Some Good Things

As we close the year 2013, and enter into a new year, I find myself reflecting on what was good, what was bad, and what I want to be different in the coming year. I gave up on making resolutions, because I don’t stick to them, and then I made goals, which were inevitably too lofty – so now I decide to make attempts. I still try to do something I can measure, that I can reach, and that still challenges me to do better. So, the past few days, I have been thinking of things I want to improve on, things I am working on, and things I am already doing well (or, at least, I’m on the right track.) There are a few things I am working on that I think we all should give a try.

I’m a counselor of the Rogerian/Interpersonal/Feminist persuasion, so advice giving seems strange to me. Instead of framing it in that light, I want this list to just be a list of good things. I am a Martha Stewart fan, and on her show and in her magazine, was always a list of simple crafts, recipes, and tips she labeled as “good things.” It is in that spirit that I offer you my list of good things.

1. Eat real food.

When I was an in-home therapist, I found myself in remote areas which could definitely be classified as the “food deserts” we heard of recently. The only chance for a snack was the dollar general store or a gas station, and in the heat of the summer, packing a lunch was impossible. So, I found myself eating highly processed chemical laden substances that can hardly be classified as food. My wife and I were also depressed, and we both stayed exhausted from our jobs and never felt like cooking. Fast food became a normal routine.

After a trip to the doctor about chronic pain, and after I quit my in-home therapy job (which was insanely stressful for less money than I made at Home Depot as a cashier), I began to make some changes in my diet. We both did. My doctor challenged me to eat five vegetables AND five fruits a day. That hasn’t happened very much, but I have come close most days, and some days, I even meet or exceed that challenge.

I went to a Chinese medicine doctor for my fibromyalgia pain, and when I went, she told me something amid the acupuncture needles, the Eastern music, and the heat packs. She told me to only eat foods that had been prepared with love.

Wow. I really believe there is so much truth in that – that when we eat things made in anger and frustration, we take that energy in.

One other significant moment for me came in the form of a video – the scarecrow Chipotle ad.

I had read in magazines and articles, had watched videos. I knew what the food industry was doing. For some reason, though, I was moved to tears by this production. So, to our cage free eggs, organic non-hormone milk, we also added organic humanely raised meat, with no antibiotics or hormones. Absolutely the price is more – but we found something else is true – the taste and texture is better, and the meat is so fresh that the wrappers do not even stink up the trash. Seriously. What kinds of negative energy are we ingesting when we eat meat that comes from mistreated and “pumped up” animals? Not to mention the harmful nature of the chemicals, hormones, and antibotics.

For more on nutrition from eating real whole foods, I highly recommend

So, eat real food. Prepare it with love. Connect with the earth and appreciate it as you enjoy your meals.

2. Compost. Compost. Compost.

As you are eating more fruits and vegetables, save your peelings. If you forget about something in the fridge, and it starts to wither, compost it. Save your coffee grounds, egg shells, newspapers, and even paper towels. All of these compost well. You can buy an inexpensive bucket with a lid to keep inside, and then, carry it out to your pile or barrel when it is full. Make sure you add leaves or paper to keep the compost from being too liquid if you are using a barrel. And turn it frequently, or stir it if you are making a ground pile. Compost is great for any garden, but it is vital to a strong lasagna garden bed.

3. Plant a garden.

Put your compost to use, and save yourself a pretty penny by growing your own organic vegetables. Make sure your seed is free of GMOs. To do that, only get your seed from companies that have signed a pledge saying they will not knowingly sell GMO seed. That list is here.

Also, do not use chemical pesticides or herbicides. They kill bees. Instead, plant flowers and herbs next to your vegetables. There is a wealth of information on herbs and flowers that attract beneficial bugs (ones that eat the pests) and bees to pollinate your vegetables. Sometimes, you may just need to remove some pests (like horn worms) by hand. Weeds should be pulled, and if you must spray – vinegar and salt work well for beginning weeds, and flame throwers are also a good non-chemical solution.

For fertilizing, just use your compost, and natural substances – no chemicals.

4. Practice peace.

Here is a biggie for me. I tend to let things get to me, and I get very anxious, depressed, and angry. But now, I am resolving to stop that bad practice. By focusing on the present, focusing on the simple things, and reducing my intake of social media, news, and controversies, I am trying to cultivate a healthier inner and outer life. I am reading books on ways to redirect stress, and focus on controlling my reaction to stressors.

