Some (not so) Squirrelly Advice for Pleasant Holidays

Mixed Nuts
What do you think about when you think about squirrels?  Ravaged bird feeders?  Acrobatic acts?  Rabies?  The park?  Nuts?  Well, yes, nuts.  That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.

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Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors.   It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?

Filling Up More than Stockings
Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways.  You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.

  • Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now?  If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
  • Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
  • Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
  • Are your actions obligatory or from the heart?  Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
  • Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible?  Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?

Do your actions make sense?  Do they seem a little nuts to you?  Be honest.

Enlist Creativity
If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders.  Be as innovative.

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Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing.  Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten.  Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday.   You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.


Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”


Trudging through Tradition
Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me.  Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit.  (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties.  But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)

A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards!  Three hundred cards?  Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed?  But, was it really necessary?  It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.

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Photo by remi-skatulski on Unsplash

All in a Nutshell
Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories.  Don’t worry or fret.  Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress.   🙂

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Photo by Arthur Rachbauer on Unsplash

Get More Social

By now, you know my feelings about the overuse and addictive characteristics of social media, particularly as it hampers one’s interest in human to human communication and experiencing the natural environment.  I offer Christina Farr’s article in the hopes it will help those of you trying to detox and return to a more serene, content and manageable life.  As a society, we do have the ability to take back our lives.  Have you noticed a recent wave of people saying, “Enough is enough” and unplugging to stop the progression of anxiety, depression, chaos and confusion that social media has introduced into their lives?

While Christina offers her personal experience of attending a formal camp to unplug, you can reduce stress and create a more rich and satisfying life by asking yourself a few introspective questions like:

  1. What is truly important to me?  Personal time with friends and loved ones, or how many likes I’ve received?
  2.  If I had one day left on this planet, what would I do — would I post on social media or respond to that inner nudge to do something I always wanted to do like mountain climb or learn to play a musical instrument?  What have I always wanted to do but spent my hours on social media instead?
  3. How do I feel inside when taking a walk in nature, looking at someone in the eye and seeing their smile versus hearing constant pings on my device?
  4. Is my time better spent helping someone through volunteer work or trying to impress and compete with the virtual lives of others?
  5. What makes me feel content?  What makes me feel anxious or depressed?

Make a list if you need to.  Let it look you squarely in the eye and you’ll know what you need to do to truly live a meaningful life.   Here’s how Christina handled her social media addiction:

Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Christina Farr used to spend 5 hours a week posting and interacting with friends on Instagram. She quit cold this summer, and her life changed dramatically for the better.

Source: Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Seasons Fading Like Leaves

It’s an off season

but natural in its own right.

There’s no familiar summer, winter, spring or fall anymore

except for dates on a calendar.

Can we explain it away,

simply say the weather is as diverse as people, places, life —

that to live, to be alive, is to change?

Reduce. Recycle. Reuse they say.

But the seasons?

I am a child of four seasons

picking springtime bouquets

chasing summer fireflies

rolling in leaves

and sledding til numb.

As I matured, adult responsibilities pushed childhood activities to the recesses of my mind.  But, I never dreamed the four seasons of my youth would become a distant memory, something to read about in history books of a time that once was.

As a child, leaves fell in September.

A few years ago they began in August.

This year, my yard was covered in July.

Thunderstorms previously endured in June and humidity that marked August are now daily occurrences commandeering the summer I use to know.  Look forward to.  Love.

The seasons have faded like leaves…

Is it a natural progression of time

the human disregard for the natural order of things

or Mother Nature’s retribution?

Spring and Autumn have silently been waving good-bye

but we were too busy, too greedy, too self-centered to notice.

Reduce.  Recycle.  Reuse.

Two seasons:  hot and cold.

two

Hot and cold.

Meditation Protection…

Every now and then my passion for gardening and appreciating nature is punctuated by technology’s increasing thirst to control our lives. To me, these cold and calculating ways are the antithesis to nature’s infinite beauty and serenity. That is why this topic pops up on my blog now and then (no pun intended).

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Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

I bumped into an old friend recently who said her eldest child is retired (at age 35). After making and investing his millions as a technological entrepreneur, he and his wife now live in an Airstream, traveling cross-country to hike and explore nature’s magnificence. “He meditates quite a bit,” she added.

This gave me hope that those so addicted to devices will realize the hours they’ve wasted not living real life, or freedoms they’ve willingly discarded by allowing technology to think for them.

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Photo by YIFEI CHEN on Unsplash

My concerns about the ethical crises in technology were confirmed by best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris who explained how people, corporations and governments are using technology to hack human beings. (Harris previously studied the ethics of human persuasion at Google.)

