Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A lesson in Human-ness

Every year, the Sun-Tues before Thanksgiving, my family goes to volunteer at a food bank hosted by a local church. We do not attend church, but we began going there 9 years ago as a community service project of our 4-H group. Though we are no longer with this 4-H club, we still go as a family, one day my husband takes the kids (on his only day off), and I take them the other days.

Every year, just like this morning. I drag myself out of bed and consider if “I really have to go…or can I just drop you off?”. I know, it sounds terrible, but it is the truth.

Yet, every year when I am done with this 5 hours shift, my heart is full and I am grateful that I went.  The people who host this food bank are above kind, they treat everyone that comes with such kindness & dignity, I am honored to be part of this.

It is the people that I meet, the people who are so thankful & interesting. The stories I hear touch my heart, and sometimes bring tears to my eyes. I get hugs, and am blessed several times a day.

Today I worked as a personal shopper in the boutique. This is where people can browse for warm coats and clothes. This morning, it actually cooled off and began to rain, so people came looking for warm covers. A few hours in an elderly couple handed me their slip. As I escorted them in and explained our procedure, they were speaking a foreign language, but I could not pinpoint it. When I asked the man, who was very well dressed, he said: “I am from Iraq.”
Me: “How long  have you been here?”
“One year and 3 weeks.”
He looks at me, and says:”We had to flee Iraq. I am a doctor….” and with that he began telling me his family’s story. One day, “they” broke into his house and almost beat his wife (who was standing next to me) to death. A neighbor heard her screams and intervened while they called him to come home. The intruders eventually left. He said they packed their things and left 48 hours later. Forever.
“I had to leave everything. My clinic, my equipment, my EKG machine…just everything. Our house & belongings, car…”

I could see the tears well up in his eyes. Then  he began telling me of his sons. One went to Australia as a refugee, and was studying there. The rest of the family applied for Australia, but was not accepted. He told me how he could not work here in the U.S., since his credentials do not count, and he would have to get his licenses, etc. I could see how all this pained him.

I looked at him and began telling him a bit of my story. My grandparents came to the U.S. as refugees, from an area called Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a piece of country that has swayed between Poland, Russia, and Germany over its existance.  They too had to leave their possessions, properties, etc, to be seized by the government. But they survived here, and built a very comfortable life in L.A.

Everything I had on credentials and expertise was pretty much useless when I moved here. All those years of schooling, all those diplomas & certificates, were nothing but mere pieces of paper. I started working for $5 something an hour….

There were many more stories today,  but I wanted to share this one. I wanted to put a human behind “those refugees” you are hearing about every day. My family were refugees.

Please do not let the extremists kill the one thing they do not have, and want to attack: Our human kindness & compassion.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Death sucks

Death sucks.

Death means something is taken away, and you can never get it back. Physically, anyways. My saving grace in dealing with death is that I still get to "feel" my loved ones periodically. Not on my schedule, of course.

It has been three weeks since my dog, and spirit animal, Rex was mysteriously and quickly taken from me. He was not ill, or old (he was 9), and this happened in a matter of hours. It left a huge hole in my heart. It also left a huge empty space in our house (he was well over 100lbs) and our everyday lives. I was just looking for some pictures of furniture we are selling and came across the many pictures of Rex I took. He was a gorgeous animal, with so much spirit in his eyes. It just takes someone mentioning him, or me seeing pictures, and the tear gate is open. It still makes me so sad.

With that said, I did not want another dog right away. My kids, who feel this loss as much as I do, just in a different way, did. My daughter is in Europe now, the child was not able to say good-bye to her dog. She said she knew, and is dealing with it in her own, almost grown up way. My son was so sad, Rex took his last breaths in our arms.

I tried to cope by donating our food, etc to a Shepard Rescue. The first time I went on there to get their contact info, I saw Valor. A few  minutes later, my daughter sends me a picture of: Valor.  We were all drawn to him.  After a week, my son and I decided to go meet him at his foster home. He sent his sister pictures and videos, they already knew he was ours.

The next day, Valor was brought to our house.

