Swinging that blue lightsaber

A wise friend of mine said once, “some days it all comes down to whether you’re swinging a red, or a blue lightsaber.”

He was talking about the basic question of whether you will be a force for good or bad.  Will you be self centered or generous?  Gloomy or sunny?  Will you give or will you take?

Some days the world seems so depleted.  It’s amazing how little it takes to give a bit back.  I’m not even talking about charities, money, volunteer work or anything like that.  Those things are great, but it takes so little effort to spread some cheer around.

Today I wrote a letter, a real actual letter, on paper with a pen, and I mailed it to my favorite blog.  I sincerely thanked the founders for all they have done to enrich my life.  I’d been meaning to do that for a couple of years now and it’s embarrassing to recall how long it took me to finally do it.  Just one sheet of paper, and envelope and a stamp – but it was a swing of the saber, and a shot against the darkness.

A sincere thank you goes such a long way.  My current job is so much better than the one I had last year, and much of that is because I feel appreciated.  A smile in the grocery store, letting someone into traffic, a friendly wave to a neighbor, a sincere compliment.  We can show appreciation and share cheer with family and friends as well as strangers.

So cheap, so simple, and so priceless.  It makes you feel good, it makes them feel good, it builds community, and it begins to fill up what’s been depleted.

Thank you for reading!  I appreciate you!

 

via Daily Prompt: Deplete

Warning: I was almost eaten by the Clutter Monster

And when they come to look at that spare room they had to take soundings before they could navigate it.

Mark Twain

I had that room.

I’m great at collecting, which leads to accumulating stunning amounts of stuff.  I’ve done a lot of crafting and I’m an artist who sometimes work in analog. At the same time I’ve always hated cleaning.

Unsurprisingly, when I was young, my room was a staggering mess.  Most of the time there was just a walkway to get through it, or maybe a patch of cleared floor, and stuff all over.  Clothes, toys, art materials, books, half finished projects.

My favorite place to dump my extra stuff was my closet.  It was big and I didn’t have to live in it.

Later, my favorite place to dump my extra stuff was under my raised bed-platform.   Again, lots of space, no organization, and I didn’t have to live there.

If somebody said “clean your room,” it was like a death knell!

I had way too much stuff.

I had nowhere to put it.

That worked together to make cleaning nearly impossible, so I did it as little as I could.

So I got used to the mess.  I thought I was just naturally messy, and that couldn’t change.

Then I visited a neighbor who actually had bags of garbage in her living room, and lived with a chicken and a dog.  Trash was piled everywhere, ground into every surface, and there was no cleaning that place.  Later I started working, became an in-home caregiver, and saw things that were just as bad.

I’m talking stacks of dishes in the sink and all over the counter, mounds of unidentified stuff all over the house, baskets and baskets of dirty laundry, piles of cheap plastic objects, outgrown toys, disposable items, stuff piled in the closets in stacks so high that you couldn’t hang anything in them, half finished craft projects, and I was seeing a pattern.  Health hazards, tripping hazards, allergy sufferers beware!

Helping to clean up those messes helped me realize I didn’t want to end up like them, and I was closer than I thought I was.

How does a person get to that state?  Where they are ruled by the mess and it’s almost too bad to clean?  W

I know that I got a lot of my habits from relatives who, through utter necessity, always kept a lot of things around.  When you don’t have a lot of money, you tend to save things because you might need them later.  To make things harder, you don’t always have access to the best shelving or cabinets either, and when something breaks you often keep it around in case you can fix it later.  Not only that, but you are usually having to live in a very small house or apartment, so that makes it even more difficult to be organized.

Under those circumstances, it’s all too easy for the stuff to start owning you.  chaos-227971_640

I rejoice to see the decluttering sites and blogs out there.  My own Mom is preparing for a move and is beginning to see the decluttering light.  I heartily applaud her efforts!  Especially because the beginning of this journey can be a painful one.   Yet, I know she’ll make it, because her goal is something that’s very important to her.

