Category Archives: Homestead

hope: seeds & garden

It is January in Indiana and I have seed catalogs spread out all over the table…because that is what desperate people do in Winter, we look forward to Spring.  Seed catalogs are a symbol of hope for me and I need all the hope I can get.

I had thought that we would take this year off from gardening. I had thought maybe I could travel to see family.  I thought maybe a vacation would be nice.  But the fates have conspired against me.  So not only will we be gardening, we’re going to have to go big again.

The reasons are mainly economic — if the Congress overturns the ACA (Affordable Care Act), then our son will most likely be without insurance. I spent months searching for insurance when it began to look like the Republican Party might get control of Congress.  Then I hit a period of frantically making phone calls when I thought that DJT might really become president. I knew that one of the big promises was to repeal and replace the ACA.  The problem with the plan is . . . they don’t have a plan.  “Let’s repeal it now and we’ll worry about replacing it later” is not a plan.

I had a someone tell me in November, “You’re getting your exercise jumping to conclusions.”  She was convinced that I was worried for nothing.  Everything is going to be fine.  Right.  So I’ve stayed quiet and stayed off Facebook because it hurt.  I’ll be honest, it really hurt that she would belittle my feelings and my knowledge of the world with autism.

If anyone thinks that perhaps it isn’t all that bad, I invite you to contact insurance companies, tell them you are a 28 year old male with autism and ask what kind of plans are available to you.  The answer 9 times out of 10 is “We don’t cover people with autism.”  The 10th answer is a premium so high it would take half your family income each month.

I’ve spoken with other families that have declared their adult with autism as a legal dependent. They have confirmed that in the case of autism it will remove his right to make most decisions (medical, financial, marital)  It’s expensive to do.  It’s expensive to un-do.  I’m laying it all out here: I do not want to ever say that I gave up on Michael’s potential to be independent. It’s breaking my heart to even consider this option. The alternative is simply to hope he never gets sick, never gets hurt. I’m actually much more comfortable with option 2.

Since Congress and the President-Elect don’t have a plan, I’ll have to come up with one:

1. I’m back to gardening plans and seed catalogs . . .

2. I continue to hope that common sense and compassion have a place in this new administration.

3.  And I’m going to ask you all to do something you may not agree with, but I’m asking anyway.  Congress is moving very quickly to repeal the ACA (Affordable Care Act).  They have no plan in place to help those who depend on it to get insurance.  I’m asking you to call your Senators and Representatives.  Ask them to simply slow down.  Ask them if they would want their children’s (or grandchildrens) medical care to dependent on Medicaid or to have to go without basic care. Tell them about Michael.  Share your concern.

In Indiana you can call:

Senator Joe Donnelly (202)224-4814

Senator Todd Young (202)224-5623



What I’m reading:  Clouds of Witness (by D Sayers).  Essentialism (by G McKeown), seed catalogs.

What I’m listening to:  Watership Down (by R Adams, audiobook), Aaptiv (iPhone fitness app that is rocking my world right now)

What I’m watching:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower

What I’m smelling:  Ayurveda Herb shampoo bar, soup bubbling in the crockpot

What I’m pondering: If I should learn to knit with multiple colors.  I typically stick to a single color or perhaps 2, but I’ve never done anything elaborate with color.  Advice?                        ,Also the logistics of making 3 foot tall raised beds.

In my house:  Laundry in front of a fan, overcast skies, trees bending in the wind, the last of the Goldenrod stems falling into the grass around them.

Working at Play

Remember how I said I’m not very good at play (October 6, 2016 post)? As I read that section in The Gifts of Imperfection, I realized that it has been a long time since I played. A long time since I let myself be that vulnerable to the world.

Brene Brown’s definition of play was that it is purposeless — meaning we play for the pleasure of playing, for the sheer joy of doing (whatever it is we’re doing), just because we love what we are doing. That’s actually a pretty meaty definition.

I joked in that post that I wondered if binge watching my shows count as play. It turns out that is a pretty good question to ask. I think I, unintentionally, got to the heart of the matter. Watching a show (in a solid chunk) is something that actually gives me a great deal of pleasure. So using that as a basis I asked myself a couple of questions. 1–What do I do that I love? And 2–What do I currently do as a “task” that really should be play.

