Sweet Land of Liberty

What does patriotism mean to you as an American?  Loyalty to your country at all costs, appreciation for the people in the past who worked and spoke and fought for freedom, a tingly feeling when you sing the national anthem, devotion to the ideals of equality and freedom?  Gratitude that your ancestors were able to emigrate here to obtain freedom and opportunity, love for the beauty and grandeur of this great land, thankfulness that we’re not like some of the “awful “people in other parts of the world?

Oh, I understand many of those feelings, and I feel the love and gratitude also.  Recent troubling conversations made me rethink the idea of patriotism though.  If our love and loyalty stop at the borders of our house or city or state or country, what kind of people does that make us?  I’m not even talking about the idea of immigration here.  I’m talking about an attitude of the heart.  We certainly want an orderly nation where people who consistently work hard are rewarded for their work and where honesty and integrity are admirable qualities we want to model for our young people.

It’s our attitudes that put us at risk though and our severe divisiveness that seems to get more severe all the time.  It’s also our refusal to look at some of the things going on in our country because it’s “un-American” to question attitudes or policies.

I know that “all we need is love” sounds like a hippie or airy-fairy phrase which to some people has no connection to the real world.  However, I would have to disagree.  When we look through the lens of love, we see a different world than when looking through a lens of disconnectedness and fear.  Can we desire for everyone else the good we desire for ourselves?  Can we look past surface behavior to the root cause underneath?  Can we open our hearts beyond our families and those who look or sound like us?  Can we stop looking, even for a little while, at what’s wrong with people and start looking at ourselves and our beliefs and behavior?  Can we stop thinking it’s patriotic to defend things we would quickly condemn if they were coming from somewhere else?

Things won’t change overnight, but they will never change if we don’t change.  I’m not saying we never defend our country or don’t show pride in being an American.  But what is that pride all about?  Being exclusive, killing the larger number of our enemies, having the most and best stuff?  Or opening our hearts, figuring out ways to respect and honor all life, taking good care of the magnificent land we are privileged to live on?

It has to start with a way of thinking.  People often say that America is a Christian nation, but Jesus himself wouldn’t recognize many of our ideas as coming from anything he taught while on this earth.  It takes a strong, visionary person to see the possibilities when we awaken to what love really means, and it’s going to take a lot of those people to get us past the stage we are in now.  And not just Americans, but people from all nations, ages, and walks of life.  I consider myself an American and am thankful for that, but I also consider myself a citizen of the world and I know that every life in that world is just as valuable as my own.  So, yes, love your country and its people, but base it on a love for freedom, equality, integrity, and opportunity (and then work to make that a reality), and not on a hatred of others.


Harmony Health Coaching – A New Way of Looking at Health

How do you define health?  Having everything within normal limits at your annual physical?  Feeling good enough to do what you need to do?  The absence of disease?

All of these are great and do enter into a picture of good health.  But I think there’s more:

Do you wake up feeling rested on most days and feeling positive about your life?

Most of the time are you able to identify and express your feelings?

Are you able to let go of old resentments and regrets and move on with your life?

Is healthy pleasure a regular part of your life?

Are you able to live an authentic life and do you have people in your life who appreciate you for who you are?

Do you feel you have enough time each day to devote at least 1/2 hour to yourself and your well-being?

Do you take the time to really taste and enjoy your food?

Do you give and receive affection from friends, children, a partner, a pet?

We can no longer separate physical health from the health of our minds and our spirits.  Everything we think, say, and do affects everything else, and we need to bring it all into harmony to achieve real wellness.

That’s why I love the name of Joleen Hyde’s business, Harmony Health Coaching.  I think she recognizes the importance of balance and harmony in our lives and works to help her clients achieve this.

While I feel we are fortunate to have easy access to medical services in this country, it is often our daily habits and lifestyle that undermine our health.  Doctors might tell us to lose weight, cut back on sugar, or incorporate exercise into our lives, but they don’t usually have the time to deal with the whys and the hows.  And doctors receive 25 or less hours of nutrition study in medical school, so, unless they do a lot of studying on their own, it can be hard for them to give nutritional advice.

Some of us just need to be pointed in the right direction, some of us need a little more motivation or someone to walk with us and keep us accountable, some of us lead extremely stressful lives and haven’t a clue how to get a handle on it, and many of us just don’t have the time to do all the research to know which foods to eat, which ones to avoid, or how to avoid chemicals in our cleaning and personal care products.

