the mighty oak

We are so blessed to live with oak trees on our property. One of my favorite ones lives right in the middle of our driveway. We have a concrete circular driveway, and the tree has a hole about 6 feet across where it resides. I had a tendency to drive into the hole when backing up, so we filled the hole with river rocks a few years back. Over time the dropping oak leaves that stacked and decomposed combined with gravity have made those river rocks sink in pretty deeply to the soil surrounding the tree. One fall afternoon when we were admiring the majestic oak, James said to me “I wonder if it is really good for the tree to be so closed up with concrete and rocks around it” I agreed, but that was the extent of it. I made a mental note, intending to research this to see if it was true.

As for the giant oak in the driveway, sure enough, we needed to move the rocks away from the base of the tree, which lucky for us we have a strong son who made short work of it. The rocks, leaves and acorns had piled up about 12 inches up the oak, and that can cause the bark to rot, which will ultimately kill the tree. Thankfully we got to it in time.

It is amazing how many acorns these trees drop, and the squirrels work double time when they do to collect them and bury them around our property, or hide them in their hiding spots. I think they forget about some of their hiding spaces, and that is when I see the little new baby oak sprouting up.

One of my favorite quotes is from poet and author James Allen, who wrote As a Man Thinketh “The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”
We are like the acorn, and have the mighty oak already inside us. Every dream we dream is a seed we sow. Whether our vision comes to maturity or not is highly dependent on our intention. if it is from love and for the greater good, you are headed in the right direction. You can make your dreams happen by sheer will, but when you know that you have the help of the Universe if you are working to serve others, the journey becomes so much easier and so much more fulfilling.

The realization of our dreams is also highly dependent on the nurturing we give it along the way. If we let doubt and negativity pile up, just like the rocks around the oak will rot the trunk, it will cause the dream to wither and die. If we don’t keep it in the forefront of our consciousness it can get forgotten. I make it a daily practice to dream- this is not something that just comes naturally for me.

I have considered myself to be more “down to earth”, or “fact based” When I would dream, I would get impatient, and want the result right now. Then I felt disappointed and dissatisfied, feelings I don’t particularly like. So it became easier for me to just stop dreaming. I kept my thoughts firmly focused on facts and realities.

Then something happened, I had flashes of insight, that showed me that the reality I was in was actually the life of my dreams. I dreamed of having a loving husband and partner, a beautiful space to live with my children nearby yet independent of me, of having a successful business, of being able to help others, of riding my bike…
Everything good in my life was once a dream-what a realization! Now it is one of the 5 things I do every day, I dream, reflect, read, write and pray. I am creating my life with intent- and the tree is growing healthier every day.

expectations

I just felt the incredible release of expectations and the feeling is of such incredible freedom. Its as if a weight I did not even know I was carrying was suddenly released, like a helium balloon who’s string was suddenly cut, just an overwhelming lightness and brightness added to my day. I did not realize the pressure that I create on myself by having an expectation of what my life should be like at this moment. I did not see that I have this image of who I am, or who I am supposed to be. I think I knew this already, but here I am again. I began once or many times already to be this new version of myself, still me, but different.

It is like just putting my glasses on after wearing the wrong prescription, everything shifts into perspective and makes sense. I am doing what I love, connecting with people, and thoroughly enamored of my children and their uniqueness. I can look my life from above and see the beauty in the journey and evolutions I have made along the way. Why do I keep re-learning this? It must be the truth.

buckets

Go grab me a bucket of stress will you? That’s what James told me the last time I said I was feeling stressed out. Sounds callous I guess, but its just a fact. Stress is a self created thing. It is the result of the process of thinking about things that make you feel out of control. It is what is distributed to me when I focus on all the stuff I have to do. Or all the stuff I don’t have time for, or all the stuff other people do or say or think. It is a byproduct of over-thinking. Why is it that we get ourselves all worked up into that place? Why is it so hard to look at “stress” as something that we can actually control?

All that is required to get rid of stress immediately is to focus on your emotions and remember that you have a choice. You can choose thoughts that make you feel good. Yes, that is absolutely acceptable and even mandatory. Don’t think about the stuff that gets you into the place where you are reacting to life. Choose thoughts that make you feel good. It’s ok. I promise. The stuff you don’t want to happen is less likely to manifest if you focus else were. The only thing that is in our control, no matter how much we think otherwise, is our emotions.

