Well, I just wrapped up my first e-course, and what an adventure it has been!  I am so thankful to all the participants who joined me for the initial launch and for all the comments and feedback I have received!  I am pleased to announce that there will be another challenge in September, and this one will (hopefully!) be even better!  There will be a new format and new prompts as well as something else very special — a unique Gratitude Outside The Box themed blank journal!

If you are interested in signing up, registration will open on July 26th.  To be notified when registration is available, click on the following link to be added to an email list.  I would love to have you join me!

http://eepurl.com/X9bE1

Just a quick post to share a giveaway on a friend’s blog.  Lindsay makes some of the most amazing loose leaf tea blends and she is celebrating her one year anniversary of her business, Danmala Teas!  Check out her blog and her giveaway and be prepared for her to reopen her shop on the Solstice!  I can’t wait!

https://danmalateas.squarespace.com/blog/2014/6/17/cultivating-gratitude-giveaway

For over a year now, I have maintained a morning spiritual ritual to help me start my day.  Part of that is that I’ve kept a gratitude journal every day since January 1, 2013.  Nothing big, just a list of 5 things every day that I am grateful for.  It sounds simple enough, so I figured it would be an easy incorporation, but I quickly found out that it wasn’t as simple as I had thought.  For the longest time, I tried to focus on big things, small every day things, and things I don’t always think of.  My goal was to come up with 5 new things every day that I hadn’t already written down.  That worked really well for a few months, but became harder as time went on.  So then I just tried to think of things that I dealt with every day to be grateful for, but even then it could be challenging, especially if I was rushed or coming off of a bad day previously or not getting enough sleep at night.  Still, the practice was important to me, and I feel that overall it has helped me to have a better outlook on life.  It’s helped me to remember to focus on the positive and to not take things for granted as much.  So I fully believe in the importance of a gratitude practice, but I can also appreciate how difficult it can be.

I’ve seen so many different suggestions — write them down in the morning to prepare for the day, or write them down at night to be in a positive frame of mind before bed and wake up the next morning feeling ready to take on the next 24 hours; focus on big things or to focus on seemingly small and insignificant things.  I’ve seen various lists, challenges, and books to help cultivate a practice.  There are lots of great ideas out there, but the truth is, there literally is no wrong way to do a gratitude practice; you just have to find what works for you and stick with it.  Still, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to get some guidance?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have some direction, something to help you focus your thoughts, something to help you stay accountable to the commitment of this practice?  Unable to find what I was looking for and figuring that other people would feel the same way, I decided to create my own program.  With that, I am so excited to announce…….

Gratitude Outsiede The Box Header

For more information and to sign up, please visit http://gratitudeoutsidethebox.wordpress.com.

Thank you for allowing me to share this dream with you all!  I hope that it can help you bring the practice of gratitude into your life!

So here we are again, well into the new year, and I am just now getting around to another post.  I would love to say I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t had time to sit down and post, but sadly, I just tend to forget this is here sometimes.

Life is going pretty well.  I’ve been enrolled in several online classes and groups, all of which are phenomenal.  The sisterhoods I have developed from these classes is invaluable, and I’m so grateful to be a part of these.  One of the greatest things about modern technology is the way it can bring people together from all over the globe.  As long as it doesn’t completely take the place of in-person human interactions, I see this as a great benefit.  The lessons I have learned are incredible, and the soul-shifting occurring is indescribable.  Things may be pretty constant on the outside, but inside I have been undergoing some wonderful transformations.

 

I have to be honest:  up until a few years ago, I never really wanted a guinea pig.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate them or dislike them, I just never felt an overwhelming urge to get one for a pet.  Most of the guinea pigs I had known tended to be aloof and a bit bitey (for lack of a better word), so they weren’t on my top 5 list of “most appealing pets.”

Then I met Gipsy.

