Feeling Daily Gratitude Changes Everything!

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Observing the Sangre de Cristos from our new home

I wonder what percent of Americans ever stop and think about their lives on Thankgiving, or as far as that goes, any day. What a crazy, busy group we are! I’m retired so I have more time for contemplation and meditation, but I have also found a way to improve every aspect of my life. It may sound too simple to really work, but it truly does, and it only takes five minutes a day!

Go here and stop, look and listen…

At first it may feel silly or even uncomfortable, but give it some time. At first you may feel too busy or distracted, but keep trying to let go, breathe and take these few words into your heart and mind. No, I am not selling you anything, I’m trying to help you appreciate and enjoy your life more completely.

I started watching this video everyday about ten years ago. I now have it almost memorized, and yet I still need those five minutes of guided meditation to remember exactly how wonderful my life is. And the best part is my life has gotten so much better with this simple gratitude practice! Appreciation of all the amazing people, pets, your surroundings, and your life leads naturally to improving your life.

Trust in the universe leads to ever better quality of life for you and your family.

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“It is enough to be grateful for the next breath.” ~ Br. David Steindl-Rast

I wish you all a glorious THANKSGIVING! Let’s give thanks for so many amazing blessings!

A message from Gratitude.org: “On Thanksgiving, I pledge to overcome the illusion of ENTITLEMENT by reminding myself that everything is a gift and, thus, to live GRATEFULLY.”

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Marijuana as Medicine in Southern Colorado

DEA versus 12 year oldI have to admire Alexis Bortell, a 12-year-old girl who is spearheading a campaign to legalize medical marijuana across our country. She and her family had no choice but to move from Texas to Colorado to find adequate treatment for her severe epilepsy. Now, her family and a handful of others are suing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), demanding “cannabis for the treatment of their illnesses, diseases and medical conditions.” Ever since Alexis began her cannabis treatment, she has been seizure-free for 974 days.

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Living west of Walsenburg Colorado, 50 miles from the New Mexico border for over three years now, I have met a number of parents who have found it necessary to move here just to get adequate treatment for their children. These people had to leave behind good jobs and perhaps even their health insurance to find ways to keep their children alive and healthy.

It has been interesting to observe the combination of citizens here who support the availability of cannabis for medical purposes, versus those whom we now call “CAVES”: “Citizens Against Virtually Everything.”

The most exciting development for Huerfano County, our “orphan” county with around 6,000 souls, has been in the tiny town of La Veta Colorado.  WEED, Inc. announced in July, that it recently acquired Sangre AT, LLC (dba “Sangre AgroTech”), with plans to open a Sangre Bioscience Center, investing over $1,000,000 in Colorado Medicinal Cannabis Industry.

Sangre AgroTech then chose La Veta for their new research facility whose mission is:   “To create a genomics-based Cannabis breeding program that will produce new, genetically-enhanced strains of Cannabis which express the desired plant characteristics for the treatment of disease…”

“At Sangre AgroTech, we are focused on the development and application of cannabis-derived compounds for the treatment of human disease. Targeting cannabis-derived molecules which stimulate the endocannabinoid system, we are developing the required scientifically-valid and evidence-based cannabis strains for the production of disease-specific medicines. Yes, medicines.” 

Picture this. A town of less than a thousand people, nestled right next to the Spanish Peaks of southern Colorado, just attracted millions of dollars worth of research money, and all for the good of mankind. Why? Because the head of this new company, Dr. Patrick E. Williams thought this area is the perfect place to live! He got that right!  We are so excited about this new local development! They plan is hire at least half of their employees locally, keeping jobs down here, which is great, considering we have the highest unemployment rate in the state.

 

What High School Reunions Can Bring Up

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My high school mascot: A Thunderbird

I just received a reminder that my 45th high school reunion is coming up soon. My first response is I simply cannot believe that I graduated from high school 45 years ago. How did that happen? So I turned to my yearbooks to remember a bit about high school.

wasson highI went to high school in Colorado Springs from 1970 to 1973. I was not active in clubs or any other extra curricular activities. The way I remember it, I was horribly shy. I had very low self-esteem so I kept my head down, hoping that nobody would notice me. And in fact, most people don’t remember me at all.

I hated everything about high school. I hated my home life, and I hated how I felt at school. The best way to describe me looking back from my 45-years-later perspective is flat affect. I just kept wondering if my life would ever get better. I remember at high school graduation singing that German song from Cabaret: “Tomorrow belongs to me…” over and over in my head.

So glad I hung in there, because everything got better with college. I went to Colorado College, the one where my father taught. As soon as I got there I felt like I fit in much better. For the first time I was constantly around fellow eggheads, finally completely academically challenged. Slowly through the past four decades I have become more at home in my own body and freer to become my true self.

The hardest battle you will face in life is to be no one but yourself, in a world which is trying its hardest to make you like everybody else!

