Posts Tagged ‘healthy habits’

Sorry ladybugs, I’m at a failure at playing God

May 10, 2010

I like to act like the world revolves around me, but every time I play God – even in the slightest bit – I am quickly reminded of my true place (little spec next to ant).

I’ve long been a gardening enthusiast. In the past decade I’ve focused on organic, natural ways to create and to kill. Although I really wanted to poison the mole that put 34 holes in our yard in a month last summer, I bought a vibrating underground stick instead.

Bugs are just as challenging – not to mention prolific – here in Oregon. Little plastic tubs of beer attract slugs like garage sale signs attract me, but putting one in each garden bed requires a beer a night, so I found natural slug bait instead. (Egg shells and penny perimeters work until you water and they get covered by dirt.)

When I saw the ladybug guy at the farmer’s market Saturday, I decided it was time to play God just a little. Ladybugs feed on annoying little critters like the whiteflies and aphids that came home with me on a couple geranium starts. We read the instructions and waited until dusk as ladybugs apparently don’t fly away at night.

The directions also said you can spray the ladybugs with a 50/50 mixture of pop and water so their little wings get sticky and they can’t fly away for a few days. Since we don’t drink sugar pop, we thought a sugar-water solution would do the trick. Bob found a spray bottle, cleaned it and made a solution. I released them throughout the yard and garden, asking them to bring luck and prosperity to our crop.

Sunday morning I bounced out into the sun to check on my little ladies only to find that most of them were dead. Of 1,500 ladybugs I’d killed all but 100 or less. My little “God” experiment failed miserably. Maybe the spray bottle had been used for soap, although we thought it was thoroughly cleaned. Perhaps it was just too much sugar in the water and we candied their little breathing apparatuses. Regardless of the reason they died, I felt a complete failure.

Now, I cannot stand an unanswered question so I went to the Sunday farmers market and found the ladybug man and asked him if it’s possible to kill them with sugar. Turns out it is possible. Too much chlorine in the water can kill them too.

Despite the previous day’s tragedy, the ladybug guy kindly gave me a fresh bag of 1,500 bugs – and he advised me not to spray them at all.

So, I did my part and let them go. I don’t think they all survived for whatever reason, but I see hundreds crawling around looking for little pests to chomp. I don’t feel so badly about the dead ones, partially because I can’t tell if they were from the first batch or the second, and partially because I understand that like most things, it is out of my control.

I just need to chill, and let my Father do his job.

Anti-hoarding: junk the crap and emotional baggage

February 23, 2010

Everyone is talking about Hoarders and A&E. I’ll admit that I begin every show by saying I won’t be able to watch the whole thing, and then I’m mesmerized to the end.

While some people watch and admit that they have tendencies to collect unneeded crap, I am quite the opposite. I find myself peering around the house for any areas that might be victim to pileup. With the exception of one organized – yet stuffed – closet, my house is very tidy.

I used to be a clutter bug, if not a hoarder in training. I had a small apartment with dozens of houseplants and prized possessions hanging everywhere. I wouldn’t clean for a few weeks and then I’d freak out and deep clean everywhere. Most of the items that cluttered my space were valuable and/or memorable.

When I decided to quit my old life and go west for a new one (yes on the Oregon Trail), I had to downsize. Knickknacks, collectible plates, clothes and almost every piece of furniture had to go. I wanted to sell valuable collectibles, but there was no marketplace. So, I had a free garage sale and forced all visitors to leave the house with something.

Hoarders have emotional reasons for filing their homes with stuff. I found emotional release in giving stuff away. I was holding onto boots that climbed summits yet killed my feet, gifts from old boyfriends I hate and even the leg cast I wore in torment after destroying my ankle. I let go and old emotions stopped strangling me.

Our first apartment in Portland was so small that we emptied half the moving truck at Goodwill. (I do regret ditching the snow shovel.) The bed was our only furniture, yet we felt free.

In the six years since, I’ve tried to only keep sentimental, valuable or useful items. Clearing clutter seems to open my life to change and release negative emotions.

The day I was laid off, I sorted the entire garage. I recycled boxes of school papers my parents dropped off when we bought the house. The next day I attacked the crammed walk-in closet. I’ve gone through both again since, getting rid of more.

If there’s a medical condition that makes one consider packing a backpack and walking away from all other belongings, I am prone to it. I’d rather have very little than a house full of junk and filth.

Likewise, if I see a chance to shed emotional baggage and make room for growth, I will. I don’t want my head and heart full of junk either.

Follow the leader: a game for adults

January 21, 2010

I have been accused of being a leader. The word has been tossed my way enough lately that I stopped dodging it and let it splat right in my face. Why am I a leader?

