Why write?

Today I celebrate reaching over 50,000 views on this blog, with over 24,000 visitors!

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This is my second major blog. My first, Midlife Crisis Queen, racked up hundreds of thousands of loyal followers from all over the world in its eight years of existence. However, I did not stay in crisis for long after I learned how to take control of my own destiny. My books are a summary of how I changed everything, soon after I discovered it was up to me to wield my own power in transforming myself and my life. I quickly moved from chaos and crisis to an amazing array of new opportunities, once I understood the purpose and power of midlife.

Along the way, I started a few smaller blogs, all of which are now deceased, except my “How To Believe in Yourself as a Writer” blog. I like to think that the byline from that blog explains everything:

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

writing penSo why do I still make this daily effort to reach others with my writing? My best answer at this point is, I can’t help myself. I love words and composition, I believe this practice helps me to recover from a traumatic brain injury back in 2008, and I love making new friends through my writing. Perhaps now writing is my own version of an addiction.

But, as most of my sister writers know, it isn’t easy to believe in yourself and your craft, when we so rarely hear back from our readers. Blogging and book selling has become so impersonal these days. The evil empire, Amazon, basically owns our business. We often sell books and never know what our readers think of them. I have found that to be so frustrating through the years!

Most do not relate to the experience of writing first blog posts and then books for over ten years, and so rarely hearing anything back. Yes, I love what I do and I would do it no matter what, but the occasional “your book changed my life!” soothes my soul.

Find Your Reason Cover smallThat is why I cried when I received the most fantastic fan letter this week. He started out by ordering my new memoir, and loved it so much, he then ordered my other books. My 2011 book: Find Your Reason to Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife inspired him to write me a long letter about how that book changed his life. Here’s an excerpt:  “For the first time in literally decades, I finally found an author who really “speaks” to the core of who I am as a person; who I not only identify with, but who I strongly identify with. Beginning with your need to flee Fort Collins’ frantic “retirement haven” pace to your craving for silence…YES! Me too! Before I even finished “From Suburbia…”, I was online ordering your other 3 books. “Find Your Reason To Be Here” was a HUGE wake up call to me. I’ve found it to be far, far more helpful and truthful than ANY of the other books I’ve read that purport to help one find one’s purpose in life. Thank you!”

This man has read most contemporary titles on midlife and finding your life’s purpose, and he found my book to be more useful than those by Marianne Williamson and other famous writers.

He now likes to hand my books out to friends and family who are suffering from midlife angst, which brings me to the true reason for his letter. He wanted to order more copies directly from me. This is how I prefer to sell books now, to people I might be able to build relationships with, instead of impersonal internet sales. I think it is good for readers to know that there is a genuine human being behind every line in my blog posts or books, one who would love to know if their writing is impacting your life.

So the next time you read something that moves you, why not send the author a note letting them know that their efforts are making a real difference in the world?

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Any interest in learning more about midlife change, or purchasing my books? I’d love to hear from you! Please drop me a line at:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

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Life in a very small town: La Veta Colorado

View of La Veta valley from highway

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!

Find Your Own Personal Freedom

I can hear you now. In response to my last post about freeing your mind, some of you are saying, “But I can’t afford that kind of freedom! How might it affect my relationships with my family and friends if I become completely me?” Yep, there’s the rub…

First of all, most of us haven’t a clue who we really are by the time we’re forty. We have made so many compromises to conform to society, family, and every other person around us for decades. We all know the rules. They are ingrained in our soul at this point. The Buddhist call this “armoring”: the persona we put on each morning in order to interact peacefully with those around us. This is how we keep our Self in check.

Have you ever sat and thought about who you might be without all your own rules of behavior? What time would you get up? Who would you spend your time with? What might you do each day with no rules at all? As we age we come to know, it’s now or never…

Gloria Steinem on the truthI started my own leap-of-faith back when I was living single. I had lost my job and I was living on severance, so there were only a few parameters controlling my days, my mind or my energy. Besides looking for a job and worrying about money, I spent my time reading a number of liberated thinkers like Gloria Steinem: “Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem,” I also began experimenting with the idea of personal freedom. The largest stumbling block for me was my family. Getting past so many rules in my head was daunting. I knew I had to find the courage within to go against most of the rules I was raised with and create my own solutions this time. As you might guess, my parents and siblings aren’t always pleased with the “new and improved me.”

Eventually, I did change my way of thinking enough to attract a partner who also believed in following dreams and personal freedom. It really helps if you can share your life with a partner whose vision is solid and whose goals are similar to yours.

Can that much freedom be bad for a person?

That is such a personal question. Ask yourself: Who would I be without my job and all the rules I now live by? The rules are there for a reason, to make us feel more comfortable with the freedoms we have given up to be in society. Freedom is not a common commodity in this world, even here in the USA.

