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ESSAY: Fear Not- Life is like chocolate

May 2012 Solar Eclipse, New Mexico

Life is exceptionally amazing when you take a moment to look back upon the times when you said “Yes” to something which, in the moment felt slightly uncomfortable.  Our comfort zone is that special place where we feel safe, cared for and ready to tackle whatever the world throws at us. Sometimes, stepping outside of that zone takes tremendous courage and support.  Sometimes you have to jump into that pool of uncertainty and just enjoy the ride. It might be a job or it might be a relationship that requires a bit more than just testing the waters with your big toe. Decisions to do “a thing” often feel larger than life, too big and in all honesty very intimidating. There’s no master plan for guidance because we are all individuals, all experiencing  our separate and connected journeys while all of us must face our own self-created individual fears.

Fear, in the words of a particular sci-fi author (Frank Herbert)  is “a mind-killer;” something which erases creativity, subdues clarity, stalls productivity and leaves us paralyzed by uncertainty. Was that esoteric enough?

The paralysis of fear only brings us more fear as we struggle to make sense of our lives and our world.  A world in which we still have to work, exist and raise a family. Fear is contagious and in all cases must be tempered (or inoculated) with equivalent joy much like chocolate must be tempered (or injected) with sugar and cream to produce an amazing solution to the bitter nature of cocoa.  Life, like real chocolate, is bittersweet but holds many notes of other flavors such as sweetness and saltiness. When we taste the expensive and finest versions of chocolate we realize this and understand that we should have never feared the mystery of its flavor.

Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates.” It was a profound statement when you take time to think about it.  After all, some of those treats in that box (i.e. your life) will be thrown out while some will be savored with great joy. Were you afraid when you tossed those nasty chocolate treats away? No! You simply put them in the trash. This is what you must do with your fears—throw them in your mental trash, perhaps, if you’re meditating, they’ll be recycled into joy.

Joy happens when you take time to remember the ups and downs in your life, when you walk outside, when you see a sunset or enjoy eating a relaxed dinner; when you’re not rushing about, when you take time to feel the breeze, when you water your plants and when you can manage to unplug your TV.

The list of joys is simple yet complex, determined by the individual who chooses to take a mere few seconds to notice “a thing.” 

Joy kills fear. It’s that simple and it brings another Zen moment into your life.

“Student-loan-itis,” Life Jackets and Speaking to a Friendly Voice (May 14, 2012)

(www.imdb.com/title/tt0063385/)

When the only debt you have is a student loan it feels like you have a ton of bricks resting on top of your head. In fact this ton of bricks looks a lot like the house I will never be able to afford. Yes dear reader you may well remember one of my first blogs talking about “Student-loan-itis” practicingwhatipreach.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/but-wait-i-just-got-my-masters-in-oriental-medicine-and-i-have-itis-one-year-in-the-mind-of/) and you may even be one in this family of millions who are jobless and sometimes without hope. I’m not trying to get a job – I’m trying to build an alternative medical practice that uses Traditional Chinese Medicine to heal the masses. I’m only responsible to me and in choosing to give up that safety net of a regular paycheck I tend to dwell on that ton of bricks daily and sometimes hourly. I won’t bore you with those details. Instead, on this most auspicious day I would like to acknowledge New Mexico Student Loans (NMSL).

When I started this part of my evolution in life (i.e. education and loans) I chose my local people (NMSL) to be the party I would eventually owe. I figured if my local financial institutions were willing to take a chance on my education I would be forever committed to paying them back come hell or high water. Well, hell and high waters are invading my reality and I need some sort of life saving devise before I drown. Yes, you can yell at me because I forgot to bring a life jacket when I started this journey. But wait – is there a life jacket requirement when you enter higher education? That must have been in the fine print I didn’t read. I looked upon this education as an investment in myself, an investment in my community and an investment in my future; with hopes of broadening my horizons and teaching people that healing oneself was as easy as 1-2-3! Instead I’m a sailor on an ocean of turbulent seas, attempting to sail a ship of high hopes while battling swells that would make a feisty sailor weep: an ocean of student loan debt.

