Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Fallow time

"During the times we think we're being 'unproductive,' the seeds of new worlds are germinating within us, and they need peace to grow." ~Martha Beck


Herb garden at Cranbrook House & Gardens / Cindy La Ferle


Throughout the summer, I've been dealing with a couple of chronic health challenges that are overshadowing other things I'd like to do. For instance, sometimes I drop out of social activities because I'm feeling down or I don't have the energy to give others. And even though I know better, I still beat myself up for not focusing more attention on my work, and not being fully present in other key areas of my life. 

While I wait for additional testing and a new treatment plan, it occurs to me that I'm now in fallow time. In agriculture, the term fallow refers to land that is plowed and tilled but deliberately left unseeded during a growing season. In life and creative work, it's natural to experience fallow periods, too.

As a professional writer for more than 30 years, I've coped with stretches of fallow time -- which isn't quite the same as writer's block, yet just as discomforting. During my creative dry spells, I learned to understand that new projects were quietly germinating in the back of my mind, or that I'd find new and better assignments in due time. I had to cultivate patience.

In our hyped-up culture, however, we're encouraged to accelerate our productivity and avoid losing momentum, no matter what. For some of us, being "busy" becomes a legitimate excuse to dodge feelings of loneliness, stress, or grief -- or to evade the big questions we don't have the courage to face when we slow down. 

If, like me, you're a people-pleaser (or an over-giver) who typically says "yes" to keep everyone happy, making your own needs a priority won't be easy. But if we don't respect our own fallow periods, we risk burning out. 

Healing and growth require periods of rest. Once I finally stop spinning the wheels on my tractor and allow myself to be still without feeling guilty, I'll find comfort in remembering that fallow time eventually leads to renewal, healing, and positive change.   

Wishing you all a restful and happy Labor Day holiday! ~CL 


Monday, August 28, 2017

Life as we know it

"Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be." ~Dr. Wayne Dyer


Road stop in Williamston / Cindy La Ferle


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Respect, integrity, and apologies

"When you're wrong, or if you've made a mistake, you'll earn more respect in the long run if you admit it and apologize. No one in history has ever choked to death from swallowing his pride."  ~attributed to Mark Twain


Ceramic wall art by David Ellison / Cindy La Ferle






Friday, August 25, 2017

Art and soul

"While our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all." ~Ray Bradbury


Art glass from Water Street Glass Works, Benton Harbor / Cindy La Ferle



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The incredible bliss of saying "no" to Facebook

"In reality, we have choices. We decide who and what we allow into our inner sanctums. Not everyone deserves an all-access pass. Not every opportunity deserves a yes. In fact, there can be a lot of freedom on the other side of  "No, thank you." ~Kris Carr, Crazy, Sexy Diet


Lake Michigan / Cindy La Ferle



The morning after the presidential election last year, Doug and I quit Facebook -- and we haven't been back since. 

In the months prior to my own Facebook departure, I was deeply disturbed by the political rancor that poisoned my daily feed. And when I posted a photo of my "Hillary" lawn sign a week before the election, countless folks I barely knew unleashed their anger on me because I didn't support their political views. In a long, carefully composed private message, for instance, a woman who described herself as one of my newspaper column fans said she was "disappointed" in me for not voting Republican. (For a moment, I recoiled like a five-year-old who'd been shamed and scolded by a parent.) Another Facebook friend called me "a Communist."

But I had other -- even better -- reasons for blowing that popsicle stand. 
Maintaining a Facebook “presence” was intruding on other aspects of my daily routine. Like so many social media users, I was experiencing life’s precious moments almost exclusively through the lens of my digital camera. For instance, I often snapped photos of special meals I had ordered in various bistros and diners -- and posted them on Facebook before lifting my fork to taste the food. Why on earth was I compelled to provide free publicity for the restaurants I patronized? Why would anyone care what I ate for dinner? 

Did I really need approval or attention from hundreds of people with whom I was loosely affiliated? Why?

Social media sites foster a false sense of connection and intimacy. Real friends, after all, share so much more than stage-managed photos, links to news articles, and status updates designed to induce envy. Real friends check in with you on the phone, schedule lunch dates, send birthday cards, help you move furniture, listen to your problems, invite you over for coffee, bring you soup when you're sick, and make other three-dimensional efforts to be there for you. Emails and texts will do in a pinch, but genuine connection occurs on the other side of the computer screen. 
Ironically, Americans collect countless friends and followers on social networks -- yet many admit to a lack of depth in their friendships, reports Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness (Seal Press; $16).
“Between two-thirds and three-fourths of Americans believe there is more loneliness in today’s society than there used to be, and feel they have fewer meaningful relationships than they did five years ago,” Nelson says. 

After living Facebook-free for nine months, I’ve come to cherish the invisible cloak of privacy I wear every day. It’s liberating to visit a doctor, attend a party, grieve a loss, or weed my garden without feeling obligated to document the event on Facebook. 
All said and done, I don't miss the heart-pounding stress I experienced while reading those divisive political rants. I don't need to know everyone's business, nor do I need to broadcast mine. Best of all, when I'm mindfully engaged in my own life, I'm not tempted to compare my life or my accomplishments with anyone else's. I'm more inclined to get busy and creative when I'm not constantly exposed to (and overwhelmed by) the opinions of hundreds of other people. 
Like watching too much television, managing my Facebook activity often left me feeling empty, unhealthy, and exhausted. As rock icon Stevie Nicks once said in her criticism of social media, there’s something more attractive about “not sharing too much, and having a little mystery.” 

