10 Days to a Change

Are you up for a challenge?

A really tough challenge?

I'm going to try this myself and I challenge you to join me. Starting tomorrow, July 30, and all the way through the time my head hits the pillow at night on August 9...I am going to speak only good words to myself and to others.

No negative self talk, even if I do get another zit the size of Ohio. No chastising myself for being gooshy, which will be a challenge since it IS swimsuit weather.

No whining about people that annoy me. No mumblings about bad drivers, rude people, spoiled kids or even about politicians (lord help me...).

My words to my loved ones will only be words of encouragement, not criticism.
My words to my self will only be words of encouragement, not criticism.
My words to the world will only be words of encouragement.

I firmly believe that the way we talk becomes the way we believe. If we allow ourselves to get drawn into office bitch sessions and armchair activism, we gradually begin to focus on the down side of things until the whole world looks gray. I also believe that focusing on the positive encourages more positives to grow, until it becomes your default state.

If you want to play along, I'd love for you to leave a comment and let me know how you do. And I'll be posting updates over the next 10 days. Meanwhile, I have only about 12 hours to get all my whining out of my system so I better get going. :-)



How I Know

Recently I wrote a post on what it is in my life that affirms me and makes me feel like I'm just so totally freakin' awesome. OK, I actually feel like I'm totally freakin' OK and acceptable, but that isn't a long stretch from awesome. The first item on that list refers to my own darling man, Sweet Hubs. Well, a conversation with a friend the other day reminded me that not everyone has a Sweet to call their own. Some people have a Sweet and don't recognize it, which is even more sad. So let's talk about that.

Where do we get our expectations about relationships? Friend mentioned Disney movies and bodice-ripping romance novels, and I know there is an element of truth in that. Sometimes when I read a romance novel where the hero is "all that and a bag of chips", I'll catch myself looking at Sweet Hubs with one eyebrow kind of raised. Figuratively, that is, as I am not able to operate my eyebrows independently of each other even though I would love to be able to do that.

Why in the world would I look askance at Sweet Hubs because of some fictional character??? It usually only takes me a moment to shake my head to dislodge the goofy idea and remember to look at him as the amazing human being he is. It shows that even a very happily married and contented woman can get distracted by the ideals we are fed. What if you are already feeling a little nonplussed with your Sweet Whatever? What if you're looking FOR your Sweet Whatever and using that fictional character as a template for what you want?

Sweet Hubs and I have certainly had our challenges. We have each gone through spells of feeling less appreciative of the other person than we should be. We have each had spells of not being much to appreciate, for that matter. There were times I was not sure we would make it, and I know he had those same doubts at times. Even when we struggled, though, I knew. How did I know?

I knew because every time a dog sits next to him, he pets it without even thinking about it. Even if he was having trouble showing affection to me, I could see that there was a tender heart there.

I knew because this same man who hunted meat for our freezer will catch a spider and put it outside instead of squashing it. He always had his priorities clear.

I knew because he can build a house, fell a tree, fix a car and gut an elk, and still held our babies with capable, confident and loving hands.

I know because he eventually gave up enough of his macho-ism to laugh at my jokes.

I know because he tells people that WE built this house in Montana. Pshaw. Sometimes, I handed him nails. That was about the extent of my contribution.

I know because he treats me with honor when I'm with him and behind my back, too. Even when we were angry with each other, he didn't go telling his friends about what a bitch he married.

In a hundred little ways, he has shown me every day that even though he is a normal, flawed, fallible human being, he is also a man of integrity who is strong enough to be gentle, wise enough to be silly, and willing to weather the storms in order to bask in the sun. That's how I know.


No Help At All

*** If you are offended by profanity,
you should go visit someone else today.***

I made some promises to myself about things I would do differently in my new life in Montana. I would eat better, stress less and I would cuss less.

The first two weeks here were very calm and nice. My sweet hubs and my beautiful sister were here for the first week, and the second week was just me and my puppy, Rooster Cogburn. Sweet Hubs had a project to finish at his work so he would remain in Arizona for almost three months while I got started in Montana. I knew that this temporary separation would tax all three of those promises to self, but I was committed to trying.

The second week of my living here went really, really well. With only a puppy to talk to and basically being on vacation, I had no trouble with stress and no urge to cuss. Eating better wasn't as easy because cooking for just me is kind of... meh. But I tried.

Then the first of May, I started my new job and sensed trouble almost immediately. It is clearly a bilingual office: English and Profanity. But I was resolute and tried to make sure I didn't swear, without looking like I frowned upon others doing so. Go ahead and cuss. It truly doesn't bother me. On the second day, I went with my trainer to the post office to collect the company mail (why I needed training for this, I don't know).

