A surprise message of hope from the Pope

It’s been a while since I posted last. I’ll be honest, I’ve been going through a “weary” phase. I’ve grown tired of waking up every morning, and checking my Facebook to find news of whatever new terrifying atrocity our White House has been responsible for. The attacks on our environment, our healthcare, on immigrants and refugees, on Muslims, among others. I’ve grown tired of calling, writing, and emailing my legislatures to receive back confirmation that my republican legislatures do not actually give a shit about representing me. I kept asking myself every morning, how much worse can it get? And then the next morning finding out and asking myself again.

I took my personal Facebook app off of my phone a couple of months ago, because, honestly, I needed a break. And I’ve been having an internal struggle with myself ever since. On the one hand, I felt it necessary for my own sanity. On the other, I kept feeling like I was just avoiding reality. That it’s my duty as a citizen to stay informed (of actual facts), to inform others, and that I was shirking that responsibility. However, I’m a true believer in self-care. I know that I am not capable of being of service to others if I’m not taking care of myself. So after a much-needed break, I reinstalled my Facebook app with a renewed sense of healthy self-care. I cut back on a lot of the news and political accounts I was following so I could have a better balance between actual social interactions with people I care about and staying informed on news and current events. I don’t have cable, I don’t watch the evening news and I don’t order the newspaper, so Facebook has become my main source of news and events. This makes it very important to me that I only follow reputable news organizations that report facts and, in general, I’m trying real hard to keep shit positive.

I’m also trying real hard to figure out what it is that I can do to make a difference. Because, I can tell you honestly, that contacting my republican legislature in Idaho is not making a damn bit of difference. Enter, this guy…..

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Don’t you wish this guy was your Grandpa?!
On Facebook this morning, I watched a great TED talk of Pope Francis titled “Why the only future worth building includes everyone”. I’m not Catholic, I’m not even religious, but I’ve admired Pope Francis since he took the throne at the Vatican and I think he carries a great message for all of us humans. He brings up three messages in his talk:

First, that we are not alone, we are all connected. That “we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone…….everything is connected….even science points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else”.

Second, is the importance of solidarity and hope… “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion…How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the ‘culture of waste,’ which doesn’t concern only food and goods, but first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people”. He says, “We have so much to do and we must do it together…Through the darkness of today’s conflicts each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around”

Third, Revolution! “The revolution of Tenderness…..Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other…..to listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need…..Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you and will ruin the other. Through humility and concrete love….power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.  The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, or great leaders, of big companies. Yes they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’.”

Now, I could get all judgey and argue that our White House, our President, and it’s supporters could really use this message (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), but I have a feeling that is not the point of what the Pope is saying. What I hear him saying is that we have to practice humility on all fronts. That we need to see all others as equals, as a part of the ‘us’. That includes the President and his supporters. If we keep falling into the “us versus them” trap, we are just further harming ourselves.

I get so upset when I think about how our administration is trying to put policies into place that put white, wealthy Americans and profits of corporations ahead of human decency, and the protection of our planet. In my mind, there is one race. The human race and we are all part of it. Equally. There is no religion, no skin color, no economic status, no nationality that is more important than any other. And there is one planet. There is no planet B! If we destroy this planet, it doesn’t fucking matter who lives where and who’s right or wrong. We’ll all be toast together. So this is where it get’s tricky for me guys. Because it kind of looks like I’m saying my ideas are better than theirs. I’m right and they’re wrong. And isn’t this just another form of us versus them? Or…. is there some transcendent, universal, cosmic right and wrong? And don’t I want to be on the right side of that? This is what I still struggle with. How do I stand against oppression without standing in judgement of the oppressor? Is it enough to just have compassion for the oppressor? For is not the oppressor in some way suffering? Oppression, in my opinion, is a symptom of fear, and fear is a form of suffering. There are many other symptoms of fear and we all have fear in some form or another, not one of us is completely free of it. And it follows that we all have symptoms of fear in some form or another. My fear makes me judgey and self centered. How is that any better than oppressive? Well….

These are answers I don’t have. I’m just asking the questions. And I guess I will keep asking them until I find the answers or until I no longer feel that I need them. In the meantime, I will take what Pope Francis says to heart and I will try to practice more humility, more tenderness, and more solidarity that my candle might burn a little brighter and snuff out a little more of the darkness. I cannot control another’s willingness to practice humility, tenderness, solidarity. Only my own. And for now, that is something I feel I can do to make a difference. If even a small one. 