If you are going to do something big and life changing, you need a solid goal that you want very badly.  For example, my Mom is moving into a beautiful 100 year old house that could be a museum, and she wants to live in a way that enhances that house, and not fill it with mismatched stuff.

When I did my first big purge, though utter necessity, it felt like I was throwing away memories.  When I gave away things people had given me out of love, it felt like I was throwing away their love.  I got rid of some very precious things during that time, because I simply couldn’t take them.   Do I keep a precious piece of art, or ten kilos of beans?  Well, which will feed me when I’m hungry?  Which will fit in the one vehicle I am able to pack things into?   There were many hard decisions.

I had to realize that my friends and family members’ love was still there, and mine for them.  The memories were still there.  They were in your head and in my heart.  That connection didn’t go away.  But most of the stuff did.  Ultimately, I kept the precious things where they belonged and then gave away the husks, the mementos, so that they could bring others joy.

I was able to keep a few things in storage, which helped me make some of those hard decisions.  I asked that person to safeguard my DVDs and CDs, and some of my art.

Do you know what I did when I got my other stuff back, much later?  I rehomed some of it, too.  What I had been so eager to save, really wasn’t needed anymore.  I’m really grateful to that friend for saving those things – I was definitely happy to get my media back.  However, it was also a very important lesson about what I really needed.

At this moment, I still have too much stuff in my house.  That’s because I’m a producing artist, married to someone who builds lightsabers.  That means equipment and materials.  I have that stuff organized though and I’m constantly thinking of old things to get rid of.  I no longer have stacks of books and papers.  The art materials have homes.  My clothes are actually organized so I can find everything.  Everything in the kitchen has a place.  You can see all the floors in our little apartment, and it’s easier to keep things clean.  I feel much freer.

I’m not tied down to junk.  Since it’s easier to keep the place clean, it’s also better for my allergies.  I don’t do caregiving anymore, and all honor to those who still do.  So I don’t have to deal with other people’s houses anymore either!

I wish my Mom well on this path toward freedom.  Maybe she’ll learn the sweet taste of organization, and having more space to move around in.  She’s already made a lot of progress and I’m proud of her for it.

For anyone who wants to talk that same path, the way to less clutter is pretty simple.

The first rule is, have and get less things.  Figure out what’s essential to what you need.

Have more places to keep things, like cabinets, shelves, etc.  Racks and specialty storage are good if you have a hobby that requires a lot of stuff.

Have some kind of system, so you don’t lose stuff and you can get to it.  That could be as simple as “keep all the tools together.”

The one year rule – unless you have a really good reason, if you haven’t looked at something in a year, you probably don’t need it.

Decluttering isn’t about having less stuff as much as it is about having more room in your life to do things.  There’s less time spent cleaning, you will feel more relaxed, and you will have a lot easier time when you have to move!

I no longer need soundings to navigate my room – all my floors are visible so I don’t even need a map!

 

doorway-crop-1000

 

via Daily Prompt: Warning

Tending my health with “Fire Cider”

It’s cold and flu season where I am, and I am in the middle of helping teach a class of forty two adults, many of whom have little germ factories, I mean, kids!  This is in a highly populated building and I also have shopping and errands to do.  I also have narrow airways and wimpy sinuses.  Needless to say, I need something to help keep me well!

Enter Fire Cider.

This is a potent concoction consisting of apple cider vinegar that has had all kinds of good things soaking in it – like garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric root, horseradish, chili peppers, citrus, as well as various other herbs and spices depending on need and taste.  It steeps for about a month in a glass jar and then you take it by the tablespoonful.  You can mix it with raw honey, water, or both.  I use water currently and can deal with it just fine.  In fact, it’s tasty – I used a smoked chili in my mix so it has a lovely flavor.

If you don’t like heat, you can make this with weaker peppers, or fewer of them.  The onion and garlic really don’t make it that much hotter.  Some might not be able to handle the horseradish, but if that’s you, you can leave it out.  However, as for me…

Scoville Units.png

Anyway.  The whole point of Fire Cider is to harness all the good properties of these different roots and herbs in a way that doesn’t have you downing a bottle of supplement pills every day.