August 12, 2008: I was sitting in my exotic animal class in vet school when the professor announces that the resident guinea pigs have just had babies and encouraged the students to go see them.  He also encouraged us to consider adopting them, adding that they had a “rare silver agouti” in the litter that was speculated to be the first to be adopted.  So naturally, I had to go see what the fuss was about.  Two other friends and I went over to the ward to look at them.  For anyone who hasn’t seen baby guinea pigs, they are cute.  Born fully-furred, eyes open, and ready to eat solid foods in a few hours, they are adorable.  Like heart-stopping-should-be-illegal adorable.  Add in cute wheeking noises and “popcorning” (an exhibition of joy and excitement in which a guinea pig will literally jump in the air like a popped kernel of popcorn), and it’s hard not to completely fall in love.  Which is what happened.  I fell in love with the little rare silver agouti, a beautiful adorable creature that stole my heart.

Adopting her wasn’t something I did on a whim.  First, I had to overcome the *slight* problem of not being allowed to have pets in my apartment.  After considering that the girl above me had successfully hidden a full-grown boxer for who knows how long, I overlooked that as a minor inconvenience that could be overcome with a little skill and planning.  Then there was the whole “calling the family with ‘so I have a guinea pig now'” which I wasn’t sure how that would go over.  The next obstacle was to consider if I could adopt just one.  Since guinea pigs are social animals, it is recommended that a person adopt two so that they have a companion.  Adopting one isn’t impossible, but it does require a higher level of commitment since the human must provide the companionship that a second guinea pig normally would.  That meant making sure I could devote at least a couple of hours every day to spending time with her.  Finally, and most importantly, came the research.  Research into whether or not a guinea pig would be a good fit for my busy life, what sort of habitat needed to be set up, food, health concerns, all the things that are required to provide the guinea pig with a healthy happy home.  After taking all factors into consideration, I decided that I could make it work and I was too in love with her anyway, so I brought her home.  As I was leaving, one of the vets told me, “Now she’s more nervous than the others so just be aware of that.”

“Nervous” was a good word for her.  She hid every time I walked into the room.  When I picked her up, she became completely silent and still.  For two weeks I contemplated if I had made the right choice.  I did not want to be one of those people who decides “Well it just didn’t work out so you can have her back,” but at the same time it was obvious that she was under a lot of stress, which wasn’t good for her.  I did everything I could think of to bond with her, but nothing seemed to be working.  Finally, in a last-ditch effort, I got her out one night to sit with her and gave her a carrot while I was holding her.  Turns out that was all it took.  After that, every time I picked her up, she immediately started “talking,” making the “happy-guinea-pig” noises that are well-known to all guinea pig owners.  She became much more animated, frequently squealing and exploring while she was out of her cage.  But her favorite thing was to cuddle up under my chin and just be held and snuggled.  This was her favorite place to be, so much so that I had to warn people not to make eye contact with her or she would lunge for their faces, expecting to be caught and held in her secure spot.  I frequently wore hooded sweatshirts, and she would curl up and sleep in the hood while I studied.  (It was a sad day for her when she learned the unfortunate truth that hoods are not an anatomical part of a human being.)  She still would run and hide when I came into the room with her cage (as she did with everyone), and she didn’t like anyone being in the room while she ate her veggies, but once she was out with people, her personality blossomed.  She loved to be the center of attention and would frequently become louder and louder if others were trying to have a conversation.  She had a characteristic “sigh” that she would let out as an attempt to get pity when she felt that she wasn’t getting the attention she deserved.  I’ll never forget the day that I had my apartment window open and a few people walked by and she let out one loud “wheek” at them; all I could think was, “Great, I’m getting evicted now.”  Thankfully nothing ever happened and she was never discovered.

