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I am in the home stretch of my 52 books in 52 weeks The God Project blog..only 4 books to go, and I have chosen to finish up with 4 children’s books.  Two of them were already on my reading list, but the other 2 I found on the shelf and found to be very important reads.

My Princess Boy is one of them!

This year we have seen so  many young men kill themselves because of anti-gay bullying.  This brought on the “It Get’s Better” YouTube channel and project.  It spurred rallies all over the country.  And it really stirred me.  As I have said before in this blog, I was bullied my whole childhood.  I know what it is like.  I watched my own children get bullied for various reasons.  I have seen it from both ends, and its ugly.  So when I saw the title of this book, I HAD to pick it up and choose it for this blog!  The message is IMPORTANT and timely.

This book is a true story written by a mom who’s 4-year-old son loves to dress in girls clothing.  Instead of forcing her hand and saying..”No!  Little boys don’t dress that way!” she has embraced his creativity and reinforced her love for him.  As a  matter of fact, his whole family has embraced him and loves him for who he is and has no plans on changing him any time soon!  This is so refreshing!

Love & self-esteem start at home!  We as parents need to nurture our children and love them for who they are.  Give them the space to figure it out for themselves.  We need to be able to let go of what we think we want for our children and give them space to be themselves.  Why do we as parents insist on living through our children instead of letting them live their own lives with our loving support?  And it goes beyond what happens at home.  I know some parents will say, “Well its okay to dress like this at home, but when you are out in public, that’s a different matter.”  No!  It’s not.  What does that tell the child?  That you have to pretend to be something you are not so others will not laugh at you and like you?  Talk about starting your child off with a complex!  And it tells your child that you don’t support them and that they can not come to you with their true feelings and issues.

I know how hard it is to watch your child being bullied.  I know how hard it is to see them come home in tears and refuse to want to go to school.  This book is such an inspiration to parents who’s children are being bullied.  It’s an inspiration to kids who just want to be themselves!  It’s such a great tool for the school to use to show the individuality we each have and should be shared and celebrated instead of bullied and put down!

I applaud Cheryl and her family for being such great parents.  And I applaud the school their child goes to for supporting this little boy in his individuality and creativity!

Please visit http://www.myprincessboy.com to learn more about this amazing book and the family behind it.  There is also an amazing interview with Cheryl and her son on YouTube that you can check out!

So I leave you with this question:  How do you support the children in your life in their individuality?  What do YOU do when you see a little boy in the store dressed up like a princess or a little girl in the store who is dressed like a boy?  Or let’s take it a step further…what do YOU do when you see ADULTS who dress like the other gender?  Be honest.  What do you think (even to yourself where no one else can hear you)?  Just some food for thought!

Blessings!

This is a book of poems written by a selected group of Idaho 9th-12th graders who submitted and won a poetry/writing contest regarding what true love is.  It was put together by the Idaho Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Project.

To find out more about this project, please go to http://www.nomeansknow.com or call 208-384-0419 or 1-888-293-6118.

So what would YOU expect to find in a book of poems about love written by high schoolers?  Do you remember being in high school and writing “love poems”?  I do.  As a matter of fact, I still have those poems and they read a lot like this book.  However, there are some very DEEP poems in here.  Some will make you cry.  Others will make you smile.  It’s hard to tell if some of these poems were written based on what the students learned through this project or if they wrote the poems based on real life experiences.  In some cases, I prayed that they wrote their poem based on what they learned and NOT real life experience!  It was that heart breaking!  In other cases, I found myself wanting to cheer because the poems showed that these students had a good head on their shoulders and knew what they wanted when it came to a relationship!

This book was completely free. I picked it up at a booth at the St. Luke’s Women’s Fitness Celebration.  I also signed up to volunteer to teach the classes.  I checked the website and didn’t see a place where you could get the book, but I’m sure if you emailed them or called them, they could tell you where you could pick one up for your teen!

The poems are powerful and tell amazing stories of courage, grief, sadness, love, violence, redemption,  becoming parents,  standing their ground, losing the battles, over coming the odds…and so  much more.  Under most of the poems was the student’s name and what school they attended.  There were several written by teen moms who attended the alternative high school specifically meant for teen moms.  Some of the students were home schooled.  And one of the students I recognized from my own child’s school.

The following poem really gets to the heart of what this book is about:

Necessity

Respect should be there

Lack will cause pain, Suffering

Respect must be there

by Ryan Ashley

Moscow Senior High

Teacher:  Ms. Hodgin

Here’s another one that really spoke to me.  It is so very true!

A County in Texas

It had the highest rate of teen  pregnancy

In America.  the only sex education allowed in their schools

Was the saying, “Abstinence is next to Godliness.”  Still,

Purity rings shriveled off already-blistered fingers and

The STDs buzzed like pestilent-fat fleas through the school halls,

Nipping at hands that vetoed contraception.

Those few that pushed condoms like coke and kept their junkies safe

Were slaughtered financially.  Quietly.

Student warred with blindness,

Parents panicked and clutched it.

By Chloe Barnes

Moscow Senior High School

Teacher:  Ms. Hodgin

Here is one that I absolutely loved!!!  What a great metaphor!!!

Perfect Batch

Love is like a grandma’s special recipe

You need all the right ingredients to make a perfect batch

Sometimes it gets burned

or thrown in the trash

Amateur attempts to replicate the tried and true

sometimes forget the secret spice.

Each  new attempt is a learning step,

in finding that desired formula

You try so hard to make it work

until finally it’s made

The perfect batch

By Ryan Garrett

Homedale High School

Teacher:  Ms. Lathrop

This book is filled with so much more wisdom from these young people!  If you have children, check out this amazing organization and what they are teaching our Tweens and Teens!  Spread the message of self-esteem and what true love is.  Spread the message of empowerment!  Together we can educate our children and stop Teen Dating Violence!

Last week, I received an email from the VP of The Community Center (a place for the LGBT people of Boise to gather for their groups, clubs, or entertainment) saying that I had been nominated for the Willow(Community Volunteer) Award–to the LGBT individual in a non-leadership role for community service.  The actual nomination read:

Martha Spiva–Martha has been working with a.l.p.h.a. as a volunteer for several years, planning the Idaho Women’s Retreat for 2 years now, helping out with Forever Red, and bringing in new partners.  She also works with the Girl Scouts and a number of other groups as a volunteer.  she is a great representative of the queer community.