First, I gathered all the other words that people say defines a leader.

… inspiration, imagination, vision, mission, goal, courageousness, inspiring, fair minded, competency, honesty, listener, analytical thinker, ambitious, enthusiastic, wisdom, belief in others, calm, team builder, communicator, know self, relationship builder, confidence, optimism, dedication openness, creativity …

I guess people call me a leader because I possess many of these qualities. I’ve always been creative, goal-oriented and a natural communicator. The rest of these characteristics are a result of being stubborn, nosy and a know-it-all (or if I don’t, I learn.) Leadership qualities aren’t innate can be learned.

In the past few months, I’ve studied a local leader – in professional sales training, in a procrastination workshop and in his radio interviews. Tom Cox teaches leadership to CEOs and business owners, but that’s not what intrigues me about him.

Tom’s manner, listening skills and astute questions are magnetizing. He seems poised and fearless. Tom seems flawless except that he uses his flaws to educate. When Tom explains the importance of systems in his life, he first illustrates his life without organizational tools. He says he lacks discipline and is easily distracted. Plus, he succumbs to bad habits. To combat these destructive traits, he studies systems, leaders and successes. He interviews leaders, blogs about their systems and shares their successes so WE can improve.

This is where our traits intersect. I also covet the lessons of leaders, healers and innovators. I put courage in my heart and fear the icebox. Most importantly, I am honest and transparent about my faults, weaknesses and doubts. I will tell a room of strangers that I struggle with frustration and negative thoughts.

Yet, like Tom, I’m not complaining. I’m sharing to grow; to be educated and to educate. I learn how you battle negative traits, mimic your successes and then tell others. I set goals and fail. I set them again and make it.

We need leaders in families, groups, religion, government and work places. Even born leaders must work to improve themselves and their habits. You and I can both be great leaders if we do three things.

1) Be stubborn as hell. Tom recounted how Winston Churchill had a terrible stutter and was told to seek work that didn’t require talking. But he was stubborn as hell and look what happened.

2) Study yourself. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Where do you need the most improvement? Can you learn from events in your life or do you taint life experiences with unnecessary judgments?

3) Seek knowledge in others. As babies we learn by watching, listening and imitating. Why do we stop? Regardless of your leadership level, there is plenty more to learn.

Thanks Tom, for leading by example.

True love: Can you love without judgment?

January 19, 2010

A week ago my yoga teacher read “Be Awake” by Anthony DeMello and I cannot get it off my mind. I will include the piece later, but want to paraphrase.

Real love is seeing a person, object or reality as it is – without judgment. This made me question how I love people and myself. Do I love you as you are? Or do I love you for who you were or who you could be? Am I withholding love until something or someone changes? Do I love the idea of me at a younger age? Who or what do I love honestly?

Too all of us: I am sorry for loving you as I wanted you to be. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you for who you are in this moment.

That said, I still pray for miracles in our lives. I can love you now, yet see a need for change. My brother, for example, has already pawned all of his Christmas gifts. I am not surprised as this is pretty traditional behavior. I love him though. In another reality, he could be a functioning adult. But in this reality, he is not. All I can tell my family is don’t let him break your heart (or push your buttons). Loving him is enough.

Some months back I changed the way I love myself and my life. I wanted a job, money for the bills, a thinner body, peace for my husband … and so on. But I realized that the only way to embrace each day with love is just do it. I love the day for what it is – a journey, a possibility and a moment that belongs to me. I am grateful that things are they way they are. What I thought was not a perfect life really is a perfect life. With my judgment removed, life is complete and without fault.

Of course my life has room for improvement, goals and knowledge. But first I must love myself as I am in this breath. It is so much easier to love others from this place of comfort with myself. I don’t need you to be better for me. I don’t need you to fix me (or my situation.) All I ask is that you try to love me for the perfect person I am today.

“Be Awake” by Anthony DeMello

“Everywhere in the world people are in search of love, for everyone is convinced that love alone can save the world, love alone can make life meaningful and worth living. But how very few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings toward others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service. But these things in themselves are not love. Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and now and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them, otherwise it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire not as he or she is in themselves.
Therefore the first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking, a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person’s need or your own? So the first ingredient of love is to really see the other.”

Christmas presence and a new breakfast spot

December 27, 2009

It just occurred to me that I got my presence for Christmas. I didn’t even realize I was living in the moment until I got out the pad and pen for tomorrow’s to-do list.

As it turns out, I’ve been going with the flow since Thursday.