I’m actually one month behind in my loan payment today. UGH! Being a diligent person I called my loan holder: New Mexico Student Loans (NMSL) and had a great conversation with a person. She gave me hope; she was understanding; she gave me options, she helped me to feel not so alone. The sad part is that I’m not giving money back to my local economy – our federal government took all that away towards the end of my stint in school back in 2009. That really pisses me off. The reason I chose my loan holder (NMSL) was because I was trying to participate in the idea of “local.” My plan was to “give back” by making my payments to the people who gave me the ability to attend college. Instead my repayment is now going towards the next “too big to fail” banker mafia. You know, those wonderful entities who manage to place a bet on the quality of air and reap a profit either way. When they lose on their bets it magically transforms into “quantitative easing” provided by those of us who, without loop-hole status, file our taxes. It’s a win-win situation when you have ka-billions of dollars to work with but less so when you’re a sole proprietor trying to establish yourself and make a go at helping individuals regain their health. This is the essence of my life at this moment: an “Avenger” (2012) in spirit and an “Oliver Twist” (1968) in finances.

I can only thank the person on the other end of the phone today…

“Technology-it is” and history with my friend (Toshiba laptop P105-S6084)

KYRAH – she is truly an extraordinary person (PHOTO courtesy of Nicole)

I’m scrolling. Scrolling through a book I’m writing, some of which I post as a blog. It’s the afternoon which somehow the spirits have determined “is the time to write.” I curse them because I’m more of a morning person, willing to get things done on an acre of land with lots of animals that need my care. My brain is firing with the many blogs I try to keep up with. You all rock by the way, and then I look at this amazing machine that has allowed me to do more than what I really need to do. It’s an addiction plain and simple. Posting, blogging, maintaining your website, then entering into more websites in order to maintain your business: social networking sites like FB, LinkedIn and others which all require even more time. Time…she’s a tricky task master. She’s so dammed demanding when you want to simplify your life and reduce your addictions.

I’ve jumped into the abyss of cold turkey-ness before. It was bliss. I ignored FB for three months! There was clarity. Then I decided to blog in order to express myself, later to educate and now…now I also blog because somehow I have connected with the people who bother to read a blog that ranks in less than .001 percentile of hits according to the devil (aka GOOGLE). It feels great to have a couple of people reading my blog even if, as I suspect, you scroll through at faster than light speed, neglecting to “feel” my words. Words…so many…so much richness while I calculate using that stupid thesaurus in order to feel smarter and bring you richness in words.

Words seem easier to compose on a laptop these days. There was a time when taking notes was the BE-ALL-END-ALL of my existence (having earned 3 degrees). However, I used to live in the days when your handwriting meant something and you needed a huge eraser to fix your mistakes in order to create an assignment that was not only legible but also worthy of reading. These days I’m infected with “Technology-itis” which allows me to “right-click” all the many spelling errors that are due to lack of great typing skills. Yes – I’m in that gap between the older and younger generations (those not quite okay with technology and those addicted to technology). Yet I was recently thinking about how little of my thoughts would be on paper if I had to actually use paper (and a pen or pencil). F___! None of this would be reaching anyone because I don’t have that much time to correct and rewrite this stuff. Then, I think about history. Once upon a time pen and paper was all anyone used. Back then, handwriting was an art. Back then, words expressed emotion. Back then, paper and the words upon it were the sole means of connection. Now, that ethereal nature and quality is reduced to museum and private collections. Back then, deleting one’s thoughts meant they only ended up on the floor, maybe to be recovered and perused for future reference and further thought. Today this is not so…..