I was floored, shocked, surprised, but most of all honored!  As it turns out, Duane Quintana the Executive Director of a.l.p.h.a. (Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS) nominated me.  He later told me that he believed I was a great example of the “queer community” (as a bisexual woman) who volunteers not just in the “gay community” but in the Boise community at large.

While it is true, I do volunteer for several different organizations, I never really thought about how much I volunteer (except for on those exhausting weeks where it feels like I don’t have time for everything).  It is just what I do.  My life is dedicated to being of service.

When I was told that I was nominated, I cried.  I know that for those of you who know me, the fact that I cried is NOT a shocker.  I cry at everything.  But this was different because of where this award is coming from.  I realized that I had come full circle.

Just before we moved away from Phoenix, Arizona, I was just starting to “come out” as bisexual.  Some people accepted me like “Whats the big deal?”.  Yet other’s who accepted me at first threatened to throw it in my face later.  See, I was a volunteer for the Cub Scouts (totally homophobic organization and does NOT allow anything other than straight people to be leaders.)  I was also on the board of my child’s school Family Teacher Organization.  I was a pillar in my community and well-known.  When I finally pulled my children out of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, my “friend” took this personally and threatened to “out” me to all of the parents at our children’s school.  Shortly after that, my husband’s company moved us to Boise, Idaho.

I decided that when we moved to Boise, I was going to live my life “out of the closet”.  Yes, I’m married; yes, I’m bisexual.  The first thing I did was look for a LGBT community center, and I found it.  They were amazingly welcoming.  I started attending a group called Your Family Friends and Neighbors.  Looking to get my kids involved in something, I attended the youth group there. I also attended the women’s Halloween dance.  Everything was going great until a lesbian woman at the dance found out that I was married & bisexual, and she shunned me.  I then gave up on being part of the LGBT community.  I did find other people who loved and accepted me just the way I am, and continued on with my life.  We love it here in Boise!

Eventually, I got involved with a.l.p.h.a.  I had heard about the organization from my massage clients and from my son’s friends who volunteered there while she was in high school.  But it wasn’t until one of my husband’s friends contacted me to ask me to do massages for the Idaho Women’s Retreat (for women living with HIV/AIDS) that I really got involved.  I ended up running the retreat and getting involved with a.l.p.h.a. in other ways….like condom raids, teaching compassion classes, planning Forever Red (the Award Banquet), and KYS’s (Know You Status FREE HIV testing events).  As you might imagine, while volunteering with a.l.p.h.a. and HIV/AIDS centered organization, I started getting to know alot of the LGBT community.  Here I found acceptance as a married bisexual woman!  I was just one of the gang!  I love working with these people!

And now, here I was being nominated for this award by the community that at first shunned me…and now is awarding me as one of them volunteering FOR them as well as our community at large!  I finally felt like I was “home”!

I looked at the other nominees; they either volunteered for The  Community Center (the people hosting the award ceremony) or they were very well-known people within the LGBT community.  I didn’t think I had a chance at winning.  But it was put to a public vote.  We were encouraged to send out the email and post it on facebook….and that is exactly what I did.  Sure enough, I had enough votes, I was awarded the Willow Award for being a bisexual woman who performs community service in and outside the LGBT community!  This felt amazing!

They called my name, and I could hardly believe it.  I walked up to the stage and was given the chance to make an acceptance speech where I shared my story of contacting The Community Center first..and now I am receiving an award from them.  Everything goes full circle!

I am humbled and honored just from the nomination, and even more so with the fact that people voted for me and I won.  Volunteering is something that I do.  It is my “job”.  I am very fortunate to be able to be a stay at home  mom and volunteer my time.  I am grateful to my husband for supporting me in this and for my family being generous with their “mom time” and sharing me with our community.  I could never do what I do without my family!  I am very blessed!

And I was just told this morning that I am being nominated for another award; this time it’s a national award with the opportunity (if I win) to be awarded a significant amount of money to be donated to my volunteer organization.  For the nomination process, I was asked to gather and write a kind of resume of my community service.  I only started keeping track in 1998.  But it dawned on me that I have been volunteering since I was  12 years old.  That is 29 years of community service!!!  I am so very grateful for the opportunity to be of service to my community (where ever that is at the time).  I have touched so many lives, but in turn so many lives have touched mine in ways that I will never be able to communicate.

My life is truly blessed and not a moment goes by that I do not recognize this.

Thank you for everyone who voted for me to receive The Willow Award.  Thank you to my family for all of your support.  Thank you to a.l.p.h.a. for using my talents and pushing me to be better with them.  Thank you to the Girl Scouts of America for being inclusive and being such great examples for our girls.  Thank you to the Junior League of Boise for providing me with the leadership opportunities so that I can grow and be stronger!

If you ever have the opportunity to be of service, even if its just for one hour, please take it.  Every minute of service counts.  Remember that what you give, you will receive.  You get from life what you put into it.  What are you putting into your life?  Are you giving back?  Are you paying it forward?  I hope so; you won’t regret it!  I  never do!

“Your well-being is reachable, for its maximal potentiality has never left you.  You have simply forgotten where it lay.”  This quote can be found toward the end of Hanle’s book, but it states very simply what can be found in the pages of her book.

Last summer when I started on my weight loss journey (for the umpteenth time) I decided that I really needed to see a therapist.  I have done the yo-yo dieting since my teenage years.  I have done so much spiritual studying.  I knew that this wasn’t just a matter of the scientific method of eat fewer calories than I am expending.  My up and down weight issues are the result of something deeper.  Therapy worked to a degree.  I learned alot.  But there is still so much more to learn.  It was a great starting point.  This Blog project picks up where it left off.  And then this book comes my way.  This book talks exactly about what I have been feeling.  It takes the reader on a journey of awareness to the realization that our thoughts create our reality.  Yes, that means that our thoughts have created our obesity!  MY THOUGHTS HAVE CREATED MY OBESITY!  In the very last chapter she actually states that “obesity is a choice”.  It  may be an unconscious choice, but it is a choice I have chosen none the less.  Once we have this awareness, we can now begin to get to the root of the issue and change our perceptions!  Fantastic!