I spent a couple of weeks logging time in my journal. I noticed a couple of interesting patterns.

Pattern 1: While I wore a Fitbit (like for 10 years) I logged a walk by the number of steps/number of miles I walked. After taking off the Fitbit I began to describe my walk by amount of time I spent out on the road or where I turned around, what the weather was like, and I started taking a picture each morning during my walk. I began putting the pictures on Instagram. I’m not walking because I need to log the steps, I’m walking because I enjoy being on the road, taking in my surroundings, and taking the picture. I’m not trying to be good at walking. I’m not trying to take good pictures. BOOM! I’m playing! My morning walk is play.

Pattern 2: I read a lot. My books typically fall into 2 categories: reading for pleasure and reading to learn. When I’m reading for pleasure, I’m not trying to check a book off a list, I’m not trying to learn something; I’m simply enjoying the pleasure of being transported to another time, another place, another reality, another me. So reading for pleasure is playing.

Pattern 3: Again, there are two types of watching that I do: watching for pleasure and watching to learn. Watching a show just because I love the storytelling is just about the same as reading for pleasure, it’s just a little more passive. Some people feel that passive is bad or not worthwhile, but I disagree. There are times when I just want to sit back and let someone else drive. Watching for pleasure definitely fits the bill. So watching for pleasure is playing.

I’m still playing with the puppy (and apparently still calling him a puppy) and I’m slowly starting to think of it as playing for me too and not just burning off his energy or trying to teach him something new. And interestingly enough, he’s learning to come much better now that “come on” isn’t the point of running around the yard.

Seasonal Shift

We are knee deep into October and our chores around here have shifted from the warm weather plant-grow-cut-grow-cut-sweat rhythm to a more relaxed pace.

My warm weather days all start the same:  get up and take a walk.  Because if you aren’t out there with the rising sun you are going to bake, sweat, and deal with humidity best left to southern states (in my opinion).    Everything else can wait or if it can’t then the walk just doesn’t happen.  I might just jump on the rebounder, or I might use a video, but normally for me it is walk or don’t walk.

The rest of the early day is spent trying to keep up with all the living, growing, needy things:  grass needs cutting, weeds need pulling, plants need tending, rabbits need feeding/watering/cooling down. The afternoon becomes a time of hiding from the heat and humidity and attempting to get the housekeeping chores done.

I welcome the cooler weather with open arms, sweatshirts, and leggings.  I love autumn temperatures and the slowing down of the summer pace.  Michael just cut the grass for what is probably the last time, the garden has been left to itself for a couple of weeks now, and all the berry bushes have been trimmed.  The rabbits are moving into their more weather proof homes and enjoying the sunshine that filters down to them through the rapidly falling leaves.

I still rise before the sun, but now it is for yoga and meditation.  I’ve been following the morning routine that Ayurveda recommends for Vata people.  Which means I also get to enjoy a nice warm bowl of steel cut oats before heading out for a walk.  That gives the day a moment to warm up and the oatmeal helps me keep warm out there too.   I like that now my daily walking gets divided up to shorter walks after each meal.  This shift feels much more healthy to me and for me.






Joy & Happiness vs Fear & Scarcity

In The Gifts of Imperfection Brene Brown says that we don’t fix (fear of) scarcity with abundance but with sufficient (enough).

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I’ve been drawn to voluntary simplicity for a decade now. It began as a spiritual practice and has influenced all areas of my life. I had never considered that I might be drawn to it as an answer to fear of scarcity.

However in reading through this section, again, I noticed that I often feel a lack of . . .sleep, time, and health. So while I’ve gotten control of fear of scarcity concerning money and possessions, I’ve never addressed these other more nebulous areas.

I think it is easy when dealing with an auto-immune disorder to chalk a lot of feelings up to how you’re physically feeling each day. It does seem that days when I wake up achy, dull, and swollen that is much harder to express courage, compassion, and even connection with others. I often just want to curl up into a ball and have the world go away. And on those days when I wake up feeling great everything just seems to fall into place and it’s easier to be the authentic me.