Practicing Meditation

Establishing a regular and sustainable meditation practice is something that does not come easily or naturally for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to me, and during the times in my life I have had a consistent practice, I have reaped the benefits; I have felt more calm, more grounded, less anxious, more creative and more balanced. This is a common theme for me, though. I start something that makes me feel really good about myself, about my life, and I do it long enough to feel like I don’t need to be doing it anymore.  It doesn’t matter if it’s exercise, prayer, practicing my recovery program, meditation, meal planning, or cleaning. And once I stop doing whatever it is that’s working for me, I eventually get into enough pain to motivate myself to pick up the practice again.

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to put forth more of an effort in reestablishing a regular meditation practice and I’ve finally taken some action around it in the last few weeks. The effects are pretty instantaneous. Meditation, for me, is a way to tap into that inner resource which is available to us all. This inner resource is like a direct line to the collective consciousness of the universe. It’s infinite, it’s boundless, it’s peaceful, it’s sanity. And once I tap into it, my thoughts and actions become more inspired, my intuition elevated. I feel more loving toward, and less judgmental of others. I feel more hopeful, more creative, more motivated, and more forgiving of myself and others. It’s really quite magical.

When I decided to make more of an effort this year at a regular meditation practice, I thought about the things that have helped me establish and sustain one in the past. For me, the most important thing has been to have a designated spot in my home for my practice. It doesn’t have to be a large area. When I was most consistent at it, I just had a little table in my bedroom next to the wall with a cushion I stored underneath. And I did not have the ginormous bedroom I have today. It was actually quite small. But it worked. Having this sacred space for my practice made it so much easier to actually sit down on a regular basis and actually use the space for it’s intended purpose.

As a beginner at meditation, I found it really helpful to use some guided meditation CDs until I got the hang of things. I kept a portable CD player and earphones in a drawer in my meditation table along with a few different CDs that I found helpful. This was before the time of phone apps – there are so many meditation apps you can get on your phone now. It didn’t take long for me to memorize a few of these guided meditations, and then I was able to do it on my own, although I still like to use the guided ones.

Also helpful has been the use of candlelight and incense. There’s just something about what this does to my senses that helps me enter a meditative state of mind so much easier. I’ve been using a sage smudge recently and every time I smell that burnt sage, I feel more relaxed. It’s like a mental cue for me now.

I’m a big believer in energy. Like, in the energy of things. The energy of people. Also, I like rocks. They’re cool. So I have a small collection of rocks, gems, and crystals that I use in my practice as well. There are so many different beautiful rocks! And, if you’re open to it, they all seem to have a different energy. They’ve been a good tool to just kind of elevate things.

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meditation zone

Right now, my meditation zone is set up around the coffee table in the seating area of my bedroom. I have a vintage rattan table filled with things I love and things I use for my practice. I keep my rocks and crystals in a brass framed glass box that I bought at a rummage sale. I have a porcelain tray that I bring my rocks out onto. I also have some candles that I light, a small round wooden box my husband gave me for a wedding anniversary that I keep my sobriety coin in, and a ceramic pedestal bowl that a dear friend made for me that I use for my sage smudge. I recently added a plant to the mix, a shed antler that was found in our forest, and some vintage brass coasters that my sister in law gave to me for Christmas. I have two options for seating: a low woven footstool and a woven meditation pad I recently scored at the goodwill. There’s a Himalayan salt lamp on the dresser I usually turn on and I still use my little portable disc player. Lately I’ve been listening to some chants recorded of the Dali Llama that a friend gave to me several years ago.

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rocks!

It’s been such a wonderful thing to get back into a regular meditation practice. I don’t do it every day, but I also don’t beat myself up for not doing it every day. I do my best. And my best today is much better than it was just a few weeks ago. The rewards are plentiful, and it usually takes me no longer than 15 minutes. Not a huge commitment, especially considering the return on investment.

If you’ve been thinking of starting up a meditation practice, I highly recommend it. Set about finding a sacred place for your practice, include the things you find most helpful and meaningful to you, and get after it. It’s pure magic! And tell me how it goes!