Hanle admits “this book will surely challenge everything you  have heard or read about weight loss.”  Well isn’t it about time that something/somebody does that?  Look around, America, obesity rates in adults and children are on the rise.  With all the diets, all the gyms, all the resources in this free country, we are STILL getting bigger and bigger.  What’s the definition of insanity?  Well it’s about time we start doing and thinking things differently!

Beyond Fitness contends that to really start changing our lives and living healthier lifestyles, we must first understand 4 Universal Principles.

  • The Core Thought Principle:  the beliefs on which we make our choices.  There are only 2: Love or Fear.  If all of our choices are coming from a Self belief of Love, then our choices will be healthy (physically and emotionally).  If our choices come from a Self belief of Fear, then the result will likely manifest in health issues such as being over weight.
  • The Cause and Effect Principle:  “Choices create actions.  Actions create reactions.  Actions and reactions are consequences.  Desiring another consequence implies choosing differently.  choosing differently implies creating new possibilities of thinking.”  This section also talks about how addictions are created and you really start to see how the yo-yo dieting is perpetuated by your thoughts (or at least I did).  I also started to see that I have to really take responsibility for my own actions.  I can’t blame my parents for this.  I can’t blame anything or anyone for this.  What I do and what I see are direct effects to the actions to make based on my beliefs.
  • The Common Denominator law:  Many of us tend to live our lives in victimhood.  Why do I always end up with a broken heart?  Why do I always get involved with the “bad boy”?  Why is it that these diets just never work?  So take a look at your failed relationships (whether romantic or platonic) and take a look at your diets.  What has been the “common denominator” in all of them.  YOU.  Or when I look at myself…”ME”.  It’s not the relationships that fail me or the diets that fail me.  Its ME that fails me.    “What happens to you belong to you.  You are either the unconscious or the conscious creator of your perceptual reality.  Nobody can claim this ownership and no one can undo what you  have done.  So, embrace your creative power and start to make the changes in your Life that will make each of your days a blessing……Be the one who makes the difference in your life the one who makes the difference in other people’s lives.  Let your example of courage inspire others on the same path.  Be this someone who experiences a Life that is free of the burden of misery.  this existence that we all deserve is success, and peace will lie within.”
  • The Impermanency Law:  Life is fluid and always changing.  NOTHING stays the same.  We can choose to follow the flow of the current evolution.  We can decide that we like what we see right now and continue to make the same choices every single day that perpetuate the state of living that we are living now…OR..we can decide to make a difference choice that completely changes the path of our own evolution.  Which would you rather?  “Life, in some ways, repeats itself, as long as the need for understanding remains.  but a wider consciousness can lead our hope for happiness to a great level, by opening doors to a multitude of possibilities we previously feared.”  When I read this section of the book, I thought about the cycle of physical, emotional, sexual abuse in my family.  I decided when I found out that I was pregnant with my first child that I would break this cycle of abuse.  Well my family also has a cycle of obesity; and I have decided to break that as well.  Plain and simple.  What kind of life do you choose to live?  What in your life needs to change in order for you to live the life of your dreams?

This book also comes with a practical guide to help change your beliefs.  This process is called the F.A.C.T. Factor Strategy:  Forgiveness, Attitude, Courage, Time.  Hanle suggests that you read through the book before doing the exercises she gives you…so that is what I have done.   In this section of the book, there are numerous deep thoughts and amazing quotes, and I will leave you on your own to discover them for yourself.  They will mean more to you that way :).

“The energy we use to create our Life can not be destroyed, but its movement can be redirected.” In her chapter called “The Modus Operandi of Empowerment” she shares with her readers all of the things/beliefs she felt were important for her own weight loss journey:  Faith, Visualization, Affirmations, Repetitions, Prayers, Synchronicity/Coincidence, Curiosity, Meditation, Finding a Mentor, Relaxation, Discipline, Water Intake, Breathing, Muscles, Flexibility, Food Intake, and Books.  (BTW…I LOVE her list of suggested reading :))

Hanle also talked about the power of your words.  This is the same kind of concept as discussed in The 4 Agreements.  Your words are how you create your world.  Be careful with them.  Mean what you say and say what you mean.

When she talks about the differences between creation and limitation, her words created a beautiful vision for me, and I would like to share that with you.  “Fully express your self by being free of limited paradigms and limited perceptions.  the beauty of our reality lies in its impermanency and its endless possibilities.  reveal the limitless resources within by setting its boundaries out of sight.  Empower your very center and build your body like a cathedral.  Be your own architect and design the temple you foresee.  Enjoy the journey.”

She ends her book by talking about our future…..our children.  Let us not pass on our own fears and insecurities to our children.  Let’s leave them a legacy of  physical and emotional health.  Let’s break the cycle of Obesity in America!  It starts NOW.  It starts with you and me!

There are so many great quotes and thoughts in this book.  I swear Hanle was writing my life story in her book!  It truly spoke to my heart.  (Is it  just me, or do I say that about all the books I blog about. *laugh*)  She continuously says that this book is filled with Truths, not THE truth by A truth. You get to decide if it’s Truth for you. As for me, it is absolutely Truth.

As a mom, a voracious reader, and a mentor to young women I like to find books for my children that teach the same kinds of things I’m reading in my adult literature.    Some of the young women I mentor are behind in their reading, and let’s face it, some of the books I have read and blogged about are going to be over alot of elementary school kid’s heads.  So finding Wayne Dyer’s books is a true blessing!  And YES!  I’m counting each one of them towards the 52 books in 52 weeks.  Sure they are children’s books, but the lessons are just as profound…and fun to read!  So if you have children in your life, this blog is for you!!!!

I loved this book.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and I told my mom that I wanted to be a puppeteer when I grew up.  We were going to church that had a very active children’s choir that was constantly performing something.  During a couple of those performances, I got to do a huge puppet production. I loved it!  I also loved to act.  And there was a Christian college in town that actually had a degree in puppeteering!  It was perfect for me!  But my mom blessed me with her stories regarding this dream of mine.  “That won’t make you any money.  That is not a real job!”  So I dropped it.

