snacking on.

The variety was both intriguing and dizzying.  The best part was we simply sampled our way through, and for at least two of our meals that is exactly what we did!

These meals were as fresh as can be, prepared in their most basic form; olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs. We could travel from booth to booth with a glass of wine or beer in hand and simply immerse ourselves in the variety laid before us.  Of course, the meal ended with a bag of hand dipped truffles, what else?

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Up #atozchallenge

U is for in...In the Garden the week of April 25th.  Our weather as always is up and down.  But what is pushing up through the soft earth is amazing.  Cutting back our mammoth rhubarb severely last seems to have worked.  It is throwing up more shoots that we can imagine.  Since the stalks off of this plant have traditionally been young and tender at the size of B's arm, I suspect we will have surplus up for grabs!

The garlic is growing literally before our eyes, and this weekend the storage onion starts went into the ground.

We also cut the lavender back to the ground, no small task with 25 mature plants, but this years harvest promises to be as large as ever!  Though the sun-chokes have not emerged yet, we prepped the area in front of them for spring sugar snap peas.

Oh, and B got the potatoes in.  Though they are not up yet, we have had tremendous luck with the layering technique.  Simply plop them on the ground and cover with a layer of straw.  As they come up we will layer compost and more straw to continue to bury them as they grow.  This allows for very loose soil and a simple harvest!

Though our plan was to move asparagus this past weekend, with everything else on the to do list coupled with a full soccer schedule it did not happen.  Now with these crazy on again and off again temperatures, it has grown like crazy over the last few days.  So this year we will remain upbeat and eat a final batch from this patch :)
I got this post in just under the wire!  Do you have anything coming up in your garden yet?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for Take-Aways #atozchallenge

This morning I went to an event put on by a friend of mine called Nourish.  It was focused on wellness; incorporating mind, body, your environment and stress reduction.  We covered everything from what we put in our bodies and expose them to, to how setting priorities will also ultimately relieve stress and give us peace of mind.  There are a couple of important things to remember, especially with the competitive nature of the society that we all live in.  First, everyone is on their own journey and at a different place on the path at any given time.  Secondly, comparison is the thief of joy.

My biggest take away from the morning was that truly we are all in that different spot on the path.
We focused for a few minutes on setting three main priorities in our life.  An important part of this is learning to say no.  We were to write down things that inspired dread vs. joy and to start to consider eliminating those things that do not support our priorities.   I spoke earlier in this A-Z Challenge about detours.  Just over a year ago I came to one of those detours and quickly learned that based on my priorities that I had to say no.  It opened up the room necessary to Nourish those priorities.  As a result, today I did not have anything to write down in that area.  That made me feel a little uncomfortable, until I'd had some time to think it over, then the word take-away came to mind (a 'T' word no less!).  My biggest take-away from the morning was that truly we are all in that different spot on the path.  Even though I had nothing to write down in this area, no person is immune to needing adjustment while navigating their path.  Today's event assisted with another phase and something that I have been trying to be more conscious about, self-care.  If we do not carve out that space for ourselves, we will get lost in the commotion of day to day and potentially lose sight of those ever important priorities.

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Soil #atozchallenge

We collect all of our fall grass clippings and leaves (no small volume on six acres) and those added to the pig and chicken litter and household scraps make up much of our compost pile.  It is turned throughout the off season and watered if necessary depending on our weather.  Then over this time it breaks down into a rich soil that we use to amend garden beds at the end of the season, as well as top dress new tender plantings during growing time.

As with most springs our weather is unpredictable, with warm temperatures last weekend, a moderate week, cold and blustery today, and 75 expected for Sunday.  We just learn to roll with it, and today and tomorrow it is the perfect time to take care and adjust one of our legacy plantings, our asparagus.  A few stems are just poking through, and this is reportedly the perfect time to transplant if necessary.  When we planted them seven or so years ago, we cleared a grassy area between the barns.  As we dug, we realized it was very rocky, and probably part of an old driveway.  We worked at it, amended the soil and put them in, but they have never really thrived.  So we are now going to take advantage of the hugelkultur that Brian build last year to transplant the crowns.  A fitting task on this Earth Day

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Rain #atozchallenge

Ever since I was a kid, I loved to fall asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.  There is something about a good thunderstorm that is both exhilarating and relaxing at the same time.  Spring rains are as soothing as they are cleansing.  They wash away all of the residue left over from the long winter on surfaces and in our minds.  The early garden produce is just beginning to poke its way through and it is washed gently as it emerges from the ground.  Windows are thrown open as I smell the tell tale dampness that a rain is on its way.  The old saying goes; April showers bring May flowers, and the buds on the lilacs are plumping daily, just waiting for the right conditions to burst.  This morning was foggy and the air heavy with moisture.  It has warmed through the day allowing for the promise of a storm or two early this evening.

