2016- The Year of Connection

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Missing Hawaii

It is midway through December. The Christmas tree is up, and that combined with the smell of pine and fallen leaves outside the house has me in a nostalgic mood.  It has me thinking about the past year.  God, so much has changed.  This time last year, I lived in Kailua, the most gorgeous place on the planet.  I dare you to tell me different.  I lived a mile away from a beautiful beach.  My best friends lived in walking distance from me.  On a Saturday morning I had a dozen people I could call at the drop of a hat to invite to a last minute hike or walk on the beach.  I knew my neighbors, and I had healthy, active people surrounding me.  I could walk to Crossfit and my work was a mere 15 minutes away.

Why then does it feel so right that I’ve moved to this out of the way place, where we are surrounded by squirrels, deer, bugs and birds?  Where Walmart is the best option for produce?  Where the beach (which in no way compares to Kailua) is a half hour drive away?  Where we are afraid to let our dogs run loose because they might get eaten by alligators or snatched up by large predatory birds?

One major answer is family.  I am missing my best friends like hell, and I am going to have to figure out how to visit soon, but now I feel like I live on the same planet as my family.  When I call them in the morning, it is also morning for them.  I don’t get the news 6 hours later than they do.  I saw my family and Nathan’s family in July.  Then I drove to New York for Thanksgiving.  Twice.  I am going to see

them again over the Christmas break.  I think Nathan said it most eloquently when we spoke of it in the car the other night.  He said, “This last time we drove away from the house, I was sad, because I would miss them, but I wasn’t thinking Is this the last time I am going to see them?”

How shitty is that question?  This is why I moved from Hawaii.  If someone in my family gets sick, or a family member gets married, or a family member has a baby, those things matter to me.  And living in Hawaii, you start to question whether you can afford to go see them.  That’s screwed up.  My mother-in-law had a liver transplant.  My sister-in-law gave her half of her own liver.  That’s freaking amazing.  And when we got married, they couldn’t come to Hawaii, because traveling when you’ve gotten a liver transplant is pretty freaking difficult, especially at first.  That sucked.  Big time.

Living so close feels amazing.  I feel like I am getting to know them again.  And it’s not like I didn’t talk to my siblings or my parents.  We kept and still do keep up a pretty good conversation via facebook

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Seeing Family is Priceless

and email and I was able to have Skype conversations with them on most of the holidays over the years.

Seeing Family Is Priceless
Seeing Family Is Priceless

But, let’s be honest.  It’s not the same.  It’s not the same as trying to sleep on the top bunk at your parents’ house when your oldest sister is sleeping on the bottom bunk and you’ve got years of catching up to do.  It’s not the same as being able to clear your crap out of your parents’ house for them.  It’s not the same as having a cup of coffee with them across the island in the kitchen or building a bonfire or playing Pandemic or talking about the Dragonriders of Pern books or simply being in their presence.  It’s not the same as spending time with your nieces and nephews and the dogs.  And it’s definitely not the same as being able to give them a hug.

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Seeing Family is Priceless

I feel like I missed a lot over the years, but at the same time, I grew up in Hawaii.  I became a big girl there.  I learned how to be a kind, loving, healthy, individual.  I learned how to love myself and I found friends there that became my family.
So how, in 2016 do I find what I had in Hawaii (not the beaches, but the friends and the lifestyle) and stay close to my family?  How do I find that connection somewhere close enough to New York?

I haven’t found the answer yet.  My husband and I are looking for employment possibly near Asheville, NC or in Colorado.  I need to find a group of people who are interested in health and wellness like I am.  We need to find a place that doesn’t have an undercurrent of discrimination.  And I need a place to be able to hike and work out, but this place can’t cost as much as Hawaii did.  I refuse to be a slave to the price of a plane ticket home.
Any ideas?  Comment below!  Where do you think the best place to live is?

