Cooking for the birds

We are expecting two big cold fronts to roll through Texas this weekend.  The air is already cold even though the thermometer says it’s 50 degrees outside.  As I’m writing this, my bird feeder sits empty.  You already know this hasn’t been my favorite year, and one of the things that has happened in the midst of the stress is that little things have slipped by me.  Little things like feeding the birds.

We keep a good portion of our property wild.  This invites wildlife into the area, providing natural food and shelter for the creatures who actually own this place.  We also like to put bird feeders out to attract the songbirds and provide hours of entertainment.  I don’t have cable TV, I have bird TV!

With the temperatures falling, it’s time to fill the feeders.  I’ll put out black oil sunflower seed, wild bird seed, and some wonderful gourmet Zick Dough for the birdies.  I think I wrote about Zick Dough once before but it might have been on the food blog.  anyway, here is Julie’s good blog post and her recipe.

Chill then cut into squares. Freezes well.

Chill then cut into squares. Freezes well.

Julie’s Zick Dough is loose and meant for a platform feeder.   I add a bit extra lard and peanut butter so it will hold it’s shape and fit in the suet feeders.  I cut it in squares and freeze the extra

Come & Get It!

Come & Get It!

If you don’t follow Julie’s blog, I highly recommend it.  She has so much to offer and of course, there’s Chet Baker…

Happy New Year!

This has been a long, difficult year.

We all have hard times, sometimes hard years.  Pain is part of being human, and it can take a rough patch to help us appreciate the smooth, easy times.  But really, I want to shout, “Enough is enough!”

I was moaning to a friend about how very ready I am to say farewell to 2013.  Farewell to a year filled with illness and death, to normal household maintenance jobs that took waaayyyy too long to complete, and welcome the fresh new beginning of 2014.  The conversation rambled on and my friend said, wryly,  ”Well, you know, midnight comes around every night.  You can start your New Year whenever you feel like it.”

So we had a New Year’s celebration on Saturday night.  We had a special meal, invited special friends, and toasted farewell to the crappy parts of 2013.  We said, “Happy rest of 2013!”  So maybe it was a New Rest-of-the-Year celebration?

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Here’s the interesting part:  I really looked forward to our New Year celebration.  It was fun and a bit goofy.  And the next morning really felt like a new beginning.

I’m curious about that sense of a fresh start.  I think it’s related to acknowledging the hard times and making a conscious decision to turn toward something else.

So often in life, we feel so stuck in our pain.  You can’t always just push the pain down or ignore it, you have to give it some attention, time, and space for healing.
And sometimes, we can choose to lay down that burden instead of slogging it around with us perpetually.
I get The Daily Word delivered to my email every day.  I read The Daily Word as part of my daily devotions and like most things, some days it’s kind of appropriate to me and some days it’s spot on.  Here’s Saturday’s Daily Word for our impromptu New Year’s Eve…
FREE
I am free to be my best self.

French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus once wrote, “Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” Each day, I can choose to be better … to learn more, love more, and experience more. I have the freedom to make different choices and seek greater meaning and fulfillment.

My freedom does not depend on outer conditions, for it is within me. It is a blessing I inherit as a child of God. I am free to choose fear or faith; criticism or support; victimhood or mastery.

With gratitude, I accept my inherent freedom, embrace its potential, and use it to create a full and satisfying life. I am free to be my best possible self. I am boundless. In the spirit of God, I grow and evolve each day.

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.—Ezekiel 36:26
~The Daily Word for Saturday, October 19, 2013
This isn’t freedom from pain and struggle, it’s freedom of heart and mind and spirit.  That’s what was awakened in me this weekend, the sense of hope and joy that has been my companion for most of my life.
So what happens if the rest of the year isn’t better?  Then maybe that means this mid-October New Year’s gave me a bit of a respite from pain.  Or maybe it means we need to have another New Year’s party.

“So I stopped eating”

This piece gives good insight into the hearts and minds of people with food issues.  If you know someone who could benefit from this piece, please forward it to them.

 

Pain and Suffering

I’ve been reading Frederick Buechner since I came across his work in the 1990′s.  I don’t know why I never thought to look for him on YouTube but an insightful friend shard this video sermon.   I really like the way he articulates dealing with the pain and suffering we all experience.  Plus our beautiful Laity Lodge is mentioned in the video!

 

Compassion and Care

I’m waiting on some news that will likely be sad and hard to receive. There is an ache in my heart and a pit in my stomach while I wait for the phone call that will surely come. While I wait, I offer silent prayers of comfort for the folks involved, and I wonder what the future is going to hold.

When life gets hard and sickness or death or disaster draws close, where is our comfort?

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? Psalm 121 NRSV

The next part of that Psalm says that our help comes from God but I aways read that first part as a cry from the heart – the spirit crying out to the hills for help and wondering if there is any help or any comfort at all.

Comfort comes in a warm embrace, in the presence of another who is willing to really listen, in the quiet companionship of a sweet dog. Comfort can come to us in scriptures, poetry, music, art, and in silence.