So far I have not been taking the full Fire Cider, but rather a concoction I made to use while the main batch is steeping – it contains ginger, black pepper, turmeric root, smoked dried chiles, onion, garlic, lemon from my boss’s tree (including peel since he doesn’t use pesticides), and organic apple cider vinegar.  It has many of the good properties of the main batch but probably isn’t as potent.

However, even this lesser batch has had the following clearly noticeable effects:

Improved energy (I use it sometimes instead of coffee)

Better digestion (there’s that ACV)

Improved mood

Better circulation (my legs don’t swell as much now)

And, this is the best part, I HAVEN’T GOTTEN SICK.  This is despite working very closely (like within inches) of people with various colds and strains of the flu.  In fact, when I start feeling run down, I just take extra and it seems to help.  Of course, during the wort days I did augment with extra garlic.  Still, I’m very pleased and am looking forward to starting the big batch at the end of the month!

For anyone who wants good info about how to make this, and more detail on the therapeutic properties, check out these two links:

The Organic Prepper Fire Cider making article, with video (includes “instant” version)

Mountain Rose Herbs Fire Cider article and recipe

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tend/

Profuse Excuses

Do you have a profusion of excuses for why you aren’t succeeding?

I know I do!

The secret to success is eliminating those roadblocks to success.  The first step is to admit they’re there, the next step is to identify them, then you admit it’s possible to overcome them, then you find ways to do so.

Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Not so fast – the first three steps take maybe a minute. 

Let’s use weight loss for an example.  And my own excuses – I make a great guinea pig.  After all, I’ve been known to squeak loudly at opening refrigerator doors!  I know I won’t really lose weight until I figure out what my excuses are, my roadblocks to success.

A good way to do this is to find times where I failed in the past, figure out why I failed, and come up with strategies to avoid the same problems this time.  Usually, there’s an excuse behind everything.

“I can’t stay on a diet, I get too hungry.”

Okay, I got too hungry.  That was my roadblock.  So I design a plan with lots of low calorie foods so I can be constantly eating.  Or I stay low carb and high protein, because that naturally makes my hunger go away.  Excuse nullified.

“I don’t have time to work out.” 

There’s about half a million ways to sneak in exercise, as seen in this article for example, and they are all great excuse busters.

“I get bored.”

Great excuse as that has been the biggest roadblock to many of my weight loss efforts.  So I switch out my healthy snacks, I use music when I work out, I seek variety.

“I don’t have enough money to eat healthy food.”

Another really good excuse.  Good thing vegetables are cheap, so are eggs, and it costs less to cook at home!  Roadblock removed, excuse nullified.

Once I have my biggest excuses identified, I am free to think of creative strategies to stop them in their tracks.  Then all that’s left is to take action!  A well planned strategy to overcome your own difficulties can eliminate your excuses.  This idea works for many personal struggles.  Budget, working out, losing weight, improvements at work, playing with your kids, and really whatever you want to do.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/profuse/

Your strategy for an effective first aid kit

I never buy commercial first aid kits.  They either contain too much junk I’ll never use, too little of what I will use, are too expensive, or all three at the same time!

I like inexpensive and effective.

Luckily, it’s not that hard to build a decent first aid kit without breaking the bank, having to go to EMT training, or sacrifice quality.

Start by identifying  your basic needs.  What does your kit need to treat?  Where are you going to carry it?  How tough does it need to be?  Who are you going to help with it, and for how long?  I have one kit for my trunk, another for my closet, and I carry basic necessities in my purse, sans case.

Once you know what you want to treat, who you are using it for, and where you are carrying it, break it down a little farther.

Basic medical needs include wound care, illness treatment, and protection against germs.

Therefore, you want to pick good things to clean a wound or irritated area with, like alcohol, peroxide, wet wipes, saline, etc.

You need gloves to protect your hands – nitrile is good to prevent latex allergy and you can get them cheaply at any drug store and even most dollar stores.

You need something to treat and cover wounds with, such as antibiotic ointment, gauze, tape, band aids, etc.