As I write this and think of my teenage self listening to the rain fall and a little Purple Rain on the radio.  RIP Prince.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for Quotes #atozchallenge

At the entrance to the city of Cordoba, Spain

I love quotes.  Each week on my calendar I highlight something that is a mantra for the week.  Many times a phrase from something that I have read and love sticks with me over time.  I was a Sophomore in high school when I was really introduced to poetry, and Robert Frost was a favorite.  I have lived my life in a constant mantra of "and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all of the difference."  In fact a variation of that is the tagline for this blog.  I find that in reading many times a quote will stick out because of what it means to me in life at the moment.  Other times, they are simply words that offer inspiration.  Here are a few that I love, what quotes speak to you?

“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” 
― Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

“If you ask me, that's reason enough to keep a kitchen at the center of a family's life, as a place to understand favorite foods as processes, not just products.” 
― Barbara KingsolverAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” 
― Edgar Allan Poe

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.” 
― Lao TzuTao Te Ching

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Pottery #atozchallenge

When in Spain we relished in all of the local artistry.  I mentioned before how when we were in Barcelona that we happened across a flea market where we picked up some great art pieces.  As small scale farmers and foodies alike, we were taken by the agriculture and history of the area.  We had no idea that Spain was the number one producer of Olive Oil in the world.  Brought about in no small part by their entry into the EU where their primary investment was in olive trees.  To me, this decision especially highlighted the careful forethought of the people.  Trees were not an investment that paid off quickly and this decision was somewhat mocked by some, but they got a lot of bang for the buck, and now it has created a booming and sustainable business.  In fact the entire southern half of the country is virtually all olive trees....accept where the red soil was waiting for crocus' to pop up to yield the saffron harvest.  Needless to say we picked up amazing and inexpensive Olive Oil, Saffron and Local Honey.

Well, one thing that you should always look at while in Spain is the pottery.  We went to any number of pottery shops and perused.  But being such a special trip, we took our time and were not hasty in our purchases.

We decided on a beautiful (and usable) water jug and a platter for display either on a table or the wall.  We ended up making these purchases on the last day of the trip in Barcelona, and though we ultimately found exactly what were were looking for we almost missed out entirely.  When you are traveling and find something you like, I would encourage you to get it while you can.  There were a couple of other special items that I wanted but waited too long thinking that we would be able to find them anywhere, and we did not.  A fine balance indeed between the impulse to buy early on, and waiting just a little too long. 

It appears Juno has made the platter her nesting spot, I am afraid that she may be rather put out when we try it out on the wall!

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for Overcoming #atozchallenge

oh my goodness look at those pairs of eyes!

Life is full of hurdles.  While some are self imposed, others are thrown up in your path simply to challenge your abilities.  How you respond to these challenges can go through many stages, sometimes mimicking the stages of grief.   How each hurdle is handled may represent a new beginning; whether it is starting something fresh and new or coming back from an implausible road block.  Overcoming those obstacles, one step at a time with strength and determination allows for healing and your inner light to shine through.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for Namaste #atozchallenge

Since I began yoga a few years ago, I noticed that no matter where I am, at home or traveling, there is always a consistent conclusion.  Bringing your hands to heart center and closing with a short bow and saying namaste.  Your hands representing a coming together of your yin and yang over your heart chakra.  The literal sanskrit meaning is namah (bowing) te (to you).  At the closing of a class the instructor normally will say "the divine in me honors the divine in you," to which we all say namaste.  Namah can also be interpreted as not mine, signifying the minimizing of your ego when around others.  Whether used more informally as a greeting, while in a practice, or as a mantra during worship the take home message is the same.  Look inward, find your center, humble and open yourself to others and allow yourself to recognize and honor the good both internally and in those around you.  Namaste.

Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for Motherhood #atozchallenge

Where does the time go?  Fifteen years ago Sunday I became a mother for the first time.  We did not know the sex prior to delivery and were awed by our baby girl with amazing green eyes.  Today that little bundle is growing into a young woman finishing her Freshmen year in high school.  She has always been a very introspective child, who continually develops her own unique world view.  As she matures she has her struggles and joys, disappointments and triumphs. Each day bringing something new to navigate, strengthening her resolves as she heads towards adulthood.  I am awed by her quick wit, kind heart, creativity and thoughtful intelligence.

Motherhood has taught me the depths of love, patience, worry and joy.  It is a task that fills you with appreciation for those who have come before and gives you a broader understanding of life.  The photo above is of a picture drawn by a dear friend of my mother who recently passed away.  It was a gift upon our daughter's birth and has held a special spot hanging in our house ever since.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for Limerick #atozchallenge

gardens at La Alhambra, Spain

There once was a little oasis.

