Happy Tools

I’m happy most of the time. In fact, I’m so cheerful that occasionally it irritates people! I have normal emotional ups and downs but after thinking about it, I realized that I’m happy about 85% of the time. I have been really, really unhappy before though. In fact, I spent a year in clinical depression. Depression so painful that I didn’t want to breathe anymore. It was awful. So I work really hard NOT to go back there.

My favorite tool to keep me on the happy side of life is to count my blessings. I try to find at least five: I have love in my life, I have a place to live, I’m healthy, I’m doing something I really like and My kids still say, “I love you mom!” When I’m having a really rough day my list looks more like this: I’m breathing……I have gas in my car…….UMmmmmm….I have coffee…. squirrels are cute… I like the blue sky…. But at least I can still find five things!

My next best tool is to move (sometimes drag) my mind into the present moment. If I am busy worrying about something then I am NOT present. I’m really in the future making up stories about what “might” happen and then making myself sick over it. If I’m thinking about something in the past I’m not present in this moment either. When I finally bring myself to this moment I can see that everything is fine. I’m ok. Life is good and I don’t have anything to complain about.

Another tool that I use is exercise. I am a yoga instructor so I practice some kind of yoga daily. Yoga helps me get in touch with my body and my mind. It helps me “burn away the crazy” and also produces ‘Happy” endorphins in my brain! I also like to hike, ride my bike, swim or paddleboard. Any kind of exercise is helpful!

An often used tool is to talk to others about what is bothering me. It can be a professional counselor or a really good friend. But it needs to be someone I can be brutally honest with. Someone who will just listen and not judge. This person/or group of people can take some time and trial and error to find! Unburdening myself in this way takes a ton of weight off of my soul and raises my happiness level by leaps and bounds.

Hugs or hand holding is a great way to boost my happiness level. Humans are made to be in connection and communion with others. Being able to hug someone – tight, or walk around holding hands is an essential part of how we are made. If you’re not with a partner right now, go get a massage. Appropriate touch through massage can be a very worthwhile thing in your life. It is especially helpful for senior citizens who have lost their partner in life.

Going outside is probably one of the most underutilized ways to boost your happiness level! Our bodies need the vitamin D that the sun gives our skin. At least 20 minutes a day outside is recommended. I lived in Seattle for most of my life and there is not enough sunshine there but being outdoors at least gave me fresh air, green moss under my feet, huge pine trees to smell and ocean views. The sound of the waves can be a great meditation tool!

11657381_10206019718464453_1261366555_n

So, if you’re feeling a little out of sorts please try one (or all) of these Happy Tools! Life is good. It’s difficult sometimes but it’s worth it. Every day.

From My Heart to Yours!

Americas Religion – Consumerism

No one NEEDS three sets of dishes. No one needs “fancy” silverware, every day silver and picnic silverware too. Most of us have more clothes than we need and some of us even have clothes in our closets with the tags still on them!  No one needs all of that pressure to purchase, decorate and consume! What we need is to learn how to live with less. LOTS less.

I feel comfortable speaking on this subject because that used to be me. I wanted to be Martha Stewart. I loved everything she did. I bought transfer ware plates because she had them. I painted my rooms in muted shades because that is what she showed in her magazine. Hell, I even raised a couple of Arucana Chickens to get those coveted blue and green eggs that she raved about!

I had it bad folks! Mix my Need for More, More, More with my Need for Perfectionism and I was a hot mess! At one point I had 7 Christmas trees in my house – ALL during the same Holiday Season! I was so busy trying to be the perfect, wife, mom, home-maker, PTA member, and Church Lady that I lost site of what was the most important thing of all – my sanity! How can you stay sane when everyone is constantly telling you that enough is NOT enough?

Maybe it’s time we stop trying to do it all, Be it all, and have it all. Maybe it’s time that we say that it’s ok to live with less. That it’s ok to not be upgrading EVERY stinking time one is available or advertised on TV. I know I’m ready. How about you? Are you ready to say “enough” to all of the pressure to be perfect and stop trying to buy your way to happiness?

There are lots of people out there today sharing this message. You can check out the Minimalists. They have a similar message. Here’s what I’m doing.

  1. Stop buying so much crap. Do I NEED this or do I just WANT it?
  2. Get rid of what you don’t use. Clothes, shoes, kitchen stuff.
  3. Count your Blessings. Be more aware of the good stuff in your life.
  4. Be more Present. In THIS moment. Not the future or past.
  5. Don’t let others tell you what you need. You are the expert on that.

Life is NOT about stuff folks. Stuff just gets in the way. Have enough to be useful and comfortable but if you don’t wear it, touch it or love it – It needs to go.

It’s ok to say NO. YOU are enough without all the STUFF.