I’ve been working for a little over 4 weeks (at the time I’m writing this) with an Ayurvedic counselor. The work has been enlightening from a purely physical viewpoint, but also because it brings to mind so much of what I remember from this book. Physically I am feeling better than I have in a very long time. The dietary and lifestyle changes put into place were difficult at first, but as I began to build routines and habits they are becoming almost second nature. As I have felt better and better, I’ve noticed that all that soul work really laid the groundwork for this endeavor.

I’m learning how routine creates a sense of “enough” in the areas of food, sleep, time, movement, and health. As I sense “enough” in these areas, I feel the gifts of happiness and freedom flowing back into that area of my life again. My story continues to include this disorder, but slowly it is being pushed into a corner where it can inform but not control my sense of well-being.

Since happiness is an emotion based on circumstances, I realize that it was never my joy that this disease was taking. It was my happiness. When I ask myself what would make today awesome and then when I journal what made that day joyful, I think I have been focusing more on happy than true joy. As I read back through my journal I noticed these were all things that effected my emotions.

Happiness comes and goes, but true joy is a bit like a light in my soul. It is there just waiting for a chance to shine. So starting today I’m going to work on having two lists. One for what would make me happy. The second for where I saw true joy displayed in my life. I think the distinction is important and this is one way I can acknowledge that distinction.

The Gifts of Imperfection, part 2

Part 2 of my summary of The Gifts of Imperfection.

Garatitude and Joy:  Both gratitude and joy are spiritual practices. This means they are not attitudes (which are just ways of thinking) but practices (which are ways of being). Happy (emotion based on circumstances) is not the same as joy (which is often felt in spite of circumstances). You must choose each day to be grateful and joyful.

One way I do that is in my journal. Each morning I ask what can I do (realistically do, not dreamily wish for) to make today joyful — it helps to phrase it “What would make today awesome?” Then as the day progresses I check in and incorporate those things into my day. Each evening I list those things that made the day full of joy. Sometimes my morning list and my afternoon list are very different. Joy comes in surprising places. I’ve always kept a gratitude list in my journal. Most people say you should write your list down each evening. I prefer to start my day reviewing the things I am grateful for from the day before or even things from the middle of the night.

Brene Brown says the opposite of joy is fear (and specifically fear of scarcity). We see this in our lives as worry, anxiety, fearfulness . . . and we don’t fix scarcity with abundance but with enough. For the past 10 years I have been practicing voluntary simplicity. I have found in it a realization that enough is more than adequate.

Intuition and Trusting Faith: Intuition is a rapid fire, unconscious associating process. Observe-scan for existing patterns-reach conclusion; occasionally this is so fast it just seems as if you know without knowing how you know. Sometimes the answer is clear and sometimes the answer is more input needed. Anne Lamott says, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty”. I think what this means to me is that some things are a mystery and I just have to have enough courage to to believe what I cannot see.

Creativity:  I don’t normally think of myself as a creative person. I can’t draw, paint, sing (well, I can sing, but nobody wants to hear it), write a novel, or any of those things that are typically thought of. What I can do is cultivate and curate meaning. I like to make sense of things — not like science facts, just life. I like to see the patterns in life and express those patterns. For me this often takes the form of journal type entries on this blog,

The biggest hinderance to creativity is comparison. Comparison is all about conformity and competition. And I have to say I am NOT into conformity or competition. So I was thrilled to learn that my cultivating and curating meaning is a form, my form, of creativity. It has opened doors of freedom that I’ve kept pretty close to the vest all these years. I’ve even been doing the Headspace meditation pack on creativity. Some pretty interesting thoughts come out of my head. Thoughts that I used to let others squash or ridicule me for are now embraced and given a voice.

Play and Rest: Play here is defined as purposeless. In other words, we play for the sheer joy of play, not to learn something, not to get in our exercise. Rest is downtime. Rest is not necessarily sleep, although we definitely need to make sure we are getting in enough sleep. I’m pretty good at the rest aspect of this — because of my auto-immune disease I make sure my day has time set aside to just rest and renew.