The Remodel

So, I can’t even tell you how many years I have fantasized about walking into an appliance store and picking out new appliances for my kitchen. It’s kind of a nerdy thing to fantasize about, but I have honestly spent countless hours doing it.

Right before my birthday in December, my husband and I were driving home from “town” when he looked over at me from the driver’s seat and said, in a very serious tone, “I have to tell you something”. My first thought was, “This is gonna be bad”. My second thought was, “Shit, he’s gonna tell me he actually voted for Trump instead of just teasing me that he was going to and now we’re getting a divorce”. In my head, I had already gone to “Where am I going to live? My life is over.” He quickly brought me back to reality by telling me that he’d been talking to the bank, and starting in the spring we are going to build the master bathroom we have been talking about since we moved in to our house. AND we’re getting new kitchen appliances. AND we’re rebuilding the front deck and stairs. AND we’re painting the exterior of the house. AND we’re getting new windows. AND we’re getting new flooring upstairs. AND, if we can make it work, we’re getting a spa out on the back deck. Needless to say, I did not believe him. I really thought he was messing with me, and I thought it was really mean. As the shock and disbelief subsided and it finally set in that he was telling me the truth, I started screaming, and I may have cried a little. If you guys have read my other blog post about my home, you know how important my home is to me. How long and how often I have dreamed about the projects I want to do to the house, and how unlikely it would be for my husband to be telling me we were going to do ALL of the projects. ALL OF THEM!

Just for the record, my husband did not vote for Trump (nor would he ever).

Since December, we have been planning and planning and re-planning various arrangements for the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room, the front deck and stairs. It’s kind of become our Saturday morning ritual. He gets up at 5 am, stokes the fire, plows the driveway, goes on a 2 mile snowshoe walk with the dog, comes inside and brings me coffee in bed as I’m waking up and we spend the next hour or so penciling out different designs and ideas. It’s been the best winter of my life so far, guys. Also, how amazing is my husband?

Everything has not been finalized with the bank yet, so we have not financially committed to anything, but we have gotten a bid on the windows we need to replace or add, and we’ve priced out the kitchen appliances. I’ve also priced out some soaker tubs for the master bath, though I’m hoping to find a vintage cast iron claw foot. Those are pretty much the only solid costs we have nailed down so far. We’ve looked at different flooring options for upstairs, but have not made a decision yet. I’m leaning towards engineered wood, but we’ll see. A lot of the design decisions will depend on the cost of the projects as we start to bid them out and add them up. What’s very important to us both is to plan the projects with the environment in mind. That will mean buying energy efficient appliances, eco friendly materials wherever possible, and buying things of quality that will last. If doing so means that we have to wait on one or more of the projects, I’m okay with that. Luckily, my husband is very handy and his dad is a contractor. We’re planning to do a fair amount of the work ourselves which will help us save on labor costs.

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exterior inspiration board

Since we’re in a holding pattern right now until everything is finalized with the bank and the funds come in, I’m trying to restrain my excitement. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been pinning things to my Remodel board on Pinterest multiple times a day, though. What’s been most interesting to me through this process so far is that, even though I’m super excited about these projects, I also know that I’m totally going to be okay if, for some reason, it doesn’t end up working out. There’s an underlying calm to it all. A healthy detachment. For that, I am most grateful.

My ideas for the design aesthetic of my remodeled home are mostly in line with the design we already have going on in the interior of the house. I have a mid century modern thing going on, mixed with 70’s bohemian and some rustic elements as well. I guess I would call it “mid century bohemian cabin in the woods”. We’re going very dark for the exterior paint (like almost black) and will have natural wood elements from the deck/porch and front door. The upstairs will most likely have continuos flooring throughout (with the exception of the bedrooms, which we had re-carpeted when we moved in – I like carpet in the bedroom since it’s so cold here in the winter). The sunroom will get tiled and the walls will be painted. We’re opening up the kitchen some by removing the L-shape in the counter and taking some walls down. My plan at this point is to do stainless steel Kitchen Aid appliances, white subway tile, keep the original wood cabinets, and build some bench seating for the breakfast nook. If the budget allows we will switch out the pink Corian countertops for white. The pink is definitely going, though. We’ll also be getting a new sink and faucet. Probably a stainless under mount, although I’m toying with the idea of copper.