Move Toward What is Light

I got some great advice the other day. And it came from someone I don’t even know. He’s a self-help guru from Los Angeles that I found out about on the Internet! Now I normally don’t go looking for a lot of help online unless I’m really down. But what he had to say landed in my brain with a, “Oh yeah!” And just like that I was hooked.

He said lots of great things but the thing that hit home was, “Move away from what feels heavy and move towards things that feel light.” Easy right? So, why have I never thought of it this way before? I’ve said, “If it isnt’ a HELL YES, then it’s a NO.” That’s a pretty good one and I’ve also said, “What’s meant to be will be.” Isn’t that a song from the 50’s or something? LOL…..

But FEELING how your body reacts to a situation or a question is easy for me. Do I want to travel around the world – Hell Yes! Excitement, My face smiles – hence lightness!!!!! Do I want to stop going to school and do it right now? Ummmmm no….concern, worry, lots of questions….hence a heavy feeling. See it’s easy! Give it a try!

Yeah….right now….ask yourself a question and see how your tummy feels….does your heart drop? Or do you start to worry about it? Or does it make you get all squirmy feeling and excited??????

I hope it works for you too. Sometimes all we need is a new tool to help us figure things out. Because we commit ourselves to things that we really don’t want to do ….because we get shamed into it, or our mom makes us feel guilty, or we just feel societal pressure…the reasons are never-ending really. And the truth is we shouldn’t do that.

Stick with your gut – your inner Guru. It will give you an honest answer if you listen. Try it out this week and let me know if it works for you!

Now you’ll have to excuse me because I’m feeling like it would be a very good idea to go spend some time walking in nature!!!!!

My Birth – DAY on the Sea.

Okay, I know, I know!!! My birthday was last month! No, I’m not trying to drag out my birthday into another month but I do have something really important I want to talk to you about. It’s Balloons.

Most of us purchase balloons for our children’s birthday or maybe even to “let go” at our wedding shower. I see them in the grocery stores, the flower shops and even at restaurants sometimes. They are everywhere – Unfortunately.

After our last sail from Catalina Island to Ventura, California I will NEVER purchase another balloon. We saw at least 15 balloons floating randomly on the surface of the ocean and were able to save only six. I will say, it kind of felt like The Universe was saying “Happy Birthday DAWN!” because I have never seen so many balloons in the water.

But balloons don’t belong in the water. Fish try to eat them, birds get the strings wrapped around their necks and choke to death. Turtles get stuck in them. This is not a happy event for them!!!!

I know balloons look pretty and I know it’s a “thing” we human do to celebrate….but I KNOW we can find something else. I know we’re smarter than this! In fact,  If you are reading this,  I’m going to ask you to be bigger than balloons. I’m going to ask you to find another way – buy a cookie or a big cardboard sign or ANYTHING.

These oceans are OURS and we have to do what we can to try to keep them clean, to keep the fish healthy and to stop polluting our fricking home!

Because this:

14513647_10209436927332539_1975998668_o

Is NOT worth this:

rusty-blackbird-killed-by-latex-balloons1

P.S. We found a Mylar balloon in Joshua Tree as well 😦 Below is some more info for you. Please do your part to help. Namaste.

http://balloonsblow.org/impacts-on-wildlife-and-environment/

Gypsy Comes Home

It’s strange coming back home. During the last 9 months I have been to all four corners of the U.S. with a short trip to Europe thrown in for good measure! People walk up to me with a far-away expression on their face as though I’ve done something incomprehensible! They seem to have a romantic notion of what a nomadic lifestyle is like and they want me to tell them how dreamy it was! When they ask “Did you love it?” I have to pause because the answer isn’t simple.

Traveling is fun. It’s good to explore places like the Grand Canyon, the Rock of Gibraltar, the Florida Keyes and the crystal blue water of the Bahamas. When I look through my photos it’s surprising to me how many places I’ve visited. It’s  a blast to meet new people and make friends. I even earned a new understanding of how big our country is after taking a solo road trip from Tennessee to Washington state.

But traveling is not easy. By definition you are going away from home. You carry all of your possesions with you and you stay, sleep and eat in places that are not yours. Renting a house for a few months in Georgia was the most stable time we had and that house was for sale. So every time they needed to show the house we had to skeedaddle. We loved having the house but it was very clear that it wasn’t ours.

We also stayed with family and had a boat on which we camped. But none of them were home. I missed having a place that was MINE. Where I could keep a few cherished possessions. Where I could decorate or paint or lie in bed all day and know that it was ok because it was MY place. Having a HOME to come home to is a very good thing.

The hardest thing for me was learning to let go. You have to let go of a schedule, a PLAN, a time table, stability and security. You have to be ready to turn right or left on a whim. You have to be willing to NOT KNOW what was coming next and to go with the flow!