A place to relax and find stasis.

The wind wrestled the trees.

A gentle Summer breeze.

Nothings better than back to basics.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for ..... #atozchallenge

For whatever reason K was a real challenge for me today.  All day as I tried to brainstorm, the only words that I came up with were Knock, Knife, Kite and Knope (as in Leslie from Parks and Rec).  As I was helping to motivate the children this evening to complete respective massive school projects both due within the next 48 hours I was lamenting that I had not written my post to which Sidney immediately offered Knowledge.  Wow.  That is fantastic!  However, I am not sure that I can come up with a thoughtful post in whatever time remains of this ever increasingly hectic evening.  To which Sid fired back, Kids.   Aha!  Yes.  Kids.  Those dear ones that we do everything for in every moment of the day to our last breath.  These humans we created that are developing under our tutelage into young adults.  They contribute to our joy, angst, frustration, worry and unconditional love.  Yes, K is for Kids.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J is for Jargon #atozchallenge

grab a cup of java as you read this post on jargon ;)

We have all had experiences with jargon.  Whether it be in your professional life, hobby life or among other parents there is a feeling of almost comfort to slip into a conversation where you talk the talk.

I had an interesting discussion with Charles on the way to school this morning.  There was some news story on the radio that referenced WWF and Charles asked what it stood for.  When I told him, he said 'that's ridiculous, why do they use initials, it is just as easy to say World Wrestling Federation!'  I laughed and lightly came back 'yes, this from the boy who routinely says BRB in a non-text conversation!'  This got me thinking about our ever rushed lives and how terms meant for brevity in the texting world have spilled over, affecting how we communicate both in person and digitally.  A huge pet peeve of mine as a business owner is receiving an inquiry for a position through email in a very recognizable text format with no concern for even minor formalities.  I am all for efficiencies and a very laid back person in general, but I hear myself with the granny 'back in my day' voice when I see this.

I wonder if all of the abbreviation in an attempt to simply get form A to B faster ultimately sets us up for an ever more rushed existence, and a further numbing of attention spans.  Is the way the jargon of our time is evolving worth what we lose in the quality of our communications?

Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for Intentional #atozchallenge

So far through the A-Z Challenge I have talked about quite a range of things.  Since this is my first time participating, I did not want to restrict myself to a theme just in case I could not stick it through the whole twenty-six letters.  I write these posts on the day they are due using whatever inspiration comes to mind in the moments of the day.  As I look back thus far I have what could be a couple of themes emerging.  However, even among these few flowing threads is a single underlying heartbeat.  In one way or another they are all about living life intentionally.  Appreciate, Balance, Compromise, Detours, Energy, Feelings from Flamenco, Galileo and Hamsa all have an intrinsic pulse.  Whether you are spontaneous or deliberate always live with intention.  An intention to enjoy, experience life to its fullest, learn and grow.  Having a broad intention to embrace life can also help you even in times of uncertainty.  It gives you a focal point for positive energy and provides some added momentum for moving forward.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for Hamsa #atozchallenge

photo taken at La Alhambra, Spain

This ancient symbol predates organized religion as we know it.  It hearkens back to ancient Mesopotamia and Carthage and though became predominant in both Islam and Judaism, it is seen across many of world religious and non-religious alike.  It is a good luck symbol, a totem of peace and pays special respect to femininity.  It goes by many names and the number five comes up across many belief systems giving the fingers of the hand multiple meanings. 

In Judaism it is referred to as Miriam's Hand.  Miriam was the sister of Moses and the number five reflects the first five books of the Torah. (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy)

In Islam it is referred to as the Hand of Fatima, who was Muhammad's daughter.  The five fingers represent the five pillars of Islam. (To profess your Faith, Pray, Give Alms, To Fast & To undertake a Pilgrimage to Mecca)

In Christianity it is referred to as Mary's Hand.  Five is also the number of Grace, and multiplied by itself is grace upon grace.  It also is reflected that there are ten commandments, the first five related to our relationship with God and the second five with our relationship with others.

In Hinduism the five fingers each represents a different elemental energy or Chakra. (The Solar Plexus Chakra, The Heart Chakra, The Throat Chakra, The Root Chakra and The Sacral Chakra)

In Buddhism there are two different hand symbols (Mudras) one facing up and the other facing down, each with different powerful meanings.  The five fingers also have two meanings: the five colors (white, yellow, red, blue and green), and the five directions (East, West, Central, South and North).