Garden gate Blog on grief and compassion

img_0306The heart that is broken can sometimes close itself off to the comfort and compassion that is offered. Perhaps the pain is to terrible or the stimulation too intense. It seems that there is a time for quiet, personal reflection on what is, and what is not, and that time for pondering is a precious component to our walk through sadness and grief.

When someone dies, the people closest to them often describe the days and weeks following the death as a time of being “in shock” or “numbness.” This is, in so many ways, a blessing. That shocky feeling allows the bereaved to get things done, make funeral arrangements, deal with the onslaught of friends and family and get through the tasks that must be tended to Only after the funeral, and after the people leave, then the heart starts to sift through the emotions and and begin to adjust to the new normal – whatever that will be.

So often, when we see a friend hurting or sad, we don’t know what to do or say. It’s enough to say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting,” or, “I can see you are sad and I don’t know what to say.” We say in church that we are the Body of Christ. One of the ways that is enacted is when we show God’s love and compassion for one another when there is pain and grief. There are so many stories in the Gospels that show Jesus reaching out to the sick and suffering and we become the Body of Christ when we reach out to one another. That generous spirit comes from your own heart, but it’s source is in God’s love for us all. Even for those who don’t claim a faith tradition or believe in God, offering your good thoughts or simple good deeds in support of another who is hurting will be gratefully received.

I’m a longtime follower of the Satellite Sisters and the Chaos Chronicles. In a podscast last fall, Lian Dolan reflected on the comfort she had received during her mother’s sickness and death. It’s often hard to know how to help when someone is hurting and Lian has a good list of things that were helpful to her. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to her reflections on the somewhat unexpected death of her mother and a few gleanings from that time of death and loss. Here’s a link to the webpage and you can click through to listen.

Lian Dolan’s Chaos Chronicles Podcast #605

Be kind and generous to each other, and say “I love you” as often as you can.

On Journaling – with guest blogger Carla Pineda

“An estimated fifteen million blank-book journals sell every year in the United States.  Somebody is writing”       Christina Baldwin

In her book on “storycatching” Christina, one of the pioneers of the journal writing   movement makes this statement about journal writing and blank books.  And, she says, “Journal writing is the ongoing creation of the story of a life, in the littlest and largest sense.  It is a story told to the self, by the self, for the self.”

307628_10151239226348402_1916937421_n

I have been using a journal for lots of years now.  I can’t remember exactly when I first intentionally and consciously took a blank book and began to write out my thoughts, dreams, reflections, frustrations, memories, prayers….even grocery lists appeared sometimes!  I had one of those little diaries with lock and key as a young girl.  I kept a journal in some of my college classes. I kept one when a counselor suggested it as a way to find my way back to myself.  I use one now as a part of my daily spiritual disciplines.   All I know is that my journal and the practice of journaling has been one of the greatest gifts I have been given.  I am blessed to have the journals of one of my grandmothers.  And I get together once a week with a small group of women who all use journals and a writing discipline as one of their spiritual practices.  These things have made for a rich experience with pen and paper.

So, how do you start this practice?  Easy…grab a blank book, one that you have picked out with intention and love, get a pen you like to write with and start.  There is no right or wrong way to do this.  Let it be fun.  Practice makes possible.  You will be surprised at what finds its way to the page.  Look around the room, find something….the dust bunny in the corner, the rumpled bed sheet and write about it on the page.

Stuck?  Just start over with whatever you first wrote down.  Copy a quote from a book that you love and write a response or a question below it.  Write 5 things at the end of each day you have to be thankful for.  Cut out a cartoon you laughed at, glue it in your journal and write a response to it.  Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation.  This is not an English essay.  (That took me awhile to learn since I had a mother who was an English teacher).  There are no grades.  Writing in a journal is a physical exercise; with practice your creative juices flow, you find your voice, and before you know it you have formed a habit of going to your journal on a regular basis.  Make a commitment….10 minutes a day or more if that fits your schedule.  Just do it.

Holiday Blues

Some people love the holidays, the cooking, the gatherings, the sparkle all add to the festive spirit of Christmas.  Christmas can be so very special.

But for others, the holidays are a real challenge. Many people who live alone are acutely aware of their “aloneness” at this time of year.  Maybe it’s going to a party and finding out everyone else there is a “couple” or staying home because you haven’t been invited to any celebrations, either way it feels bad.

img_2971

I find a new compassion for those who dread the holidays and what they mean, or seem to symbolize. I think the holiday busyness becomes like a  broken icon into the hurting soul – as if the image of one at home alone at Christmastime proves they are unloved and unwanted.   I want to say to them, “No, this isn’t a statement of your value or love-ly ness,” but I know those words fall short when a heart is hurting.  Why is it that we let the world define our value and our happiness?  I wish I could hold back that tide of “shoulds” and “oughts” and make space for the heart that doesn’t feel light and joyful in the holiday season.

So what can you do to make this better right now?  Here are some ideas to help you survive the holidays.  Feel free to add your own ideas, this is only a start.

