Grateful always grateful

It’s Not What You Think It Is

Months ago I adopted and warped a meditation to my liking, originally of the Dalia Lama’s making. In it, I meditated on life and love and all the richness of living on purpose. So delicious..

However when my meditation came to fruition, I was, at least for a short time, disgruntled and anxious. You know what they say about being careful what you ask for…

The specific part of the meditation to which I refer is, “May I live a life rich in love…” It sounded good on paper, but its arrival was through a back door and I didn’t know my visitor when it landed.

What I saw was an overly taxed schedule as well as a steep learning curve.

zoe and ianIn a very short period of time I played the role of Mother of the bride (also known at our house as, the Maid of Mommer) and the maid of honor to one of my best friends. I shopped for wedding dresses, wedding shoes, threw a Stag-ette party for my friend and a bridal shower for my daughter. There were barbecues, late nights laughing and the chaos that is living and loving and celebration.

For a little while, before I saw the whole thing as it should be seen, what I believed was that I was a bit of a slave to obligation ~ forgive the dramatics. I thought I was over-taxed and under-prepared.

Perhaps in our age of “Business = Importance”, in some way I felt justified by my stress, but busy-ness never was happiness.

My turnabout came one day as I was driving, likely on the way to the party store, when suddenly I connected my meditation with my circumstances.

How lucky I am to have a daughter who wants me involved in her wedding and a friend andrea and michaelwho wants me intimately involved in the most important decision of her life.

Rich in love. I am living a life truly rich in love.

It was a stunning revelation and with its arrival my stress level plummeted and my pleasure meter sang at the red end of the spectrum, instantaneously drenching me in joy.

They say we have everything we need within our reach and I have seen this to be true. Sometimes we don’t even have to reach for it, we just have to see it for what it is. And then be grateful for it. Always grateful.

Like, share, comment, tweet and tell me, do you make this mistake too?


The Truth About Goats & Happiness

baby goatsYesterday afternoon as I drove up to the Young Family Ranch, the bucks and llama grazed peacefully in the front pasture. And I felt happy.

It turns out it doesn’t take much for one to be happy. Thought perhaps it’s not as easy as the goats and llama make it seem either. Well, for them it’s probably no big thing.

For nearly eight years we’ve been gentleman ranchers with at least one or two goats living on the property with us. We sometimes milk them and almost always breed them. You know why if you’ve ever seen a frolicking kid in the springtime.

For the longest time, and I know this makes me sound a bit dim, if we weren’t milking them, I wasn’t sure what purpose they served. I mean, shoes keep your feet protected, rain makes the grass grow, dogs keep you company, but a non-milking goat? Even the llamas serve as protectors for the other animals.

I am not so sure exactly how things can be so hidden from me. My dear Mr Dreamboat surely scratches his head at me when the most obvious things are not remotely clear to me. At least until I get them figured out.

The goats, at least for us out here at the YFR, simply make you happy. Not just the frolicking in the spring and not just because I make some killer chevre when the mood strikes me.

No, the goats and the one sheep, along with the Great Pyrenees dog, the four horses, the colorful chickens and the sassy geese, at the end of the day they’re just there to make us smile.

What it takes to be happy is to look around and see all the things that make you happy. Simple as that. For the goats, it’s likely the green grassy fields, for me it’s the goats and for you it’s likely something else.

Without a doubt there are meek things around each one of us. What exactly makes you smile is far less important than that you are actually allowing yourself to do so.

Alice Walker said, “Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.”

And that, my friends is the truth about happiness. Now go find yours.

Like, share, comment, tweet and take a bite out of life like it’s the only one you get… Cuz you know, it is…

Caution ~ Woman Under Construction, Thanks, Caitlyn Jenner

caitlyn jennerFor several weeks now I’ve been writing a blog post in my head. Judging by my lack of posting, it has sometimes seemed it might stay in my head, never making it to the erstwhile paper of my blog. And then I saw a picture of Bruce Jenner’s transformation into Caitlyn and I was inspired.