 

Missing my Hawaii Family
Missing my Hawaii Family

The World Needs Healing

Whenever a tragedy happens somewhere on the planet, I become torn in so many directions.  Generally Facebook or the Daily Show are my only sources of news these days.  I have stopped watching the news in the morning because I refuse to start my day with shootings and fatal car accidents and bombings.  Sometimes I’ll watch the local news in the evenings to figure out what kinds of activities are happening nearby, but that half hour segment is usually rife with devastation.  Is that the only kind of news that exists?  No, but it’s the only kind that gets ratings, so it’s what is played.

Shows like The View, anything on Fox News and even the Morning news shows are so opinionated and generated to appease the viewers, actually give me a physical response.  The other day at the car shop the TV was set to The View and curiously I listened in for a minute.  I couldn’t help myself, but roll my eyes and shake my head to the nonsense that they were discussing.

I keep asking myself “why.”  Why are we talking about red cups instead of poverty?  Why are we only talking about Lions being killed in Africa when Foxes are endangered right here in the US?  In fact, there’s 16,306 animals on the Endangered List.  That’s not including the Threatened level species.  There are hundreds of species of animals nearby my current location threatened by the number of fast food cups that appear on the side of my road daily.

Why do we share what we do on social media?  What is the criteria by which you select the stories to share?  When the stories about Paris appeared on my news feed last night, I was deeply saddened.  The number of people killed was at 127 last time I looked.

This is tragic, yes.  But what is it about Paris that makes us change our profile pictures to the French flag?  Or send our thoughts and prayers to those souls in those attacks?  What is it about a school shooting or a child’s death that puts those on the trending list on my home page?

A quick search on Wikipedia puts the death toll of the ebola outbreak at more than 10,000.  What happened to our terror at the outbreak?  It was exciting for a little while, maybe it was fun to be scared of it, but now it’s old news.

So before I respond to a tragedy like the seeming coordinated attacks in Paris, I ask myself “why.”  Why am I posting this update?  Who is going to read it?  If I type “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris” what is my purpose?  Do I think Paris is reading it and will be thankful?  Am I putting out good energy into the world?  Am I just joining in to the conversation to feel like I am a part of something bigger?  Why?

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  All energy you put into the universe goes somewhere.  When you add your voice to the love, there is a build up of energy.  And when you add your voice of hatred, blaming Muslims for the violence, your energy builds up there.  Who do you want to read your post?  What do you want them to think or do or say?  What is your purpose for the words you put out there?

What does Fox News want us to think or do or say when they play a constant stream of “news” asking whether or not Isis is gaining any momentum or traction from this attack?  Just for kicks I just logged onto Fox News Live Stream and it was playing exactly that.  I always get the feeling that the why behind their stories is to tell me that I should live in terror and that “we” should attack all the scary people out there.

So while I am deeply saddened by the horrific events in Paris, today I don’t just pray for Paris.  I pray for the world.  I pray that this event won’t widen the divide.  I pray for us.  I pray that you stop using the word “they” when you talk about the tragedy.  It is not “them” vs “us.”  There is only us.  What we put into this world comes back to us and this whole world needs healing.  More violence is not my answer.  I hope it is not yours.

I am going to take this particular incident as a reminder to spend my day sending out love, helping others, being a part of the solution.  Picking up fast food containers from my street.  Recycling the plastic we use.  Waving hello to strangers in my town.  Giving a hand to someone who has fallen or dropped something.  This is where it starts.  Peace begins in your own home, in your own town.

Let’s all be a part of the solution.

Veterans Day

November is a month that is geared towards gratitude.  Two of my favorite holidays happen during this month- Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is obvious, and it is well shared about.  Veterans Day, on the other hand, seems to be a day that is given very little attention.

In the morning on holidays like Veteran’s Day there will be a multitude of sharings on social media, thanking our military members for their service.  This is wonderful and at the same time it often seems like an afterthought.  A quick nod for the day you got to take off of work perhaps.