As adults, we mean well.  All we want for our children is that they grow up and be productive citizens working in a job they love, and maybe even make alot of money doing it.  For some that means college.  For others, well it means getting a job at McDonald’s.  Any job that is legal and makes money is a good job, as long as when you are working at it, you like it :).  Liking/loving what you do is the  most important thing.  Yet, as adults, we tend to hear our children’s dreams and then give them “reasons” that it will be hard, won’t work, not acceptable.  Those really aren’t reasons, those are excuses!  And it’s just not fair to do that to a child!  I know I have been guilty of that, but I also know that I have told my children that I will support them in whatever career choice they make.

In this book, we follow a little boy on his dream to become a marine biologist.  We see most of the adults in his life discourage him with their own stories, but one adult in particular helps him overcome those excuses.  The pictures are beautiful and bright, and the story is inspirational!  There is even a quiz for the reader to take to see if the lessons sunk in!  If you have a child that says “I can’t”, then this is the book for him/her!!!!

First of all, the cover on this book just makes me want to smile!!!!!  It’s bright yellow with smiling children on it!  How can you NOT pick this book up?????  Then add the title to it, and it’s a winner in my book!  That is before I even open the book to read its pages!

As you may know I teach self-esteem classes to young women through one of my volunteer organizations.  I am constantly telling these girls how amazing and incredible they are.  We work on ways for them to feel how special they are.  This book is a natural extension of what I teach.  It gives “10 ways to let your Greatness shine through”

It talks about dealing with bullies and hurt feelings. It talks about realizing how special and different each and every person is.  It talks about visualizing what you want.  It discusses changing your perspective and your thoughts, and that you are never alone…God is always there.  It talks about so much more.  The message is beautiful, and made me smile while I read it.  The little verses are created in rhyme which makes it fun to read, and the pictures are amazing! Here is just a sample….

“There is good in you and in everyone.  sharing this good with others is fun.  You have so many ideas inside your mind.  Set them free; you are one of a kind.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have told my children that money doesn’t make you happy.  Have you lost track of how many times you have said this..not only to your children, but even adults???  That’s what I thought.

When I work with at-risk youth, often times these kids come from poverty striken homes.  Heck, even the ones who are not at-risk but come from single mom homes have this same issue.  And then they see the other kids in their schools with more money, more toys, bigger homes, and going on vacations.  Sometimes the underprivileged kids start to get down.

In today’s economy with moms and dads losing their jobs and money getting tighter, this book becomes even more relevent.  We need to teach our children, that money & possessions do not make you happy and they do not define who you are!  Dyer does just that in this book.  He helps them learn that WHO they are is about their own talents, skills, and attitudes.  He helps them realize that any job is a good job, as long as they are happy doing it.  He helps them learn to dream and reach their goals, and even shows the children using a vision board (without going into detail about that).

This book talks about what matters the most, and it certainly isn’t money and possessions!  In my humble opinion, this is a must read for every child….and adult :).

This is probably one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read.  Yes, the craft of writing is beautiful, but I am talking about the feeling I get from reading it.  I feel excited, loved, warm rapturous, enlightened, freedom, beauty, reverence, sacred…all kinds of words.  It is a beautiful thing!

It took me a little while to get into the book. I am not certain why, but as soon as I did, it had me captured.  I read for 8 hour strait the other day.  I just couldn’t put it down.  However, bedtime came and I HAD to put Her down.  Yes, I called the book Her and yes, I meant the capital “H”.  Read the book, and you will understand.

I found this book on the Pearlsong Press website.  “Pearlsong focuses on women and health at every size, celebrating the natural diversity in body size and encourages people to stop focusing on weight in favor of listening to and respecting natural appetites for food, drink , sleep, rest, movement, and recreation.”  Not all of their books are about health, but ALL of them celebrate women!  This book certainly does!

This book reawakens the Divine Feminine (Divine She) within us all.  Saracino takes the reader on a mystical journey back in time when the Divine She was revered and the Earth was sacred.  She doesn’t just take the readers there, but she also takes our heroine, Madalene there.  As a reader, we become Madalene, and take this journey to reawaken the Divine within.  We remember what it was like when our menstrual cycles were celebrated instead of cursed.  We remember what it was like to live a life where our intuition flowed and our hearts were open.  We remember what it was like to live a simple life steeped in spiritual traditions.  For some, we hear/read the stories for the first time of how the Divine Feminine changed and morphed into the Catholic Mother Mary.

While reading this book, there were times, when I felt the call to action.  I felt the call to celebrate.  I became even more excited about my daughters impending menarche and the celebration and ceremony we will hold for her.  I laughed and I cried.  I wanted to scream at the injustice of change brought on by the lust for power.  I wanted to scream at the violation of Mother Earth.  The way we have treated Mother Earth is just a physical manifestation of the way we have treated our own Divine Feminine…the way we have treated our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters…OURSELVES.

As women, it is time to stop the abuse.  It is time to stand up for ourselves and realize that WE ARE DIVINE BEINGS OF LIGHT.  We need to learn to love ourselves..our bodies..our minds..our hearts just the way we are.  It’s time that we honor our bodies and the natural cycles it goes through.  Celebrate our menses..honor our moon time.  Remember where we come from.  We remember we are sacred!  This isn’t about US..its about our daughters.  We need to honor ourselves so that we may teach our daughters that they too are sacred.  Change starts with US..right NOW.

What is the source of our downfall..our forgetting:

“Justice and compassion pose great threats to those who seek control.  Power is a lusty mistress.  It entices and corrupts even the most courageous of hearts.”

Here is a reminder:

“All colors, all races, all languages, all levels of intelligence, all manner of creativity.  Healers and  judges, farmers and millers, slaves and soldiers, men and women, children and animals.  Freedom was everyone’s birthright.  And all were meant to prosper and thrive.”