But I can’t help how I feel, I say. I am valid in feeling this way, this is really a lot of shtt that I am trying to hold together. If I don’t worry about it and think about it, then who will? Who will prevent all the bad stuff from happening if I don’t stress about it? Worrying is like praying for what you DON’T want. Stop focusing on fear. Take charge of your emotions and begin practicing the free choice we all have on what we believe. Bad stuff and good stuff happens no matter what, choose to focus on what you WANT instead of what you FEAR.

Watch what shows up.

cycle of success

Do you ever look at someone who is what you interpret as successful at something you are not and think they are different than you? They must be smarter more educated luckier more motivated stronger younger older than you that is why they are where they are. I know I have and sometimes fall into still doing. The difference is their journey to get to where they are-the insane number of hours/rejections/labor/time to allow them to receive or achieve the level they are at. There is a cycle of success that involves a lot of tests. Tests that fail more than those that succeed. The key to success is to keep adjusting, test, fail, learn, improve, test again.

We have had a lot of failures along our journey, some small, some huge. Before we re-branded our company and changed our focus to unifying our brand as “Denica’s Real Food Kitchen” we were Denica’s Pastry Cafe and our expansion in Dublin birthed “Denica’s Taco Lounge” in the adjoining space. The two separate menus and the fact that we charged our early guests for chips and salsa were definite fails. The separate menus confused our guests, and diluted our brand. We were coming from a place of scarcity, we were really struggling financially in spite of what appeared to be a busy restaurant, which is why we did not even think of giving the free chips and salsa like we do now. We were busy operators, but had no infrastructure to be able to assess if we were actually profitable. Any cash flow went right back into the business, and James and I worked 7 days a week to keep the business running. Ingrained in my memory is the 21 day mark that when we would reach this point (of no days off) we would inevitably begin bickering and the smallest irritation could blow up into a huge argument. What we didn’t know then is that if you are coming from a place of scarcity, it only serves to create more scarcity. Especially when you are struggling to make ends meet, it is so life changing if you can reframe your mind and your heart to giving more. Once you can really shift yourself into the belief that you will always have enough and begin living from that place, everything begins to fall into place.

We have been very blessed all along the way because we really love what we do, and each other. I suppose it is rare to have a relationship that works on multiple levels, but we have always worked so well together both as a couple and as business partners. Our business and personal lives are intertwined and there are no divisions. The shift for me into abundance, especially at the time when we were struggling with finances, was the first step in creating the life of my dreams. The sacrifices we make to continue to be able to work together, and now together with our children, have been so worth it.

There have been many times over the past 18 years that I have been burnt out, and not wanting work on our business. I have burnt myself out to the point where I would have walked away from it all had I not had my husband who thankfully is my strength and support in my times of stress. Thankfully, those days have passed. I am learning to roll with the ups and downs, and to learn and grow during the downs in order to take the ups to the next level.

There are always sacrifices required with anything that we do, there is no shortcut to success other than to continue to act. Success is not a destination, it is a constant learning journey to define what success is for you. For me success is dreaming something and seeing it manifest, it is the joy of seeing my kids learn and grow, it is hearing the people that work with me in my organization teaching me leadership. It is stretching myself and always stepping forward across the invisible barrier that is the edge of my comfort zone, into the unknown where life really begins…

push pull peace

As I sit here at my desk contemplating my journey, I am aware of two thought processes that are pervading themes for me. There is the achiever part of me who wants to do be see more, and the at peace chill out you are right where you need to be part. For me my life becomes a balancing act of these 2. I fluctuate either daily, weekly, or by moments between avaricious periods of consumption and implementation of growing and pushing/being pulled towards a bigger better more future. And when that becomes too much, I find that I need to calm myself down by reminding myself of the lessons I have learned. Like you are right where you need to be. Relax, let go. You are already what you are striving to be. You do not need to be a better anything, you just need to remember the fundamental truths that you know but sometimes forget when you are in the push/pull place.

Truths such as always be true to your values. Speak up when something does not feel right. You live in a world of abundance. You will always have enough. Never ever sacrifice your integrity. Recognize that your “standards” are also your “rules” which don’t usually apply to other people’s world views. Be aware of any judgments you are making not only of others but of yourself. Be generous and kind and always give a hand when asked for help. Listen deeply. Speak less.

