Living Without Expectation

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There is the five year plan, the ten year plan.  It is all well to plan if we find joy in it, but what if we did so without expectation?  What if we lived altogether without expectation?  What does that look like?  

It means joy in the action-taking, not in the preconceived idea of the outcome.  It means doing work that has joy in the doing, not in the outcome of the work once done.  It means creating truly from our souls without thought of who else will like it, who may judge it, or how many ‘likes’ it may receive.

The sculptor who sculpts in joy, the painter who paints in joy, the artist who creates in joy, will not quit the activity if they are dissatisfied with their piece when it is finished because the point of creating was the joy of creation, not in the object created.

If we run to lose weight, if we only work for money, if we only garden for the blossomed flower, then we will not stay with it, unless we ultimately find joy in the doing. 

What is an expectation of success to you?  Is it money or affluence?  Is it power?  Is it freedom?

Or what if the idea of “success” did not exist at all?

What if we had no idea of success as an outcome, but as a doing in joy and in love?  If we live through our hearts, this is possible.  If we live through our minds, there is always a problem to solve, a finished project to accomplish, a waiting of something to improve the present, for that is its job.  If there was no issue, no future goal envisioned or to obtain, then it knows no purpose for its survival.  

But if we live from our heart.  What does it look like to live from our heart? 

It looks like the runner running because they love the action and feel of their legs moving, their heart beating.

It looks like the caregiver loving their patient while taking their blood pressure.

It looks like the chef creating a dish for the love of nourishment and flavor and tasting sensations.

It looks like the parent loving watching their child play the sport they love, win or lose, college scholarship or one year of playing and finished.  No expectation.

Several minds are now saying, does that mean we do nothing that sounds like something we do not want to do?  Does that mean we only do things that always bring us joy?

This is a problem of the mind.  There is always joy in the present moment if we allow our minds to stop pushing us into the a different place than we are right now.  It could also be a conditioned thought that we must do work we do not find joy in to attain what we need.  Or that the activities we find joy in can not sustain us.  These are all false beliefs that our mind loves to hold on to.

When work is done solely through the mind, for an achievement or an imagined date of  ‘success’, it is all done for the receiving of love, of acceptance, of approval.

But when we live through our hearts, our mind has already received all of the love and acceptance and approval it will ever need.  And it is free to live in the experience of joy in doing, not in a future imagined date of accomplishment.

An Opening for Something New to Be Born

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When faced with a time that is full of change – a time of shift and rotation and unexpected turns of events – life can seem to have almost taken over and put us on a course that has taken us by surprise.  Change is a certainty, but we sometimes cannot prepare ourselves for what it is and how quickly it can occur.

Some words for souls going through this shift.

There is no need to worry.  For those of you who have space where there used to be none – a child growing and needing less, a career or relationship that is taking less time than it once did or coming to a close, a sudden or unexpected opening – take this, dear one,  as a time of rest.  Life is making room for growth. There is peace in this space if we choose it.  There is joy within and in the space you are currently residing, incubating the next phase of life that will find its way to you.

This is not a time of loss.  The love and energy that was there still is and will manifest itself to you in another form, for energy cannot be destroyed.  It is all available to you right now if we are open to the other forms it can take.  We choose whether to worry and block ourselves from the love and blessings that are preparing to flow in in other forms when we attempt to hold on to life the way it was.  What lived has run its course and is transitioning to something else.  Let it go.  Make room.  Beauty and love flow in in other forms.  Relax and accept.  Accept what is, accept yourself, accept your beautiful and honored place in the Universe.

Feel your breath.  Feel your heart beating.

See how they work for you without thinking, without effort.  They both continuously work for you, from the life force that continues to flow through you.  Know that goodness and love and joy will flow to you in this open space as though its your breath, as though it is the blood flowing to your fingers and toes.

Do not see lack or scarcity.  It is an illusion of the mind and not true.  Thank your mind for its effort in trying to solve the problem of its creation.  That it can rest.  All is well.