Here is our call to action:

“Life is temporary.  This beauty and the richness you have witnessed today, the sadness and the horrors, too, will remain, but you will not.  You must prepare to do your work.  Go forth and be a healer.  Speak your truth.  Do not waste your breath on meaningless endeavors.  Be true to  your calling, before your time is over.  that is the only way to make a benefit of your life.  For yourself ad for others you encounter.”

“We must rise up, we beings of the ancient memory, when we are able, and assert our mighty authority, our collective plea, our aboriginal insistence.  Our plight must be championed by those of the human race who can heed our siren-song, dare to take up our life-sustaining battle cry.  For Nature and the Divine Mother will not long be held hostage.  On this there is no dispute.”

And what if the call to action scares us?  What if the change scares us?:

“If you’re going to live your life in fear that someone or something is going to lie to you, you’re going to be very lonely.  Life is to be grabbed by the butt and shook for the sheer, juicy joy of living…..If sometimes you squeeze too hard  and you get shit on, so be it.  The good times you gain far outweigh the bad.”

Here’s to grabbing hold of the butts in life and shaking for the sheer, juicy joy of living!!!!

Chapter 4 “The Listening Mind”

I don’t know about you, but I always have a conversation going on in my head.  I have lists being made, being checked off, reviewed.  I am usually doing one thing and thinking about what I need to do next.  And when someone is talking to me, I quite often and wondering how to respond to them and/or trying to figure out how to help them (instead of really listening).  Active listening???  Not so much.  I am constantly reminding myself to practice ACTIVE listening…instead of being active while listening. *laugh*  So this chapter made complete sense to me!

When someone comes to talk to us and share their troubles, our minds tend to jump right into action.  They start talking, and we hear a little bit then immediately start to label/judge what they are saying.  We categorize what they are saying and then we pull up our experience with this category and staring listing ideas of how we can help them.  All the while, our friend is still sharing with us and we haven’t really be listening, have we?  They stop talking, or maybe they even ask us, “So what do you think?”.  Like a good friend, we have already made up our minds which direction to go and what to say, so we start spouting off our great ideas!  But are they really great?  Are they really what our friends need?  How can we even know what they really need if we were so busy thinking about what *WE* though they needed instead of listening for what their hearts are really telling us.  Whew!  Now there is something to think about.

So how do we stop this insanity?  How do we stop our minds from chattering about and making these lists and really detaching from our friends and/or people in need?  MEDITATE.  Stop the attachment to our thoughts.  Realize that yes, thoughts come and go, but they are not us and they certainly are not our friends.  They are just thoughts.  One will float on by and another will follow right behind it.  It’s okay.  Let them go.  Meditate, and quiet your mind.  Then in the still of that moment, your intuition will find a way to communicate with you, and you will KNOW what needs to be done to help your friend.  You will stop doing what YOU think is right, and really KNOW what IS right.  And maybe what is right is not doing anything at all, but just being there so that your friend feels heard.

In this chapter, it suggests practicing meditation and the art of letting go for 20 minutes a day.  Here is a great quote as it pertains to service:

“First, we have to appreciate the value of such qualities of mind and desire to develop them. Next we have to have faith in the possibility that we can indeed make progress.  Finally, we have to explore and practice appropriate techniques.  Twenty minutes a day of such practice can lead to results and the incentive to go deeper still.  Continuous practice brings about great transformation of mind and leads to a new quality of service.”

“When we function from this place of spacious awareness rather than from our analytic mind, we are often surprised to find solutions to problems without our having ‘figured them out.'”

Have you ever had the right answer just hit you like a ton of bricks..out of nowhere.  That Ah-Ha moment?  That is what this is like.  When we stop trying to “figure things out” and find that space of awareness where all things are possible, the right answer will just come to us.  When we stop being attached to the outcome of our own thoughts and about the way we think things should play out, and just give our own intuition the space to flow, we will truly be able to be of service to our friends, family, and people we serve around our community.  We won’t have to FIGHT it anymore..it will flow freely.

When we listen to our friends, with this kind of spacious awareness  in our minds, our friends will FEEL truly heard, and sometimes, that is all that they need.  I know for myself, I am constantly telling my husband, “I don’t need you to fix anything, I just want to be heard.”  Stop going into “White Knight Syndrome” and just listen; that is the greatest gift you can give anyone :).

Meditate and Let Go………and you will be more effective in your service :).

Chapter 5 “Helping Prison”

When we as service providers start labeling ourselves and label the ones that we help, we have a tendency to get stuck, or trapped, within those labels or forms.  “Entrapment in these alienates us from one another:  a social worker and a juvenile offender just miss; a nurse and a patient seem worlds apart; a priest and a parishioner, so distant, so formal.  What otherwise could be a profound and intimate relationship becomes ships passing in the night.  In the effort to express compassion, we end up feeling estranged.  It’s distressing and puzzling.”

These rolls we play continue in separating us from our true desire which is to be of service and be helpFUL instead of being Helpers.  As long as we continue to separate ourselves from those we want to help, we will be unable to truly give them what they need.

So why do we do this?

As someone who is active in 3 different volunteer organizations, I found this chapter really enlightening.  Each of us has our own reasons for being of service, but one thing we can all say is that when we have truly made a difference in someone’s life, it feels good.  There is a reciprocity in service relationships, but there is a fine balance.  Do you provide service to feel a void in your life (so then the result for you is that you fill that void) or do you see a need for service and your provide it (and as a result feel good because you were able to help someone)?  That is the line.  Are you a Helper or are your being Helpful.  Are you a noun or a verb?

In one of the organizations I volunteer for, there is always an orientation meeting and a training process.  During orientation, the new ladies are always asked, “Why do you want to join us?”  The replies very, but many of the answers are: I want to make new friends, I want to network, I want to have adult interaction and get away from my kids for a bit, I would like the training you provide…then these are always followed by, “And oh ya, I want to give back to community.”  Not this is not true for all of the women in this organization.  Now this is an amazing organization with a heart of gold.  The women are talented, amazing and caring, and they have done some amazing work in my community.  I do not say any of this to disparage them or the organization, but when I read this quote from the book, i was reminded of this organization:  “Or maybe we’re just plain lonely.  Intimacy is what we’re looking for, and it’s often there to be found in a helping relationship.”  “Rare indeed is the individual for whom the helping act does not arise in part out of some personal motive.  To the extent that it does, however, what we are looking for is a role that meets a need….our need.  We’re looking to be helpers, not simply to be helpful.  A personal agenda leads us to invest in the position, not simply the function.  And we invest in other’s reactions to it as well.”