He came with a packet of undisclosed medical history, as well as "I was just informed that the vomits every time he eats so they gave him Pepcid". No wonder he looked so skinny to me.

To make a long story short, to chagrin of my husband, we kept him...on a two to three week trial. It may sound harsh, but I was not in the emotional, or financial position to take on a sick dog.

I immediately put him on what I felt was the right diet for him, which included quality food without grain, coconut oil, probiotics, and tuna fish. I threw the Pepcid in the trash.  He has not thrown up once.

The first day was hard, but when I woke up to licks on the second morning, I knew we made the right choice.  He is the sweetest dog. Even though he has had major surgery, and was mauled by another dog (that is why he is so scarred and his ears are serrated), and all this other stuff, he is strangely balanced. Don't get me wrong, start running outside, and you get a two year old wild shepherd. He balances out my son's wild energy by matching it with his own. He checks in with me periodically, and jumps into my lap when he feels me being sad. Every once in a while, he sneaks into my daugther's bed, waiting for her to come home.

Our dogs have always come to us for certain reasons, every one has left a mark and taught us something.

Valor has come to heal, and to heal our hearts.

P.S. Please look into a shelter or rescue if you are looking for a dog! The Shepherd Rescues have so many great dogs, 2-3 years old. That is when the cute little puppy turns into a beligerent teen who needs a strong Alpha to guide them. Just like humans. If you get a puppy, please choose your breed wisely.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

It's been real

On Thursday morning, my dog, my spirit animal, died in my arms.

I have spent the last 48 hours grieving, I am heartbroken. I am angry.

His death was sudden, and we are still trying to figure out what happened. We believe it may have been a reaction to a vaccine. As I do more research, I will post. For today, if I can get one thing out there, PLEASE be as diligent about vaccines for your pets as you are with your children. Research, and only let them administer one at a time.

Rex was my companion, and he came to teach me a lesson. Patience.

My daughter wrote a beautiful piece about how he came into our lives. 
We were actually just going to "look" at the dogs. When we walked up to the junky yard, he came straight up to us. I picked him up, my husband paid $20 for him, and we drove home with him in my lap. No plan. When we got home, my then 16 year old dog Caesar looked at us like were crazy.

So the adventure began. We had ourselves a puppy covered in fleas, unsocialized, and already showing neurotic behavior. He whined & bit us. My older dog wanted nothing to do with him. I started reading books by Ceasar Milan, and the Monks of New Skete. We bought him a crate, and I wondered why "crate training" was not in my life before.

He grew right before my eyes, and slowly began to trust us. We were told he was aggressive, neurotic, etc.......We already claimed him, and there was no going back.

I had to learn how to be an Alpha Dog. I had to learn patience.

For 9 years, I had the most fantastic dog. He was a big bear, loving & sweet. Protective. Gorgeous. People would stop us all the time, little children were fascinated by his size & fluffy fur.

He was my spirit animal. 
I will miss him dearly.
We love you, Rex

Friday, October 02, 2015

A new ADULT in the house!

Today my "baby" turns 18.

She is "officially" an adult :). What does that mean? Not sure, but it does mean she can now VOTE instead of just collecting the "I VOTED" stickers! In my family, becoming an adult does not give you much transitioning klout, we "kids" are all in our 40's & 50's, and all still listen to our parents!

Even though she will always be my baby, today is the day we will celebrate her new title: ADULT. She is in Europe right now, traveling with her Oma (haha!! she already appreciates me so much more. You thought I was strict??), so this day is bitter sweet. It is the first time she is not with us on her birthday, and it is a bit weird.

So I will reflect and celebrate her from afar.

I made a pretty cool human. I remember vividly when they plopped her on my belly, and she stared RIGHT into my eyes. Talk about an instinct awakening in my soul. At that moment I knew I would protect this little creature with my life. That was about the only thing I knew about parenthood, and the rest of her childhood went on with trial & error.

