Bee Happy

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I checked on our beehives last week.  One hive is energetically moving and several others look like they didn’t survive the winter.  It is sad to see.

They are amazing little creatures, so directed and so intent on doing what they are designed to do.  Each one works hard and contributes to the success of the hive.  I won’t look up the statistics of how much pollen each bee gathers or how many thousands of bees it takes to produce a gallon of honey.

What I want to say, is that I love the harmony and synchronicity of the colony. I love seeing the globs of pollen covering the bees legs as they go from flower to flower, especially when they are swarming around my lavender plants. They are fun to watch as they come and go, to and from the hive boxes, laden with their days work.

To me, there’s a happy sound to bees.  It’s a sound of sunshine and life and hope and security.  It makes me think of clover and petunias and alyssum and the warm days ahead.

Seems that there is always so much to observe and to think about in nature.  After I saw the bees, I got to thinking about their single-mindedness.  Wow, what would that be like? Probably not ever happening for us to that degree, but thought provoking nonetheless.

Think of the things that stop your momentum.  A negative thought?  A fear?  The temptation to be discouraged or overwhelmed?  How about feeling unappreciated?  That’s a show-stopper isn’t it?  How about just not knowing what to do next or feeling conflicted about knowing what is most important to do with the time you have?

We of course have all of these choices to make, while the little bees are instinctively doing what they are designed to do!  No distraction for them!  No turning their attention to what the other insects are up to.  No comparing their pollen collection with the next bee and no landing somewhere and deciding not to go on because they think they just can’t compete.

No lobbying to be a worker or a drone or feeling put out because they didn’t have a say in the job they were assigned…

So while there is not much comparison between people and insects, I wonder what it would be like to live a day with complete bee-like focus?  With a pre-determined course of action that benefits my “hive;” simply going about my work with no other thought than to be myself, do my work, and enjoy the sun?

What do you think?  Is it possible?  I mean to have a plan.  To know what is next.  To keep a vision in view and enjoy the clarity of knowing your calling.  Of being even more “yourself” than you were yesterday.  Of turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the sales pitch of society when it says you need to be X size and Y accomplished and Z toned, tan and starting another business.  What if just enjoying a sandwich on the back steps with a little person, while watching bees buzz and birds fly by, and being present, was all that is required of you in that hour?  And what if you knew what needed to be done in the afternoon and it included resting and cooking and reading and teaching and you could do that with joy?

I wish you many days ahead that are ringing with clarity!  Because that clarity weeds out the distractions and sweeps away the time-killing doubts.  And most of all, it will guard against the pain of regret later on.

Get clear and stay clear!

All my love!

Jacque

P.S. The Lioness planner is close to ready!  If you’re interested in making plans and getting clear on your priorities, Lioness-style, let me know!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Three years ago, I posted this recipe for black bean brownies.  I re-post it today with a new topping idea in time for Valentine’s Day!  I took these (the strawberry version) to a luncheon today, and was reminded how nice it is to have a delicious treat, with no headache afterward.  These are a little pudding-ish in the texture, not too rich, and pretty mellow with the deep chocolate flavor and the lightly sweet, whipped cream cheese on top.  Use a little milk (any kind) to thin the frosting enough so that it will flow out of the bag easily.  I left mine a little too thick today, so it wasn’t as controllable.  Using the berries for color adds to the “realness” of this whole-food dessert.

I’ve been on a mental rant today, I’ll fill you in on the whole conversation soon.  Just suffice it to say that, as a rule, I encourage clients to focus on adding good things to their diet instead of focusing on removing things, and over time they find that the less desirable foods will fall away.  That said, at some point you need to give your taste buds a chance to re-acclimate to real.  If you haven’t already experienced it, you’ll be amazed at how much your taste buds will “normal out” when you stop eating junk food.  But in order to do that, you have to add in the good yes, but also make a commitment at some point to leave the empty calorie, refined, artificial color and flavor, food science mish-mash alone. (Can you hear the rant coming on?)  I decided that just before Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a fair moment to give you the whole thing!  But it’s coming!

Today, I’ll just say that I hope you’ll have a great day tomorrow treating yourself to a real food dessert…with no ornery, sugar fatigue later!

Black Bean Brownies

3 1/4 cups black beans, soaked overnight and cooked*brownies2

6 fresh, free-range eggs

2/3 cups cocoa

2 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp Real salt

3/4 cup raw honey

1/4 cup Sucanat (dehydrated cane juice)

Super easy to put together; just cream the beans and eggs together in your favorite blender/food processor.  Melt butter on low heat in a small saucepan while adding the rest of the ingredients to the bean/egg mixture.  When butter is melted, add it to the batter slowly while mixing.  Pour brownie batter into a butter 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes @ 350°.