Health coaches have a genuine desire to help people become healthier, overcome bad habits, and get to a weight that’s right for them.  Joleen went to school to become an LPN and then went back to school intending to become an RN.  She then became interested in holistic health and changed directions.  She studied through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition for a year to become a certified health coach, graduating in 2011.  Her business is based in Redwood Falls.

You won’t usually find a physician who can sit down with you for an hour every two weeks for six months to talk with you about your lifestyle and eating habits and formulate a plan to help you improve your health.  Joleen will also do individual hourly sessions and a 3-month plan where you meet with her weekly.

She’s big on stress reduction and even does a stress reduction day at a local winery where you can relax in beautiful surroundings and do a wine tasting if you desire.  From talking with Joleen it’s easy to see that she believes in helping people see that they are worth a little TLC, and she helps them to incorporate that into their lives.

She also encourages people to eat local, fresh food as much as possible, and she attempts to help people with sugar addiction, an issue she and I both believe is so prevalent in this country where sugar is hidden in many processed foods.

In my experience, people often seem to want a pill or a quick fix to make a health issue go away, or they just don’t know where to begin. Creating better health is often simple, but it isn’t necessarily quick.  We’ve formed a lot of habits over the years, and it takes some time and dedication to learn new habits and motivation to stick with them.  That’s where people like Joleen come in.  She’s gentle, but knowledgeable, practical, and encouraging.

Some of the simple things she works with her clients on are breath awareness, journaling, and just encouraging them to sit down at a table when eating, and eating slowly.  These are simple strategies but they can make a huge difference.

Today we know that 60-90% of doctor visits are stress-related so it makes so much sense to learn to reduce and deal with the stress in our lives.  Just being around someone like Joleen who is caring and compassionate, and spending an hour talking and being heard would be a great first step.  Then her knowledge and practical help can get clients moving to reduce stress and take better care of themselves.

When I asked Joleen what would be three pieces of advice she would give people to improve their health, her answers were:  Slow down, love more, and keep learning.  Now when we know that everything we do affects our physical health, from the thoughts we think to forgiving someone who has wronged us, I can’t think of any better advice than that.

Joleen’s website is http://www.harmonyhealthcoaching.com.  You can email her at harmonyhealth@newulmtel.net.


A New and Living Way



Do you ever have a stirring deep inside you that whispers the message, “The world doesn’t have to be this way”?  Do you ever get really uncomfortable over certain things in our society that are harmful but accepted as normal or “just the way it is”?  Do you ever take the time to contemplate a different way of living, of being?

If you could answer yes to any of these, you are certainly not alone.  Your heart is telling you that a different world is possible.

A more equal world

A more healthy world

A world with more reverence for people, animals, nature, the food we eat, and the goods we produce

A more sane world

A world where varieties of skin color and many other differences are considered amazing and beautiful

A world where being honest, vulnerable, compassionate, and creative is considered so much more important than the house you live in or the car you drive

A world where the question “Is this life enhancing?” is more important than “How much revenue will this generate?”

A world where justice asks the questions “Who was harmed?”, “How do we make things right?”, and “How do we heal and move forward?”

A world where food is actually raised to produce and maintain health for us and the land

A world where children never have to go hungry or without a place to live or someone to love and nurture them

A world where children are encouraged to respect all and taught to think for themselves and use the wealth within them in service to the world because that is where real joy is found

A world that is focused as much on producing health as treating disease

A world where each person realizes their own intrinsic value and the value of all others

We’ve always had the knowledge to live this way somewhere deep inside of us.  Many people over the centuries have brought out bits and pieces of this message.  The world wasn’t ready to receive it, but I believe more and more people are now ready, and it is spreading.

This new way is a “living way”.

It is life-enhancing                                                                                                                  It is life-affirming                                                                                                                    It is life-giving                                                                                                                          It is life-sustaining

And there are people who are walking in it as they are led by the voice inside their hearts.  I don’t know if all of them would agree with my wording, but I believe that they are bringing the Kingdom of Heaven that is within them to the outside world, and I believe it is something we all can do.

When we take that deep stirring, longing, and desire that we have inside and use it to make the world better for everyone in our own unique way, we’re helping to usher in a new and living way.  It takes courage, faith,  and a willingness to examine what we are thinking and doing.  It takes waking up to the realization that the things we say and do, even the little things, matter.

I’ll be writing more about this, and I hope to include others in the conversation, people who care and are making a difference, people who inspire me with their amazing gifts and their desire to use them for the good of those around them.  It’s so easy to say “that’s a nice dream but not really possible”.  I’d much rather spend my time doing what is possible and being around people who are doing the same.  I hope you’ll join me.