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kitchen inspiration board

The master bath is veering off a little from the rest of the house, as I’m leaning towards a black and white color scheme. I’m hoping that with the natural elements of the cabinetry (or countertop) and wood door leading outside, it won’t look too modern. I feel like the vision has been in my head for so long that the design elements have been relatively easy to put together. The hard part is all of the details that you don’t think about until you’re actually measuring and planning the layout of the space. We had originally wanted to put the washer and dryer in the master bathroom (they’re currently downstairs in a laundry room that you can only get to through the garage), but as we started penciling it out, it was just too cramped with a stand up shower and a soaker tub. I have not been able to enjoy a bath since we moved here, so I’m not willing to compromise on my dream bath. It’s something I used a lot in our Portland home and I really miss it. Now that we know the washer and dryer are not going in the bathroom, we are still debating where the best place is to put them. No final decision yet, but we’re leaning towards building a closet for them in the hallway behind the kitchen. My only concern is how much space it will end up cutting from the kitchen.

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master bath inspiration board

I’m cautiously optimistic about the entire project and will be posting updates as the remodeling begins.

If you’d like to check out my Remodel board on Pinterest, have a look here. And if you have any tips or advice from your own remodeling projects, please feel free to share!

 

The Fox and the Rabbit, a book review

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. My first book was titled “The Fox and the Rabbit”. I was five years old when I wrote it. It had an illustrated book cover, a title page, and everything. I remember it taking days to write it, it was a secret project I would work on at night in bed after my parents thought I was asleep. I wanted it to be a surprise. When I finally finished it, I took it out to my parents to share it with them. I still remember where my dad was sitting at the dining room table after dinner that night. My mom came in from the kitchen to listen to my dad read it. As he started reading, I thought my dad was going to die. I had never seen him laugh so hard in my life. He could barely continue to speak the words from the pages he was laughing so hard. I remember being impressed with myself that I was getting such an emotional response to my story, but I couldn’t understand at the time what he found so funny. It wasn’t really meant to be a funny story. But when I read the story today, it’s pretty clear what he found so humorous. First of all, my spelling as a five year old. I spelled squirrels “scwrs”. Secondly, the banter between this fox and rabbit was pretty comical coming from a five year old. That rabbit was a total asshole.

This story ended up being one of those childhood memories that no one in my family ever forgot. The story goes like this…..

There’s a fox. And a rabbit. They live together. The fox is, according to the story, clumsy and the rabbit is smart. The rabbit orders the fox around and the fox goes out to do the rabbit’s bidding. Here’s where it gets interesting……The fox, as I interpret it today, appears to be pretending he’s stupid in order to defy the rabbit’s wishes and do whatever he wants. The rabbit sends the fox out for “scwrs” for breakfast. The fox brings home fish. The rabbit scolds the fox, the fox plays dumb, like he really thought they were squirrels and the rabbit sends him back out. The fox comes home with candy (from a candy shop downtown) and gets scolded again. Again, the fox plays dumb like he really thought the candy was squirrels, and gets sent back out for squirrels. The fox goes out one more time and finally brings home the squirrels. He acts like he’s really proud of himself, like he didn’t think he could do it. The rabbit agrees that he didn’t think the fox could do it either because of his being so dumb. And stupid.

On page 4, we find rabbit yelling at fox to wash the dishes after their squirrel breakfast. Fox washes the clean dishes instead of the dirty ones (but did he really?) and gets reminded by rabbit of how dumb he is. I’m wondering if fox washed any dishes at all or just said he did. When fox denies he is dumb, rabbit wants to make him a bet, which fox refuses, and so rabbit calls him scared. Am not. Are too. Am not. Are too. The end.

I told you that rabbit was an asshole. He’s also a bully.

I do not recall ever having been bullied when I was five, except perhaps by my older sister who was kind of just being an older sister. I do find it interesting how my five year old brain came up with a coping mechanism for this poor fox. It seems to me that the fox was actually the clever one and the rabbit was getting played. I’m guessing that the fox didn’t like squirrels. He liked fish. And candy. He’s like, “hey asshole, if you want me to go get you shit for breakfast, we’re getting what I want first!” And his playing dumb, I’m guessing, spares him the wrath of a rabbit who would ever suspect the fox could be cleaver enough to knowingly deceive him.