The header of the blog-in-my-mind is “Caution – Woman Under Construction”. I bet Caitlyn wishes she’d thought of it herself, but it’s mine now, dammit. And I’m keeping it.

I write this knowing there are smirks and jokes being tossed out like the ugly red balls we were forced to use in the dodge ball games of our youth. I never liked the literal game and I like the metaphorical game even less. It is the game of bullies and cowards.

Whether or not you’re prone to criticism and contempt, the fact is, we’re all under construction in one form or another. We are having our edges broken off and we are transforming into something more… or less, than we were before.

Ms Jenner’s transformation is public and painful both emotionally and, I suspect, physically. Whether you like the idea of transgender or not, she is a beacon for change and a poster girl for bravery. As my friend Melissa once responded when I jokingly said don’t believe in guns, “Well, they exist whether you believe in them or not.” Pithy girl.

Caitlyn Jenner is the lighthouse for changes, big and small, public or private. Her cover girl photo gently nudges us, waking us to be ourselves, be honest and grab life in exactly the way our hearts dictate.

This speaks to me now as I, too, am going through my own transformations. Gratefully I’m quite at home in my assigned gender. My marriage remains the pinnacle happiness of my life and by external examination I remain largely the same as I was last year.

But looks are often quite deceiving.

I am changing and growing and scared and sometimes discomfited in my life. But I am not without resources. Like an explorer leaving the confines of her childhood, I am prepared with tools for navigating and emergency supplies. For the most part these include wisdom of the ages and the people I rely on most.

While Caitlyn Jenner is boldly and bravely walking the walk, each of us can take a page out of her book and heed the call to be our own authentic selves. And on those nights when not everything seems clear, easy or sure, we can simply remind ourselves not to make judgments, Caution, Human Beings Under Construction.

Like, share, comment, tweet and you do you, as a favor to the rest of us.

more happy

One Time I Thought I Knew ~ A List Of Ten Things

In my twenties I knew a lot of things. In my thirties, beliefs started dropping like flies at the end of a long, hot summer. In my forties, just a bit gun-shy for having made so many broad assumptions in the beginning, I began collecting things I believe.

It would be foolish to say I will always believe the things that seem so obvious to me today, but I have quite a lot of confidence in these, and so I present them to you:

1. I believe that miracles multiply. Once we start noticing them, they’re everywhere for us to pick up like gems along the path. This is not unlike buying a black Jetta and suddenly they seem to be swarming the highways. Only better than that.
2. Though it’s difficult to embrace it when it’s happening to us, I believe that when people behaveroald dahl quote badly it has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them. While it doesn’t make it more fun, it’s just an explanation that if embraced, makes the ordeal less painful.
3. Audrey Hepburn is one of my heroes and to that end; I believe that happy girls are the prettiest. Sure, put on mascara, but live a life you love and the whole world will look at you in wonder.
4. Having been around the block a few years, I now see love less like a feeling and more like a complex root system to be nurtured. While root systems can look similar, there is a multitude of plants out there and they can be quite different. Don’t worry how your “love” looks, concern yourself with what it needs in order to thrive.
5. If I were in charge of the world, and let’s face it, that doesn’t seem like a wise idea, but if I were in charge, I’d make core curriculum testing way less important than teaching young people how to think critically and trust their intuition. I would totally sign up for those classes today if anyone would please offer them.
6. It’s an ugly truth that “nap time” is eradicated from life just when we don’t resent it any longer.
7. Audacity is possibly the most underrated characteristic out there. If we all put on our Audacity Capes, we would achieve great feats of bravery and every one of us would change the world in a big way. Put on your cape. Please, for all our sakes.
8. We’d all feel a lot better if we never clicked on links to negative and outrageous stuff like, “Cute child stars who got ugly when they grew up.” Sure it’s a curiosity, but who amongst us would want someone clicking on a negative page about us? Scroll on by.
9. Choosing to believe in miracles and magic is simply more fun. Everyone should try just a bit of it.
10. I believe in love. I believe in laughter and dancing in the rain, by yourself or with someone you who sets your soul on fire. I believe if we were all taught true, pure, self-love, we could love each other better. I believe pettiness never was happiness and I believe the road to perfection is paved with embracing imperfection and simply being wildly and joyfully human.