But Veteran’s Day is a day of true appreciation.  After several years of working with military members and their families, I have a much deeper understanding of how important this day is.  The sacrifices that our military members make whether they are sent off to a war zone or work a desk job on a local base are deeper than most of us know.

Veterans Day celebrates our military members and coincides with Armistice Day- “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace” – President Woodrow Wilson.

To me, this is a day to celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy every day.  Freedom of Speech, Religion, Assembly, to Bear Arms, to own property, to live or travel anywhere, to work at any job, to marry and raise a family, to education, to participate in politics, to equal justice, to wear what you want, to make your own choices in your life, to complain about plain red cups, to post naked pictures of yourself on the internet.  You get to make those choices on your own.

I am grateful that I do not have to cover my face and body when I leave the house.

I am grateful that I could live in New York, Hawaii and North Carolina.  I am grateful that I can move if I want.

I am grateful that I can be friends with whoever I want.

I am grateful that I listen to the music I want.

I am grateful that I could marry who I wanted.

I am grateful for both fast food and farmer’s markets.

I am grateful for being able to vote.

I am grateful for clean, running water.

I am grateful for our police force, our military, our EMTs, our ability to cure so many diseases, and science.

I am grateful that I can believe whatever I want.

This is a short list.  When I picture myself living in a third world country or a country where women’s rights are non-existent, the list of gratitudes becomes extensive.

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What freedoms are you grateful for?

 

Lost in the Comments

20130324-sss-brene-brown-4-949x534I remember watching Brene Brown for the first time.  I saw her on SuperSoul Sunday, one of my favorite shows in the world.  Brene, who researches and is an expert on vulnerability, was talking about her first TedTalk (which is a definite must-see).  Now, the entire talk is amazing, but that’s not what caught my attention at the time.  Oprah was interviewing her about the TedTalk and how she felt afterwards.  I’m paraphrasing in my own words, but basically when she did the talk, she didn’t think anyone was going to watch it.  It was recorded and shared online and soon after it had thousands of views.  Her friends and family told her about this, but they warned her not to read the comments.  And she did anyway.  And people are cruel in comments.  She talked about how devastating they were, how viciously people attacked her from the anonymity of the youtube account.  They attacked her weight and her looks and her parenting.  And afterwords she went into a deep spiral of sadness.

This stuck out to me because I find myself reading an article that I think is interesting and then, as if I can’t help myself, I scroll down to see the comments.  I am drawn to them.  I feel the need to know what other people thought about this article.  And then I get caught up.  I want to argue.  I want to agree.  I want to fact check for people and let them know how stupid they are.  I get very close to being the anonymous asshole.  Luckily my mama taught me to think before I act and I often type something out, read it over and carefully press the backspace key.  I have a rule that I will not say face to face or anonymously any statement that is meant specifically to hurt someone.  I will not hold back the truth if it actually needs to be said, but generally, a comment thread on an article is not a place for this.

Right before I decided to post this, I was reading a beautiful Facebook post sharing.  The heart of the post was to teach your daughter about how beautiful life is through sports and activities, through hiking and dancing and enjoying food and having experiences.  It was said through the lense of avoiding any conversation and comments about your daughter’s weight and looks.  The message was to focus on other aspects of beauty and not to focus on body image.

As I do, I read this beautiful post and then I scrolled down to read the comments.  There were so many commenters talking about how dumb the post was because if you don’t talk to your daughter about your weight, then who will and then she will get fat.  So you have to teach her about dieting.  Oy.  And I had to wrench my attention away.  This is what reminded me of the interview with Brene.  The comments can suck you in.  You know you shouldn’t read them and you just continue scrolling and scrolling.

I’m not sure why I read the comments.  I ended up responding several times to comments on the above example page.  Maybe I want to get a feel for how many people agree with me and how other people feel about it.  It’s like I’m taking a poll.  That seems to be my initial reason for reading on.  Once I get past a couple though, I feel myself getting sucked in to arguments.  I read mean remarks and I read the replies to see if anyone has taught them a lesson yet.  I read the back and forth on and on and on.  Religion, politics and dieting always get nasty arguments.  I am floored and amazed by the level of racism, elitism, and machism that get tossed in.