There is beauty in this space.  It is all for your highest good.  Allow the flow of life to carry you to this present moment, the love that resides there always, and the fullness of what is to come.

 

Golden God Nectar, or How to Make Chicken Bone Broth

I remember living on Indiana Avenue my sophomore year at Indiana University.  It was one of those sweet, little off-campus houses with a kitchen mostly used for holding cereal boxes and milk and reheating take-out Indian food.  I shared it with three other girls, and while we had a lot of fun together, sous chefs we were not.

That spring, I came down with the most awful cold.  I still remember it.  It was one of those colds that you begged your roommate to take a note to your Accounting professor because you were too ill to go to class on a day you knew you had to be there.  And it was also the days of no email and running to the computer lab at 11:45pm to print your paper before they closed at midnight, but whatever.  Go-ahead and bask in your Inkjet at home while I date myself over here.

Back to the story – I had a cold.  And one of my sweet roommates generously offered to make a bowl of chicken noodle soup for me.  Which is to say, she opened a can, plopped it into a bowl, pushed a few buttons, and brought it to me in bed.  To say I was thrilled is an understatement, because anyone loves being taken care of when they are sick.  But now, after all these years, I truly understand the “chicken noodle soup while sick” situation.

The broth.

It is so chockfull of vitamins and minerals- so much goodness.  It is good for joints, for your immune system, for your gut.  Homemade bone broth is truly the golden nectar of the Gods.  And once you have soup made with it, the stuff in the can or in the box at the grocery store pales in comparison.  I will sometimes have a hot cup of broth in the mornings, especially during the winter, if a scratchy throat presents itself.

So, here is my recipe for homemade chicken bone broth.

You will need:

-1 chicken carcass – I leave the neck attached, but if your is separated, go ahead and put that in the mix as well.
– any vegetables you want to throw in – I like to use carrots, celery, and onions.  No need to peel anything.  Simply wash and toss in.  All of those outer layers have goodness, too.
– garlic, about 4- 6 cloves
– chicken feet – not necessary, but a great addition.  If you buy your chicken from a local farmer, or go to a farmer’s market, there is a good chance they will have feet to sell you.
– herbs of choice – I usually just add thyme
– a 1/4 – 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.  This aids in pulling the goodness out of the bones.
– filtered water

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Optional first step – If you do use chicken feet, they need to be prepped.   Our hens are free range, which means their feet get gross. The best option is to remove the skin.  So, we do a quick ten minute simmer on the stove to clean them and and loosen the skin so it can be peeled.  Place your chicken feet in a small pot on the stove, bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes.  During this time, get a bowl of ice water ready.  At the ten minute mark, remove the feet and blanch them in the cold water.  Then, once cooled, peel the skin.  It should come off fairly easily.  Below, another pic of feet now peeled and vegetables ready to go into the pot.

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I know, the feet…gross, right?  But it’s SO good.

Now, we put all of it in a large stockpot or 6-qt slow cooker.  I prefer the slow cooker – this way, you can put everything in at night after you eat, set it on low, and let it go for the 24 hours it should have for maximum bone broth goodness.

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Now fill the pot roughly two inches below the top with water, put the lid on, turn on to low, and let go until the next evening.  Note:  Make sure to fill the pot as much as you can.  As the cooking progresses, some of the water will evaporate, so you want to make sure you have as much as possible in the pot.

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And that’s it until 24 hours later.

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Pull out a large bowl and scoop out the large pieces of veggies with tongs and a slotted spoon for small pieces.  (If you don’t currently compost, now is the perfect time to start!  These veggies are a perfect way to begin…maybe that should be a future post?)

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Then, I use my 2-cup measuring cup with a spout to pour the broth, through a sieve, into a large mason jar.

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And there you have it.  Delicious bone broth.

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So good.