Today I sit on my Toshiba laptop and lament about what is fading away: taking time to write my own words and read the words of others. I’m guilty of this lawlessness because of education. Education which required me to take sufficient notes in order to pass the next exam or final, education which required me to search out a variety of topics with my friend (Miss Toshiba). It was all about speed and learning to scan a book or article in order to fulfill a requirement; something called a “written paper.” As if that makes any sense! Meanwhile Miss Toshiba was humming away, waiting for that next keyboard input for a “document” or “PowerPoint” presentation.

Now that I’m free of those requirements I still find myself scanning articles. What a drag!

I’ve formed a habit I really need to get rid of. Then I realize this “skill” is what all of our college youth has been taught to believe in…..+^%$#!!@*?”__&^%@! Those archaic parents who promoted reading books in a relaxed fashion have become an endangered species while we have no idea about what damage is occurring from being in front of a computer screen for these long hours.

Eyeglasses anyone?

If you’ve manged to get this far. leave a comment and let me know you exist, that you’re in the world and that you’re thinking about words. I know you exist as do I.

Let us all share a Zen Moment and not worry about our student loans. We exist.

Morocco, healing (maybe), when to let go and “Six Feet Under”

Chocolate Love!

Morocco (aka Chocolate Love Dog) took one week to recover in June of 2009.

He has a bad heart, a bad thyroid and a bad disk in his neck but that tail says it all.

We have dogs and other animals in case you fell asleep a few blogs or pages ago. We have a lot of dogs. With the exception of 1, all were strays we took in. “Morocco” is our oldest. We guess him to be about 12 or 13 years old this year maybe even a year or two beyond that. He came to us one day when I was at the feed store buying pig chow and bales of alfalfa. One of the guys that worked there came over and asked me if I wanted a dog (in those days we only had 2 dogs) and I said “let me take a look at him.” The story was this dog was hit by a car right outside the store and one of the employees brought him inside and put him out back where the alfalfa bails were. Days later when I showed up they had no idea what to do with him, only that he wouldn’t leave. He had a huge open gash running down his side but came running up to me. So I performed THE TEST. This very precise test involves opening your car door to see if a stray dog that has no idea of who you are will get inside. Morocco wagged his tail and jumped right in. Home we went and with all my former training as an emergency veterinary technician I went straight to work. He healed easily but had some hips that probably wouldn’t always work right. That didn’t matter because he has been such an awesome dog. Talk about happiness 24/7! Morocco has always woken up on the right side of the bed, in his later years this became my side of the bed and in the last couple of years I’ve learned to live with his snoring.

In 2009 he “went down” as they say. He lost movement and use of his back legs. I was in school studying acupuncture at the time so I didn’t waste any time using my limited acu-knowledge. We had to use a sling to get him outside but within a week or so he was up and running and barking gain. Well during the 3rd week of January of 2012 he has gone down again. This time it’s worse than in 2009 but there he is looking at me while I type, propped up on pillows and blankets. He’s not ready to go yet – he’s eating and drinking – not the normal amount – but his eyes are still bright and he’s not giving me that look yet. He usually wakes me up at 3 or 4 am to tell me he needs to change position or have a drink of water. He gets treats and I’m trying to make him understand he must use the bathroom but not in the normal way.

I’m using acupuncture and some other treatments which I learned all those many years ago as a vet tech, including homeopathy. I have no idea how this will turn out. It’s a 50/50 thing that only Morocco can decide on. Personally I think he can do it but he might not want to do it. It is, as they say, very much a part of life. I experienced a lot as a vet tech back in the 90s, some bad, some great, but all worth the experience. As I’m typing this I’m wondering why or if I should share this with you dear reader. Are you interested? Should I share this very personal stuff? Well dear reader, the title of my journal does include the phrase “one year in the mind of a post graduate” so until it comes time to edit I guess my thoughts will live on this page for now. You’d be bored with a constant assault of “-itis”es on your brain.