  1. Choose your music carefully.  Some holiday songs can actually make you feel more alone and sad.  Pick songs that are neutral or skip the holiday tunes all together.
  2. Go to church.  Hear the stories of waiting and longing and the promise of God’s presence in our lives.
  3. Consider random acts of kindness.  Tip more generously than you usually do, give to your favorite charity.  One friend gives  gift cards to strangers enclosed in a card bearing a message of God’s love.
  4. Turn off the TV.  Really.
  5. Read a book,
  6. Reach out to others by inviting them to coffee or lunch, or send a handwritten note in a holiday card.
  7. Go for long walks.
  8. Make a donation to the animal defense league in your town.
  9. Make a list of things that fill you with joy and make a conscious effort to do some things on that list.
  10. Reconsider your fantasy that everyone who is at a party or gathered with their family is happy and joyful.  As a therapist, I can promise you, it ain’t so.
  11. Visit the shut-ins in your neighborhood.  Take them some cookies from the bakery or a little poinsettia, and talk to them.
  12. Volunteer.  While you might not be able to slip into a volunteer slot this week, think about a place or a cause that you can support with your heart and your time.  Maybe it’s holding babies in NICU, or feeding the homeless through one of the various community outreach organizations, become a volunteer for a crisis center, or even through your local church or synagogue.  The United Way is a great place to start looking for organizations that need help.
  13. Be gentle with yourself.  Often we judge ourselves for not feeling a certain way or having certain emotions that we think we are “supposed” to have.  Give yourself a break and allow space for your feelings to come forward.

Facebook withdrawal

I keep thinking, “I’ll just check in on FB for a few minutes.”  And then I remember that I deactivated my account last night.  I’m missing the photos and updates and the many Happy Halloween photos of friends children, it’s a sweet ache.  I think I should have stayed on one more day.

I’m aware that I sound suspiciously like the addict who is ready to change, tomorrow…

facebook

I’ve had countless clients talk about grief they have experienced by FB.  Finding out that friends were doing things without inviting them, people posting photos or comments that should have been kept private, and the ever-present dilemma of checking in on an ex-love and finding out that they are happy without you.  There’s plenty of pain to go around.

I received a lot of encouragement both on the FB page, in private messages, and from friends who knew of my plans.  Seems many of us have a love-hate relationship with the Facebook, so I’m encouraged.

I’m letting my mind wander over to FB, and then like a good meditation practice, I’m pulling my consciousness back into the present moment.  I wonder what I will learn from this endeavor.

Cynthia

Breaking up with Facebook

Here’s what I posted on my FB page this afternoon:

Dear friends, I’m leaving fb. I’ve been contemplating this for months and finally decided that I want to give it a try. It’s a personal decision, nothing bad has happened to make me decide to leave. I have grown weary of the ever-shifting privacy issues with fb. And more importantly, I don’t want fb to be the only way I connect with people I care about.

It’s possible that I’ll decide that this was a terrible mistake and come back  but I have to give it a try. I welcome your continued friendship and thank you for the many, many ways you have blessed my life.

I will be devoting more time to the blog:http://gardengateblog.com/ and probably combing the food stuff with the counseling stuff in one place. I hope you’ll take time to check over there now and then.
This has been a long time coming.

On the one hand, I love seeing the photos of people’s kids and pets, and admit to posting “Happy birthday to my cat.” photos annually.  I’ve made connections with relatives, friends from elementary school, college friends, seminary pals, and even friends that I’ve never met in real life.  It’s been a lot of fun.

But there are times when Facebook (FB) feels very disconnecting.  It seems that fewer people post about their present life and instead post clever photos or quotes, or videos that they like.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it feels much less personal.
Additionally, I have 500+ friends on Facebook but only interact with a handful.  What is that about? Why am I not interacting with all of them?   Can anyone really interact in a meaningful way with 500 people regularly?   And if we are FB friends and yet never talk in person, by email. or even message on FB, why are we connected?  I ask myself these questions and come up with nothing that feels like a solid answer.
I am indeed weary of the constantly shifting privacy issues at Facebook.  I don’t think our privacy ever has been a top priority for Facebook, and while I was gung-ho to jump into social networking, I find myself wanting more control over what happens to my intellectual property.  I have often heard it said that once something is on the internet, it’s there forever.  If that’s true then Pippin’s birthday photos won’t really be deleted when my account is deleted.  That’s fine, Pippin probably should be immortalized on the internet anyway.  But what about the young professionals who’ve had their jobs impacted by their FB postings. Or friends who post about being hung over from a wild night of partying.  If these things don’t go away, when are they going to come back to haunt us?
Maybe I’m just not in the Facebook zone anymore.  Maybe I just don’t “get” Facebook anymore.  But for now, Facebook isn’t going to get any more time or energy from me.  What are your thoughts about using social media and Facebook in particular?  Please leave your comments below.
Cynthia – with apologies for the formatting.  Apparently WP doesn’t want to make new paragraphs in the same places I do.

One of the reasons I love living in Texas

Sometimes ponies show up at the Post Office.

img_1229

This horse is named Myst.

img_1224

Grabbing a quick snack before the ride.

img_1225

Show your shoes!