Now I see this maturation process as peeling the onion of my soul. At first I only felt safe taking off the most outer layers, exposing my true self very slowly and carefully, so afraid of what others might think or say. When I finally got some counseling in my early thirties, my therapist noted how often I said, “People think this…” And she would challenge me with, “Who are these people?” It was not easy, but I have finally found my true self in the midst of too much feedback from others, and a generous number of rules in my own mind.

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My commute home from La Veta Colorado…

I have never attended a high school reunion, but I am seriously considering it this time. We live only a couple hours southwest of Colorado Springs now, and I am quite curious. Perhaps I should go find out who I went to high school with, because I suspect none of us are anything like we were in high school.

How did we all turn out? For a REALLY FUNNY take on high school reunions, go here!

Laura & Rasta Xmas-2012-CROPPEDLaura Lee Carter is a professional photographer, writer and psychotherapist. Her midlife crisis included a divorce and the loss of her career as an academic librarian, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful flowed from these midlife challenges. Laura now sees midlife difficulties as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for personal liberation. Laura Lee has produced five books on midlife change. Don’t miss: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

 

Buying a Home in Rural Southern Colorado

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I have always found real estate interesting. I suppose it’s a part of my natural nosiness. I like to see how others live and what they choose. Mike knows the construction trade inside and out. That’s why we went with a friend to look at a small property yesterday. She wanted to get our opinion on a darling little ranchette not too far away from us.

This property is relatively new, well-built, nicely detailed inside and landscaped, with great views of Greenhorn Mountain and the distant Sangre de Cristos.

Buying in rural markets is so different than cities. Be sure and check what the property’s access is to water, electricity, phone service, and what kind of heating and septic system it has. This cute little ranch on a few acres has a giant garage and studio space, fully fenced, but it does not have access to water on the property. Most city people can’t even imagine that! Water will have to be trucked in.

Sunflowers on a county road

The good news about properties down here? The cost is about one quarter of what they might cost up north, near any metro area. I can see this property being priced at $500,000 to $600,000 if it was anywhere near the Denver/Boulder metro area. Access to jobs is everything in real estate.

The realtor informed us that sellers here usually have to accept contingencies on sales. Their average time on the market is about one year. We see many come down here, buy a house on impulse, and then need to sell a year or two later. Yes it is amazingly beautiful here in the spring, summer and fall, but the winters are so WINDY and can seem very long with most city distractions (restaurants, shopping, etc.) at least an hour away.

The truth is, most have no idea how or if they will adjust to rural life. My advice? Make sure you like spending a lot of time alone or are on the same page completely with your life partner. You need to get along very well in these circumstances. Make sure you enjoy nature, things like bird watching, plants, hiking, biking and lots of silence. If you have little appreciation for clean air, morning silence, amazing sunrises and sunsets and a pristine natural setting, don’t buy a rural home, especially if you crave any sort of human-based distractions.

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Our house being built in 2014 -2015

memoir of retirement 2016Mike and I left suburbia in 2014, after living in cities for most of our lives.      We wanted to try out solar living with spectacular views of Sangre de Cristo mountains. We moved here to live close to nature, to try out passive solar living, and to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives. We came in search of a far more quiet, peaceful, healthy and inexpensive lifestyle than cities could offer us. We have received so much more…            Would you like to know how we ended up here? The ups and downs of our year-long building process? My fears in our first year here? Why we love it so much now?

Please send me an e-mail to order your own copy — Laura Lee:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Life in a very small town: La Veta Colorado

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Entering La Veta Valley, September 30, 2014

I loved yesterday! It started out like so many of my great days… badly! Mike has been very ill so we had to cancel our anniversary trip. I was disappointed and a bit grumpy, but I had promised to go into La Veta to meet a new friend who only comes through occasionally, so I drove into town. We met at Mountain Head Pizza. There I had some tasty pizza, along with a great time talking and laughing about “family problems” with my friend. It turns out my new friend has a wry sense of humor and, guess what? Everybody has family problems… who knew? On the way out the door I ran into another new friend.

Then we took a walk around tiny town for a few errands.

La Veta Public Library

La Veta has the best public library! If they don’t have a movie, they get it for you from their extensive network of other small public libraries. That’s how I keep current on my movies. It’s free and I get to watch them in the comfort of my own home.

memoir of retirement 2016Speaking of libraries, I met my new friend when I was at a Christmas festival in La Veta last December, selling my new book. She came up and we started talking and before I knew it she bought a copy. Now whenever she comes down here, she looks me up. I love the person-to-person contact that comes from selling my books one-on-one to new friends, instead of through the “evil empire” Amazon. For one thing, it is so much more friendly and personal. And another, Amazon doesn’t take half of my profit! We have even had these new friends up to our solar home to show off our incredible views. I guess I’m trying to get them to think about moving here….