I love to learn, I love to grow, and I love knowing that I have available to me peace at any time I choose to look inward and listen to the calming voice inside. When I begin to feel dissatisfied or angst, I can come back to gratitude as a guide back to peace. It is an ongoing practice but so powerful to realize my own ability to calm myself. I don’t have to look to the outside, either through food, unhealthy choices, or “purging” my negativity on someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, in all honesty, its not easy sometimes. Especially when one of my many “thorns” gets triggered. These thorns are the deep rooted issues that I am still working on always, such as the happiness of my children, the approval I still seek from my mother, and my abandonment fear. A light touch of the thorn I can usually let flow through me, but not always. They normally will create a ripple effect that brings up self doubt and really take hard work to get back to my center. Unfortunately I will usually resort to one of my external ways of seeking relief, most often unloading my rant or ramble of fear and upset on someone close to me. I am so blessed and grateful that I have a loving circle of support who are usually able to hold a place for me while I work to release the negativity, and they help me remember what really matters.

Love. Acceptance. Love.

giving

Today I received a compliment today about my gray hair. After I shaved my head last year I decided to stop coloring my hair and let it grow out naturally, which for me means a strong streaking of white interspersed with my naturally dark brown/black hair. My sweet husband had been badgering me for years to stop coloring my hair, and to let it be naturally how it was. I was never brave enough to do this, and said “I will only go gray if I shave my head!”, never really intending to actually shave my head. But life manifested for me the choice to shave my head and follow through on my statement. As my hair grew out, my natural gray streak that had been with me since I was about 12 had spread to include much more gray than the one inch spot I had embraced for years.

Looking at myself in the mirror with gray hair has been an adjustment, and a battle with myself to let go of the image of myself I had held. The support I have gotten from random strangers, friends, and family has been incredible, and when I am feeling sad or less than beautiful, I am always amazed that someone will bless me with just the words or message I need to bring me back to acceptance. For me it has been letting go of holding on to youth as I had defined it in the past and accepting with dignity the new lines and gray hair that my life- 50 amazing years on this planet have earned me. Youth is a feeling, and when I look at 86 year old Madonna Buder who is completing Ironman races, I know that there are no limits to what I can do other than those I place on myself.

However, I notice and wonder why my first reaction when I receive a compliment is doubt. I wonder if they are just saying that to appease me or because somehow on some level they sense my insecurity. My son was with me so I shared this with him, as well as my thoughts about the unreachable standards and pressure of beauty that women receive on a constant basis from the media. His reply made me pause and think, because he said “Well, men never/rarely get compliments.”

I pause to look at my beliefs about men, such as that they are more confident than women, and don’t need the more frequent reassurances that I seem to need. This brief reminder from my 15 year old wise son inspire me to think differently, and to focus yet again less on me and more on others. To share the compliments and positive thoughts I have about those I meet. To tell my sons and husband how handsome, kind, strong, and generous they are. To tell the woman serving you at the restaurant she is beautiful. To thank the front desk for their kind service. To give to others what I think I need myself, and through giving the love and support feel the joy of lighting someone up. We all need to know we matter. We all want appreciation. We all need love. Men, women alike, we are all spiritual human beings with the same needs. Hold it inside and it will never fill you up. Share what you have and it will double/triple and more.

listen to your drumbeat

“Be what you are and say what you feel, because those who will mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”-Dr. Suess

There is such a pressure to conform, to follow the predictable path of school, then college, then marriage, strive, buy a home, have kids, working for years, retiring…just because that is what people do. We are taught in school to follow directions, to take our breaks, to be somewhere that some of us don’t want to be because we have to. Not discounting the positives, like how to interact with our peers, how to deal with difficult people, staying busy and productive while mom and dad are working, and of course much more. We look forward to the future date when we will have more time, more time to do what we really want to do.

I am what some would call a non-conformist, though I do have the SUV, the house, dogs, kids…but I didn’t go to college, and I have not placed any urgency on leading my kids to go either. I am teaching my children how to think for themselves and listen for their own drummer. At this point none of them have chosen the traditional path that I was raised to believe was the best path. There are at last count over 7.5 billion people on this planet. To me that means that there are most likely just as many roads to success, joy, and fulfillment.