As I write this I’m thinking to myself, “New rule!  Never read the comments!”  And I know that’s a great idea.  But it’s a rule I have a very difficult time following.  Does anybody else have this issue?  I want to commit to avoiding comments, but I feel in my mind I am waffling.  I think if I promise I won’t do it, I might break that promise.  How do you all feel about this?  Advice?

Class Details

 1020152032_HDR Hey friends!  Have you ever started something, that at the time, felt like it was exactly the right thing, and it was exciting, motivating, and made you feel super charged?  And then something comes up in your life and all of a sudden that thing gets pushed to the side?  Okay, I am going to admit that my upcoming class became a temporary victim to this process.  I was super pumped and about to get ready… and my in-laws came to visit.  Now, this was not bad news.  I happen to love my in-laws.  They are supportive and loving and when they got here we had a great time.  We tried out some local restaurants, saw part of NC we hadn’t visited before, and had an excuse to ride the ferry!

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The only problem came about because I have two jobs.  I have my day job, where I work at a school doing counseling with elementary school kids and their families, and I have my coaching job, which I am more passionate about, but which doesn’t yet, pay all of my bills.  My office for my coaching is in my spare bedroom and the time I spend on my coaching is technically my “free” time.  If you are an entrepreneur you may know about this part of the process.  I am making more money coaching, but I haven’t gotten to the tipping point yet.

So part of this post is to announce to the world that in the next year and a half, at this time next year, (By January 2017) these two jobs will switch.  I may continue to provide mental health counseling to military families, who I also have a passion for, but in a more fitting and more part-time type of way.  I am looking into being a provider for Tri-Care and hopefully for Military One Source (a fantastic source if you are attached to the military in any way!).

The other half of this post is to announce that I have moved the dates of the class, but that it is still happening!  I wanted to be able to give you my 100% and now that things are back to semi-routine and my office is set back up I am ready to rock and roll with the Jumpstart Your Life Class.

It might not be as full of a class, since the holidays will be rolling around and some people feel that it gets to be too much. However, this means that you will get more of my attention.

Classes start November 30. We will meet 6 times, skipping the Monday right after Christmas.

The dates are:
November 30
December 7, 14, 21
January 4, and 11

The classes meet in a Google Hangout and are scheduled for Mondays at 6pm Eastern Standard Time.

If you can’t make that time of the day, send me a message about better times during the week and if I have enough interest I’ll put together a second class at another time.

Message me on facebook, give me a call or shoot me an email to confirm your spot.

marypreston.oasisforchange@outlook.com

A Bonfire

Today, when I got home from work, I had the pleasure of using my favorite feature of my new home.  Today was a long day.  I work in the school system again, and while I love it, and the school I’m in is fantastic with warm, inviting teachers, great administration and kids with great attitudes, I always feel like I am judged for any free time I take.  Those who work in the school system know how valuable free time is.  With less and less money going to the education system these days, teachers are asked to step up more and more with their expectations during the day.  Right now most teachers and school staff I know rarely get a minute alone.  They are teaching the kids, at recess with the kids, at lunch with the kids, handing most of the kids off to their parents, but then staying late for activities.  After that they plan for the next day.  Even though my graduate schooling and my license qualify me for much more complicated activities, one of the best things I can do for a teacher is to be in the lunchroom when they need to use the restroom.  Because this is precious time that they have to negotiate for.  As part of my job I can’t be alone with the kids or be responsible, but I can help another teacher watch 40 kids.  And give a hard working teacher 5 minutes of respite from her class.