Play isn’t something I’m very good about doing though. I’ll romp through the yard with the puppy (I really need to stop calling him that; he is 18 months old now). I love a good bike ride, but only if someone else is riding with me and talking. Does binge watching my favorite shows count as play? I’m really asking here. . . .

Next up: Calm and Stillness; Meaningful Work; Laughter, Song & Dance

Auditory Processing & The Gifts of Imperfection

In September, during my morning walks, I listened to the book _The Gifts of Imperfection_ (by Brene Brown). I listened for the “outward” stretch of the walk (and thought about it on the “return” stretch, occasionally accompanied by some pop/rock music). In the afternoon I’d sit down with the book version and reread the section I had listened to earlier that day.

This turned out to be a pretty good system for me. I process a lot of information audibly. I think that’s why I get so distracted in a classroom setting. I hear you sniffling, I hear you shuffling the pages, I hear you getting your cell phone out of you pocket — I hear you. This “hearing you” means my attention is split between you and what I’m trying to process.

This “hearing you” comes along with being a HSP (highly sensitive person) and an introvert (quiet people, I just need some quiet). This combination can make it difficult to stay on task, or to be honest, even think if the environment is loud enough/chaotic enough/over stimulating. For example: I once worked for a company that played music through the whole building. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love pop music and keep a selection on my phone for helping me power through the second half of my walk, but I don’t listen and do anything mental at the same time. Just does not work. Not. At. All. One day the same song played on repeat and loud (that Lego song: Everything is awesome) for over an hour. In attempt to maintain my sanity, I put in my earbuds and tried to listen to the Bach cello suites. I ended up frantic, in tears, and unable to do even the easiest of the tasks assigned to me.

This particular day left me with a sense that I was imperfect, I was flawed, and my boundaries were not important. Almost two years later I can still feel the shame I experienced that day. No adult wants to be brought to tears by a stupid Lego song.

So the book _The Gifts of Imperfection_ was really encouraging for me to read. The book talks about Being Enough and the three daily practices or tools that we need in order to set boundaries and know we are enough: courage, compassion, and connection.

Courage: to speak (and live) my whole heart’s truth openly and honestly, putting my vulnerability on the line, and owning my own story. Contrast this with hustling, performing, pleasing, and proving.

Compassion: to recognize our shared humanity, dignity due a person simply because they are, and maintaining boundaries.

Connection: the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued. Contrast this with being communicative and self-sufficienct.

Authenticity: letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are. — This is the key for me. Being an INFJ, HSP, and auditory means I am going to experience life in my own way. Knowing this can help me set boundaries . . . I.e.: if you’re going to play that song on repeat for over an hour, I should probably go home or at least hide in the bathroom.

Self Compassion: Be slow to judge yourself, there is no such thing as perfect, and I am not what I accomplish or perform. A second boundary for me is knowing that I can not handle violence in movies or tv. For a long time, I assumed it was simply the visual image that disturbed me, but an incident the other night showed me the music and the sound effects have a lot to do with how intensely I perceive the violence.

Resilient Spirit: resilience is the ability to overcome adversity. The single biggest factor in my resilience is my faith. In the Anglican Communion I find faith, love, support, connection, meaning, and reliability. There is something incredibly comforting in knowing people all over the world are praying the same prayers and reading the same Scriptures. This comfort allows me to “feel all the feelings” and sort through them.

Other sections of the book include: gratitude and joy, intuition and faith, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, and meaningful work, laughter song and dance. Thursday I’ll take a look at each of these and talk about the lessons I learned from each.

Trip to town


Today I went to town just for one thing. Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

No person was injured in my quest– I did promise Michael I would come home with it even if I had to try several stores and use my elbows. As he left the truck, I said “Be safe out there today.” For the first time he said, “You too.” I guess he thought I might have to fight for the movie.

I did decide while in town to pick up a few strawberry plants and some garden soil. The strawberries I transplanted a month ago didn’t make it through some cold nights. That’s my fault, I should have covered them. They are a bit fragile until their roots get sunk into the new earth.

The garden soil is so I can transplant some seedlings from little pots to slightly larger pots.  I’m getting a jump start on the garden this year.  At least, I hope I’m getting a jump start.  I’m not a great transplanter — as evidenced by the dead strawberries.