Over the next year, Gipsy and I formed a solid bond based on bell peppers, orange slices, carrots, snuggle time, and hoodies.  She traveled with me to South Dakota to visit my husband and to assert her cuteness to everyone she met.  Even though she was shy in her cage, she was friendly and could be rather outgoing at times, and she never offered to bite (although she once managed to demonstrate just how serious guinea pig allergies can be and was instrumental in a friend learning that he was apparently allergic to guinea pigs).  She was great to show off to kids, as she was extremely tolerant, and she was the star of many school talks about exotic pet care.  She did have a fearless streak, as a vet who thought she could “use a bit more exercise” learned of her stubbornness when nothing would make her move (other than to scare the clinic cat, and even that was limited to a head gesture).  If she didn’t get her way, she would show her displeasure by finding the most expensive book possible and proceeding to make her own form of confetti.  (This behavior eventually led to an actual case of “my guinea pig ate my homework.)  One day, I ran out of bell peppers and gave her part of a banana pepper instead, and the result was something that can only be properly played out in a comedy movie.  Loving and loyal, she completely changed my mind about guinea pigs.

About a year later, the ward had another litter.  Going into my fourth year of school (rotation year), I was concerned that I would be unable to dedicate the time needed to her and  decided that my schedule was getting busy enough that she needed a companion.  I was a little hesitant; she had done very well as an only pig and didn’t have the best history of getting along with others.  (The two other friends I went with that day adopted the other two guinea pigs, and we frequently had “play dates” to get them together while we studied.  They had to be separated in adjoining pens because otherwise there were skirmishes and Gipsy tended to be the most “assertive” of the three.)  My plan was to introduce Gipsy to her potential new companion in a neutral environment and see what happened, standing by to supervise if they didn’t get along.  The results were, well, rather amusing.  Seeing my adult pig being chased around a cage by three little babies was hilarious.  She wanted nothing to do with them and they wanted to be right there with her.  Still, she wasn’t aggressive toward them, and I finally decided to adopt another little female, Nugget.  The day I took Nugget home, she promptly declared her love for her big sis by sitting on top of her in the carrier.  The look on Gipsy’s face was priceless.  They got along very well, much like a typical “big-sis-little-sis” relationship in which the little sister adores and worships the big sis and the big sis tolerates the little.  If I got them both out together, Gipsy wanted to snuggle with me and Nugget wanted to snuggle with Gipsy.  Sometimes Gipsy allowed this, other times Nugget would get a swift nip on the nose if Gipsy felt she was encroaching too much on her personal space.  Nugget’s adoption enabled me to feel as if Gipsy was getting the companionship she needed on days when I would be gone for 12-18 hours at a time.

Despite all the things that can go wrong with guinea pigs, Gipsy and Nugget both remained healthy.  Fed a proper diet and weighed semi-regularly, there was never any sign of any problems — until earlier this year.  The first sign that there was a problem was that, when I picked up both of them at the same time, I noticed that Gipsy felt lighter than Nugget — a first for her.  Weighing them both, I discovered that Gipsy had indeed lost about 100g, a fair amount for a guinea pig.  She still ate well and I could find no evidence of teeth problems, which is the first rule-out in a guinea pig that is losing weight.  I continued to monitor her as she dropped.  After doing research, I tentatively concluded that she had hyperthyroidism, a condition extremely common in cats but equally rare in guinea pigs.  The data is limited, as are treatment options.  After awhile, I was able to palpate a nodule in her throat which served to mostly confirm my suspicions.  Knowing that giving her medications by mouth would be next to impossible, I decided to try an experimental treatment.  I ordered a month’s supply of transdermal methimazole, a common treatment for cats but one that has never been documented in guinea pigs.  She continued to lose weight on this treatment, but her appetite never changed.  In fact, other than the weight loss, she showed no other signs of illness.  Still, concerned that the treatment appeared to be ineffective, I scheduled an appointment to take her back to the vet school and have testing done (and potentially surgery if it was deemed necessary.)

Gipsy’s appointment was scheduled for Tuesday, August 20th.  When I got home Saturday evening, she appeared to be acting normal, although I noticed she sounded like she was losing her voice.  I had no reason to think that she was in any immediate danger, although I was thinking that Tuesday couldn’t come fast enough.  I gave her the usual Vitamin C treat and her veggies, which she ate gladly and quickly, and put her back for the night, not knowing it was the last good moment I would get to spend with her.  When I awoke Sunday morning, 6 days after her 5th birthday, I found her lying in her cage gasping for air.  I immediately grabbed her and raced to get her into the clinic, but she passed away moments before I got there.  X-rays showed no discernible cause, no other problems that would have caused her to pass so quickly.  I still don’t know what caused her death, although I will always worry that the delay in successful treatment played a role.