One of the reasons I’m sharing Morocco’s story has to do with an HBO series we watched called “Six Feet Under.” Since we refuse to pay for cable, our house gets to see most shows long after they’re released because we have Netflix. (Gotta love Netflix even if their prices went up and they separated streaming from rentals!) This series was broadcast between 2001 and 2005 for 5 seasons but we just saw it in 2010. For me it was one of the most profound TV watching experiences of my life. I’m going to buy the boxed set when I have the cash. It took us about 2 months of renting to watch all 5 seasons and when the show’s finale came in the mail I was heartbroken. Little did I know how much my heart was about to break, little did I know how much I would return to that finale on youtube! The final episode can still make me cry just writing about it.

IT WAS THAT AWESOME! IT WAS THAT WELL DONE! 

Those of you who had the attention span to stick with the entire series will understand why I’m talking about this show. There were so many messages and so much beauty in it. I think it was a lot about courage, living your life and facing that darned end of our thread which, by the way, inevitably races toward us even though we think we’re slowing walking towards it. I’m watching Morocco’s thread and doing my best to make it longer, even though I know deep inside that’s not possible. I try anyway. I’m not into heroics when it comes to medicine – been there, seen it, not worth it for me. Fortunately I have lived a life that enables me to treat my own pets at home. It’s not easy but this beautiful dog could have been gone in 2009 if I didn’t have these skills.

In the end “Morocco” did had to leave us but sometimes I still see his shadow during dinner hour – he was such a big fan of food. In the end it was just another Zen moment in my life: beauty and sadness all blended into one.

An Essay on Horses

“Living in the moment is the lesson in this current evolution of my soul. I carry a bag of guilt and it transverses and transects my life in many ways; some I can see and some I do not. Yet I strive to learn why I want to be a better human being.”

I find that it’s never too late to connect with nature, not in the completely liberal sense of population control, global warming and carbon footprints. Instead, I only strive to be better in all the many ways that life intersects with my soul. I’ve somehow been gifted with the knowledge, energy and a small budget in order to have a few animals. It’s about 30% of our limited budget, a budget that includes trying to be an acupuncturist (in laymen’s terms) and a doctor of alternative medicine. Dogs, chickens, cats, birds and fish all seem quite easy to live with until one day I learned what it means to be friends with an abused horse.

In their truest sense, horses don’t give a crap about your bills or troubles. They need feed (a lot) and someone they can trust, but when you really care for them – the door to communication is open. I admit I try to be “Buck” (the real horse whisperer) every day of my life. Buck is a hero of mine and I admire him greatly not only because he knows horses (while I’m a dumbass) but because I feel a connection to his upbringing in a distant way. I use his philosophy somehow in an un-educated way that brings harmony into this world I call “home” which is filled with so much life and energy.

I don’t feel as though I’m the perfect host for all the creatures that have chosen to live in this house but we damn well strive to make it the best place ever for them. This includes “PK.”

"PK"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"PK" 2 years post adoption

“PK” 2 years after adoption

“PK” was adopted with help of so many great ladies; one knew me (Carolyn) and then all the help flowed from many other ladies. They paid for his adoption and the trailer and gas that it cost to transport him to my house. One of my friends even contributed money each month for 6 months to help me buy grass hay (VIOLA). I look at these pictures and see a soul that has blossomed into someone who really cares about me as well as the friends that visit me and offer him treats (He practically eats everything!). He’s named after a character in the movie “The Power of One” which is one of my favorite films. My version of “PK” has been through similar trials. Like his movie namesake, prior to his current evolution with me, he suffered something that made him shy, yet he’s blossomed into a being that defies his original state (see above picture).

In the end, my message is for all human beings: Life is important. The animals you live with are important because they know what you’re going through and are aware of your emotions. Like you, I realize I can’t “save them all” but I also realize that when I take on the responsibility of helping – it’s a serious commitment. The “PK’s” of the world are out there waiting to find a home, good food and most importantly companionship and love.