My new friend and her husband enjoyed my new memoir so much, they wanted to buy my other books, so we walked over to my car to get them. As luck would have it, there were two ladies sitting on a bench near us when I opened up the back of my Forester. They giggled and looked at us, so I said, “No, I’m not dealing drugs out of my car. It’s even better! I’m selling my ‘feel good’ books!” We got to talking to them about books, love and dating (because of my love book), and life in La Veta. They said it’s tough meeting good men here. The good ones are married. One older gentleman walked by, overheard us, and I think he was about to join in to disagree! They asked me to bring more of my books into town. They wanted to buy a few.

Octoberfest in La Veta and West Peak

I said goodbye to my new friend until she comes down here again, maybe for Octoberfest. That’s when they close down Main Street and everybody parties together. This will be our fifth one!

Next I went to see another friend I met through my exercise class. Such good people in La Veta, and it’s amazing how quickly you can recognize so many on Main Street. Sometimes you may be talking about someone and they will walk right by!

So glad I chose this quiet, slow and friendly lifestyle for my forever home & retirement.

To learn more about how we ended up here, living in a solar home in the Colorado outback, check out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado…  

Also, please follow me on Twitter!

Teach kids how to connect with Mother Earth!

“A garden symbolizes what a faith community is, connections, caring for the planet and caring for life in urban areas where people don’t have the opportunity to grow food or be in nature.”      — Claire Baglien

The Benefits of Starting a School Garden Program 

By Abby Quillen

“A garden is a grand teacher,” horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll wrote. School administrators obviously agree because the nation is in the midst of a school gardening boom. The number of school gardens nearly doubled between 2013 and 2015. More than 7,000 American schools now have a garden.

Most teachers start a school garden program in elementary schools, and grow flowers or veggies. Some include unique features, such as chickens, orchards, and aquaponics systems (where students raise fish and use the fishes’ waste to feed plants). Teachers use gardening activities to teach nearly every discipline, including health, nutrition, science, math, environmental studies, language arts, art, and social studies. Students in one California school sow native plants to learn what the state looked like prior to European settlement. In other schools, kids test soil composition, learn about food chains and ecosystems, measure plants as they grow, calculate the perimeter and area of garden beds, and keep gardening journals.

Researchers examining how gardening impacts students have found that school gardens–sometimes called “living classrooms”–cultivate more than just plants. Students who participate in school gardens are on average more engaged in what they’re learning, boast higher science test scores, and eat more fruits and vegetables than their non-gardening peers.

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Cultivating Young Minds

Teachers who integrate gardening into lessons say it is a powerful, hands-on learning tool that engages kids better than typical classroom instruction. Quantitative data supports these observations. Middle schoolers who took part in the Edible Schoolyard Project at a large urban California school improved both their overall GPAs and their math and science grades.

In a review of 12 studies, students who gardened performed better on standardized science tests than their non-gardening peers in all 12 studies. Fifth-grade gardeners in one study scored nearly 15 percent higher on the standardized science test than a control group. REAL School Gardens, an organization that builds gardens for low-income schools, says students at their partner schools improve 12 to 15 percent on standardized tests after gardening is integrated into school curricula.

Fertilizing Social and Emotional Development

Caring for plants together and waiting for them to grow also teaches kids about cooperation, responsibility, patience, and delayed gratification. In a study of a year-long garden program for third, fourth, and fifth graders, students improved teamwork skills and markers of self-understanding, a term used to describe a person’s ability to comprehend his or her own actions. Nature-based activities, including gardening, also help kids relieve stress, improve attention spans, and ease symptoms of ADHD.

Most kids love learning in the garden. In an evaluation of seven qualitative school garden studies, the majority of kids in every study said they enjoyed gardening at school. Elementary–aged students in one survey reported feeling “happy, relaxed, calm, and safe” while working in their school garden. And it’s not just students who benefit emotionally and socially from school gardens; teachers who are trained to do garden activities with their students report higher morale and job satisfaction.

Planting Healthy Lifestyles and Environmental Consciousness

Learning to garden as a kid can shape life-long habits. School gardens can improve children’s eating habits, at least in the short term. In an analysis of studies on the subject, researchers concluded “gardening increased vegetable consumption in children, whereas the impacts of nutrition education programs were marginal or nonsignificant.” Advocates hope the healthier food preferences inspired by school gardens will last into adulthood and help curb the current obesity trends. In the past three decades, childhood obesity has more than doubled, and 42 percent of Americans are expected to be obese by 2030.

Gardening may also inspire an increasingly urban population–81.5 percent of American kids live in urban areas–to take care of the environment. Many kids put their hands in dirt and relate with the natural world for the first time in school gardens. A number of studies show kids who participate in nature-based activities in elementary school are more likely to have an affinity for nature as adults.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught.”  — Baba Dioum 

Conclusion

Not all school gardens flourish. They require time, support, and hard work. And they have the most impact when teachers are extensively trained in gardening curricula. That said, research suggests the effort is worthwhile. When school gardens thrive, they have the potential to nourish academic learning, social skills, healthy lifestyles, and environmental consciousness.

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BEAUTY is the GARDEN where HOPE GROWS!