Nugget is now an only pig, and we are working together to navigate the upcoming time without Gipsy.  It’s rough for both of us, but I will do everything I can to help Nugget adjust to the new norm.  As for me, I’m still grieving, and while I’m *almost* fully functional again, writing this post still brings me to tears.  But it needed to be written.  Gipsy’s story deserves to be told.

August 12, 2008 – August 18, 2013
God speed, my little Gipsy, faithful companion for 5 wonderful years.  Words cannot express how much you will be missed.

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So it’s been awhile, and I have a lot that I need to update on, but for right now, I’m just popping in to let everyone know about an awesome giveaway!  Pixie Campbell, the leader of SouLodge (the amazing, life-changing transformative experience) is leading a very special painting class.  Combining intuitive painting with shamanic journeywork, this course provides a way to allow the spiritual to be expressed through painting in a completely new way.  To learn more about the course, visit the first link listed below. To enter the giveaway, follow the second link to go to the blog post and follow the instructions!!!

http://pixiecampbell.com/visualquest To learn more about the course.

http://pixiecampbell.com/2013/06/visual-quest-giveaway.html To enter the giveaway.

 

From the blog:

Visual Quest is for spiritual people who want to give form to what they feel inside and around them. It teaches you how to apply what you feel to the canvas.

It’s also for creative people desiring to connect to the Spirit that lies inside of them and outside, enabling work with meaningful symbols, and a deeper connection to the artwork.

It’s for artists wishing to freshen and deepen their practice, and for non-artists who would like to explore the mediums in a non-competitive and supportive environment.

It is for deep-thinkers and deep-feelers exploring their inner terrain and wanting to gain more clarity about the strongest archetypes within them, and the personal symbols which represent them.  -Pixie Campbell

Happy Winter Solstice everyone

This time of the year always invokes certain emotions, memories, feelings within people, and while they are not all the same, they are all powerful in themselves.  The autumn solstice, for many people (at least in the northern hemisphere), marks the beginning of the time of darkness.  Days are shorter, nights are longer, the weather becomes cooler, and some people begin the next countdown to summer.  In mythology, the autumn solstice marks the decent of Persephone into the underworld, where she will spend the next 6 months in the darkness, and the subsequent mourning of her mother Demeter until her return to the earth in the spring.  In some belief systems, October is the month when the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest, allowing spirits to cross over into our world with greater ease.  For me however — I always love this month, as it signals the start of my favorite time of the year.  Homecoming.  Halloween.  Pumpkin EVERYTHING (yes, I am one of those people).  The coming of winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas….for me, this is when I really feel like I begin to come alive.  Ironically, New Years always seems to mark the end of the celebration, rather than the beginning.  Not that it brings doom and gloom and negativity for the next 8-9 months, but that after the first, things begin to wind down.  I find myself falling back into routine and habituation, doing things without really feeling much about them one way or the other.  This is not the only time of the year I feel “alive,” nor am I trying to say that I find no joy, enjoyment, or pleasure in anything starting January 2.  I get sparks of energy, creativity, passion throughout the year, sometimes lasting for days and weeks, but overall, January has marked the beginning of my descent.  This year, however, may be different.

Tonight brings a new moon, one of the darkest of the year.  It also, for me personally, marks the first week in this SouLodge session of working with the Shadow self.  The archetype of the Shadow self is that part of us that we hide away, ignore, try to pretend doesn’t exist.  I think that everyone can relate to this on some level, however you want to define it.  The problem with the Shadow, though, is that it doesn’t want to be hidden — it wants its own freedom to be expressed.  And the more we try to suppress it, the more pain and anguish we bring upon ourselves.  The Shadow self isn’t bad — it isn’t the “evil” side of us, the side that would destroy the world if allowed to run rampant.  Rather, it is the side of us that harbors our pain, our feelings of guilt or anger, the darker sadder emotions that we carry.  In other words, the Shadow is what we hide when we try to pretend that everything is okay — the side that is hidden by the mask of perfection.