I usually keep one large jar in the fridge for the aforementioned morning hot mugs or if I plan to make soup within the next couple of days.  Otherwise, I buy freezer quart bags, fill them with 1 cup of broth, lay the filled bags out on a cookie tray so they lie flat, then stick in the freezer for a day.  This way, they freeze evenly and thaw easily.  Then remove from the cookie sheet and keep in your freezer to store for future use.  Side note:  when pulling these bags out of the freezer to thaw, it’s always good to place the bags in a bowl.  Occasionally, a bag will pop a small hole and once thawed, your broth will be a puddle on your counter top.

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And there it is!  And here is to all of the delicious broth and chicken noodle soup in your future!

 

On the Life of a Chicken (and how to roast one)

From this…

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to this…

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We didn’t know it would lead to this when we first moved here.  I mean, I guess we should’ve known.  When two people move their children to the country to have a deeper connection with the land and a deeper connection with their food, it’s not a far stretch to imagine us eventually butchering our own animals.  I’d heard tales of my grandmother killing a chicken for dinner, insides turning a little bit at the details of it.  I still couldn’t picture myself doing it.  When we moved here, we knew we would garden, we knew we would have chickens for eggs.  But the more I desired to know what was in our food, how it was raised, I personally had to come to terms with the fact that I ate meat, but wouldn’t raise and process it myself.  It’s not for everyone and I get it.  That is what farmers are for.   But just like building a house or writing a book, some feel perfectly fine about outsourcing it and others wanting to do it themselves.  Joe and I both felt it was something we wanted to be a part of, and so here we are – chicken farmers.

Like all new adventures, we have had our share of ups and downs.  There was the time the chicken tractor (a coop on wheels, so we can move the flock frequently for fresh grass and bugs) broke off the tractor and rolled into the ravine.  Luckily, it’s heavily treed, so it didn’t go that far down.  I remember just standing in the field, watching it happen like a car crash…Joe running after it, me standing there two hundred feet away with my mouth agape.  No chickens injured, though lots of stress-induced feather loss, thankfully.  Coyotes, hawks, name the predator and we have dealt with it, have all gotten the best of us at least once.  But the benefits – having animals on pasture, rotationally-grazing them, actually pulls carbon out of the air we breathe (good for the environment!), delicious meat, raising food we know lived their best lives before nourishing us – makes any struggle worth it.

Having said that, you don’t need to kill your own chickens.  If you have the choice and are able, buy from a local farmer.  They work hard to ethically raise food that is good for you and good for the environment.  It’s not inexpensive, but if you are willing to buy a coffee-to-go a few times a week, then you have the money to buy a locally-raised chicken.

So having said all of the above, we eat a lot of chicken.  We raise them, bring them up to the barn, thank them for the life they are giving us, then, well, you know.  I’ll spare you the details (if you want them, I am happy to share on a later post!)

I now have a lot of practice at roasting our birds and how to get the best out of them.  What follows is my favorite way to use a whole chicken, with tips and tricks gleaned from several different sources.  The more time we live here, being new to so many practices,  I feel like the way I learn best is to listen to the people who have done it for several years.  I have learned that anytime someone with more experience than you offers up the lessons they learned the hard way, you listen.

Okay, enough talk.  What follows is my favorite way to roast a chicken.  And in my opinion, a really easy way as well!

Roast Chicken a la Woods Edge Farm 

1 – 3-5 lb whole chicken
1 lemon, quartered
3-4 cloves of garlic
a few sprigs of thyme (dried thyme works as well, including from a spice jar)
1/2 yellow onion
4 medium sweet potatoes (optional)
kitchen string

Heat your oven to 425 degrees.

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If you love sweet potatoes, start here.  Wash and cut into 1/2″ cubes and cover bottom of roasting pan.  Roughly chop the onion and toss in with sweet potatoes.  (I give my friend, Sarah Tosick 100% credit for this idea.  It has become one of my favorite parts of roasting a chicken, so thank you, Sarah!!)