In my old life, I was a schedule fanatic. My kids were on a schedule, my stomach was on a schedule, I had a plan for everything and if things did not go according to that plan I became agitated and frustrated and extremely uncomfortable. I just felt that life was better planned out. A day went smoother when you knew where you’d be for lunch and where you’d be that night. But I had to throw all of that out the window on this journey.

I also struggled with isolation. Many people love being out on their own for long periods of time and I have learned to like my own company more than I used to. But I still missed my people. I am very lucky in that I have a group of friends and family who love and support me in a way no one else can.

I hope you have a group like this too. People who listen to you and understand. Who will call you on your crap when you’re being selfish or seeing things unclearly. People who are really there for you when you need them. I was very lucky in that I found some new “people” along the way!

So the answer is YES, I had a great time over the last year! I saw amazing places for the first time! I had experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. I learned a lot about myself too. I learned that I am capable, brave and strong and that I can adapt. I also learned that I like having a home and a plan and my people close by.

So if you walk up to me and ask me how my adventure went….be patient if I hesitate. I’m just trying to give you an honest answer. Adventure and Exploration are great but it’s also wonderful to come home and sit by the fire.  Would I do it again? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Mostly. Are there things I would change: Definitely Yes. Did I see amazing things? Yes. Did I meet great people? Yes. Was it easy? Hell NO.

For now, I’m glad to be back home….if only for the summer.

Namaste Y’all

Breitenbush Hot Springs, Canada

I sat in the steaming hot water up to my shoulders my back against the smooth rock wall, watching the rain drip down from the pine tree and huckleberry branches overhead, making slow circle art that expanded across the surface of the rock lined pool. I could hear the river rushing below the hill and feel my worries start to melt away as my skin turned pink and my gaze became more and more unfocused and relaxed.

13288192_10208333726873217_1111018803_o

(The middle pool)

I had heard of Breitenbush before but I had never been here. I’ve been to nearby Bagby and Harrison hot springs up in Canada. I event stopped at some small hot springs in Wyoming. But Breitenbush hot springs is on a whole new level!

Breitenbush is located an hour east of Salem, Oregon just out of Detroit. The spring sits back off the main road about 10 miles. There is no cell service, no wifi and nothing better to do than eat some glorious food, sleep and relax and rejuvenate in the natural hot springs that flow out of the ground.

13288419_10208333729233276_1932179941_o

What blew me away was that the price of your stay at Breitenbush covers everything! 3 delicious vegetarian meals, as much soaking in the springs as you can handle, use of the wet sauna and also various wellness classes – FREE.! That’s right. Free. One price for everything.

13262107_10208333729033271_1472501515_o

(The cabin I shared for the night)

I attended a fantastic yoga class while I was at Breitenbush. Rob looked to be about 24 years old. (Young enough to be my son!) He had long wavy blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail, a very quiet and relaxed attitude and a gorgeous, muscled, slim body. He looked like he practiced a lot! He led us through a slow Ashtanga practice that incorporated long-held poses. It was slow and gentle but it was challenging! It was the kind of practice that made me want to work harder, be more focussed and be a better yogi!  It was exactly what I needed after 5 days of driving across the country!

13282593_10208333728593260_1647421307_o

(The sanctuary where we practiced yoga)

I had left Franklin, Tennessee five days before. I was averaging 9 hours per day behind the wheel. I wanted to make it across to the west coast as quickly as possible. I had driven through snow, over mountain passes and through long flat stretches where it was just me and the truckers. And driving a mini cooper amongst 18-wheelers affords a brand new kind of stress and awareness – let me tell you!

I really needed Breitenbush. I needed the yoga to stretch out my stiff hips and back. I needed the hot springs that made my muscles melt and my brain relax. I needed the healthy food after days of fast food. And I needed the connection with people. I had been alone for the whole trip and visiting with the other hippies made me feel right at home!

So if you’re ever driving through the middle of Oregon on the back roads take a little detour and check it out. I promise you’ll be glad you did. I’m already planning when I can go back again! Namaste Peeps!

13275541_10208333726193200_2027168616_o

Sailing to Windward in the Bahamas

My boyfriend and I just got back from a 10 day sail to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas! I should really say that we survived a trip to the Abacos! Our boat is little. It’s an F27 Trimaran.  I’ve tried to explain to people that it may sound luxurious and romantic but it’s a lot like camping on the water and a whole lot of work! There were some lovely moments in the trip but the REAL story is that this trip kicked our butts, tested our relationship, taught us a lot about what we do and don’t enjoy and we were very glad to make it back in one piece!