Upon further analysis, this reminds me all too much of a negative voice I continue to hear in my head today. The one that tells me I’m not smart enough, I don’t work hard enough, that I’m just not enough. Thankfully, after a lot of growing up, a lot of work in recovery (and therapy), this voice is much quieter today than it was in the past. But it will always be there, just waiting for an opportunity. A weak moment. When I fail at something. When I feel rejected or dismissed. After reading this story again, I’m inspired by my five year old self. My plan of action when this moment of weakness occurs is to outsmart it. Like the Fox. That clumsy and clever fox.

Here are the original pages, if you can decipher them…..

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Ethical fashion on a budget

I had a sociology professor my freshman year in college that used to tell me “every dollar is a vote”. This has always stuck with me. Whether I’m spending my dollars at the grocery store, shopping for my home, or for clothing and accessories, I try to remember that every dollar I’m spending is a vote. A vote for whatever company is making that product, a vote for however they manage to bring that product to the market. I don’t always remember, but I try.

I’ve known for some time, as most of us have, that there are some very unethical practices in the fashion industry that have become the norm. We know that there are sweat shops, we know that over 1,100 garment workers in Bangladesh died when their factory collapsed because the factory owner would not invest in the safety of it’s workers. We know that most of the clothes purchased in the US today are, for the most part, disposable (which means they are filling up our landfills). We know these things, but we are so far removed from the day to day reality of these problems, that it’s possible for us to think these problems don’t really exist, or that maybe they aren’t as bad as we heard. My former therapist used to call this “Magical Thinking”, it’s something I can be pretty good at.

It was my 12 year old son that turned my attention again to this issue. He loves watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and he shared with me an episode where John Oliver calls out the large corporations that are participating in the exploitation of garment workers all over the world. Gap Corporation, which includes Old Navy and Banana Republic, H & M, and Wal-Mart were the usual suspects. I have several items of clothing in my closet that I have purchased at Old Navy, mostly since I moved to Idaho. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not perfect. After listening to John Oliver though, I decided I needed to try harder. So the aforementioned companies went on my blacklist (although Wal-Mart was already on it) and I started digging into the fashion industry a little more. The results were disheartening. 

While I expected to find mostly information about supply chains and garment workers, I was somewhat surprised to find out that the fashion industry has become one of the largest sources of pollution on our planet. Some are saying it’s second only to the oil industry. It’s a massive problem and it seems as though it will get worse before it gets better. During my research, I found the documentary True Cost which digs deep into the true cost of the environmental effects and the human costs of our fast fashion culture. It was one of those movies that changed my outlook on my lifestyle in a very profound way. My magical thinking was blown into a million particles of magical dust that revealed a truth I simply could not deny.

So I’ve recommitted to voting with my dollars. I need to rethink how I shop and where I shop, but how do I do it on a tiny budget? And the answer for me most of the time, is to buy vintage or second hand. It takes a little more time, it takes patience, and sometimes it means buying a leather bomber jacket in the heat of the summer, or a linen dress in the dead of winter, but these things seem totally worth it to me and I’m willing to take the time and have the patience to do it. And while 80% of my wardrobe these days comes from the local thrift stores, it’s not always possible for me to find what I’m looking for or to be able to wait until it finally appears. Sometimes I have to buy new things. And so how do I stop myself from shopping at Old Navy? Because I know they have the item I want at a price I can afford. It’s also, like the ONLY clothing store in Moscow, ID that’s not second hand. But I also know that they have little regard for the human beings risking their lives, slaving away in unsafe factories in order to bring me a sweater for ten dollars.

When I need something that I can’t buy second hand, two more challenges arise when trying to shop ethically and stay on budget. One is that it’s hard to know what products and companies are being ethical and socially responsible, and two, the products brought to the market in an ethical fashion tend to be more expensive.

To help in the effort of finding ethical companies and products that align with my values, I started using an app called buycott. With the app, I can join specific “campaigns” for causes I’m concerned about. Then I can use the barcode scanner to scan products and see whether or not any of my campaigns are aligned with, or in conflict with, the product or the company making the product. I can also search brands and companies to see whether or not they generally align with my values. I found this app works a lot better in the grocery store than in areas of fashion, but it does have some information about clothing companies. The website www.thegoodtrade.com is another good source for finding ethical companies to shop with.