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Next, rinse the inside of your chicken and dry with paper towels (these can compost if you compost).  If the neck is still attached, it is up to you whether or not to remove it.  Either way, do not throw this away.  This is valuable for broth, which will be in the next post.

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Salt and pepper the inside of your chicken, then stuff with lemon, cloves of garlic and thyme.  Now truss that baby up, salt and pepper the outside of the bird, and you are ready to place in the oven.

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Note:  Some recipes call for butter or olive oil rubbed into the skin.  This isn’t necessary when buying a fresh, grass-grazed chicken. The skin is tender enough without the added fat.  But, if you are dead set on giving it a good butter bath (like my husband is – and I have it admit, it is really good.  But not necessary if you are trying to avoid butter or oil), then feel free to do that as you like.

Roast for 90 minutes, checking doneness around the 60 minute mark and every thirty minutes after that.  The smaller your bird, the quicker this goes.  Once the chicken reaches 165 degrees, you are ready to pull her out of the oven and let her rest on a cutting board for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

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Yum!!!!

All of the yummy juices from your chicken will drip onto your potatoes and onions underneath and make for a delicious side dish.  And if there is any left after supper, an amazing side with your eggs the next morning.

 

Important note:  once you eat your delicious chicken, save the bones and the neck from earlier.  The soup and broth post is coming up next!

I hope you love this recipe.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know!

Blessings
Seja

The Magic of Your Life

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Why do you feel rushed, my darling?
Don’t you know that the path to your destination is your life?

It is full of windy roads and daffodils
mountain streams and goose bump thrills

The story of your life
is not a place or thing

It is more laughter
and tears
and songs that you sing

It is finding yourself and becoming more of that ~
a friend a teacher a poet a dad
a healer a farmer an olympiad

It is loving and feeling and winning and losing
staying in one place and sometimes moving

It is traveling along on the strength of your feet
the experiences you have and people you meet

I know you have goals
know where you are bound
but slow down for a moment and look around

You’ll get to where you’re going
then turn around and look back
and wonder what you missed
when you were moving so fast

It is the journey, my dear,
that makes this trip fun,
not the stuff you can count
once it is done.

There may be bumps in your way
and the occasional cries,
but when met with challenges
I hope that you rise

Lastly, my darling, when faced with darkness
remember, your heart is your light
and that the magic you make along the way
is the greatest achievement of your life.

Your Life is a Beautiful Game

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I played the board game ‘Life’ for the first time last year.

I didn’t think about it again until last month.

It was lovely night, while I was laying in bed with the windows open, the breeze blowing in, about to fall asleep.

For some reason, I thought about the board game again, about the rules, about the object of it and how you win.  During the game, you decide whether or not to go to college.  You decide what kind of career path you want to be on, if you want to get married and have a family or not.  There are choices to be made.

You continue the game until the end, which is the culmination of the life you built during the playing of this game.  Here is the goal:

 “After all have players have retired, all players at Millionaire Estates count their money.  All players then count up their money, and add the two figures together. The player with the highest dollar amount wins!”

 

It was so interesting how all of us played the game differently.  A couple of us were focused on winning the game, one of us just did what felt best and made her/him happy (trying to keep it anonymous:)), and another one just didn’t like any of the options and wanted to write in their own life, saying they didn’t fit in the parameters given in this game.  We are a family of variety to say the least.

I didn’t think much of it at the time.  My family was sitting around the kitchen table.  We were laughing at each other’s choices of which turn to take, which way each person at the table chose for their life to go.  As we finished and the girls got up and got ready for bed, I continued to sit at the table for a few moments afterwards, looking at the cars full of pegs that represented each player and the family they built as they played the game.  I thought for a moment about how much fun we had, about how it had been a night well-spent with the girls, then cleaned up, tucked the girls in and went to bed.

Then last month, laying in bed.

I’m about to get really honest with you.

I went through a lot of change this past year.  Owning a business, having a family, being ‘busy’ to the point of having very little free time will make one go through a lot of questioning about life, about what is important.