It’s nice to have a stretch of time that is not choreographed or over-produced. I enjoy week-long backpacking trips because concerns and distractions are narrowed down to food, water, warmth and comfortable feet. Once you hit the trail, it doesn’t matter what you meant to pack – only what is in the pack.

It wasn’t that I planned some perfect holiday either. I didn’t send one card. I also forgot to fortify the fridge for Christmas breakfast. I quickly accepted that cards simply didn’t get done (rather than lament over it). And the search for Christmas morning grub unearthed a great breakfast spot we’ve been driving past for five years.

I see that being present, for me, means I must continue to work toward a balanced life. I have duties and obligations, goals to pursue and knowledge to attain. However, I need to stop thinking of the next item on the list. I need to be flexible for the unexpected. I need to allow dishes to sit in the sink while I enjoy company – or sun.

The Jumping Duck Media 30-day Blogging Challenge helped me realize that I shouldn’t fuel one passion to the point of extinguishing another. A few nights ago my husband and I were having wine by the Christmas tree and sharing stories of the busy day. I had already missed blogging days, so I really needed to write. But I decided the moment was too good. Instead of blogging, I refilled my wine.

I’ve mulled over the decision. Even if laziness was the reason I missed days of writing, I’m okay with that. Some days I am the task master of myself and go way overboard. Other days I struggle to get in the groove. I am hoping to have more days I accept for what they are – a moment I am meant to be in.

Solstice mirrors my life; from darkness I expect light

December 21, 2009

My body knows it is the winter solstice. Today is a day of passage into a new phase. Today I am meant to stand still and await the rebirth of the sun.

Since standing still and waiting are not innate in my brain, my body assists. Weeks of rain teamed with the short days have deterred me from hiking. Not good for Larque’s whirling brain.

While I drove home from a Small Business Development Center class, the sun broke through nearly blinding me. I hustled to get into walking gear and climb some hills before the sun set. I felt elated and refreshed by the glorious break in staging.

And now I am spent. I’ve been a bit sluggish all day. Mentally, I’m overwhelmed with all the possibilities, choices, education and obligations on my plate. It is a good time to contemplate the winter solstice and how it mirrors my life.

From the darkness, I do expect light. My conviction that money and some semblance of order will return to my life is as strong as my belief that I will be playing outdoors at 9 p.m. in the near future. It will happen.

Like the Earth, I have felt tilted with this pull in a new direction. I know I can stand straight, but find myself leaning on pillars of support. I’m not just incubating an idea; I’m incubating my new self. One of these days I will decide to bust out completely and leave the old shell behind.

But today I am happy to stop spinning and relax. I could cuddle into bed with a cat on each side right now. Instead, I am going to read my book and sip tea. Homework, emails, research, business plan and bills can all wait. I will not anticipate tomorrow or resent yesterday.

I want to be present and happy for Bob, heat from the vents, a kitty who wants to play and at least five sunny days to come. Enjoy your solstice.

Tis the season to stomp ANTs (Auto Negative Thoughts)

December 19, 2009

Five days until Christmas and my focus is on the battle against ants. Not the little black sugar ants trying to find goodies in the kitchen, Automatic Negative Thoughts.

I’m listening to and reading Happy for No Reason. I heard this gal on the web, so I know this book discusses how most of us are not born happy, but raise our happy thermometer over time.

As I drove past two malls this morning, on a mission to the vet, I saw the usual hustle and bustle of people out buying happiness – or attempting to buy it. Simultaneously, the chapter about ANTs came on. Based on fight or flight, we are programmed to think cynically to survive. Since survival requirements have changed completely since our caveman days, we don’t really need to be so cynical.

Author Marci Shimoff says we only have to comprehend one thing to battle – and defeat – our ANTs. “What we think is not necessarily true.”

She says we have 60,000 thoughts a day and 45,000 of them are negative. Holy smokes Batman. Thoughts are like ants at a July picnic in the park. And if they are ANTs, then the picnic sucks, it’s too hot out, the watermelon is mushy and that potato salad is probably going bad.

I use many brain exercises, so this isn’t my first circuit at the mental gym. Still, I need to treat positive thinking like a workout habit. I can’t do it once a week and expect results. I figure this next week will provide plenty of opportunities to catch ANTs, put them under the magnifying glass and fry them. I expect a few of the ANTs to be nasty, flying carpenter ants (like Christmas will suck because we have no money), so this will be fun.

And I will replace the zapped ANTs with thrilling thoughts that may not be true, yet have potential. Wow, I think I just lost five pounds. My hair is perfect today. There are so many job offers awaiting me. The bills are covered for the month.