Like, share, comment, tweet and hey, reach out if you’d like a little help along your own path. I’ve got some rockin’ cool stuff to help you along the way.

doctor lucy

God & The Psychiatrist ~ Michelle Church

When Mr Dreamboat went to jail I visited a light handful of times a therapist. Chosen based on her proximity to my home, it ended up that this was not the wisest way to find a therapist. But whatayagonnado?

The reason I ultimately stopped going wasn’t because I thought she wasn’t much help but because when I asked her for another appointment she said, “Oh, you’re coming back?”

So of course the answer had to be a resounding, “No. No I am not.” Jeez… You would have thought she at least liked my money…

Ironically I remember quite a lot of the things she told me. I didn’t think much of her therapeutic methods but she lingers with me to this day.

Possibly the most thought provoking idea Dr Local gave me was the idea that I needn’t do anything to be what I should be. Indeed, she suggested that I am what I am supposed to be.

There are images of “The Beautiful People” that haunt us. There are stories of brilliance and wealth and success that dogs each one of us to some degree or another.

And so we run faster, jump higher or we give up altogether and lay on the couch in surrender, clear that we will never, can never be what we should. It’s a sucky feeling and if you ask me which of those scenarios I mean is sucky, I would simply answer, “Yes. All of them.”

If you believe in God, and I personally think it’s more fun to do so, then it is easy to believe that he created you, with your quirks and imperfections, he created you perfectly.

Dr Local shocked me clear down to my PTSD socks that day and the truth is that I’ve been chewing on the idea ever since. Because I like it. And I believe it to be true. Or at least I try to believe it and for the brief moments when I achieve it, it is glorious and magical.

And I feel good. And I want you to feel just that way too.

Like, share, comment, tweet and slow down and be yourself.


A Rage Against Injustice

In the spirit of full disclosure and, even more so, a need to emotionally purge, I admit that Tuesday was a dark and ugly day. I had feelings, and they were not feelings I enjoyed feeling.

So that happened.

I know. I know you’re saying, hey, happens to the best of us. And this is true, but it was my day, so it was suckier for me.

It sucked in the way that is deep and mournful and so I listened to music that was melancholy and I didn’t answer my phone. When I did answer the phone I completely avoided honesty or any sort of transparency. Don’t judge.

Though I’m not sure it’s a scientifically proven method of mourning, it was effective and by the end of the evening (said mourning also included innocuous, anonymous swearing at other drivers and NCIS, which involves murder… good for the soul), I was feeling better, if not well.

By yesterday I was headed in the right direction but still had a bit of a lamentation hangover. I do not recommend it. Even to this moment there is a part of me not entirely myself. But here’s the deal;

First thing in the morning I scuttled into my car to take the man-cub to school and go off to my first appointment. It was then I got a big grin on my face and I felt… cared for.

The afternoon before, all full of pain and angst and the disappoint life inevitably sometimes brings us, I made myself stop and put gas in the car. A small act, but considering the way I was feeling, it was a bold move and one I was proud of.

When I turned they key of the car that next morning, I felt loved. Loved by the person that is always with me, and with a little practice, will always be there for me.

There’s no getting around the occasional dark day. In fact, if we only have them occasionally we’re doing rather well. And if we take the time to care for ourselves in deep and meaningful ways, those dark days won’t last so long.