My boyfriend tried to warn me. For about a month before we left he kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to sail over the gulf stream in our boat? Would I really be ok camping on our small boat for an undecided amount of time? He’d been to the Bahamas before in a small boat so he knew exactly what we were in for. I assured him I would be fine! I’m a rugged wilderness girl! I can handle it! I also had total faith in him and knew he wouldn’t put me in an unsafe situation. What I didn’t realize was exactly how wild and vast the passages would be!

We set out on that first day to cross the Gulf Stream from West Palm Beach to West End. The weather looked good except that the wind was coming from the exact same direction we were sailing! As anyone who sails knows, going directly into the wind is bumpy, wet and uncomfortable and for 50 miles we crashed into wave after wave covering our foul weather gear (YES we wore our foulies on the way to the Bahamas!)  in salt crystals! And it continued like that for the first 3 days!

13001215_10153727205186731_7660992532560420138_n

(Day 3 of sailing into the wind!)

It was exhausting and frustrating! But there was good along with the bad. Eventually the wind and weather calmed down and we had a few enjoyable days of sailing. My favorite stop was at Manjack Cay. I had been longing to spend some time on the beach – after all that’s what you go to the Bahamas for right? We pulled our tri up onto the pristine white sandy beach just as a small nurse shark swam in front of our boat patrolling the shallows. We spent the afternoon walking the beach and checking out the marine life.

13120588_10208160246816324_1958667345_o

(Maravilla on the beach at Manjack Cay – soooo dreamy!)

13106067_10208160253976503_805936043_o

( I imagined these Rays as a courting pair – her leading slowly and him waiting for his chance!)

13106525_10208160250656420_25618274_o

(A sea slug(? )That didn’t like me touching him(?) and squirted purple ink!)

13112655_10208160255056530_1027665211_o

(Sand so deep and soft it felt like walking in deep snow – except warmer! There were no footprints but mine!)

Later that evening we were greeted by Brenda who was staying on a neighboring trimaran. She invited us to a full moon party that evening on another part of the island. It was at that moment that I realized what it feels like to be a part of the sailing community! It didn’t matter what kind of boat we had, how big our motor was, or if we were grumpy or kind. We belonged! We were sailors and we were welcome and invited! We spent a lovely evening meeting other sailors with all kinds of boats from big Catamarans to gaff-rigged Schooners. We visited by the fire and even howled at the full moon!

Luckily during our ten days out at sea we didn’t have any major difficulties. Having an engineer as a boyfriend is a very good thing because he can fix anything and doesn’t give up easily! Even if he has to almost hang off the boat to get to it!

13078307_10208160329018379_750400432_o

I made sure to take some time for yoga as well. Yoga is how I stay fit and flexible and it helps me remain calm and focussed. It allows me to let go of any negative energy I’m holding and I had a lot of it on those long 6 or 8 hour sailing days! It was not easy on a small boat but I was able to practice on the outside nets a couple of mornings and even did a little practice in the cabin!

13106610_10208160247736347_1756717024_o

(Lots of time for meditation on a long passage!)

No one can talk about the Bahamas without mentioning how beautiful it is! There were portions of the ocean that were so bright that it looked like someone was shining a light from underneath the water! Sand so white and soft that it felt like baby powder, water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom!

13112444_10208160344858775_1109424466_o

The water is so blue that it doesn’t even look real!

13120537_10208160244456265_1859747371_o

(This is my favorite photo from the whole trip! Yes, it really is that lovely!)

13113123_10208160490342412_2132378478_o

(Water so clear you can see everything on the bottom! Looks like a Monet!)

As we began to sail back toward home from the Bahamas my mind was turning over and over thinking about my experiences out there. What had I learned? How did I feel about sailing – especially long passages with not much to do? How rugged was I? Did I feel like a success?

I had a lovely time. I am proud of myself for sailing upwind multiple days in a row and being a good sport. I’m a good partner to have on a boat. I can grind up the main, raise the jib, act as the Windlass over and over until we get a good grip on some sand. I can spend all day in the sun and wind and still smile at the end of the day. I can swim and snorkel and hike and walk beaches to explore each and every new place we see. I can cook and keep the boat clean. I can use a camp shower in an open cockpit. I am brave and adventurous and strong.

But, I also learned that I’m a little older than I used to be. Things are not as easy for me physically as they were a few years ago. I enjoy some comforts like refrigeration and a stove. I prefer shorter sailing days and more time for exploration on land. I learned that the ocean is a wild and dangerous place and that you have to be rugged to sail on those deep blue inky depths that swell and roll and push you around. And I also learned that I would like to have a boat with standing head room and maybe even an electric windlass! LOL.

Fair winds and Following Seas to all of my sailing sisters out there! Go get em and be safe out there!