I encourage all of you to find a way to adopt an unwanted pet, because they bring a sense of “who-ness” to your life and not in the traditional Dr. Seuss Fashion. These “people” need homes that allow them to co-habitate with folks that have a little bit of budget to spare. When you choose – don’t give up!  I know it’s hard. I’m with you – co-existing on the same page of life. We struggle to feed our family and I know I’m not alone.

Hang in there all you farmers! Hang in there all you pet owners. It’s cloudy now here in Albuquerque – I hope rain is coming for the garden. All I can do is send all my hopes, dreams and special wishes to each and every one of you – you are not alone in this fight.

Two Barn Farm

  

Here’s a list of 10 Reasons why you should Own Chickens

  1. Fresh Eggs daily – Much better than store bought eggs. The egg white alone is about 33% more and it’s less expensive.
  2. Chickens have great personalities – Our favorite pastime is sit in the back garden with a couple of cold beers and watch the chickens (they look like miniature robots).
  3. Help out with the compost pile – Chicken poo is too hot (high in nitrogen to place directly onto growing plants) but it works wonder on your compost pile.
  4. They are very low maintenance – Easier than a cat or dog to maintain. Just top of their food and water them, clean the cage once in a while and collect eggs.
  5. You are One step closer to sustainable living – it feels good to have chickens, like you’re a real farmer
  6. Household leftovers are food for chickens…

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“Pioneer-itis,” Chicken Psychology and modern Velociraptors

I took on the fun task of raising chickens last year when a friend had a couple of hens and a rooster to give away. “Free eggs” was my first thought and then “I’ll know what I’m actually getting in my eggs” was my second thought. These adopted individuals are of the “game bird” variety used historically for fighting but you can see a few of them wandering our neighborhood as a group of survivalist feral chickens that someone left when they moved away. I would often drive down our street and ogle them in the spring when their kids had hatched, knowing full well catching them wasn’t ever going to happen. So I got lucky with the adoption process – as I always somehow seem to do – and started my flock.

I’ve turned 4 birds into about 16 at this point but my losses of 2011 were huge! It’s a game of “Pioneer-itis” when you’re a novice at these things. Raising animals for food is no joke people and don’t kid yourself about the term “free range chickens!” “Free range” is great when you don’t have dogs, a family of hawks or a brood of roadrunners spying on your yard. Little did I know I was offering up a buffet table for any creature willing to dive bomb, climb into or otherwise gain entry into my yard.

I started out as a “chick-napper.” Yeah, one of those individuals who thinks that they need to save the weakest or the cutest or the one that seems to have forgotten where mom went. Let’s call it what it is okay, I was infected with “Chick-itis!” They’re so cute and fuzzy and sound so sad when they’re lost. RIGHT! As if!

My first batch (yes I just said “first”) lived in a spare room in an infant (the human kind) playpen for about 6 weeks until it was warm enough to put them out in the garden. They were spoiled rotten with all kinds of vegetables and foods. They got really excited when I came for feeding time and would perch on my arm. They loved me. Once they went in the garden and I learned a little “chicken-speak” they would come running and knew me and weren’t afraid to hang out between my feet. Then the day came when I knew they needed more space. It turned into the worst day ever in all my chicken rearing months so far.

I took them all out to the bigger yard and gave them lots of food and ran around with them a bit while they explored before going back inside to work at the computer. About an hour later I look down and there’s a dead chicken on the living room floor – one of my own. Sadly, they all perished because they decided to get into the OTHER yard where the dogs are. I was heartbroken. The worlds of “Chick-itis” and “Dog-itis” had collided which resulted in a great loss. I was bummed. I decided I wasn’t going to save anymore chicks and that I would inoculate myself against ever feeling sorry for those little peeps again.

Go on! Laugh! You know that didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t EVER work.

Batch number two began to arrive and I chick-napped some more individuals when mom wasn’t looking; besides the hawks and roadrunner parents were having a field day! I needed to get to the point of egg production here people – SHEESH! Batch Number two got the same treatment: being spoiled. Now just to explain – I had three hens so I figured I would have enough semi-wild chicks but I wanted some tame chicks as well. Neither of these groups was doing very well in the population explosion category. So I had my five and let the hens deal with the rest. Now we have to talk about chicken psychology.