There is emancipation in taking responsibility for how we feel. There’s a power to it that even the finest caregiver cannot grant us. And whether or not you choose to swear, watch blood and guts television or fill your car with gas, make sure you care for yourself in a way that is profound to you.

It’s the best way to feel loved, to feel well and ultimately to heal ourselves the best we can.

Like, share, comment, tweet and rage against injustice and GMO’s.


You Can Tell “The Man” To SUCK IT!

You should be pissed. I don’t normally prescribe “anger”, but for this, you should get kind of mad. My bet is that it will inspire you to action and that’s what we’re looking for here.

You see, somewhere along the way, someone, whether be default or design, told us to get realistic, stop dreaming and get on with the business of life. And this should make you angry. I know I’m totally pissed.

Just to be clear, this isn’t the kind of fury you ruminate upon. It’s just the kind where you realize there’s been an injustice and you take action to remove its blight from your world.

Let’s get a move on this.

Every week I work with amazing people, like yourself, and every week we throw our best efforts into creating dazzlingly fulfilling lives. Simple enough. Except for it’s not. Maybe life just got the best of you or perhaps you were told to tone down those dreams because you were a girl or flawed or whatever. And that, my friends, is crap.

Les Brown is famous for saying, “Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but that they aim too low and hit.”

It’s probably that too often in the past I found myself smack dab in the middle of that statement. Too busy with the work of life to dream of something better. It’s likely my life was so good that “great” seemed like too much to ask.

And then I got mad. The good kind of mad. The kind that says to “the man”, “You can suck it! I’m totally playing full out and if you don’t like it when I fail, that’s cool. Cuz soon enough you’re going to see me win!”

In the spirit of spreading the love, I just want to ask you one question. And before I ask you, I’m just gonna tell you straight out that it’s kind of hard to start dreaming when the dreaming stuffing has been kicked right out of you. It’s going to take some effort and practice, but I know you can do it.

Keep this question with you always and I promise it will change your life:

What life would I love?

And for my accelerated students:

Then take action toward that life.

Like, share, comment, tweet and you’re welcome:D


One Time I Was Killed In The Woods

Many years ago I found myself in the middle of the forest on Mount Hood well past midnight. By myself, I had nothing but a wind up flashlight and an active imagination. I also had an ear infection, effectively plugging my left ear so that no sound could be accurately tracked to its origin.

The ear infection was a huge boon to my imagination and the four of us, me, the dim flashlight, my ear infection and my imagination had a hell of an adventure dodging all the criminally mentally ill escapees roaming about that night.

I had been asked to play the part of a pioneer woman for a youth group and with my escorts un-well, I’d opted to go it alone rather than abort my mission. I was perhaps only a quarter of a mile up the trail when I heard an unidentified thump just behind me.

I whirled around, certain I was about come face to face with the man with the hook of scary campfire fame. And there was nothing. Nothing but my wildly beating heart.

Possibly it is my memory romanticizing the moment, but it seems to me now, that just then the clouds parted and I looked up to the most beautiful, bright moon I had ever seen, crowned by the tall and imperial trees. Though I am no scriptorian by anyone’s standards, just then a comforting scripture popped in my fear enflamed mind, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I have thought about that foolhardy night many times in the years that have past. I’ve thought about how silly and afraid I was. But most of all I’ve thought about being still. Being still and listening.

For much of my life I’ve tried to run to the next answer, do the next required thing and push away any feelings that weren’t “worthy” or “helpful”. Though I have thought of that night and that moment many times, I’ve rarely practiced what the scripture counseled.

How rarely we are still. How typical is it that we make our way with too little light and diminished senses. How often do we fill in the blanks of what we do not know with the most outlandish and improbable answers simply so we can say we know what the answers are?

Maybe the reason I’ve thought of that night so many times is that I need the message just as much now as I did then. It’s time to add it in to the practice.

Being still, how hard can it be? Right?

