How I got to this moment – Part 2

Growing up I was acutely aware of death. My grandfather died in 1945 at the age of 55. My father was only 14 years old at the time. When I reached 14 years I was keenly aware that I was the same age my dad was when his father died. When I reached my 15th birthday I breathed a sigh of relief, my dad was still alive. My dad was 50 years old so I still had some time before he was the same age that his dad was at the time of his death. When my dad reached 55 years old I breathed another sigh of relief, we had made it – I was 20 years old and he was still alive. My grandfather’s death had a tremendous impact on my dad’s life experience including where and how his family lived. I knew my dad thought about his mortality – a lot. And, I knew he worried about dying young like his father. He rarely mentioned it but it was always omnipresent.

My grandfather’s death had a tremendous impact on my dad’s life experience including where and how his family lived. I knew my dad thought about his mortality – a lot. And, I knew he worried about dying young like his father. He rarely mentioned it but it was always omnipresent.

My dad had his first stroke 10 years later. It was followed by two more strokes, kidney failure, and total system failure. The saga lasted for four years. He made it to 66 years of age. I was 30.

My immediate response shifted back and forth from fear of illness to fear of health. My migraines became intense and frequent, my weight climbed higher than it had ever been, and my neck hurt most of the time. I knew I was out of kilter when I went to the doctor one month after my father died and for the first time in life my blood pressure was elevated. This was when I found yoga. I hoped it would help release my mind and my fears. It did. I began to learn to leave it all on the mat.

Slowly I began to discover how to live my life in a way that supports longevity and health. I didn’t want to live a long life if the quality was poor. And I didn’t want to live a quality life that was short. I wanted to be able to sit on the porch with my children and grandchildren and teach them the stories and the traditions of our family. But most importantly, I wanted to be able to still hike, canoe, swim, ride waves, play, etc. with them. I wanted to be able to inspire in them a love of the natural world that can only come by deeply interacting with it. I wanted them to know me to be like the 70-year old Outward Bound instructor I met who could still run rings around all of us much younger instructors.

To do that, it meant that I had to look deep inside and figure out what needed adjusting. This took a long time. I continued to be a vegetarian, and then I went back to eating chicken and turkey, and then back to vegetarian. I became a vegan when I discovered that dairy was causing my adult acne. I exercised, and then I didn’t, and then I did. I targeted what I believed to be the areas for change based upon the traditional notions of diet and exercise that I had been exposed to my entire life.

I gradually began to understand that I needed to think of my body as an ecosystem and my health and wellness as indicators of ecosystem health. Each decision I was making had its own impact but if I could think like a system and create a plan for myself I could improve my overall health and wellness. As I began to listen to my body and to understand the cues it was giving me I began to see how to move forward.

I continue on this journey because I believe it is a lifelong journey, especially as a woman. I believe that as we age and our body changes so too does our need to reassess the ecosystem and to make adjustments to support it. Right now, it looks a lot like whole foods plant based. I continually struggle to achieve the optimal distribution of vegetables, beans, fruits, fiber, while maintaining the protein levels I need as well. This includes striving to avoid processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine, toxins, and minimizing gluten. I avoid them, not because a health and fitness expert told me to avoid them, but because I have discovered that my body does not respond well to them. I’ve learned to eat in a way that my body responds to positively. This is what is working for my ecosystem right now. I no longer fluctuate between craving and withholding of certain foods. I have more energy, no migraines, my skin is clear.

I have discovered how important intention and listening are to my health and wellness. I practice yoga and meditation. I swim and run. I listen to the signals my body is sending. I remain active doing things I enjoy like gardening and walking the dog. I haven’t hit the age that my granddad was when he died, and I’m quite away from my dad’s age. But now, I am hopeful, not fearful. When people see me swimming and ask me what I am training for, my answer is simple: I’m training to be 85 years old.

How I got to this moment – Part 1

How did I get to this moment? This is something I have thought about a lot since I decided to bring A Crunchy Life to the world. I have realized that it has always been with me. Growing. Bubbling up to the surface. Just waiting for the right moment to emerge.

My dad was a businessman with a beautiful corner office – literally, the office was the corner of the building and the corner was cut away to create a window as long as the long wall. It was the third from the top so it was a great place to watch July 4th fireworks and the traffic helicopters in the afternoon.

My father did not pick his job because of a life mission to be in the bond department of a major insurance company. In fact, I suspect he did not like his job at all – he always wanted to be a cowboy living in the west. He got out of the Navy and went to college on the G.I. Bill, and when he graduated he found this job and gave them the rest of his life. His focus was finding a job and settling in, and so he did.

As I was growing up it wasn’t always easy. The stereotypes of the corner office were not true in our case. It was not always financially secure but my parents endeavored to keep all of that from us, as much as they could. But over time I saw younger men (yes, never women) brought into the company, mentored by my dad, and then promoted over him. I also saw the men (yes, again no women) in positions above him getting transferred across the country for promotions or dying of heart attacks. My dad always remained in the same position.

When I was in college my dad finally began sharing some of his thoughts with me. I learned he wasn’t passed over; he turned the jobs down. He made a conscious choice to turn each of those jobs down. His family came first he said. It was more important for his daughters not to be uprooted to another state while in school rather than for him to receive a larger salary. It was more important that he live a long life and not die at his desk. It was more important that our family’s social network remain in tact. It was my first, and only, glimpse into how he intentionally lived his work life.

He gave me something powerful that day. He gave me the foundation upon which I make decisions that help me live my life in a way that has meaning and that supports those I love. My own path shifted after that conversation. I began to really think about what I wanted for my life. I changed colleges. I changed majors. I changed life goals. I committed to living my life in a manner that was true to who I am. Intentional. Purpose-driven. I had no idea that this would be a lesson I would continually re-learn and refine throughout this life.

So, what is intention? Intention is purposeful attention, concentration. It is when we turn inward and let go of everything else. When all of the external distractions are silenced and focus is on connecting to one’s truth. From truth comes wisdom. From wisdom comes purpose. Then we know what we want and where we want to go. Consciousness.

In the Yoga-Sutra there is a powerful moment in one’s practice when one goes from distraction to direction. Like that moment in yoga, intention is a continuous daily practice that we strengthen with each little decision and each big decision. In my practice, I have turned my attention inward and focused my mind on my own truth. I listen to the wisdom that is within me, that I have never heard clearly before. I have come to understand that what fuels me is simplifying how our family lives and engages in the world while supporting others on their journey to intentional living. I uncovered the direction that has guided me thus far, and from which I will continue to grow into who I have always been becoming.

Greetings world!

My dear friend Suzanne has been trying to get me to blog for years. She is the professional writer, not me, so I have always been resistant. One day I stuck my toe into the big pool of public Instagram posting and discovered it wasn’t too bad. One thing led to another, and here I am giving this a go. I have no idea where it will take me, and us, should anyone chose to join me on this journey.

Suzanne asks me on a regular basis, what is one simple thing I can do to live more simply to simply live. I’ve been known to provide suggestions – some she has taken and some she has looked at me as though I am seriously insane. That’s my goal with this blog: One simple thing in each post that supports a simple, healthy, and happy life.

Nothing I say is intended to heal, diagnose, or cure anything. I am an educator and a mom. My degrees are in history, environmental science, and law. I love research. I love learning. And, I love using everything I learn to improve the quality of life for my whole family. When people express surprise and awe at how we live our lives, and the choices we make, my dear husband Chris can be heard saying, “She is a hippie we convinced to come inside.” I hope you will join me on this adventure.

“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in . Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

-David Bowie