Mother hens, especially of my particular breed type are, shall I say, tenacious when it comes to defending their chicks. My border collie Sudan almost got beat up by a hen when he got a little too close for comfort. This should also serve to inform readers that chick-napping is dangerous business and I can attest to that. The problem with this instinctive protectiveness, also known as Chicken Psychology, is that when the chicks begin to explore (the dog yard in my case) bad things can happen. Yes, confession, I lost two of my original hens to my own dog “BAILEY!” Free range, right? I wouldn’t be writing any of this story if something weird didn’t happen so just bear with me because I am going to get there.

Bailey is named after the “George Bailey,” of the most revered Christmas story ever put on film. He’s lying on the couch right now and looking at me as if to ask “Are you writing about me Mom?” Back to our story…the losses are piling up and I now own a chicken killer. I ended up putting batch number two in a cage for about a week out in our main back yard with the horses. It was painful to see them so confined after months of freedom but they needed to understand where “home” was. I wanted to be able to hold and hand-feed some of my chickens when they became adults! Is there anything wrong with that? Don’t answer that unless you’ve raised chickens! They are so unique and yet so alien. I think of them as modern velociraptors because they’re that savage and yet they can be held and petted. Yet I knew they had to get out and explore their world. I wanted true free-range chickens that would return home to roost and lay eggs.

The jury is still out on this whole experiment. Batch number two moved over to my landlord’s yard and it takes a lot of clucking to get them to come back. So much for my skills! UGH! Yet a ray of hope still exists with the eleven who chose to stay. Sounds almost like “Thunderdome” (if you remember ‘the tribe that stayed’) to me, so at this point egg laying is just barley underway (chickens naturally stop laying roughly between November and February). Now for the weird part of my story.

Bailey…he’s 11 years old this year (2012)

He’s managed to be the sole owner of “I-Kill-My-Mom’s-Chickens, Inc.” and he’s responsible for some of my insanity when it comes to chickens, but he is also a lifetime member of the FACCIA PACK! What could I do? All I could do was yell when I discovered the feathers. Maybe I yelled enough during the past 8 months because a miracle happened in our yard in January. It was winter of course and for my chickens it means that juicy morsels (insects and worms) in the garden and yard are hard to come by. My free range chickens, for better or worse had begun to explore what is known as “THE DOG YARD.” Yes that designated barrier, formerly seen as fencing, is now being ignored in order to discover better fair than the provided chicken feed mixed with vegetables, cooked rice, fruits and other table scraps not to mention a nice house with lots of straw and a nesting box! Oh Bailey!

Well here is the most recent report…

Dateline April 2012; New Mexico, USA

Today in the yard of Mr. and Mrs. Workman one dog seems to have turned over a new leaf just prior to the change of seasons. “Bailey” as he is known among his compatriots has been observed to be ignoring the fellow citizens of his yard: namely the chickens. We decided to interview Mrs. Workman, head of the Faccia Pack, to see what could have caused this sudden and unexpected turn of events.

When asked about this sudden change, Mrs. Workman couldn’t explain it. “Suddenly Bailey was out there just being with the chickens. He wasn’t chasing them or doing anything with them. I watched my main rooster “Big Red” walk to within 2 feet of his face and nothing happened!”

While Mr. and Mrs. Workman are a bit confused by this turn of events they remain committed to keeping their chickens safe. “We try out best to chase the chickens back to where they belong in our yard because we really want to raise free-range chickens for their eggs. We’ve had some ups and downs in the whole process but we’re hopeful that this year will be a great year. We plan on donating our eggs to friends who want to eat healthy.”

As of today nothing untoward has happened. This reporter is happy to report that the newest spring arrival (baby chick) has managed to walk with Mrs. Workman’s dogs without becoming a tasty morsel.