Like, share, comment, tweet and listen to the silence.

pansy and snow

The Winter That Would Not End ~ Michelle Church

The weather here in North America has been nothing short of surprising this past winter. Maybe if I’d checked the Farmer’s Almanac I totally would have seen it coming.

My friends in the Northeast were pummeled, humbled and frozen by the wrath of the angriest weather gods, while those of us on the west coast enjoyed what was the mildest winter in years. There were days so blissfully temperate I thought I’d gone to heaven.

Just yesterday I saw a picture of one of my friends celebrating the opening of the lovely gardens near her home. She did so in the snow. Spring has sprung, but perhaps only technically, depending on where you live.

And so it goes most years. We are at the mercy of the weather, we are caught by surprise, by the fickle nature of existance.

One of the benefits of getting older is that regardless of the weather we may be experiencing in the moment, we’ve come to recognize patterns. We might be freezing our toes off and barely able to remember what the sun looks like, but we remember it. We recall it fondly and we know from experience it will come again.

The last few months before Mr Dreamboat returned from Rock & Roll Camp were simply grueling. If my life had been expressed in the form of weather, it was the coldest and longest winter on record. Apocalyptic even.

As the days until his return shortened and we were advised of his release date, there came a time when it was almost impossible to believe that he would ever return to me. Winter, it seemed, might never, ever end.

Once I realized I had these feelings I simply took myself through the logical process of it all. As crazy as it sounds, I sat myself down, not just once, but every time my faith began to fail, and remembered that every single year of my life there has been a July 23rd. Not once have we skipped that date in all the years I’ve been alive.

This year would be no different.

As sure as the sun is to rise, as sure as spring follows winter and July 23rd rolls around every single year, the things with which we struggle, they too will wane. It is a gift that is sometimes hard to remember, but is ever so.

Spring has sprung quite a lot early here on the Young Family Ranch. Every day when the sun shines and the trees blossom, I am caught up in the delight. And as sure as it has come to my house, no matter what you might be feeling in this moment, it will come to yours too.

Like, share, comment, tweet and “Be still and know…”


Far Better Things Ahead

It is said that if we are depressed we are living in the past and if we are anxious we are living in the future. Or maybe we’re depressed because we’re living in a future in which we have no faith. I don’t know. I don’t know who said it and further, I don’t know if there was any credibility to it.

But it sounds right…

Most of the time I am living in the present and it is here they say one finds peace. Or was it peaches? Depending on the season.

It is definitely not living in the past I’m experiencing, but I admit I have lots of anxiety about the future. This future I am imagining, it’s full of new things I’ve never done before and many of which I’ve never even dreamed before. As such, you can imagine it’s pretty scary sometimes, what with new baby dreams running around making a ruckus in my mind.

Because I don’t know what I’m doing I spend quite a lot of mental energy trying to figure it all out. Well, at least I try to figure out the next few steps. And from all these mental acrobats, I think I have a few, just a few things, I do know for sure.

What I know for sure is that our plates are only so big. Once we’ve filled up the metaphorical plates of our lives, if we want to add in something else, we’ve got to clear something off that plate. Historically I probably would have tried to eat it, but experience has shown us this will only result in a stomachache and regret.

If we want something new in our lives something old has to go. What I’m finding is that the person I want to become wouldn’t have room for some of the Old Michelle things. Things like time wasters, keeping up appearances and empty relationships.

If we want to live lives we’ve never lived, we have to make choices we’ve never made and think thoughts we’ve never yet entertained.

Recently there have been days that have worn me out so thoroughly, I long for the comforts of the past. And then I remember living there would be depressing. There are times I am so perplexed by how I am to do the things I plan to do that I become anxious and sometimes overwhelmed.

But when I live right here in this moment and I remember to do what I can with what I have and start exactly where I am, it is then I can imagine living a life that simply astonishes me.

And you have to ask yourself, Why not?

Like, share, comment, tweet and dare to be the best you imaginable.

michelle & mary on stage