It is interesting to me that this ancient symbol reflects the similarities in the roots of all religions. Tolerance should be a motto for all, and not fear tainting whole groups of people based on a few fundamentalists (who can be found across any religion) that interpret religion only as a means to gain power over others and control them. It seems that regardless of personal religious affiliations or spiritual belief systems that we can learn from an all encompassing symbol that stresses peace and similarity versus differences.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for Galileo Galilei #atozchallenge

Walking along Las Ramblas in Barcelona there were a number of mime artists.  Some do not move at all while others interact with members of the crowd...most often at the donation of a euro or two in their box.   We were on the street a few separate times during our stay, all for different reasons.  This time was the most magical as it was our first time there, and we had no real destination other than to walk the whole area down to the sea.  This was also the evening that we came across an artists fair under tents along the water and found a few great paintings to bring home with us.  All of the mimes were something quite extraordinary, however I was most taken by Galileo Galilei and offered a little tuppence for a quick lesson from the master.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for Flamenco #atozchallenge

A family favorite while we were in Sevilla was the evening we went to the Flamenco show.  We got the reservations as part of our tour group and though many had told me it was a must see, I was a little skeptical.  Not so much about us adults, we were excited.  I was more concerned about how the kids would respond, since they preferred spontaneity when immersing themselves in the culture versus participating in the group activities.

No photographs were allowed during the main performance which was just over an hour long, but we were allowed to snap away during the thirty minute finale.  Part way through I heard Sidney whisper to her brother 'this is really cool, right?'  A little sibling reinforcement never hurts when blown away by something, and trying to figure out if it is just you.

The ensemble was ten plus the woman photographed in this series who also sang beautifully.  It was her debut that night in the second act that moved B to tears.  The passion of all of the performers was so intense it took our collective breath away.

When it was finished and we were headed out for our evening supper at 10 pm (the time the locals head out to eat), I asked Sid what she thought.  She said 'This is what I like, it was full of feeling, old buildings do not have feeling.'  So there you  have it.  Tangible feeling versus historical feeling goes a lot further with least mine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for Energy #atozchallenge

flying over NYC our way home on 3/30/16

Energy can be referred to in many ways.  Through physics, science describes the inner workings of the world.  Whether it be kinetic, mechanical or nuclear, scientists have made some amazing discoveries.  For me, energy takes on a more visceral meaning.  It is the flow of life. The yin and yang that runs through the us and is always moving.  It may wax and wane but always recovers projecting us forward. Onward.  Energy is intuition, the inner spirit that guides our life force.  Energy is also the power that allows us to handle all of the detours in life.

Connecting with the A to Z Challenge...have you challenged yourself recently?  :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for Detour #atozchallenge

at La Alhambra, Granada Spain

There are many kinds of detours. They can be a frustration, a blessing in disguise or an adventure.  Spring marks construction season in Wisconsin, and one of my main travel routes for toting kids is closed for who knows how long.   This type of detour is definitely a frustration.

Life can also throw you detours that demand your strictest attention and challenge your dedication.  These detours can be pivotal in personal growth and development, though not necessarily seen this way as you digest the emotion that comes with the twist in the road.

Then there are the detours that are taken for delight.  Ones that require a simple decision as to which direction to go on diverging roads in towns that date back millennia.

Whatever detour you are on, may your discovery lead you on a road less traveled.

**As I decide on what to write for each letter, I find myself opening a draft and listing the words that come to mind.  Today I used a little alliteration and used most of those words.

Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for Cathedrals and Compromise #atozchallenge

  Mezquita de Córdoba

You cannot spend time in Europe without educating yourself on the history of the area, and visiting in many cases numerous cathedrals.  What was interesting in particular about this trip versus other areas that I have traveled was that in Spain the Moors ruled the Iberian peninsula from the year 700 until 1492 (a date easy for any school child to remember as in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue).  As a result there are still any number of what are now Christian Cathedrals that were converted from former Mosques.  Though the majority of mosques were destroyed, the beauty and architectural diversity of these hybrids preserved both forms of worship.

Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo

Sagrada Família

With Cathedrals also came Compromise.  We were on a tour, which was wonderful, and we were happy with the fact that it was pretty 50/50.  Equal parts guided tours with the group and free time.  However, in true teenage form, the kids were less appreciative of the planned tours.  Tours now versus 20 years ago when I last toured include devices called whispers.  They are little boxes worn around your neck with an ear piece so that you can easily listen to your guide.  The kids rebelled by not using theirs and moodily huffing through the Cathedrals.

However, glimpses of interest materialized as they snapped photos with there phones and over dinner conversation one evening Sidney expanded on the conversation based on what she had heard from the tour.  So though there was forced compromise that they were not always particularly happy about, they still learned about the Cathedrals even if through osmosis.


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