The Money Trap:

money on the brainMost of us are permanently distracted with fears about running out of money, but could it be worse to run out of time? Time for what? Time to live our lives the way we choose. Time to wake up each day free of all those rules about what we ‘should’ do today, and not just those annoying “shoulds,” but the even more insidious, unconscious “have-tos.” Start monitoring your thoughts today and see how automatic most of them are!

price and life ThoreauI was required to write one full-length “term paper” in high school. I chose to study the world of Henry David Thoreau and his life. This was a mind expanding experience for a woman in her teens. I absorbed his wisdom, but I didn’t have the courage to follow his lead until decades later. By age 49 I found that I had followed all the rules and lost my job and career anyway. I married according to the rules and found myself more miserable than I had ever been. I knew I needed a new way of seeing and being in the world, or I would end up as miserable as most do.

leap_of_faithSo I gathered all my collective wisdom and courage together and took what felt like a gigantic leap of faith; faith in my own ability to live a life better than my upbringing could offer me, faith in my own inner wisdom, intelligence and skill set accumulated over decades, faith that I could do much better than the mediocre existence I had experienced up until then. Since those difficult, challenging days of solitude and constant questioning, my life has been transformed. I no longer fall back on the old rules in my head, I seek out more innovative and creative solutions to my day-to-day problems. I also find fewer problems, since I stopped living on brain autopilot. Sometimes I think my brain injury in 2008 shook me up enough to begin to see everything differently… but in a good way!

the highest art Thoreau

This is what worked for me. This is what a personal revolution looks and feels like, from the inside. How you spend your time is worth more than money!

Caution: Once you begin this process, it may snowball into your best life ever!

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!

Back to reality, strange as it is…

everyone seems normal until youThis is your brain on drugs, prescription drugs… After a few days of very strange brain sensations and a few wild hallucinations (both visual and auditory!), I’m finally starting to feel ‘normal.’ I’ve been struggling with the extreme brain craziness of withdrawal from Paxil, which I really cannot recommend to anyone!

Interesting how doctors don’t tell you about this ahead of time. I couldn’t have imaged anything like this from simply stopping a pill…Post Script: 30 days later feeling much better, but I had to fire my doctor over this one.

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Then yesterday I went out into my garden and found the stupid deer or rabbits had chomped off two of the plants I’ve been carefully nurturing all summer. GRRRR… but my garden has mostly just been taken over by SUNFLOWERS EVERYWHERE! Funny how the deer don’t like them…

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We are experiencing the total invasion of three foot sunflowers everywhere here at the Navajo Ranch in southern Colorado!

Poppy field in Oz

Sometimes it feels just like that scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ where they find themselves surrounded by poppies!

I had so much FUN meeting a few new women at a friend’s party yesterday. Most of them live in La Veta, so I got an earful of stories and anecdotes about living there. I love La Veta, and I’m so glad it is nearby, but I have never wished that I live there.

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I figure if we came this far to get away from the noise, traffic, pollution, and problems of other people, why move in right next to them?

The pros and cons of antidepressants

paxil tabsA few months into our move here in 2014, I became very stressed. The uncertainty of this major adventure had overwhelmed me, so I started taking a low dose of Paxil. Surprisingly, my doctor told me nothing about the side effects and long-term problems that might occur. It took a new friend to finally inform me how detrimental that 10 mgs could be to my health. She said it can cause problems with weight gain and decreased libido.

Come to find out, it can do a LOT MORE!

paxil side effectsHere’s a list of possible side effects from Paxil: Weakness, Drowsiness, Dizziness, Nausea, Anxiety or nervousness, Dry mouth, Insomnia, Constipation or diarrhea, Increased sweating, Decreased libido, orgasmic inability or delay, Agitation or irritability, Restlessness, Impulsiveness, tremors, hyperactivity, Memory problems, Allergic reactions, Problems with balance or coordination, Confusion or Hallucinations and Racing or abnormal heart rate.

This did not include additional problems because of my history of brain injury.

Now I’m no idiot. I knew there would be side effects, but gaining back the weight I worked so hard to lose back in 2011, I wasn’t expecting.

I am now in the process of cutting my dose in half. I want out of SSRI dependency. But, of course, this isn’t simple either. It turns out Paxil is one of the most difficult SSRIs to get off of without major problems. Apparently this can effect my brain’s acetylcholine production. I have learned that I need to supplement my levels of choline, lecithin and other B vitamins to lessen the effects of Paxil withdrawal.

Luckily there are dietary changes that help:

“Lecithin and choline can be found in a wide variety of foods, but many of the richest sources are foods also high in cholesterol and fat. Egg yolks are one of the best dietary sources of lecithin/choline. Other excellent sources of dietary choline are beef steak, liver, organ meat, spinach, soybeans, cauliflower, wheat germ, peanuts, and brewer’s yeast.”

I’ll let you know how this process goes for me, but in the meantime, please give some thought to the prescription drugs you are presently taking. Are they helping enough to be worth their side effects? Inform yourself about what other problems they can cause.