*To prepare beans, follow instructions on package for soaking and cooking beans.  (You will cover beans in water and let sit overnight, then cook on low heat for a few hours until they are soft.) This helps you avoid chemicals in canned beans and is very cost effective.  But, if canned beans are your only option, they will work as well.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. package cream cheese

3 Tbs. raw honeybrownies

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of salt

1 tsp. beet juice (for mauve color, optional)

Beat all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth.  Spoon into a zip lock bag or a frosting bag.  Chill in the refrigerator for an hour, to allow it to set. Then cut a small hole in one corner of the bottom of the plastic bag (or use frosting bag with decorator’s tip) and squeeze in swirls on top of small squares of brownies once the brownies are cooled.  We used black berries (cut in half length-wise) for garnish, but raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or shaved chocolate would be lovely too!

*Remember, sweet treats, even those made with real food ingredients, should be reserved for special occasions and served in small portions.  Think of it as training your taste buds to prefer foods that are less sweet, less processed and eaten after nutritious meals, and not used as snacks.  You and your family will be better off in the long run employing this healthy habit!


The Greatest Gift

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Marriage can be amazing.  It is a blessing.  It makes so many things possible!  It is safe place where we can get to know ourselves and each other.  Where we can take risks, grow with each forgiving and stretch when asking to be forgiven.

It requires the greatest amount of work and effort of any endeavor I’ve known….and it is so worth it!  But the gift I want to highlight is beyond what we get from the fruits of a happy marriage.  It’s the gift we give our children as they observe our relationship.  The comfort and security of knowing that we love each other.

But what about all of the challenges and misunderstandings and miscommunication? Doesn’t every couple have those?  And how do you show solidarity to your children when you’re really just upset and want to go on a long vacation…alone?

This reminds me of an article I read by Richard Eyre a few years ago.  He said that on a flight, he sat next to a man who had been a marriage counselor for 40 years.  The man said that he had only seen three kinds of marriage relationships that were conflict-free.

“The first kind of conflict-free marriage is one in which one of the two parties is totally dominant and domineering and the other is such a doormat that there is never any disagreement…The one just calls all the shots and makes all the decisions and the other one just goes along.”

“The second kind of conflict-free marriage is getting much more common today,…it is where two people have a kind of marriage of convenience, but they live such separate lives, have such separate careers and schedules, that they really don’t have anything in common to disagree on or have conflict over.”

“The third kind of conflict-free marriage is where either the husband or the wife is dead.”

“In all my years of marriage counseling, those are the only three kinds of marriage where there is never a conflict or an argument.  So unless you want one of those, you better have some other way of measuring your marriage than some kind of idealistic notion of always agreeing with each other.”

So if always agreeing with each other isn’t the goal, what is?

The goal for us is to get better and better at resolving our problems, and making the time it takes us to do that shorter and shorter!  And, making the process kind, gentle and respectful too.  Our children need to see this process!  They need to know that relationships take work.  They need to know that we are so dedicated to our spouse that we will put in the time and the effort and the humility it takes to find a solution that suits us both.

The most effective skill I know is learning to use the “I feel……about…..because….” phrasing mentioned in yesterday’s post.  Try it and see what you think!

To shorten the time it takes to work through an issue, try using a talking stick!  A simple object that the speaker holds, and while the speaker has the stick, the listener’s job is just to listen; not to interrupt or give their two cents until the speaker is finished.  (And may I add women, make your speech succinct and to the point!)  Then, when the speaker is finished, the listener repeats back what they heard the speaker say.  Then it is the listener’s turn to talk, and the process repeats.  It’s amazing how we sometimes get to talking over each other and fail to really listen long enough to understand.  This simple exercise is good training for taking turns and to practice listening with the intention of understanding another point of view.

Sometimes taking a short break from the conversation, with an agreement to return and try again, is helpful.  Or taking a walk in nature.  Or having some time alone to pray. You might try doing something together that is fun, away from familiar surroundings. Just breaking up the tension can bring a new perspective and break a cycle of stress.

We pray daily for our own children, that they will be able to learn from our mistakes and our successes.  And that they will be blessed to see the value of staying with their relationships, through the highs and the lows and that they will do the work required to grow old in love together.

That is my prayer for you too.

Love,

Jacque

“I” not “You”

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Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to get into a scuffle with a family member in all the hustle and bustle of life?  And, as the parent, isn’t it amazing how easy it is to start a conversation with “You…!”  As in, “You are a …..,” or “It’s your fault…,” or ” If you would just….”

When we can hear those words coming from our mouths, we just know that this “conversation” is actually a criticism of someone, and most likely will not have the positive, productive outcome we desired!

But how to change it!?

Wouldn’t life be better if that person was just told what a pain they are being and that they need to shape up or else?

“You” messages are pointed, critical, feel like an attack and bring forth anger, defensiveness and hurt!  So,the chances of inspiring change or contrition or anything positive aren’t very good when an interaction begins with the pointing finger of “YOU always…!”