In the short term, it does seem more expensive to shop ethical brands and companies than, say, Gap or Old Navy, but I have to remember that I’m comparing apples to oranges. The cost of the sweater at Old Navy is really much higher than the ten dollar price tag suggests. In the long term, it’s actually less expensive to buy fewer, quality pieces from ethical companies than it is to buy a new wardrobe every season at Old Navy. And that’s even without considering all of the hidden costs.

I’ve researched quite a few fashion brands and companies that are committed to ethical practices, here are several I feel have stylish products that are relatively affordable:

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Bridge and Burn
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People Tree
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Everlane
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Patagonia
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Fair Indigo
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Alternative Apparel
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Krochet Kids

For those with a larger budget:

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Eileen Fisher

For times I’m really wanting vintage but can’t find it locally, I turn to Etsy. Here are a few Etsy shops I love for affordable vintage fashion:

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Blossom Vintage
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Windy Peak Vintage
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Dear Golden

It’s not always easy or convenient to shop ethically, especially if you live in a small town in Northern Idaho, but it is possible. With the popularity of the capsule wardrobe and the growing movement of simpler living, my bet is that it will get easier and easier. Especially as more and more conscientious consumers start voting their values with their dollars.

Love and tolerance in the face of oppression

It’s been four days since the election and it’s finally sinking in. All of the changes I need to make, all of the action I need to take, and how tragic this really is not only for my country, but for my family. Relationships with people I love have been forever changed by this. This election was about so much more than the economy, than politics. Yes, the stock market is up 60 points. I don’t give a shit. Not when a gay student on campus has his car spray painted with the word “faggot” a day after the election results, not when all of the spiders in our society start crawling out from beneath their rocks thinking they have a free pass for hate crime. Do you know why they think they have a free pass? Because 60 million American people gave them one. 60 million American people expressed with their votes for Trump that they will look the other way when they see racism, sexism, hatred, and discrimination. They expressed with their votes for Trump that the economy, and their finances, and our broken political system are more important than human decency. And many (but not all) of them expressed with their votes their hatred for people who differ from them.

I have done a lot of work around forgiveness during my life. Through my recovery, I have learned that carrying resentment is fatal to me. We have a process in recovery for identifying our resentments, analyzing what they stem from, how they affect us, and most importantly, what part of them we need to own. So I’m looking closely at this. My part is that I have allowed myself to live inside a bubble. Shielding myself from reality, because I guess it was just too painful to watch. I don’t like feeling anger. It’s uncomfortable, and so I unfollow Facebook friends when they post right wing bullshit that makes me angry. I am responsible for that. I have sat silently while injustice is happening around me, because I don’t like confrontation. It’s uncomfortable. I am responsible for that.

We all have a set of core values that guide our decisions in life. Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and many others…..people with great influence in our society stand opposed to all of my core values. Support for these people stands opposed to all of my core values. This is not just about how I think our country’s money should be spent. I’m talking about the core values that guide my decisions in life, that make me who I am. My instinct in reaction to the people and policies that stand opposed to my core values is one of abhorrence. And that feels really uncomfortable. It keeps me up at night. I experience physical anxiety over it. And I’m pretty sure the only way through it is acceptance and forgiveness. Not revenge. Not discriminating against Trump supporters. Revenge is not justice.

My spiritual views are always evolving and they’re often not clear, but a muddled collection of ideas I don’t fully understand. One thing that is clear and always will be, is that we are all connected. We are all part of the same universal energy. We are all from the same source. Even the Trump supporters. Even the bigots. Even Donald Trump himself. I believe these people and their policies and beliefs and fears are the broken parts of our collective. Broken does not necessarily mean good or bad. There is no judgement, it just means broken. Usually where things are spiritually broken, there is spiritual pain. There are parts within us all that are broken. And my job now is to find those broken parts of myself and heal them. And what I have learned, again through my recovery, is that the way I heal them is through action. I have to find the capacity within myself to accept and forgive. To not stand in judgement of those broken pieces. I have to choose love and tolerance. I have to find within me compassion for those in pain. And when I do, when I identify and heal these broken parts of myself, I’m helping to heal the collective.

Healing myself will help, but it is not enough. I will no longer sit silently when I see injustice. If I see sexism, I’m calling it out. If I see racism, I’m calling it out. When I see hatred or discrimination of any kind, I’m calling it out. If we do not make visible these broken parts of our collective, they cannot heal.