It made me ask questions about what kind of life I wanted to build for myself.  And I knew one thing was important that I have already written about here – connection.  Connection with others, connection with God/Spirit/Soul, and connection with myself.

And last month, I had a realization that changed everything –

I wasn’t playing anymore.  And that was a source of my disconnection.

In living the life of a woman, I had lost connection with the playful girl within.

I have a friend in my life – a wise, older friend who has many more experiences and about forty additional years than me and she said something to me, asked me a question more accurately.  I was expressing to her what I was going through and she looked at me and smiled and said, “Seja, why so fucking serious all the time?”

And I stopped.  And I laughed.

I was thinking about this friend and this game while laying in bed and in that moment, everything changed.

I was living my life like it wasn’t the beautiful game that it is.  I had become an adult to the nth degree, running a business, being a spouse, being a mother.  I was looking for productivity, for efficiency, for accomplishment – I wasn’t looking for the fun anymore. I was looking at the end goal, instead of the joy in playing the game everyday I am alive.

I was laying in bed thinking about the pegs in the cars, and realized I am the peg in real life – but instead of a plastic peg, I am flesh, heart, soul.  I am on this earth, my soul incarnated for the point of enjoyment, for experience, for love, and for fun.

There were times at night I would lay in bed and fear and/or worry would come over me.  In the quiet when my mind had time to talk to me, it would tell me the bad things that could happen, the things I needed to worry about.

But this night was different – in that moment, I had a tremendous sense of joy, of wonder, of excitement for the next morning.  The fear and worry disappeared.  Any ‘bad’ things that could happen, they were now all a part of the game of life.

I’m going to take the risks I am pulled to take, not only when it’s on a pretend board game.  And if I have a goal, will it be fun working to get towards that end goal?  Will the time spent be time spent in joy?  If not, then a reworking of what I am wanting to accomplish.

I could live my life like I am playing a game everyday.  I can look at my run as a chore, as a part of my day I have to get through -or I can be excited!  I get to run!  I have these amazing legs with muscles that carry me – what?!  How does that even happen? Maybe I’ll try to learn a handstand again today! That conversation I am afraid to have – I don’t know how it will go, but I know I will learn from it, I will feel the emotion that goes with it – another chance to be fully myself.  I get to go to a grocery store and they have food that is delicious! I get to see these children wake up every morning, growing and sometimes grumpy and feeling all of the emotions of life – I get to share it with them! My husband and I love and argue and love again – what a beautiful glorious ride.

Of course there are aspects of life that we don’t enjoy, that are hard –  we will have loss and we will go through trials. We will cry and then laugh in remembrance.  And then comes the love and beauty and victory and goosebump moments.

The beautiful emotion of life – it is what we are here to experience.  It is all on our colorful board game – the living of it day to day is what makes it beautiful and fun.

And in the end?  Who is the winner?  Is it the person with the most in the bank in Millionaire Estates?  Or is it instead the person who can wake up everyday, put their feet on the ground and say, what adventures am I going to live today?  Which choices will I make?  Where will I go?  What people will I meet, what will I learn, what will I experience? My work, my conversations, my relationships – it is all to be a part of this life to be enjoyed.   If we can do that, then we will all be winners in the end.

Go, live your life like the adventure it is.  Love and cry and talk to people you don’t know and grow in who you are.  Live this life so much that you wear yourself out.  This day really is a gift – go have fun.

 

Photo credit: http://go-exxplore.tumblr.com/post/117350739490/columbia-river-gorge

 

 

What a Bike Ride Taught Me (or How I Am Learning To Stop Making Excuses and Live the Life I Want)

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I rode my daughter’s bike to the post office today.

Why is this even a big deal, you might ask?

Okay, it’s not a big deal.  It’s actually a really small act.  I will share with you why I am so pumped up about it, though.