Not getting caught up in controversies is easier said than done. I have a lot of words swimming around regarding the ludicrous nature of the whole de-quackle (oh I am corny.) I also have a lot of inspiring things I am feeling about Robin Roberts (You are amazing. Light Love Power Presence). I want to write about the waves of equality and how there is so much more work to be done. However, I am not going to spend my time writing and focusing on things which make me angry (chick fil a and camo, seriously?)

Instead, I am endeavoring to focus on what is in front of me, and to put things in front of me which are, as Robin put it: Light, Love, Power, Presence.

Things like my wife, our pets, making healthy meals together, planning our garden, and reading from the lectionary, and practicing the common prayers. Things like investing more in friends, watching less news, riding our bikes and hiking more. I am placing sources of peace in front of me. What a good thing.

Well, that is a small list, but a very good start. I wish for you all, a wonderful new year filled with love, faith, hope, and joy – and that we all would work and pray for peace. Here’s to 2014 being better than 2013, and to making sure we make that happen.

This year, I was struck by how much of Christmas is about a baby. I cried all through Advent service, at every song and every prayer, as it struck me at my core and reached a part of me not reached til now. A new, expected, long awaited for baby who brought so much hope, love, and change. Let’s continue to celebrate and hope for that newness being born in all of us.




By the Light of the Bonfire

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about interaction and the way interaction is carried out these days: texts, facebook, comments on internet forums and blogs, email, and if you are really lucky: a phone call.

It’s no small wonder we feel lonely. I know I do.

I often miss my friends who are far away, and I am thankful for technology to be able to stay in touch with them. However, it seems (and this is nothing new I am saying) that we lose something and often resort to these less personal forms of communication even when they are not necessary.

I am so guilty of this.

This past weekend, we had something really special happen at our house. Our friends came over for a bonfire.

New connections were made. Laughs and songs were belted out. Marshmallows were roasted, and fallen trees were put to a good use. And more people realized we make the best damn chili on the planet.

But the best part?

We felt together. We sang happy birthday and lit a candle for one friend. We listened to stories. We sat close together. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more.

I realized, after the fact, that I hadn’t taken a single picture during the event, only before. But then I realized how beautiful and wonderful that was. We were lost in the moment, and that was the perfect place to be.

photoJust as the lights of our tiki torches and fire lit the way to a warm friendly place, the call of friendship and true connection beckons us to take the time to lay aside our phones, turn off facebook and twitter, and be with each other – truly be with each other.

Will you answer?




Beans + Tiny Hands = Turkeys

When I was in elementary school, we made all kinds of crafts for holidays and special occasions: from the apple Christmas ornaments, to little paper groundhogs, that would come up out of Styrofoam cups via the magic of ever wonderful Popsicle sticks; I loved crafts!

One of my favorites was our Thanksgiving craft. We took a pencil and outlined our hand, and then filled in the print with glued on pinto beans, white beans, and other grains to form a turkey. I can’t wait to do this with our kids.

In my mind, these turkeys were big, but they had to be so small. I have small hands now – I know they were much smaller then.

A lot has been happening recently, and we are in the middle of a season of gratitude.My hometown has been in the midst of a fierce battle for getting equal benefits for city employees. My church participated in a gathering for local affirming congregations, and my wife and I have been very busy with our home and planning for our future as a family.

I have been thinking on our role as change agents. Sometimes it feels as though we are small. And perhaps, we aren’t sure what kind of good or beauty we have to offer. Even so, we must offer our hands and feet if we wish to see change.

We’ve been trying to do even better about recycling and composting, and even better about buying local food – and more humanely raised meat and organic vegetables & fruit (until we have our own in more quantity.) I’ve written city council members to thank them for siding with equality. We are planting our organic garlic seed this weekend.

It seems small, but right now, I am thankful that we can do that. That we can make an impact on our little plot of land by being more responsible and cultivating something good and beautiful. And that we can do it quietly and peacefully.

What about you? What relatively small acts can you do to make your own immediate environment and community better and more beautiful? What are you thankful for this season?

With love, and peace, and thankfulness,