Someone made a comment that began to provoke some of my own thoughts.  It brought up the truth that, at the end of the day, the last person we give any love or compassion to is ourselves.  We overwork ourselves, say “yes” to everything, avoid free time, all to avoid the accusations that we are “selfish,” “lazy,” or even “worthless.”  We overextend ourselves to prove that we are valuable, that we have worth, that we are not just wasting oxygen that should be reserved for the “more productive” members of society.*  At the end of the day, we give everything we have to others, leaving nothing for ourselves, running ourselves to exhaustion, not because we have an abundance to give away, but because the minute we attempt to fill ourselves up we face judgment and criticism.  While I think every person experiences this to some degree, I do believe that a majority of the burden is placed on women — we are supposed to be the “caretakers” of the world, so we are expected to take care of everyone else first, think of ourselves last, and then we are told whatever is left over can be used for ourselves, all the while being expected to have nothing left (because giving less than all we have is selfish). As a result, the feelings of exhaustion, depression, loneliness, guilt, anger, frustration, all continue to build and build, just to be suppressed into the shadow realms for fear of appearing weak.  And the more we shove into our shadows, the greater our burden becomes.

This year, this time of the year is marking my confrontation with my own Shadow self.  All of the work I have done this past year has begun to prepare me for this work.  It won’t be easy, nor will it necessarily be “fun,” but it is necessary.  I know all to well the dangers of suppressing the Shadow to the breaking point.  I don’t know that I’m prepared for what I will find, what I will be asked to deal with, what will come into view.  All I know is that it must be confronted, addressed, and acknowledged.

Just in time for the darkest night of the year.

 

*This point was also addressed in the book Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Well, I did well for awhile on the whole “not going months between posts” thing, and then promptly fell back into old habits.  Yay me.  Honestly though, my handwritten journal isn’t much different.  I will have days where I sit down to write in my book and think, “oh I was just here!,” only to look down at the last date and find it was a month ago.  Sometimes I find journaling to be therapeutic, to help me get my crazy swirling thoughts out of my head, other times I feel it gets in the way of the “deeper” work that I am doing.  And I have been doing a lot of “deep work.”

There are so many things I could talk about.  Many that wouldn’t even be overly personal, others too personal to share, as is with all aspects of life.  Lots of thoughts that have come up, lots of realizations, uncovering of hidden truths…so much of self-discovery that I hope every person would take the time to do with themselves.  But it’s not easy, and the deeper I go into myself, the more I realize how much easier it would be just to accept the surface creation instead of trying to unravel all the layers, many of which have been purposefully hidden for various reasons.  It’s easy to see why people avoid this type of spiritual work — you won’t always like what you find, and you can almost guarantee that other people won’t necessarily like what you find either.

I’ve been reading a couple of books that have been instrumental in this journey, books that challenge the way I see myself, see society, and see myself in society.  I’ve also found several communities of women who have been amazing, each one traveling our own journeys and supporting each other along the way.  I’m learning more about myself than I even imagined I didn’t know.  All bringing me to where I am today.  And while all of this work has been intense, it’s mostly been outwardly silent as well.  Hence my long absences.

We are entering my favorite time of the year.  Autumn, my favorite season, and all of the things that it brings — cooler weather, pumpkins, Halloween and Thanksgiving, the decorations and fragrances — cozy and warm feelings.  It’s also the period before winter, when things begin to die or become dormant, the days become shorter, and eventually the weather can become cold and bitter.  Just like all things, it is a balance.  As for the spiritual work I am doing?  This is also the time of the shadows — the darker, deeper parts of the self, a time of introspection and releasing, of confronting those things that no longer serve a purpose and letting go of them.  I will do my best not to fall silent again, to continue to maintain a voice here.