You need to be able to treat basic health issues – allergies, diarrhea, pain, inflammation, and nausea at a minimum.  Luckily, that’s easy and cheap to do.

You can safely ignore useless items like tiny band aids, itty-bitty alcohol wipes that dry out quickly and are useless anyway, or anything that comes in a quantity too tiny to use.  That’s what makes up half of the commercial first aid kits I’ve seen.

Finally, you need cutting implements for dealing with tape and gauze, as well as a tweezers and a good container to put everything in.  That container should be sturdy and organize things well.  I use a small backpack in my trunk and plastic tubs in my closet.  Tackle boxes and tool bags are good too.

Here are some suggested kit items for Car, Closet, and Pocket.  You will find that they are quite available at your local 99 cent only store, Dollar Tree, grocery store, and pharmacy.  Buy generics freely except for the Neosporin – that truly is better in the brand name.

 

Closet Kit

Isopropyl Alcohol

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hand sanitizer

Bottled water or saline

Gloves

Epsom Salts –  for foot soaks or as a laxative

Calcium based Antacid –  for both helping stomach trouble and for muscle cramps

Aspirin – anti-fever and pain treatment

Neosporin or similar ointment

Anti itch gel – I like Calamine lotion, and Benadryl anti-itch gel.

Allergy medicine – Benadryl or generic (good for treating allergies and as a sleep aid)

Other medicines for diarrhea, nausea, allergies, pain, etc

Band-aids, including butterfly bandages, 2 inch giant bandages, etc

Gauze – both squares and roll gauze

Tape – both medical and athletic, plus at least one Ace bandage

Finger splint

Scissors

Tweezers

A good, sharp knife

A flashlight for seeing dark areas of the body

Plastic tubs or tackle boxes to put it in

Car Kit

For your car, you can pack smaller versions of most of the above and put it in a day pack for easy carry.  Some bulky items can be left out or reduced.  I wouldn’t worry about the epsom salts, for example, but would replace them with a portable ice pack.  Focus more on wound care and cleaning items.  Rotate items regularly since everything is being exposed to extremes of temperature.

Pocket

An Altoids tin with a few aspirin, a couple allergy pills, some band aids, and a wet wipe or two is good for starters.  That with your pocket knife can go a long way.

———————

This has been a very basic overview of the beginnings of creating a first aid kit.  I wanted to give you a start, and if there’s interest I’ll go much more in depth in the future.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/strategy/

Finally time for a new start

It’s time for a new year and for a new start.  Though I haven’t been the biggest New Year Resolution type, some things have lined up in such a way that I might as well take advantage of all that New Year energy and ride it for a bit.  With much more functional teeth and a head cleared of decay, I’m actually feeling better.  I’ve learned a lot of tips about weight loss and health, so time to be better about taking my own advice.

So, since this blog is about helping others to live the best creative life they can, I’ll offer some of the ideas I intend to use in the New Year.  I’ll personally be doing most of these, however it’s certainly possible, and often better, to just pick one or two things to change, wait for it to become a habit and part of your new normal life, then pick one or two other things to change.

Ideas for a healthier life

A new haircut or trim – it helps you feel better and look better right away.

Stay Positive – it may not be easy to be positive all the time, but when you notice yourself straying, just refocus.  It does get easier, like with every habit.

Focus on Courtesy – this is a rude world, especially if you are living in the US and certain other countries.  I have a definite goal of being more polite to everyone.

Take vitamins – for anything you can’t get enough of through your diet.  In particular I need B vitamins and calcium.

Eat yogurt – and other probiotic foods like kefir, kombucha, or non pasteurized sauerkraut.  Or probiotic supplements.

More protein – whether plant based or animal based, protein helps with growth of lean muscle and keeps you full longer.

Nuts, seeds, berries – all are good for brain health, good nutrients in general, and make healthy snacks.

Upgrade snacktime – my local asian grocery has some great things to replace my sugary, fatty snacks with.  They have everything from seaweed crisps to kale chips to rice crackers.  Let’s not forget seasoned carrot slices, celery chunks, or cucumber rounds.