Instead of nursery rhymes I read her the Greek Myths :). One day she looked at me and said: "I am Athena".  From then on, she was Justina Athena, and to this day I think the right Goddess chose her.

one of my favorite pictures, take
She has always been head strong & confident. She was raised by, and around very strong women, and that shows in everythng she does. When she wants something, she makes it happened. She is the poster child of the Law of Attraction. Taking her out of school in 4th grade & homeschooling was the perfect path, and it opened up so many opportunities for her. 

I admit, I made some questionable parenting choices at times, but look what happened! She has turned out to be an exceptional human, and I could not be more proud. She is hilarious & intelligent, loves to talk, and adventurous.

 Plus, she doesn't take any shit.

What else could a Mama want??

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Food Is my Friend

Recently, I was out to have a beer and some pub food with a friend. When our gorgeous food came (fries loaded with meat, jalapeno's, & CHEESE!!!), I arranged my plate and snapped a picture.

"Are you food blogging now?" asks my friend.


Looking at my Instagram, you would think I do nothing but eat and drink beer & wine all the time :). I could have a worse reputation.

I am by no means a food blogger, nor do I want to be. They do some hard work, that involves lots of
prep & editing.

I just love food. I love to eat. I think "pretty" food is marvelous, and I think we have lost the art of eating. Everyone is so busy watching everything they eat, there is no more joy in enjoying food.

A short while ago, I decided I would no longer villianize food. I was getting into the flow of : watching for wheat, does it have soy?, are there preservatives, IS IT FROM CHINA????,  is it local, bla bla bla. The foods I ate as an alternative tasted blah. I was eating plainly to subside my hunger, not enjoying the food. And I was not feeling good. Food was making me feel blah.

I am going to throw in here that I was tested for a gluten intolerance, and according to that test, wheat should be my friend. To my best knowledge, I do not have any serious food allergies or issues.

I have decided to eat the foods my body craves. If it wants bread, I will either bake it myself from the best ancient grain or wheat flour I can find, or buy really expensive sourdough bread (which, btw, has fluctuating consequences for me). Same goes for pasta. If I want nothing but meat all day, I will eat nothing but meat. I find that I LOVE eating something bold & spicy, then something sweet, then bold & spicy......you get the picture. I have gone away from "food pyramid" eating to "instinct eating".  I no longer follow any diet. I get ideas from paleo bloggers, because that matches closest to how I eat.  I love raw milk, CHEESE!!!, eggs, and SUGAR :).

I have learned to avoid foods that my body does not like. Just stay open, your body tells you when something is not working, even if it is "healthy", or if you have eaten it all your life.  For example, my body does not love chicken right now. I have a freezer full of chickens we raised and harvested ourselves, yet my body does not want it. It does want beef, and pork only in form of bacon, prosciutto, & dry salami. And lots of fish, much of it coming out of little cans. I eat tuna, herring, and sardines, lots of them. Right now I am not loving kales & greens, but that could change as it gets colder. Salads are daily.

Since I have stopped looking at food as my enemy, my body feels better. My spirit is dancing, because it LOVES to eat!

To get back to my Instagram pictures. I don't prepare special meals, what you see is what I eat :). I think that is why my food pictures get the most likes (apart from the many pictures of my chickens or my dog!), they are authentic. I think people can feel the joy that food is bringing me, and they like seeing happy food.

So my friends, go talk to your food! Listen to your body, eat freely, live healthy!

P.S. If you want to follow my food, and the rest of my daily adventure, log into Instagram :).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fly little baby, FLY!!! And make your Mama cry!

Today I saw my "baby" off for a 3 month trip to Europe.

I just about died. I put my treasure, my little cohort, on a plane to go across the planet by herself. We have spent the last (almost) 18 years together almost every day. I homeschooled!!

Now I am watching her plane, 33K feet in the air, and am excited about all the things she will get to see! She will get to taste my favorite foods, see all the places I would tell her about, throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain.........

Yet, with all this excitement, I am not sure I am ready to let my baby venture away yet. The realization that she will turn 18 in a few weeks is unreal. Time has passed so quickly!

What I do know is that I have raised an excellent human! She is confident, smart, open-minded and good hearted. She is hilarious, but can be a serious support if needed.