Compassion in Action – light in the darkness of 9-11

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“Everyone was wide open, but then they crusted over again.”   These words were spoken by someone living in New York City, describing the days and weeks following the 9-11 tragedy.  He goes on to say, “People loved that tender we’re- in- this- together feeling, however awful the cause.  But they couldn’t quite hang onto it.”

Marc Ian Barasch in his book,  Field Notes on the Compassionate Life, tells another story of a man who worked at the site of the fallen towers.  “Like so many workers at the Site, he had been overwhelmed by the carnage, sinking to the curb after his first night, under the savagely bright arc lamps, his head cradled in his hands.  ‘That’s when the Salvation Army kids appeared’, he remembers, ‘in their sneakers with their pink hair and their belly buttons showing and bandanas tied around their faces.  They came with water and cold towels and took my boots off and put dry socks on my feet.

And then, when I got to Houston Street, a bunch more of these kids, all pierced and tattooed with multicolored hair, had made a little makeshift stage.  They started to cheer as we came out, and that was it for me.  I never identified with those people before, but I started crying, and I cried for four blocks.  I can’t tell you – I was taken so off guard.’

Near the site, St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church became a haven, became “a church dedicated only to the fruits of compassion.  In place of stations of the cross, the enactment of Christ’s tortured journey, there were instead what one called “stations of compassion” that grew to include gourmet meals and clothing, massage therapists, and grief counselors.  Everything was donated in a spirit that people who were there still remark upon.  ‘Everybody who walked in that door experienced the same amount of love’, recalls one volunteer.  ‘It didn’t matter who they were.  It was so unconditional and so overpowering.  And when you were there, you knew that every creature in that room was loved as much as you were – and you were loved more than anybody.  I mean, there was no quantity to it.’

Food was given out ‘like Communion, with this love and goodwill that humbled you, this phenomenal trust and generosity that made you feel embarrassed, almost humiliated.’  Few of us, it seems, feel deserving of uncontingent goodness, yet here it was in flagrant abundance.  Maybe it was embarrassing to know, really know, that it had been there all along, free for the taking, and the giving.”

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A man who owned a restaurant in NYC said ” I learned that what mattered most was not being important, but belonging.”  A fireman said, about coming to St. Paul’s Chapel, “I come in that door, dirty, covered with blood, angry, pissed off, and they hug me.  They welcome me like I’m a real person.  They treat me like a human being.  And then after they hug me, they feed me, they massage me, they counsel me, and I sit here and listen to incredible music.  I come here every day not just for the hugs and the food.  This is where God is.  And these are my people.  This is my new family.  It’s the greatest sense of God’s presence I have ever known.”

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Another man commented, “I felt this deep, deep sense of human pain that I don’t remember I had ever felt.  I think the common denominator is the breakdown of your ego to a place of vulnerability.  We are brought up to think we all want to be happy and comfortable and up and that’s what we’re programmed to go for.  And I don’t think anybody in their right mind would want to go for the other.  But when you have been put there, you become aware that you can relate to others who have been there as well.”

One more paragraph from the book:  “With that connection, all barriers seemed to tumble.  Jews from a nearby synagogue helped celebrate the Eucharist.  A clergyman laughs at the memory.  ‘You did the what?’ I asked them.  ‘Yep’, they said.  ‘We did.  This is our church too’.  It was a full service chapel for everybody.  Even the atheists were happy.”

I just “happen” to be reading this chapter in this book on this day 9-11-14, and I just “happen” to have been reminded of a quote yesterday that says, “We can either be pulled by a vision or pushed by pain”.  The incredible, deep pain of that day in 2001 pushed people together in a common bond and brought an outpouring of love the likes of which most people had never seen before.  These stories are tragic but heart-warming and seem to be the only thing that made that time bearable for the people who experienced it.

It seems inevitable and even good in a way that things get “back to normal”.  Businesses need to be run, books written, children taught, cars repaired.    Could we at least use this day though to remember that we’re all in this together?  Could we possibly even extend that idea to people beyond our borders?  Could we open our hearts a little more, maybe a lot more, remind ourselves of the truths that people discover when their world has been torn apart – that compassion, belonging, love, and acceptance are the important things in life, that barriers come down when we forge a connection with one another?  Can we be pulled by a common vision of respect, unity, and love for all people, even when we have to take action sometimes to protect ourselves or stop the actions of people who don’t yet understand or accept that vision?  It seems the least we can do to honor those who lost their lives that tragic day.