Making conversation, and purely out of curiosity, I asked my trainer about a flowering shrub that grows pretty much everywhere around here. "Do you happen to know what the name of that shrub is?" I asked.

And in a very acidic tone and over-loud voice, she barked, "It's a FUCKING WEED!"

And I knew I was sunk.



I was sitting on the porch, watching a tiny ant. It was one of the really infinitesimal kind, like you might see crowding around under a dripping hummingbird feeder.

He was busy doing his little ant thing, getting nearer and nearer to my giant (from his point of view) foot, completely unaware that he was approaching such terrible danger. And I wondered, how often do we humans do exactly that: walk right up to a looming catastrophe, only because it is a trouble so big that we don't perceive it at all?

I didn't step on the little guy. Maybe the cosmos will do me that favor, in turn.



Short and Sweet

A few small things I have noticed, all of which make me smile, in no particular order:

  • A precious friend who is both amazing and humble. 
  • Summer Honey beer, by Big Sky Brewery in Missoula, Montana.
  • My own impatience with a slow computer. Silly me! Even the slowest is still faster than going through the encyclopedia!
  • My boss' dog does not wag his tail. He wags his whole back end.
  • Waking up next to my sweet hubs. Falling asleep next to him. Living my life next to him.
  • The spotted fawn who went bounding across my back yard last night, tail up, head high and having a grand time like only a child can.
  • Fritos.
  • A great pair of jeans that fit just right.
  • Sweet, creamy coffee in my cup this morning.
  • Being alive, healthy, happy, free on the earth and in the most beautiful of places. 


To Be Better

Working in customer service, and directly with the public, for so many years taught me a lot of things and most of them were good things. Only recently did I come to realize that those years also put a serious tarnish on my compassion. I need to work on getting my compassion back in glowing condition.

I need to cuss less. It is important to me that profanity is used in a descriptively appropriate way. If I drop an F-bomb, it should be necessary to the point I am making.

I want to be more active in my community. I work 15-20 fewer hours a week now, and I want to use some of that time to give something.

We are going to eat better, in that we will be growing more of our own food than we have done in the last few years. Until we can get that garden going, I'll be hitting the local farmer's markets and participating in Bountiful Baskets. Saturday's basket was great! Plums, two beautiful cantaloupes, onions, baby romain, spaghetti squash, zucchini, green onions, bananas and some other stuff I can't recall right now. Check out Bountiful Baskets and see if there is a co-op in your area.

More writing. More writing!!! Finish that book! Post more regularly. Yes. I want to write more. I NEED to write more.

Speaking of that, I want to start a blog with my sweet hubs: a blog about this Montana adventure. I want it to include photos of his many projects and chores, the wildlife in our yard, the garden, the dogs, and my kitchen adventures. Maybe include some bits on local life, such as that farmer's market. Sweet Hubs writes very well, in addition to all of his other talents, and I think you'd love to read him. Now, if I can only talk him into it. :-)


Somewhere, I can't remember where, I heard some famous person talking about why we omnivorous humans feel differently about eating animals like mollusks and shellfish than we do about eating beef and pork and other animals with faces. It seems like the "cuter" the animal, the more difficult it is to eat it, and "ugly" animals may hardly even cause a hesitation. No one ever said, "Awww! Look at that oyster!"

I touched on it briefly in a previous post, but let's explore it just a little more: eating an animal "with a face" is one thing when you buy your meat at the grocery store and it arrives to you in a neat and anonymous little styro tray. It is so easy to pick up that ribeye and not even make a mental picture of a beef steer. Maybe this is one reason why people like me, who grab a package of meat out of our freezers and are choosing a cut of a single, identifiable animal, tend to look at our food a little differently. It doesn't really matter if it is an animal we raised or one we harvested, there is nothing anonymous about it. That beautiful, marbled steak in the butcher case is a sterilized way to look at meat.

The notion of being that connected to our food goes much further than just my freezer full of neatly marked packages. A friend mentioned her son's contentment at sitting down to a meal of food he had grown: the meat, the potatoes, the veggies... it all came from his patch of ground. It is very satisfying to feel personally responsible for your own food.

That responsibility comes with a thorn, of course. It isn't always easy to pull the trigger on a deer some 300 yards away. It wasn't easy to swing that hatchet to put a turkey on our Thanksgiving table, or to dispatch an animal whose personality you know. That we can do this at all seems to me to underscore our human position in the food chain and our biology as omnivores. It is also hard work to get meat into the freezer, but it is worth that work when you know what you're eating and when you can have a truly full appreciation for it.