I can't wait to see her millions of Instagram pictures & blog posts! You can follow her travel adventures  on Instagram under "abentpieceofwire".

P.S. Born and raised in the USA. She made sure she would be home for Thanksgiving :).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Goddess Holiday Gift Guide!

Republished from Nov. 24th, 2013. Classics are timeless :). 

It's that time of year!

I LOVE the Holiday season :). I also stopped buying expensive gifts years ago, and that seems to be part of the stress people feel. This year, I am your Goddess Elf, and I will help you put together some FANTASTIC gifts, or give you some ideas, incorporating my Witches & Goddesses :). During the month of November & December, you will also receive a sample of my favorite Root Tea to warm you up & nourish your body, and with each order you place on my Etsy store, you will receive a $5 coupon to use on your next order :).

#1 Vintage Dreams

Together with the lovely Adella, this makes a great gift for your lovelies that are intrigued by history, enjoy shabby chic, have an old kitchen like mine :), or are gypsyish.

A great place to find accessories for the Kitchen Witch of your choice is estate sales or thrift shops. You could find an old blue mason jar, and put your favorite recipe in, or some cool kitchen tools. Linens are always wonderful. I always check for rips & stains. Usually, a good soaking in Oxyclean & hot wash gets out any stains. Embroidered tablecloths are my favorite finds, just think of all the love that went into them :). The one in the picture was embroidered by my Oma.

"Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in the background is one of the early additions that I found in a garage box at a sale for $1! Remember to dig around at estate sales, the treasures are often hidden and waiting for the right person :). If you can't find it, you can always order a new copy :).

#2 The Green Witch

Do you have a Green Witch in your life? You can pair the crafty Louinda up with one, or all, of these great witchy items. Find some old herb books at the thrift store, or order one of my favorites:
1. The Real Witches Kitchen
2. The Way of the Green Witch 
3. The Book of Herb Cookery (this one is out of print, but it may find you at a library sale :).)

Add a mortar for grinding herbs (these come in so many shapes & sizes! I like stone or ceramic), or some wonderful packs of herbs & spices. Make a special tea mix for your Witch, or you can order my favorite Root Tea, mixed by me, via Herbmagik (when available!).

Each of these gift ideas could also be paired with a beautiful vintage apron. Just make sure it has pockets!

#3 The Fermenter or Health Nut

 Creating bubbly concoctions is the thrill of any Kitchen Witch, and if they are fermented, they are super fabulous for your health :). Pair the vivacious Frederika with some bubbly temptations!

1 . Wild Fermentation. Definitely a must for all new & seasoned fermenters. Love the simplicity of the recipes, perfect for first timers.
Must I say more? Another must have! Not only does it have fabulous recipes, it is full of valuable information & explanations. Plus, it is pretty :).
3. Share a Kombucha scoby and a recipe for your favorite kombucha!
3. Make sourdough starter and share a jar with your favorite bread recipe.
4. Add a tea mix you make, or order the Root Tea I mix here :).
5. All you need is cabbage & a mason jar, and you an make your sauerkraut! Pickle-Biotic Home Fermentation Kit  makes it simple.

#4 The Goddess!

I may be bias, but I believe every woman (and girl!) needs a Goddess!
A Goddess makes a wonderful gift for yourself, a young girl, or another woman that you love. While supplies last, each one will come in a cloth pouch (pattern is a surprise, I make them from beautiful fabrics I find on my treasure hunts :).)
My book, "Musings from the Goddess Within", has short stories, anecdotes, and musings from 3 generations of women. You can see excerpts here. If you order a Goddess, you can get a copy of my book for a special price of $8. Just add "BOOK" to the comments when you order the Goddess, and I will add it to your invoice & order.

Don't forget to check my Etsy store for other great treasures, such as vintage cowboy boots, angels, Vitches, & more! 

If you are sending a gift, I will be more than happy to include a card with a personal message from you. You can choose from a traditional Christmas card, or something more eclectic. Below are some examples.

I hope you enjoyed this gift guide, and don't forget to spoil YOURSELF!!

Much love,

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