We will survive this presidency. We have, as a nation, survived worse. It’s going to be painful, and our hearts are going to continue to feel broken every time we see in the news another hate crime spurred by the outcome of this election. But we will survive. And I have tremendous faith that the world is changing. This election has brought out and shined a light on all of the fear around this change, but fearing the change will not stop it.  It is already in motion. And it is too powerful to be persuaded by fear. Just ask the millennials. I have faith that this election has been the last gasp of a generation that is terrified of change. Is terrified to lose the privilege it doesn’t even consciously realize it has.  

I went to my first protest today and it was deeply moving.  There were hundreds of people peacefully gathered in Friendship Square in downtown Moscow. People took turns speaking to the crowd. People stood up and said I love you. No matter who you are, no matter your sexual preference, the color of your skin, your gender, or your immigration status. I love you and I will stand with you in the face of oppression. On my way back to my car after the protest, carrying my Love trumps Hate sign, a truck full of Trump supporters yelled at me “Go Trump, Fuck you”. This was a test for me. And one I feel I passed. Instead of yelling back at them, which was my first instinct, I was able to pause. I practiced restraint of tongue. I reached within myself to find compassion for them. After all, it has to be painful for them to carry that much hatred.

The biggest challenge for me right now is that I have to somehow find a way to stand up to oppression without standing in judgement of the oppressor. I do not know how to do this. As soon as I figure it out, I will let you know! Until then, may the force be with you.

The hygge life

I only this year learned of the Danish word and concept of hygge (pronounced “hoogah”). I have no idea how this information escaped me for my whole adult life (especially considering my Scandinavian heritage), but I’m pretty stoked I finally have it. For those like me who made it to 2016 before discovering this word and it’s meaning, I’ll do my best to explain. While there is no direct translation, the closest word we seem to have in the english language is “coziness”, although it means so much more than that. In essence, it means creating a warm and cozy atmosphere to enjoy life’s simple pleasures with the people you love. The Swedes and Norwegians have their own translations of hygge. It’s an important part of the Scandinavian culture. And it makes sense. It’s from these Scandinavian cultures with long, dark and cold winters that this concept was born. It’s a way not only to cope with, but to actually enjoy and delight in the circumstances of those long winters. A group of friends and family gathered around a table full of candlelight and lively discussion, enjoying some mulled wine and a warm meal. Curling up with a book and your favorite blanket in front of the fire, a perfect cup of coffee in your hand. That’s hygge.

I wish someone had told me of this sooner! I’m closing in on my fourth winter in Northern Idaho. The first one was brutal. The last two have been a bit more mild, but still long and dark with plenty of snow. All three have found me at some point feeling depressed and hopeless. When it’s dark at 4:00 in the afternoon and zero degrees outside for like months, my perspective on life changes. And not in a good way. By mid March, when the snow is still falling, I start weeping a little on the inside (and sometimes on the outside). It’s usually followed up by a bitter Instagram post with some expletives. And while I’d love to be able to order some resort wear online and fly off to some tropical paradise for a couple of weeks, that’s just not in the budget for me right now. So perhaps a new attitude and a shit load of candlelight will do the trick. I’m willing and ready to give it a go.

I’m not sure what this winter has in store as far as weather is concerned (they’re saying it’s going to be a wet one here in the Northwest which means a lot of snow up here on the ridge), but I can tell you that I plan to fully embrace the hygge life. I’m determined to keep a mindful and positive perspective. My candles have been purchased, my vintage inventory has been raided for all things cozy, my living room and dining room have been rearranged, my sewing room is ready for me to craft the shit out of something, and my mind is prepared to embrace this long, dark and cold winter.  Maybe I’ll even get into the Holiday spirit this year (it’s been a while).

If you want some hygge inspiration of your own for this winter, check out my pinterest board. It’s full of all things cozy and warm. If you have any hygge inspiration for me, I’d love for you to share! Leave your comments below. And if you’re looking for candlestick holders to live out your hygge dreams, I almost always have some in stock so check out Douglas Vintage.

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So my home is ready for winter, my mind is prepared for a new perspective, and the snow should be arriving soon, so it looks like I made it in time. I’ll let you know in the spring how it turns out.