A saving grace that I learned in college (oh, that I could have employed it far more in my parenting!!!) is simple formula of, “I….feel about….because….”  You fill in the blanks. When I learned about this special secret, we were given the assignment to use it!  I didn’t know if I’d have any opportunity.  But, almost immediately, I was in a delicate situation with a roommate (aren’t most situations with women, delicate-not because we’re delicate, but because we can be, you know, moody, tearful, offended. Ha! Wish it weren’t true!)

I finally figured out a way to fill in the blanks of the secret formula with how I felt and why and mustered up my courage to have a direct, but non-threatening conversation, and what do you know?  It worked!!!  It is far easier for me to want to shy away from confronting someone, but using this technique takes the teeth out of it so that it doesn’t become a “confrontation.”

“I feel frustrated about the dishes not getting done because we have agreed that they would be done while I worked on your prom dress.”

“I feel embarrassed about the laundry on the couch because our friends will be here in a few minutes and they’ll probably wonder what kind of homemaker I am.”

“I feel sad about our practice time because I hoped to get through a section.”

I tell you, even with practice, I still have to really think about how to phrase this. It takes work.  But it is truly worth the effort.

The dilemma I had with that roommate was solved in about 10 seconds because, as it turns out, she had no idea that her behavior was causing me any grief.  And when she saw that she wasn’t being attacked, and that she didn’t have to defend herself, she quickly apologized and we made a new plan about how to have differing schedules and share a room.  (Of course, it also says a lot about the caliber of person she is!)

But who doesn’t detest that feeling of being possibly misunderstood, judged and convicted all without having an opportunity to give their perspective or even to say we’re sorry, we didn’t know our behavior was a problem?

We know that arguing is a black hole.  (The problem doesn’t get solved because we’re too concerned with who is right!) We know that criticism is counter productive, (not to mention self-righteous and smug!)  But often we just don’t know what to do to right a difficult situation.

So I offer this little recipe.  And I challenge you to use it in the coming week and share your experience if you feel it would be inspiring to someone else!

“I feel happy about my work because I get to associate with amazing women who are dedicated to being the best they can be!”

Love to you!

Jacque

Hands on Her Head

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Have you ever sat behind someone who is stroking the hair of a loved one beside them, like a mother, stroking the long hair of her daughter?  Have you ever noticed what happens as you observe? When I register it, I realize that I feel my shoulders lower and my face soften.  And it strikes me how that mother, or sister or father, lovingly touching that child or spouse or friend, effectively changes the feeling in the entire room, at least among those who can see them and those who have eyes to see the tenderness being given.

Kindness and gentleness ripple out in every direction!  As do frustration, anger and neglect, unfortunately.

This summer I had the opportunity to brush the long, beautiful hair of young friend, after it was freshly washed. It was a nurturing experience for me, and I hope for her as well. So smooth and long and healthy. Before long, stroke after stroke, it seemed I had brushed it into pure, dry silk.

So here’s a question: when was the last time you brushed your child’s hair with the intention to show them nurturing kindness, not just to hurry out the door for school or an appointment?  When was the last time you beamed your love and smile into the food-smeared face of a toddler as you gently washed it clean?

Sometimes, we get into a hurry (very understandably so!) and forget that every time we touch our children, we have the opportunity to connect with them, to push deeper into their memories and fill them more with our joy in them.

I sat next to a little mother in a meeting a long time ago, who had on her lap an unkempt child, with hair falling into a beautiful, but mostly hidden face.  The child seemed to be a burden to carry like a heavy shoulder bag, and she seemed to be given about as much attention as a shoulder bag would be given too.  I hoped that this was a one time event, but sadly it seemed to be a way of living for maybe an overwhelmed mother in a difficult time.  Heaven knows I’ve had my own struggles at times with feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis!

I don’t pretend to know the challenges, thoughts and intents of this little girl’s family.  I hope they are supported and growing and thriving.  But I noted, as that little girl peered at me through her unkempt hair, with no expression on her face, that the way we are grooming, washing, combing, brushing, and dressing our children, will have a direct impact on the sense they have of their own worth.

Maybe the benefits of grooming come first to the parents, who show love and respect for themselves by keeping themselves physically clean and presentable.  Then in a space of abundance and self-love, they pour those blessings onto their children, who can then meet the world with calm confidence.

Maybe no one reading this post needs this reminder, but as we become more and more casual in our societal customs, it can’t hurt to remember that our bodies, and our children’s bodies are the temples of God.

Are there any improvements we can make in keeping our children clean and combed and fed?  Is there anything we need to change so that we can give them the happiness of being seen AND heard and understood?

Love is all the simple things.  Hopefully we won’t allow ourselves to become so distracted that we forget to practice those simple, daily acts of love.

My love to you!

Jacque

“I am divine.  All of my actions toward my family members are filled with love.  I show respect for myself as I care for my own needs.  I give and receive love every day. I am better every day at using a kind voice in my home. My children and grandchildren feel my love. I am enough.”