I believe my job is to guide them away from danger when they are headed that way, to keep them safe when they are too young to know how for themselves, and to teach them how to think, not what to think. My kids don’t belong to me. They are unique amazing beings that I have been blessed to have in my life. They alone know what is best for them. My job is to listen, to give them the freedom to figure out for themselves what path they want to take, to help them with course adjustments if they are headed down a less empowering path, to support them in their journey, and to learn from them as much as I teach them if not more. They are in the position to be my greatest teachers. In my process of learning to let go of the need to control, they give me ample opportunities to test my intentions by taking daring steps that trigger all kinds of emotions inside me.

The most difficult challenge for me this far has been with one of our children who has made decisions about how they want to live their life that takes them away from us in more ways than one. This one has made dis-empowering choices about what to put in their body and who they choose to allow to influence them. It teaches me yet again that I have no control over anything other than my own emotions and my own reactions. As parents we want to shield our children from pain, but pain is sometimes a necessary teacher. I continue to pray every day for all of the 5 amazing souls I am blessed to call my kids, and trust that they will come through their pain and trials stronger and wiser. I hold a place for them always in my heart of love and acceptance of who they are as spiritual beings, no matter what their choices are in their life at the moment. I trust that the love I send them at every moment will help to give them strength when they are low, and I have faith in their own resilience and inner wisdom to guide them to the empowering path that they were meant to follow. I am blessed.

permission

“Change isn’t made by asking permission, change is made by asking forgiveness, later.” – Seth Godin

What is the difference between you and the people you look up to as movers and shakers? They have made the decision to take massive action on the ideas they have. They have a belief in what they are doing and don’t let self doubt sabotage their dream. They have made the decision to do it afraid. They are not only willing but anxious to step outside their comfort zone. There are tremendous rewards to pushing yourself out of the safe zone, most people won’t. They may dabble and stick a toe in, but sure enough, without the knowledge and belief that nothing worth doing is easy, they will invariably pull back like a snail back into his protective shell.

I am speaking from personal experience here, as I have fought to stay on many occasions in my self made prison of the comfort zone. It is only as I have learned through investing in my personal growth and the daily practice of reflecting that I have learned to see how the steps I took without permission, despite my fear, have reaped the most amazing and fulfilling rewards in my life.

“Everything worthwhile is uphill. No one ever coasted uphill.” John Maxwell

slow down

Life is always sending us messages, feedback if you will, on how our actions are impacting the world we live in. Honestly, most of us are unaware. We struggle with stress and anxiety, and are so caught up in our own heads that we fail to see clearly the path of least resistance.

When I was pregnant with my youngest son, we were very deep in the operations chaos stage of our business. We had just opened our cafe the year before, and were really struggling with how to balance 3 young kids at home with a growing little business. We were blessed to have customers, but at this stage in our growth, th success of the company was totally dependent on the presence of my husband and myself. The people we had working for us were the supporting cast, but we were playing the lead.

The stress was compounded by the fact that I was expecting our 5th child as well. This was not an easy pregnancy for me. I was struggling with my body image and the pressure of not only nurturing our new business, but continuing to make special order wedding cakes, and give time and love to my kids and husband.
Etched in my memory is one Sunday morning that I got a harsh reminder to slow down. I had unintentionally slept in, exhausted. The phone rang and it was James, my husband. “You need to get down here right now, I am slammed and trying to cook and wait on people at the same time” I heard. I leapt out of bed, not bothering to take a shower, threw on my clothes and raced out to my car. The sun was shining at the horizon, bright and blinding. I jumped into my little red Jeep Cherokee and sped off.

As I turned left on the street that would lead me to the restaurant, I was headed east, right into the sun. I leaned over to the far side of the passenger foot area to grab my sunglasses, in the process causing more acceleration. In my rush to leave, I had forgotten to put on my seatbelt. What happened next seemed to be in slow motion as I reflect back. The combination of acceleration, my hand turning the steering wheel slightly to the right as I leaned over to get the glasses, and BOOM. I plowed myself into the back of a flat-bed pickup truck. My chin hit the steering wheel and I was stunned and terrified, but I was alive.

What ensued next is a blur, ambulance, icu, tests, thank God my baby is ok…but the message I received was clear as day. Nothing is as important as being aware of the world you live in. Keep your head present and clear. Slow Down.