As this “God Project” is about ME and my own personal journey, I will admit that the previous quotes gave me pause.  Why do *I* belong to this particular organization.  What was *my* answer to the question “Why do you want to join us?”  What was my motive?   I will say that I joined this organization because it allowed me to follow my passion which was to inspire young women to be strong and independent.  It allowed me to work with young women; it allowed me to be of service to them..which is what I had been looking for.  I also joined the organization to make friends and for the training and for what it would look like on a resume’.  I’m not going to lie.  However, my first reason for joining was to be of service.  That was *my* answer.

As I continued reading, I found this quote about organizations: “The service organizations so many of us work for have an investment in collective self-image.  Reputations, budgets, relationships in the community, need to be protected and promoted.  By building and investing in formal helping institutions we often end up creating distances between who we think we are and those we’d like to serve.”  It’s this self-image that imprisons us as Helpers…rather than being helpful.

For me, I have found that in the organization I belong to, the “image” of the organization is so important that I believe we are afraid to get dirty.  We want to help as long as it feels and is politically correct.  After all, if we offend someone, we might lose funding or support.  However, I believe that the people we strive to help are rarely put together in nice neat packages that are politically correct.  In behaving this way, and in making these choices, we continue to separate ourselves from those we strive to help.

Another great quote from this book is from the philosopher Gurdjieff, “If we wish to escape from prison, the first thing we must acknowledge is that we ARE in prison.”  We can’t be helpful if we are in prison; if we are bound up by shackles of what others might think of us, we can not be helpful.  And it is for this reason, I have chosen to walk away from this organization.  I have learned alot from them, and I am totally grateful.  But I don’t do well in prisons, and I have found that there are many other places where I can inspire young women to be strong and independent.  This may mean joining another organization which may have some of the same issues; I don’t know.  I won’t know till I get there.  But one thing I have learned, is that if I don’t try, I’ll never grow : ).

This chapter also discusses the feeling of helplessness.  Until we know the feeling and sit in the acceptance of helplessness we will not be willing to accept help.  Until we can accept help ourselves, we will be unable to GIVE help and be helpful.  That is a pretty profound lesson.  As a “super mom”, I have been guilty of not allowing others to help me.  As a culture, we teach independence.  Our national holiday in the USA is INDEPENDENCE DAY!  But we need the community…..It’s okay to accept help graciously.  In doing so, we open ourselves up for such great learnings.  “Help has become a collaboration.  In this collaboration we see just how much we ourselves have to offer: our own perseverance, honesty, openness, gratitude humor.  And we may be amazed to find out how hungry people are for these qualities.”

I will end this blog entry with this quote:

“The challenge, then, the opportunity really, is to accept the roles in order to cut through them, and to cut through them in order to be able to participate in them without entrapment.”…..”it’s a chance to take on form in order to liberate one another from it.  This is the true work of a conscious human birth.  This is what we’re all here to do.”

Here’s to breaking out of prison!!!!

I woke up this morning in a pretty rotten mood, but we had decided yesterday that today we were going skiing/boarding as a family.  We got up early, and when Tracy went out to start the Suburban, the battery was dead.  Not a great start to a day where I was already in a bad mood.  We decided to try and take my car which meant Tracy would have to snowboard instead of ski (his skis don’t fit in my car and we don’t have a ski/board carrier on top).  Tracy’s board was still too long.  We weren’t sure how this was going to work.  Nate (my 17 year old son) let out a loud “I’m very unhappy” sigh, and I lost it and snapped at him.  Eventually, we figured out a way to get all the boards in the car.   Being resourceful and thinking creatively is a very valuable tool :).

Still in a foul mood, I start driving the whole family up the mountain.  I should tell you that one of the biggest reasons we “fought” so hard to go today (instead of just saying “let’s stay home and fix the burb”) was that a local Snowboard Shop was doing demo day (which meant we could ride amazing snowboards for free.  We didn’t want to miss this.)  So Up the mountain I drove.

Now it’s not very often, that we find ourselves so engrossed in a conversation with our children that we don’t even turn on a radio in the car.  But today, I didn’t turn on the radio.  What happened was amazing.  Nate started asking questions about  US History.  We had an incredible conversation about racism, economics, past presidents, discrimination as a whole, and were able to share our own personal stories of desegregation in Texas.  This allowed me to share some of the stories I read in SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME.  We also got to talk about colleges and school.  It was a great conversation all the way up the mountain.  By the time we got up there, my mood had completely turned around!  It was promising to be an amazing day with the family!

Once we made it up to the mountain, we went straight to The Board Room’s tent.  We waited a while, and were able to find enough boards for Tracy, Nate and myself to Demo.  I was blessed with this amazing $536 board.  (Let me tell you, the board I ride now is 5 years old and cost MAYBE $99 when I bought it; that should help you understand the difference in boards we got to Demo today.)  When they were transferring my bindings from my own board to the demo board, they told us that my stance/binding set up was all messed up; so they put the bindings on the demo board in the correct position.  The last time Tracy tried to put my bindings in the correct position, (I had no idea he did this at the time, until I was already on the hill to ride down) I was already in a bad mood and I ended up falling all over the place and yelling and screaming at my husband (who was just trying to help).  Can you see where this is going?????

Now that we had our demo boards, we decided to go straight for the big hill instead of starting at the bunny hill.  This might have been a mistake.  Oh well.  All for of us made it off the chair lift without incident and I went to strap in.  The minute I stood up on my board, I knew there was trouble. The stance was at least 1 1/2″ wider than my regular set up; I felt like I was doing the splits.  Immediately I fell.  I felt like I had no control over my board, and I wasn’t certain how I was going to make it down the mountain.  I looked at Tracy, and I must have had “that look” on my face.  His reply was, “Just don’t get upset and start yelling and crying.”