Plus, I will concentrate on the positive resounding truths. I have the best husband, a beautiful house, good health and enough wit to survive. My belly is full of yummy casserole, my energy is high and I hear the rain will stop for Christmas. (hike, hike, hike)

Last but not least, today’s blog is done! Woo-hoo.

Now get out there and stomp some ANTs.

My 10 favorite habits, so far

December 12, 2009

A chat with my little brother reminded me how much I enjoy saying “love you” rather than good-bye. This habit started in my early teens and is a rewarding life change. It tops my 10 favorite habits.

1) Telling people I love them – today. Possibly I read too many romantic novels in which the character lost someone and didn’t get to say it. I don’t wait until tomorrow to say “love ya.”

2) Build a positive outlook. If I said “keep” a positive outlook I’d be a liar at least some times. I keep constructing a solid positive foundation one brick at a time.

3) Be honest, but not harmful. Both parts are crucially important. A boss once said I am honest to a fault. He thought the fault kept me from selling. Much worse, the fault caused me to be rude and hurtful. I try to be candid, yet not blunt or inappropriate.

4) Laugh at myself often. A best friend knows when to laugh with me. So should I. When I do something silly, I chuckle. In the middle of disaster, I laugh. Of course I snicker and snort at my own stories. I just can’t help it.

5) Talk to myself, and listen for response. It runs in my family. My brothers sing little made-up songs or hum all the time and my mom states her next move before she does it. Dad’s not so obvious, except the little remarks to the air.

Naturally, I talk to myself (the cats, the plants, the garden and nearly everything). I recently began listening for a reply. An answer could lie in my words or body language. What is my heart really saying?

6) Strive to be a better listener. Quick with a word on anything, I had to learn to listen. Instead of letting my mind race ahead in the conversation, I try to focus on what’s said, not said and suggested. I can only improve.

7) Seek adventure/try new things. I do something new for my birthday every year. I also taste new things, listen to different music and join people in unique adventures. Even more significant, I give childhood dislikes a second chance. I still gag on sweetened squash, but adore little oysters on the half shell.

8) Read, read, read. I’m not Oprah, yet I do cram a lot of text in the noggin. Reading is one of my oldest habits. It connects me to fantasy, truth and people. Most days I wish I had more time to read from my pile of books, RSS and social media.

9) Always ask the question. Whatever the question may be, I typically ask it. I’m an outgoing, natural speaker, but crave stories and knowledge from others. So my philosophy is “ask and you shall know.”

10) Smile as often as physically possible. My face is literally tired at the end of a good day. I like to smile at people. I visited New York at 17 and was perplexed because everyone looks down and walks fast. A New Yorker friend explained that there are too many people to attempt connecting. Thankfully I live in Portland, because I like connecting.

No mistake; Mishap prompted my best habit

December 10, 2009

Walking is one of my favorite habits that started by accident, literally.

In my early 20s, I lived in Northern Idaho where freezing rain is a winter standard. One wrong step and I landed a reconstructed ankle complete with titanium pins, screws and plate. After months of casts and physical therapy, workout options were few so I started walking.

Slow, unsteady strolling led to intense power walks on the St. Maries River dike. The injury came without invite, but the new habit became an addiction I need to feel good.

Walking provides time to pray, brainstorm new ideas and explore. Some days a dog or a cat will join me until I pause to send them back home. Squirrels and crows fighting over nuts induce laughter.

Walking is ideal for people with low back pain, poor posture or goals of improved fitness, according to our roommate Nick, a physical therapist intern. He suggests walking 20-30 minutes three to four times a week. Within 21 days, it should be habit.

“Make it a habit after a meal. Or just make it part of your daily routine,” he says. “Start slow. Get a partner; someone to hold you responsible will help.”

I know shoes are important gear because I grew up in an athletic family of marathoners, bike racers and backpackers. I realized talking with Nick that some people may not know how, or why, to pick great shoes. He likes the “shoe dog” on www.roadrunnersports.com. It’s a guide to the correct amount of support, cushion and control for each foot type. A good shoe prevents stress fractures, poor posture and collapsing arch, all of which can lead to injury.

When shopping in store, bend, poke and prod at the shoe. Nick says the toe break should match the natural break of the foot, the heal cup should be sturdy and the arch needs increased “medial support,” (less give). He isn’t fan of all-leather shoes because they stretch with wear. Lastly, Nick reminds us to replace walking shoes at least once a year. I replace mine every six months.

A mishap prompted my habit, but it was no mistake. Walking is an option everywhere I go. It has no dues or fees and always yields countless rewards. It’s a journey with every step.

(Note: Nicholas Adams is a bodybuilder and physical therapy student living with us while interning in Portland. He is a proponent of making small changes and building on them.)