In their When Tech Knows You Better than You Know Yourself interview, these philosophers raised the question:  “Whose best interests should technology be serving — individuals or corporations?  Should apps be as successful (and profitable) as possible which equates to addiction, loneliness, alienation, social comparison…”

“There’s a reason why solitary confinement is the worst punishment we give human beings. And we have technology that’s basically maximizing isolation because it needs to maximize the time we stay on the screen,” Harris said.

Think about that. Really let it sink in. So many have imprisoned themselves with technology. Remember, a prior post on my friend whose brother is addicted to gaming and barely leaves his room anymore?

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Hearing that some children would rather do chores or homework than play outside baffled me. Was it a fear of Lyme Disease,  Zika Virus, or the extreme humidity of global warming? I didn’t want to go outside either in the humidity this summer but didn’t stay tied to a device either.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Instead, I discuss the Tao and hand drum with friends, attend Tai Chi classes, concerts, live theatre and art exhibits.  At home I’m nurturing flower and veggie gardens while playing with my beloved border collie or practicing Qigong. Experimenting in the kitchen and reading a great library book enhance my time. Yes, I love those page turners (literally and otherwise)!

I was thrilled to find Blogtasticfood.com where Nick’s mission is to “post super awesome recipes and get peoples butts in the kitchen.” I love it. Real cooking feels (and tastes) wholesome and nourishing to me. I’d much prefer devoting my time to creating a delicious meal than being consumed by social media, texting or the internet (while eating packaged preservative-laden processed foods). Tactile, personal connections mean more to me than an addictive device.

Frankly, I don’t want Amazon to know right before my light bulbs burn out (so they can sell me more). And I don’t want them to deliver groceries to my door so that I can isolate, and not get any fresh air, exercise, or interaction with my external environment.  “Don’t use it, you lose it,” still rings true.

However, as much as it sounds like I detest technology, I don’t. It’s the addictive aspects and loss of privacy and relationships that concern me. I agree with Harari that, “The system in itself can do amazing things for us. We just need to turn it around, that it serves our interests, whatever that is and not the interests of the corporation or the government.”  In that regard I can understand Amazon delivering food to an immobile person who lives alone.

To reduce the risks of your personality being hacked, Harari suggests first getting to know yourself better and exploring your choices more deeply. Of course, someone who meditates two hours a day and doesn’t use a smartphone is less likely to be hacked than someone addicted to their device he says. Then join an organization of activists for a more powerful voice in making society more resilient and less able to be hacked.

Harari and Harris emphasize, “They’re (corporation or government) about to get to you—This is the critical moment…So run away, run a little faster. And there are many ways you can run faster, meaning getting to know yourself a bit better. Meditation is one way. And there are hundreds of techniques of meditation, different ways work with different people.

You can go to therapy, you can use art, you can use sports, whatever. Whatever works for you. But it’s now becoming much more important than ever before. Protect yourself by getting to know your self.”   This sounds perfectly natural to me.

The National Day of Unplugging is March 1-2, 2019.  I say, “Why wait?”  How ’bout you?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Nature Teacher: Change

Look at the movement of the clouds

and understand

life is change.

Don’t waste your time

lamenting

things are not as they were

and will never remain so.

That is not the truth of reality.

Forever cannot be.

Look at the clouds

long stratus

puffy cumulus

and feel their struggle and joy.

Clear skies,

when things are going smoothly, no issues to deal with so to speak,

are also transitory.

Go with the flow,” others say.

The clouds already do.

 

Good Morning Mother Nature

One of my favorite morning activities is walking through the garden discovering what’s bloomed then cutting a basket full of flowers to become a bouquet.  Focusing solely on colors, textures and scents quiets my mind while the warming sun and cooling breeze brushing my skin soothes my HSP spirit.

Mother Nature offers this gentle good morning to anyone taking time to appreciate her splendid gifts.  Try meditating while creating a morning bouquet and see how you feel.  Refreshed?  Focused?  Rewarded?  At peace?  Grateful?

 

A bit overly ambitious this morning, I now have three bouquets to grace my kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.   How I love this time of year!

 

 

Digging with Orphans in the Garden

Digging in the dirt…unearthing rocks, weeds, my thoughts turn to life’s struggles…times my heart was breaking and I did not see a way out, a reasonable solution, how to get past the pain of the moment.  Not knowing what else to do, I dug in the dirt.  I weeded.  I carried rocks.  Pails of small ones, and wheelbarrows of large ones until I ached.  Ached so bad I could barely sleep but went back out and did it all over again the next day.  And the next.