When we moved to our small farm, we moved a ten minute drive from town.  This may not seem long to some, but it’s long enough that if you leave the grocery store having forgotten something, you’re not going back to get it.  The road into town is an actual ten-curvy-road miles, with cars and trucks going 50-60mph, so cycling this road is really left to cyclists, with the gear and the tight shorts and you know what I mean – not for kids and moms going on a leisurely bike ride together.

And this trek into town has been somewhat of a big deal to me because of my business.  I make jewelry and jewelry supplies.  There are several days that it is imperative that I ship -that day-.  Designers needing their supplies, customers needing their pieces for an event, a variety of reasons.  What this means is that most days I am hustling out of my shop at 4:45pm to make it to the post office in time for their 5pm cut off.   I am driving ten miles into town, dropping off packages at the post office, and then driving right back home.

I have never loved this.

When I talk about living a connected life, I am finding that questions start to arise.  Questions such as, if I don’t love that I rush to the post office everyday at 5pm, what else can I do that would be more in line with how I want to live?  What else can I do that would feel in alignment with what my spirit wants, instead of what doesn’t feel good?

I know we don’t always have flexibility here.  I know there are times that we have to do what we have to do for the time being.  But there are times when we can make an effort to make changes.  There are instances when I have alternatives that feel better, but I easily talk myself out of them.

Here is the thing – there is a post office less than 2 miles from my house.

Not kidding.  Literally less than two miles.  It is just the sweetest little post office with the sweetest postal person (hi Becky!).  The hours of this post office have consistently been reduced because the government doesn’t like to pay to keep this post office open longer since it is in such a small area of town.  It now closes at 2:30 in the afternoon.

I love going to this post office for several reasons, but one important reason is that I want it to stay open.  It is a place where people know each other, where people aren’t in a rush, where some get the only interaction with other humans they will have all day.  The more business they see, the more likely they will stay open.  I know bringing some of my large shipments may make a difference to this office.  But I could never make it by 2:30pm.  I always was too busy, too many orders, excuse, excuse, excuse.

I am trying to live differently now.  I am asking myself the hard questions.

“What don’t I like about hustling into town just for a post office run?”

Two answers – I want to give the small post office my business because I want them to stay open.  And then a larger scale reason: I get a little nauseous when I read about efforts to open up more US land for oil drilling.  I am heartbroken when pipelines are put in despite peoples’ efforts to protest.

But I still drove anyway.

I made no effort to reduce my consumption, my reliance on the oil that I was against drilling.

My actions were not in line with the way I felt, the way I wanted to live.

So what actions can I take that will feel more connected to who I am, to my true self?

Well, I figure the best way to start, the best way to protest something, is to just not give them my money.

Today was a day I made one decision that put me more in line with the life I want to live. I would be done by 2pm and ride my daughter’s bike to the post office to deliver packages.

I was nervous, because busy road.  I was excited, because I can take a bike to where I need to be!  I don’t have to drive!

So off I went.  And it was exhilarating.

I wasn’t afraid anymore.  I didn’t have a child with me to set the pace.  I went as hard as I could uphill, then coasted downhill, breeze blowing. (I actually laughed at one point!  I couldn’t hold it in)  I noticed flower boxes on houses that I drive by every day but hadn’t noticed before.  I smelled the lilac bush I drive by everyday but hadn’t smelled before.  I was living.

I dropped my packages off and rode home with a smile on my face.

I wasn’t rushed.  I wasn’t using fuel for one quick trip into town.

Connection.

Now, let me say this…I am giving myself grace.  There are days when I am going to have a rush order and have to get to UPS by 6pm to get it out.  But now, I am asking the questions.  I am asking myself what kind of life I want to live.  I am figuring out how I want to feel during my days and then taking action based on that, not living in reaction to the circumstances of the day instead.

It is so empowering, so fun to really think about your life, to reclaim your power, to make decisions based on how you want to live.

As always, thank you for being here.  Thank you for sharing in this journey to reconnect to the lives we want to truly live.

Are there details about your day you would like to change to be more in line with who you are?  It can be the smallest thing!  I would love to hear.

Blessings

Seja