Unlock Your Hidden Artist

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I am not a nostalgic person.  I have some fond memories from my early childhood, but most of the years after that until I was in my mid- twenties I would not want to relive.  Maybe that’s why I have almost an aversion to clothing, hairstyles, and especially music from the 1960’s and 70’s.  I also am not one to pine for the “good old days” because I know that even though we live in sometimes difficult and challenging times, the years prior to these times were what led up to the world we now live in.  Yes, maybe people were more respectful, life was slower-paced, and families stayed together, but far too many things were hidden and fear was often the impetus behind society’s virtues.  I believe that hidden things need to be revealed, and respect, love, and loyalty need to be extended for the right reasons before we can move forward as a society.  

With all that being said, I do have to say that I love old, solid, lasting things – things built with love and care that have a history and have stood the test of time.  I love the character of really old buildings and furniture and appreciate items made by hand.  As I was changing the bedding this morning, I reached for these pillowcases that I found in an antique store last year.  They are probably not that old, and I don’t think they had ever been used.  The fabric is so soft, and the handwork just lovely.  I like to think about the person who took the time to embellish the pillowcases and thank them for the special touch.


I also found this little “doily” that someone put a lot of time and effort into creating.



I don’t use it, and I just have it in a closet, but I couldn’t resist the clever way it was made.  Maybe someday I’ll find someone who appreciates things like this, and I’ll be able to give them a gift.

I don’t have many things from my family’s past, but I do have the yo-yo quilt that my grandma made.  When I was first married, I used this quilt as a bed covering and washed it a few times, so it is in need of repair, but still so pretty.  I had it on my bed as a child and would look at each circle and try to pick my favorite.  Each circle probably came from my grandmother’s or her daughter’s worn-out clothing – what a history is in that quilt!


Today as I prepare to make homemade soap, I think about the fact that many of the things made by hand in the past were done out of necessity.  People put their own personal, creative touches on many of the things they made, but they often didn’t have a choice about making them.  Now even though there aren’t many things we can’t buy somewhere,  it is perhaps therapeutic and worthwhile for us to create something.  I don’t sew, knit, or crochet, but I love to create a pretty garden, and I enjoy crafting bath and body products out of natural ingredients.  The process of creating is beneficial in so many ways, I think.  Problems are solved and ideas generated as we work with our hands, and nothing compares to the satisfaction of seeing something we have ourselves made.  

As I write this, I am looking out my window at two neighbors working in their gardens.  As they wield their hoes and bend to pull those weeds, I’m sure cobwebs are being cleared from their minds, and the birdsong in the air is making the cells in their bodies sing!  A bit poetic maybe, but I believe it’s true, and I encourage you to work with your hands and create something soon.  Put your heart into it, and you can truly consider yourself an artist! 













Things I Wish I Had Told My Children

Hopefully I gave my kids some decent advice.  Looking back, it’s hard to remember just what I told them besides the typical nagging and warnings.  As I walked today, I thought of a few things that I wish I had said, but to be honest I couldn’t have said because I didn’t know them myself. Here goes:

You are equipped with everything you need to live the life before you.

Life will not always seem fair.  People will not always be kind.  Keep an open heart as much as possible.  Forgive, even if it takes a long time.  Walk away when necessary.

Difficulties will come into your life.  You have what it takes to get through them, overcome them, or transform them.  You will get stronger and better in the process.

It’s o.k. to feel sad, angry, or confused.  They’re just feelings and will pass.  If you can’t figure out and fix what is causing those feelings, don’t be afraid to just feel them.  The same humanness that allows you to feel them will also allow you to feel happiness, gratitude, and delight.

When you mess up and make mistakes, take responsibility for them.  It’s not the end of the world.  All people make mistakes.  Apologize if appropriate;  repair or restore if you can.  People respect people who are accountable for their words and actions.

The world is a beautiful place,  full of wonder and mystery.  God made it that way and meant for us to enjoy it and take care of it.  Try not to take its beauty for granted or become cynical or jaded.  Every day look for something to be grateful for.

Follow your heart, be kind and honest, know that you have great worth but stay humble because everyone else does too.  Work hard, especially at the things that matter to you, but don’t be afraid of idle times – they are necessary for a balanced life.  Remember that people are more important than things – nurture your relationships, and, unless they are causing physical or emotional pain, accept people for who they are – the way you want to be accepted. Accept and love yourself.

Love matters most.