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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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!

So many sources of STRESS, and our responses

charlottesville-riot August 12 2017Everyone who hasn’t felt any stress this past week, please raise your hand. To avoid stress you would first have to totally avoid all news sources. We have had a virtual smorgasbord of hate and violence both nationally and internationally this week. Take your pick.

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For some this can lead to difficulties sleeping, like Carol Cassara. She says, Can’t sleep? Don’t want to pop a pill? This super easy remedy works every time for Carol Cassara over at Heart Mind Soul.

wake me in 2020For others, like Meryl Baer, it can lead to thoughts about our next election: Politics and the Presidency is everywhere these days. Speculation has already begun about who the 2020 candidates might be. Will the current President be the standard bearer? If not, who will be the Republican nominee? What about the Democrats? Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting throws in her two cents on the topic in Countdown to the 2020 Presidential election.

Boomer Blogger Tom Sightings has been plenty busy lately, what with moving into a new home in a new state. He has found his new friends to be curious — and a little puzzled — about his blogging efforts. So in an effort to explain the compulsion to send out random thoughts into the Internet, he offers the Top 10 reasons for blogging in his article  Why Do We Blog?  Read on for a few more reasons offered by readers in the comment section of the post.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, is helping people reduce stress by offering back-to-school shopping tips. See Robison’s suggestions on what not to buy early and what shoppers need to know about outlet malls.

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As you must all know by now, my solution is avoidance, partially because of a few difficult health issues. I’m not particularly proud of my attempts at escapism, but I think I earned some time off. I spend my time enjoying photography, reading, movie watching, gardening, yoga, visits to town for fun festivals, friends coming by to visit, and that funny skunk weed, recently made legal here.

My goal? To continue to find new ways to enjoy the beauty and majestic splendor of life. To assist me in this effort, Mike bought me the ultimate nature-watching gift this week…

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One picture is worth a thousand words, right Rasta?

The Healing Power of Gardening

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Beauty is the garden where hope grows…

I began gardening after I lost my job/career as a librarian in the spring of 2004. I found it stimulating and calming all at the same time. First I spent some time learning about drought tolerant plants in my area, picked out a few at a local nursery, and I was off.  What a marvelous pastime!

I find gardening and philosophy go well together, providing life lessons and metaphors everywhere. Here’s a bit of gardening wisdom from a piece I wrote ages ago:

Eggplant Seed Wisdom (2005)

Today I was trying to decide whether to even attempt to grow a few eggplant plants from a packet of free seeds I was given. Then it suddenly struck me, what a silly question! Just put them out there and see what happens. It’s such a tiny investment of time and energy, and who knows, I might even get an eggplant or two out of it.

eggplant on the vineThis is true of so many small decisions I make everyday of my life. I worry too long about whether to throw them out there and see if they take root. Why agonize over it? Just put the silly seeds in the ground.  What have I lost if nothing comes up? This has evolved into my philosophy of “do what’s right in front of you, and stop worrying so much about every little thing.” This all has to do with trusting in the universe and following my intuition.

The universe put these seeds in my hand. I did not go out seeking after them. They are here and they certainly won’t turn into plants sitting in their neat little package on my living room table. I am the vehicle these tiny seeds have chosen to give them life.  Whether I like it or not, I’m in charge.

After I planted the seeds and dutifully started watering them every few hours, I sat and thought about how many decisions in my life could be dispatched just as quickly and easily.  No muss, no fuss.

My interest in gardening has led to only good things [and people] in my life. This summer I discovered a very cool nursery out in the country near Rye, CO.

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Perennial Favorites is a wonderful place to visit. I love talking to the ladies there about plants that do well above 7,000 feet elevation. This is one of my favorite places on earth.

I’m constantly on alert as I drive around this area, for new wildflowers. Last week I saw a flower I’m certain I’ve never seen before near the railroad tracks in La Veta.

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Isn’t the flower beautiful?

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This plant stands about three feet tall on a thick stalk and the flowers shoot out like this. I found it among a bunch of sunflowers right along the tracks.

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Would someone please tell me what this is? I’ll send you a free copy of any one of my books if you can identify this for me! Thanks!

 

A mid-summer trip to Pueblo

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My favorite time here in the southern Colorado foothills is the morning. I wake up to such a marvelous array of natural sounds. I love to hear the birds greeting the new day.

IMGP6401Then I go out to my garden and appreciate it all!

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Yesterday we took a trip up to Pueblo to visit a farm east of there to buy fresh produce. I love buying  directly from the farmers and the prices are quite good!

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Then we drove into Pueblo to visit Yang’s Gifts in the Pueblo Mall. Why? Because I won a FREE gift from there! What fun going through the store choosing something just for me and for free! I love this store, but then I have always appreciated jewelry, fans, and beautiful clothes from Asia.

One thing Mike and I now disagree on. I enjoy occasionally driving into Pueblo or Trinidad to shop. He gets quiet in the city and his joy level visibly increases when we leave town.

cropped-sangre-de-cristos-in-spring1.jpgHe gets happier and happier as we get closer to home.

How to NOT get “Lost in America”

Lost in America the movie 1985

I just read a new review of the Criterion re-release of the 1985 Albert Brooks film “Lost in America” in The Atlantic.  This film is a satire about two upper-middle-class Californians who decide to quit their great corporate jobs, and go “find themselves” by traveling our country in a Winnebago.

I couldn’t help thinking, as I read this review, how pessimistic their viewpoint is. Perhaps these Californians failed at their goal simply because they didn’t have a good plan from the beginning. It’s one thing to quit your “boring, predictable existence earning a solid wage” with no real plan at all. It can be an entirely different experience to spend the time to find out where you most want to live ahead of time, and then create a sustainable lifestyle in that place.

Like so many of us from the Boomer generation, the main characters in “Lost in America” achieved financial success and yet could derive no pleasure from that success. What I have learned from decades of living is that financial success provides no pleasure, unless it also provides personal freedom.

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Our greatest success in choosing this new, rural lifestyle has been the freedom we now enjoy. Many would find our lifestyle boring. If you have no interest in weather, wildlife, sunrises, and an ever increasing appreciation of the natural world, you would probably run back to the city after only a few weeks, if not days.

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The silence here can be deafening, unless this is the kind of silence you’ve been seeking your entire life.