These days, peace of mind is my priority. I'm careful about how I share the details of my life -- and with whom.  I no longer take my close relationships for granted, as I once did on Facebook, and I'm learning to spend my time in ways that truly matter to me. ~CL

Note: To read Kris Carr's essay, from which today's quote was excerpted, please click here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The art of healing

“As my sufferings mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Cindy La Ferle

Friday, August 18, 2017

Decluttering, one day at a time

“The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don't.” ~Marie Kondo


Cindy La Ferle

Lately, I keep running across new magazines, blogs, and even documentary films devoted to the topic of "minimalism" -- or living the simple life. As a lifestyles columnist, I've seen this theme resurface every five years or so, and it never fails to lure me in. 

With summer drawing to a close -- and another birthday bringing me closer to my mid-sixties -- I've been inspired to start getting rid of stuff. Lots of stuff. But this time, rather than making it an intensive, all-consuming project, I've set a reasonable goal that I can easily achieve. One closet, one drawer, at a time. 

The challenge is simple but non-negotiable: I must toss or recycle at least one unnecessary or unwanted item every day for the rest of the year. This makes the process less overwhelming, plus I'm not as likely to discard things I'll later regret.

One morning, for instance, I went through my make-up drawer and tossed a handful of cosmetics I haven't used in a while --including items that contain parabens and other harmful chemicals. The following day, I turned my attention to one side of the medicine cabinet. (How many half-empty bottles of nasal spray do we really need?) Another day, when I was feeling more ambitious, I organized two clothing closets. I pulled jackets, pants, dresses, and shoes that I haven't worn in years and sorted them into bags or piles. Some will be given to friends; others will go to charities. 

Back in my home office last week, I bagged a stack of books that I'm not planning to re-read, and then drove them to a local senior center. 

One day at time.

There's something very liberating about paring down and recycling. It forces me to consider how many needless purchases I've made, and to examine my motives for accumulating things. All said and done, my home and my life will look and feel so much lighter. ~CL

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

An invitation

“There's no need to wait for the bad things and the bullshit to be over. Change now. Love now. Live now. Don't wait for people to give you permission to live, because they won't.” ~Kris Carr

 Cranbrook Gardens / Cindy La Ferle

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Focusing on the positive

"I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable. But through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~Agatha Christie


Treasure hunting in Detroit / Cindy La Ferle


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Truth in art and poetry

"All our silences in the face of racist assault and bigotry are acts of complicity." ~bell hooks

"Loss" by Tad McKillop, photographed at the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science & Art / Cindy La Ferle


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Farm-fresh produce

“True healthcare reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington.”  ~Global Healing Center


Fresh produce from the Clawson Farmer's Market / Cindy La Ferle

There are a couple of farmer's markets near our home in Royal Oak, which means there's no excuse for us to go without fresh, Michigan-grown produce this time of year. While I shop the produce aisles year 'round at local grocery stores, I can't think of anything more delicious than the taste of farm-grown fruit and veggies when they're in season. 

For most of my life, I've favored a plant-based diet. Both cardio-vascular disease and diabetes run in my family, so I pay careful attention to what I eat -- and I read everything I can find (from a variety of sources) about healthy nutritional practices. As Dr. Andrew Weil suggests, healthy eating is a lifestyle choice -- not a "diet" that you follow when you need to lose weight. Dr. Paul Ehrmann, my own family physician, supports my preventative-care efforts and has always encouraged eating a clean diet and practicing a regular exercise program. 

The bounty shown in the photo above came from the Clawson Farmer's Market at the city park, which is much smaller than our market in Royal Oak. But we always manage to find some good things there, and, as a bonus, we can walk Coco on the trail after we shop for fresh produce. My favorite way to spend Sunday mornings!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Inner peace

“Remember: The entrance door to the sanctuary is always inside you." 


Cranbrook House & Gardens / Cindy La Ferle

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How to be yourself

"Whenever you choose to pull back, say less, or restrain your magnificence to survive in a relationship, this spells trouble. The next opportunity you have to spend time with this person, ask yourself: Will I have to shrink to make this work, or is this a situation where I can grow?" ~Marc Chernoff


Ginko tree at Cranbrook Gardens / Cindy La Ferle

Today's quote got me thinking about being authentic in our relationships. Of course, there's a huge difference between being brutally honest and expressing our truth with tact and diplomacy. 

But how often do we refrain from saying what we really think in order to keep the peace -- or to ensure that others will like us? How often do we give in to those who take vicious delight in challenging us? How often do we underplay our own accomplishments to keep from overshadowing someone else? How often do we stifle our opinions or stoop to make other people feel taller? 

How much time do we spend with people who talk nonstop about themselves and rarely express interest in us?

And why would we give others permission to make us feel less than who we are?

As Chernoff's quote suggests, there's something "off" in a relationship that makes us feel judged or restrained. We're wise to seek out the company of people who are so comfortable in their own skin that they make us feel equally comfortable in ours. ~CL

Monday, August 7, 2017

A beautiful birthday week

"People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou



Birthday flowers from a friend / Cindy La Ferle 


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Appreciating all we have

"One of the most difficult things for us to accept is that beneath all our dreams and disappointments, we live and breathe in abundance. It is hard when we're in pain to believe that all we ever need is before us, within us. And yet it is true." ~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening


Lake Michigan / Cindy La Ferle

Friday, August 4, 2017

Being in harmony

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Garden at Greenfield Village / Cindy La Ferle

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Knowing when to stop

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." ~attributed to Albert Einstein


Just Dessert / Cindy La Ferle