To my followers, thank you for sticking it out with me.  To my new readers, welcome, and I hope that the things I share here will resonate with you in some way.

Wow, I am so delayed in writing a post.  I’ve had a lot of things going on this month, and what can I say, July ran away from me!

San Francisco:  this was such a fun trip.  I’ve found that I’m more fond of the smaller vet conferences than the large ones, even though they typically don’t have much more to offer than lectures, but the advantage of that is that we are done early.  The past two conferences I have been to I frequently got out around 7pm, sometimes even 9pm or 10pm and still walked away with about 20 hours of CE (continuing education) to claim.  However, I left the PVC with 25.5 hours and didn’t get out after 6pm any single night, and I still didn’t go to *every* lecture possible.  So not only did I get an awesome educational experience, I also had plenty of time to explore the city.  One of my friends had suggested that we go to the same conference, so I had someone to hang out with for the weekend, which was so much better than going by myself.  I think we spent most of our time down at Fisherman’s Wharf, although we did swing by Pier 39 a couple of times as well as (of course) visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and Telegraph Hill.  Funny story about the last two — there was a lot of walking involved, and not just city walking, but “San Francisco walking up 45 degree angle hills for 90% of the time” walking.  And true to my impeccable navigational skills, I managed to get us lost coming down from Telegraph Hill, winding up on the wrong side of the tower and realizing that there isn’t a straight shot walking down to the piers.  Oops.  Then the Golden Gate Bridge the next day, which was a 2 mile hike from the nearest bus stop, and that’s before you begin the ascent to the actual bridge.  Yeah, pretty sure my friend wanted to kill me for that one.  But it was an awesome time, and I got so much out of the conference that it was just an all-around win-win situation.

Next stop was a trip to Indiana to visit my mom’s side of the family.  I figured, “hey, it’s Indiana, sure it gets hot, but we are close to Lake Michigan, so it can’t be too bad, right?”  Every single day I was there it was over 100 degrees, for the first time since 1947.  Go figure.  And considering I was coming straight from SF where the temperature didn’t get above 70 (or maybe even 65), it was insanely hot.  Thankfully I got to lay in a pool most of the time and got a nice tan for the first time in, well, EVER, so there was that.  Not to mention getting to spend some quality time with my grandmother and aunts and uncles.  It’s always enjoyable going up there, even in the case of a record-breaking heat wave.

Back home now and back to work.  Trying to get the house ready for a big cookout later this week, plus a float trip with some friends over the weekend.

In other news, the final session of SouLodge for this year is open for enrollment.  I swear I’m not paid to talk about it, but it has done so much for me spiritually, mentally, and emotionally that I feel I can’t NOT talk about it.  And what has been the most amazing is that even after a session ends, the friendships don’t.  I don’t make a habit of “friending” people on Facebook that I don’t personally know, but with the amazing support and love I have found in the SouLodge community, I’ve made exceptions, mainly because even though we haven’t met face-to-face, I truly feel that they are friends.  When my friend Deb went into the hospital, I went in and asked for support and prayers, thinking that the usual would happen, a few people would respond and that would be it.  What I didn’t expect was over 100 replies throughout the whole ordeal, continuously offering prayers and good thoughts, or for people to continue to ask for updates.  These women genuinely CARED for her, even though they had no idea who she was, only that she knew a member of their community, and they adopted her into their hearts out of love.  It is an amazing community — it isn’t just a course, it’s literally a community and in some ways, a way of life, and I am only sad that I did not find them sooner.  So, if you would like to see what I find so amazing, now is the time, because starting next year the program will be different, and while I have no doubt it will be just as incredible, I have loved the sessions currently and would encourage every woman who is looking for something more, even if she doesn’t know what exactly, to check it out.  I have a link in my sidebar to take you to the website where you can read more about it and enroll if you feel so moved.

Now time for pictures, and hopefully my next update won’t be 6 weeks from now!

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