Make it easy for yourself – make snacks ahead, pack them so they are easy to grab and go.

Move when you can – take stairs, walk across parking lot, do a few wall pushups here and there, a few squats etc.  It all adds up.  I’ll be doing this more.

Apple cider vinegar – check out my article on the drink called Switchel.

Chocolate – I’m going to make eating a small amount of dark chocolate a priority.

Cut down on sugar – I really have a love affair with sugar but it has so many bad properties, so I’m going to refocus on limiting it.

Chew gum – if you have bad teeth like I do, kinds with xylitol and without aspartame are generally best.  It’s good to keep your mouth busy, keep your teeth clean, and burns a few calories.

Drink water – we’ve all heard it but I’ll keep on doing it.  I’m actually pretty good about drinking water, but I can always improve.

Listen to music – the right kind helps your attitude, keeps you on the bright side, and motivates you.  Personally, I love heavy metal because it’s often very motivating.

Every week at least, do something creative.  Depending on your interests, that may be anything from painting to writing in a journal to drawing to practicing music to coloring in a mandala.  If you keep up with the things that feed your mind and creativity, you will feed your happiness.  And you’ll have something to show for it.  Make sure it’s non electronic!

If you want even more hints and tips, check these out:

Recipe

Amazing, heart healthy, cold soak oatmeal

It’s astoundingly simple and yet very tasty.  Simply soak old fashioned rolled outs overnight in your choice of liquid.  You can use water, like I do, or fruit juice, milk, soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut water, really anything wet.  I’ve even done it with green tea.  However, it gets better than that.  Along with your oatmeal you can put other things – like walnut pieces, chia seeds, pepitas, cashews, dried fruit, spices, really anything you can think of that would go with oatmeal.

Once done, you can warm the oatmeal or eat it cold – the soaking keeps some of the oat texture without turning it into mush.  I eat mine without sweetener, you may want to try this too before adding something.  I’ve you’ve added dried fruit or a spice like cinnamon, you may not even want it.

 

Enjoy your New Year, and here’s to your health!

 

via Daily Prompt: Finally

An Extravagant wish?

For many of us, health is an extravagant wish.

It was for me, and still seems so sometimes.  I had to get a really good job (really good for me is a salary of roughly $30,000 a year with decent benefits so I’m not talking upper middle class here) in order to even be able to approach dental health!

It’s quite amazing how much dental health affects every other part of you.  Trying to lose weight with messed up teeth?  Good luck eating all those healthy proteins, vegetables, nuts, and grains!  That’s just one of many examples.

I’ve been able to find a good dentist who thinks creatively and is working in an office with awesome staff.  I’ve gotten some tips that have really changed my whole outlook on dental health.

Previously I had written off my weak enamel and many cavities as just another thing to deal with that couldn’t really be helped.  Crowns are expensive, so are root canals, and dentures?  Very expensive too.  I was looking forward to spending at least a third of my life toothless.  And it turns out it wasn’t just eating sweet stuff as a kid, I really DO have weak enamel!

I learned though, that enamel can reharden and dentin can regrow once the decay has all been cleaned out.  I learned that yesterday from the dentist himself.  He says the teeth are continuously regenerating themselves.  Not so much in shape, like a cavity won’t grow back in, but renewing in other ways.  He recommended fluoride mouthwash (of course) which I’m a bit up in the air about but am willing to try if I make sure and don’t swallow any.  Other suggestions were flossing regularly, of course, swishing with water instead of brushing after I eat sweet or citrus foods, and chewing gum that has Xylitol.  That helps harden enamel a couple of different ways, by stimulating saliva production and by changing its PH so that the bacteria doesn’t grow as well.

I happened to find some gum that has calcium in it as well as xylitol, and I’m looking forward to trying that too.  Unfortunately it’s not made in the US (of course) so I’m buying it from Amazon.  It’s made by Trident.

I feel hopeful about my teeth for the first time in years.  And I’m ready to lose some weight, by eating less of those soft processed foods!

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/extravagant/