Unable to remove the boulder that was there, and would always be there like unresolved abysmal hurt, I tried to conceal it.  Find a way around it.  Moving on, I cultivated the impermeable soil to breathe and grow while filling my thoughts with affirmations and new perspectives.  Taking time to nurture nature, nature began nurturing me.

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

If you’ve ever felt dishonored or abandoned, turn to nature.  Love her.  Honor her.  Nurture her to soothe the soul.  She is always there for you.

 

 

 

Take orphans — or any neglected children — into the garden.  Create.  Nurture.  Love.  Watch them grow.

 

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Featured black/white photo (original in color) by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash.

Can You Love More than One Day?

Pets are on my mind.  I’ve finished viewing “The Truth about Pet Cancer” which I alerted you to in my previous post “Your Pet Trusts You.”  And with today being National Pet Day I’m thinking about these beloved creatures more than usual.   According to PetSecure.com, “Americans spend over $50 billion annually on their pets, and 36% give their dogs birthday presents.”  But why wait for one special day when animals freely give us their love, forgiveness and attention 365 days, year after year after year?

Don’t have, or can’t have a pet you say?  It doesn’t matter.  Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter American animal shelters every year.  These animals don’t have a pet parent or pet guardian — their only hope is caring humans.  Cats and dogs come in varied sizes, so are the ways you can help.  Here’s some options:

dog-hugShop on Amazon Smile and get 0.5% of your purchase donated to a 501(c)(3) pet charity registered on their site.   Even better, buy some pet supplies via Amazon Smile then donate them to your local SPCA, no-kill shelter or rescue group.

dog hug soldier

Support no-kill shelters.  Look for no-kill shelters in your area:  https://www.nokillnetwork.org/no-kill-animal-shelters.php

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Aid rescue groups.  Some rescue groups are breed specific:

http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/maps/feral-cat-groups/feral_cats_list.html

https://www.habitatforhorses.org/state-national-rescue-links/

For some tips on rescue groups visit:  http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-breeds-breed-specific-rescue-group-adoption-tips or http://www.avianwelfare.org/links/organizations.htm

dog hug boyAssist with dog transport and save the life of a dog on death row:

FreedomTrainTransports: http://freedomtraintransports.com

If you’re on FB or Yahoo, take a look at these sites to see what you can do:

Animal Rescue Transport Network: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Animal-Rescue-Transport-Network/117998798306519

Rescue Angels on Wheels: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RescueAngelsonWheels

goat hug ladyHelp find homes for orphaned pets by signing-up for Shelter Pet PR and promoting the pets on your social media site:  https://www.dosomething.org/us/campaigns/shelter-pet-pr

And what about that beloved pet you do have?  I thought I gave good care — at least until I realized that Big Farma and Big Pharma have also corrupted the pet food and medical “industries.”  Remember, your animal friend relies on you to give them the best of health. It’s not that difficult (and you’ll become healthier too).

 

Feed a breed-specific diet and the best diet you can afford.  For instance, use quality canned food for cats who can dehydrate easily and need more moisture; and if your dog can’t tolerate a totally raw diet, select kibble without soy, corn or rice, and is preferably organic.  Supplement a few times each week with raw meat-based scraps and chopped brightly colored veggies like spinach, kale, broccoli and carrots.  Blueberries and even a raw egg now and then are good too.  Just skip the pizza crust and other highly processed foods!  That includes colored food treats too.

Offer plenty of clean water — spring or distilled rather than fluoridated city water — in metal or ceramic bowls.  (Get rid of plastic dishes.)

Play with nontoxic toys, get lots of exercise and sunshine!

Consult a holistic vet especially if your pet buddy is already not feeling well.  They are trained to help pets achieve quality living without costly surgeries, pharmaceuticals or side effects:  https://www.ahvma.org/find-a-holistic-veterinarian/

Bess still thanks me for taking her for acupuncture.  In two treatments she was running like a pup again — even though she was 11 (and now doing well at 13).  She’s not leaving a spec behind of the raw purple cabbage and kale with flaxseed oil and organic raw chicken added to her kibble!

Include animals in your will.  If you have a chunk of cash to leave behind, consider naming a charitable pet organization in your will.  None of us will be here forever so make sure your pets will be cared for in the event you depart first.  For some helpful info, visit: https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/protect-your-prized-pet-create-a-pet-trust or https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/pet-trusts.html

Of course, the standbys of donating money, supplies, and volunteering your time are always needed.  Hopefully, National Pet Day is the kickstart for you helping animals all year long — just like the love they give to us every day.

Oh, and if you missed National Hug Your Dog Day yesterday (4/10) — just give them a hug every day too.