He was right.  I KNEW they changed my stance; I AGREED to change my stance.  *I* created this.  It’s time to let go and make the best of this.  I made it to the hill we were going to ride down (Showcase..which is my favorite run).  All I could do was fall.  I was scared, really , really scared.  Nate, who was a couple yards down the run already (and who is a snowboard instructor for the special needs kids), asked me if I wanted him to teach me a few things to help.  I sat there for a moment.  I didn’t want his help.  I know how to snow board.  Why is this so difficult?  Again, he asked me.  “Mom, I can help you, if you want me to.”

Again, I told myself, “Martha, its time to let go and allow yourself to be teachable.  Let your son hold your hand and teach you.  How many time have you held his  hand and taught him?  Trust him.”  So I agreed.  I sent Tracy down the mountain with Naomi and Nate began to teach me.  What I found out?  He is an amazing teacher!  He is patient.  He is supportive.  He is encouraging, and he let me learn at my own speed.  I know I felt frustrated at times and got confused. I felt myself beating myself up and wanting to just be able to take the run like I used to.  But when I went to ride like I used to, I would fall down.  But when I did what Nate taught me, I rode smoothly (and according to the rest of my family, my stance looked GREAT!)

What did I learn today when I let myself experience life?  I learned that control is an illusion.  I learned that its okay to be a bit off balance and fall from time to time; if I fall, it won’t kill me.  I was able to put in practical terms what I read in WHY IS GOD LAUGHING.  Fear is an illusion that gives us a false sense of protection.  I tried something new and made myself uncomfortable, and even though I fell, I didn’t get hurt or die.  I learned to trust someone else…my 17 year old son…and let him teach me.  What a gift to  myself…AND to him!

In the end, it was an amazing day with the family on the mountain..and no more foul mood!  I’m grateful for my amazing family who supported me today when I was scared wittless…thank you, Tracy, Nate and Naomi for being so amazing and encouraging me today!

The other day, at the urging of one of my friends/mentors, I watched The Shift by Dr. Wayne Dyer. Here are some of the quotes from the movie that stuck out for me..along with some insights.

• “We can not live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning for what was great in the morning will be little in the evening and what in the morning was true at evening will have become a lie”
• The real purpose of life is to just be happy where you are. Return to nature. Find your own nature.
• “All being originates in non being”~ Lao Tsu.. Jesus said “It’s the spirit that gives life. All of our purpose, everything that we are to be (physical, mental, spiritual), was all given to us from the moment of conception, but its our culture that tells us differently.
• Edge God Out (Ego) “Who you are is what you have” is what the world would like us to think. “The more that I have, the more valuable I am as a person” Not only is what I have what I am; it is what I do. It becomes achievement. We become consumed by success, my value, my worth as a human being is what I accomplished. Competition is what the Ego says. I am what other people think of me (my reputation). I have to dress the way people think or there is something wrong with me. Women: in relationship to family, the only way we can fulfill ourselves is by how we relate to our family: mother/daughter/granddaughter. This is NOT The only thing. When we have a calling to do something great. Don’t ignore that calling that says we are here to create something powerful. We have just as much of a right to do this as anyone else.
• Who I am is separate from everyone else and everything that is missing (all the things I would like to have) in my life. We think we are separate from God. I came from a source and this source is everywhere. If there is no place that it’s not, it must be in me and what I feel to be missing from my life. Then in some way that is missing from my life, I am already connected to it in spirit. Just have to find the knowing to connect with it.
• Let yourself be lived by it rather than you taking over
• TS Elliot, “We shall not cease from exploration. In the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
• Non interference: parenting is not about having children lean on you but making leaning unnecessary. They have a compass, let them follow their own compass; freeing you up to be your own person on your own time and allowing them to become who they are to become.
• If you can stop interfering in your own life and just be done, everything will be done for you.
• Enthusiasm: Greek: Enthios yasm “the god within” when you have enthusiasm/passion for something. In side of you, that is god speaking to you saying “don’t get to the end of your life and ask say “what if my whole life has been wrong’”.
• When you trust in yourself, you trust in the very wisdom that created you.
• The best way to have those doors open is to forget about yourself and serve; it’s always about service. You can’t attract what you want into your life; you attract what you are.
• Sometimes all you got to do is show up and engage and music happens…YOUR music happens
• I think you have to get to a place where you no longer focused on just yourself and the things you really want for yourself. When you begin to say “how can I want them more for someone else than I want them for me?” That’s God Realization.
• You must be like what you came from; if you came from divinity, you must be divine. If you hold your hands up and say these are the hands of god, and what does god do with his hands? God is just giving that is all God know how to do.
• Becoming the observer (step back) you begin to live in process, trusting where our source is taking you. You begin to detach from the outcome. That detachment allows you to stop fighting and allows things to just come to you; you no longer make things happen but allow them to show up. The fight is gone.
• We came here with music to play…
• When the shift happens, you begin to realize you are not here to push life and make it a struggle all the time you being to enjoy life and that is what happens in the afternoon of life.
• After all this time, the sun never said to the Earth “You owe me” Just think what a love like that can do; its lights up the whole world.
• “If you want to be like me, knowing that we are alike, I will help you. If you want to be different than me, I will wait until you change your mind; and you will change your mind” ….Jesus from A Course In Mirracles.
• No one needs to ask the question “What is my purpose. It will always be founding service. If you can just for one day put your attention on making life better for someone else, if you can focus on thinking like that. That’s how god thinks.”
• To touch someone’s life is more valuable than any amount of money
• You can run an entire business on not being attached to outcome and putting your attention on service. Your life becomes about living these virtues: how can I serve, be gentle & reverent. Thinking like this means you are living in meaning.
• The messages of the morning are about what you can and can’t do…about how society defines you but in the afternoon after the shift its about connecting to an energy that is taking care of everything and we are all just being done. Living the virtues is all we need to do.
• It’s about surrendering to something else that is bigger than you and is control of everything.
• You’re only a thought away from changing your life.

Most of these have been quotes or ideas from the movie itself. I did a lot of stopping and rewinding so I can get the words right. This was such a beautifully made movie with even more beautiful insights. The whole time I was watching this movie, I felt like I was surrounded by this loving peace…like being wrapped up in a warm, fuzzy blanket.