How I Know

I think this is true of many, many people, though most of us keep it hidden: even though I may seem self-confident and capable, on the inside I actually feel like rather a fraud. I have enough self-doubt and -criticism to make me question why anyone likes me, or whether I really can do the job and so on.

It seems like most people have that insecurely chewy center in the middle of our hard shells. Even though I am a very happy person who feels amazingly blessed in a myriad of ways, I always have that hesitant, unsure, oddball inner girl to console.

And yet, I know I must be pretty darn amazing.

I know because I am married to one of the most wonderful man I've ever met. He is brilliant and loving and all-around awesome; he says he loves me, acts like he likes me, too, and he keeps coming home. So I know.

I know because I have the two best sons anyone could have. They are fine, honorable, beautiful men who I am immensely proud of. I also know because my son's girlfriend treats me like a mom (and not a scary Marie Barone kind of mom, either). So I know.

I know because there are some incredible people who are willing to be my friends. Insightful, discerning, funny, intelligent, accomplished, brave, beautiful, well-balanced people who actually will hang out with me. People I have worked with are willing to be my friend. If you can spend 8+ hours a day with me and not want to bludgeon me with a keyboard, I must alright. People who supervised me and (a few of the) people who were supervised by me are willing to be my friend. People who have seen me at my worst: angry, or scared, or bitchy, or just plain quirky, are willing to be my friend. Even people who have lived right in my neighborhood are willing to be my friend! So I know.

I know because people tell me their stories. They tell me their secrets, their sorrows and their joys. Strangers, even, will tell me their stories. They will take time out of their busy day to tell me something that is true and real and deep about themselves. So I know.

I know because people laugh at my jokes (well, some people laugh at some of my jokes), they read what I write, eat what I cook, stay at my house and sometimes they try a wine or a book I suggest. So I know.

When I stop for a moment to look at the people who are willing to share their time and their heart with me, I realize that the uncertain little girl inside has nothing to worry about. Because all of these people let me know.


Twelve Days

Two weeks ago, she went to the doctor. A fit, healthy, active woman who just turned 52 years old in February. Twelve days later, she was gone.

Twelve little days.

It seemed like a bad infection and that recovery would be slow. By the time they all realized that there would be no recovery, it was too late.

She will never see her daughter marry, and she won't be at her son's graduation in May. She didn't get the time to train other people to do all of her job. She won't get to retire with her husband, or see what kind of foal her precious cremello stallion might sire. She won't even be able to go get a massage.

She didn't get time.

What were the other things that she never got the chance to do? She didn't get the time to tell us.

What are the things that you would be doing right now, if you somehow knew in advance that 12 days from now would be your last? What would I be doing? (Probably not this, I admit.)

We can't live each day as if it were our last, of course. That is a Utopian idea of a life well-lived. But we can take a realistic approach to a life well-lived. We can incorporate some daily habits that will help us to feel less unfinished, if those twelve days were ours.

Say, "I love you".
Try to always let your parting words with each person be words that you would not regret, should they happen to be the last words you ever get a chance to say.
Eat the effing cookie. ( know me. Eat the chips!)
Take a moment to notice the sunset, the laughter, the tail wag, the smell of the basil, the presence of joy.
Speak kindly to yourself and others.
Laugh. Laugh a lot. Laugh often.
If you are healthy, please, PLEASE, P.L.E.A.S.E! take notice of that fact and know that it can be gone in moment.
Paint that picture. Write that book. Take that trip. Enroll in that class. Contact that old friend. Whatever thing you have always meant to do, but haven't gotten around to? If you can't reasonably accomplish the thing right now, at least take measurable steps toward it, and then keep on stepping.

I have touched on this before in this space, but it bears repeating. And it is a worthy reminder to me, as well as to you. Attend to the business of your life and keep each other informed. You don't want your last words to your spouse be anything about the bank account. Write down your passwords and keep them in a secure place that you both know of. Even though we are no longer living in a "little woman" world, the division of labor in most households seems to leave one person largely in the dark. Please work on putting in some lighting. Today. Not tomorrow. Not as soon as you get around to it. Today.


Free! Cheap!

In case you're interested, Smashwords is having their giant book sale this month.
You'll find so many free and cheap e-books (in formats for whatever e-reader or regular computer reading you might want!) that you could stock up on enough books to get you all the way through to their winter sale!

My books are there, too, and for this special promo, they're all free! Check it out! Just use coupon code SFREE at checkout.

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