This is one other scene in this movie that really got to me, and I did not capture any direct quotes from it. In the scene the maintenance guy from the hotel (where most of the movie took place) thought he was alone while he played this amazing piece of music. Well one of the characters had been quietly sitting in a corner without saying anything, until the music stopped. They started up a conversation about why the maintenance guy doesn’t play piano for a living.

His reply went something like this: I used to love to play the piano. When I started playing as a young boy, I played for it for myself. Then I started playing for the audience. And I began to wonder if I failed at playing the piano, if the audience would still love me. So I began to fail on purpose. I would miss notes here and there, and the audience members noticed, and they began to treat me differently. They didn’t love me when I didn’t play perfectly. So I stopped playing all together.

This hit me like a ton of bricks. Self-sabotage: that is what he is talking about. In my eating/weight struggles, I have done exactly this. I start doing something right, and I lose weight and I get praise from my husband or my children. Then I wonder, will I still get praise from them if I eat a muffin and drink a diet soda; will they still love me? So, I start eating like crap again. And sure enough, Nate (my 17 year old son, whom I have given permission to rag on me if I eat like this) starts to rag on me and berate me for making poor choices. And to me (even though I have given him permission to do this and keep me in check) it felt like he no longer loved me. (Whether I asked for it or not, whether it’s true or not, that is the way I felt). So I would give up on eating right and exercising, and I would gain back the weight plus some. I’m not entirely certain how to correct this other than to refocus myself and do this FOR ME and no one else and to let go of my EGO….because ultimately that is what is causing such issues. Letting go of EGO can be difficult (because we make it so). Letting go of outcomes……….. whew…breaking habbits…that is what this is about.

Interestingly enough, one of my good friends also watched this movie (and neither of us knew the other was watching it). He too has a weight issue, and we have supported each other through this over the last several months. When I told him about my insights regarding this part of the movie, he said, he came to the same conclusion. Pretty cool, I think.

Anyway, it is a truly amazing movie. I have never read any of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books. I’m not sure how they slipped under my radar, but they have. He will certainly be put on my list for the year. Along with some of the books he mentioned throughout the movie.

Also, if you are into listening to some great music, the Ethan Lipton Orchestra is the band that plays during the movie, and they are amazing!

Why “The God Project”? That’s a really great question, and the only answer I have is: it came to me in the middle of the night while I was trying to sleep.

I spent much of my day (now yesterday) feeling a bit out of sorts (confused if you will). I had a teacher once, James Arthur Ray, who used to cheer and clap when you said you were confused. He said that being confused meant that you were about to learn something new. And yes, indeed, that is what this feels like. I have had this feeling before, and every time, there is something new to be learned just on the other side of this feeling. So I thought that maybe I would start a blog and see where this leads me, and I thought I would invite the general public, my friends and family to read along and take the journey with me.

I was lying in bed, trying to sleep, and thinking about what I would blog about. What is it that I need to learn? Since it was December 29th, I was thinking about the year that is ending and the year that is just ahead. What did I learn in 2009? What do I need to do in 2010 to change some things in my life? I’m not big on resolutions because I feel like they are just ideas that are destined to fail. Great way to start a new year, huh? Hey, I’m just being honest! I thought about setting goals for my life and setting challenges to meet. One of the ideas was reading (and completing) a different book each week (52 books this year. Some may read faster or slower than others, but still 52 books in 2010.) I would blog on these books and what I have learned. 52 book reports? Doesn’t that sound like fun?! I can tell you there was a time when I hated to read, and the thought of actually giving or writing a book report made me sweat!

But still, I have this feeling that I need to learn something. I need to grow. There is this flower just waiting to bloom in gloriously, full color, but yet, I don’t even know what seed to begin to sew in order for it to bloom! Crazy! And even if I did decide to start on this endeavor, what would I call the blog? 52 Book Reports? Ya, I would want to read a blog with that name, too! So there I was lying in bed, when all of a sudden “The God Project” popped in my head.

The God Project???? What the heck? Where did that come from, and why??? I don’t know. But when something like that just pops into my head, it must mean something; so there you have it. The name to my blog: The God Project.

The only conclusion I can make is that 2010 will be a year of great spiritual growth. The books I will read will be fiction, self-help, spiritual, non-fiction, historical (possibly), on wealth & health. They will be all over the place. I will endeavor to watch some uplifting and spiritually minded movies, but I promise you, I will also see some “stupid funny” movies such as “The Hangover”. And of course, since I AM a woman, I can assure you there will be some romantic comedies in there as well. Oh ya, and since I am a Mom, I can guarantee you there will be some kids movies thrown in for good measure! As for experiences, let me give you some examples of what happened in 2009. I climbed Table Rock Mountain here in Boise last year, and the first time I did it, I cried like a baby. It was a huge growth experience for me. I also shaved my head last summer (on the day Michael Jackson died) and I learned so much about myself. AND I started on a health kick, and I am still learning so much about myself and why I have an addiction to food; I’m sure this will be a topic of conversation as well.

When it comes to religion, I do not subscribe to any one doctrine, belief, religion, philosophy. I have read a lot of mythology. I have read the Bible several times. I have read the Hindu Vedas. I have read the Book of Mormon once. As a child I was Assembly of God turned Seventh Day Adventist at 18 years old. At 30, my family started attending the Unity Church and I started veering towards a more metaphysical/spiritual thinking. At 33 my family started practicing Wicca. Now at 40, I do not subscribe to any ONE thing. I believe in a Higher Power whom I pray/talk to every day. I believe there is divinity in all of us. I believe in polarity: for every good there is a bad. I believe a lot of things, which I’m sure you’ll figure out as time goes by.

So there you have it. The God Project. I guess I’ll sum it up with this text from the Bible: In Luke 17:20 it says “The Kingdon of God is within you.” We all have “The Divine” within us, whatever you believe “The Divine” to be. That is what this blog is all about. The God Project. The God within me. A self-discovery.

P.S. I would love suggestions for books to read and movies to see this year…let them fly!