So when I have 10 or more minutes of time in between my groups and I have a chance to sit down at my desk, there is this pervasive feeling of guilt that seeps in.  I can’t help it.  I know that I have every right to sit down and take a break.  Every human has that right.  The fact that teachers don’t get it is appalling.  So I get swept up into the momentum of everybody doing something all the time.  Nonstop, all day long.

This came up for me today because I was sitting at my desk, eating my lunch, and doing my encounter forms on my phone.  So I wasn’t even actually taking a break, I was still working.  And someone came into the room and I heard myself telling her that I wasn’t sitting here texting, haha, I was actually doing work.  What the hell?  I don’t have to explain myself to her.  I don’t have to make excuses to put my feet up.  In fact, every fiber of my being believes that mindfulness and meditation are important.  I’ve been completely abandoning that at work.

So, today, when I got home from work I did not go inside and get on the computer and continue the go, go, go mindset from school.  Instead I did something that always brings me back to the present.  I lit a fire.  Lol.  My husband and I collect all of the cardboard boxes when we get something shipped from amazon and we pile up all of the magazines that arrive at our house.  Today I took a huge box full of papers to the firepit in the backyard of my house, piled on some sticks and branches that have fallen around the yard recently and lit a big bonfire.  I stood there and watched the flames. When it started to die down I got a stick and poked at the magazines that always have just a little more fight in them, opening up the pages to start new little fires.  I poked it and prodded it and threw on some leaves and altogether left the school day behind me.  And it felt really, really good.  The primal heat and edge of danger that a huge fire brings keeps your concentration on the present moment and is a meditation like no other.

I am making a commitment today to figuring out how to be an example for the kids and the staff.  I am not sure how, but I need to stand true to my values.  I don’t need to be a busy bee, bouncing from activity to activity making busy work so that I’m not sitting still.  I believe in stillness and I am going to somehow pass that along.  It’s going to be a challenge, but screw it, I’m done with pretending.  So tomorrow I’m going to sit at my desk and do absolutely nothing.  And see what happens.

A Great Sullivan Bonfire
A Great Sullivan Bonfire

 

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www.oasisforchange.com

 

Today is the Only Day

What if today was the last day?  What if today was the only day?

Recently I was asked the question:

“What do you want your legacy to be?”

Wow.  What a question, right?  But, it’s an important question.  When you ask yourself this question, it makes you dig deep about what you want to leave behind.  What would you want family and friends to remember about you?  What would you want your children to know if you could only pass on a short message in a letter or a video?  It makes you clear away the clutter and get to the heart of what your message in this world is.

I had a few ideas.  I’m sure this is a list that will grow, expand, and change as I continue to live my life.  Today, here is what I want you to know:

I want  you to know how incredibly essential and significant you are.  Yes, you.  Right there, reading this.  You.  This world needs you.  Your actions and words and thoughts and energy are an integral part of this universe.  And knowing that, I want you to believe in yourself and the potential that is in you.  That thing you want?  That you tell yourself is too big or expensive or grand or improbable.  You can have that.  The barriers are an illusion.  They are not real.  There are obstacles, but they are conquerable.  Every single one of them.  

That’s what I want you to know.

What I want you to do is test this.  Stop believing what you read or see on tv.  Try with something small that you’ve been putting off.  Figure out what the obstacles are and figure out how to get through and over and under and around.  Have fun, be creative, ask for help, get messy and laugh.  And then all of a sudden you’ll see you have or have done the thing.  Congratulations!  Now do something bigger.

 

That’s what I want you to know.  Believe in yourself.  Do cool shit.  In the great words of L’Oreal “You’re worth it.”So now it’s your turn.  What’s the legacy you want to leave?

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Oasis at Night

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30 Day Blog Challenge

 

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Hello my dear friends! As a member of the Easily Distracted crowd, I have probably mentioned before that I have a tendency to get an idea, start an activity, and then forget about it before I finish.  That is why, even though I love crafting, I have to pick projects that can be finished in a few hours, otherwise it might end up incomplete in the Land of Unfinished Toys.  When I moved from Hawaii to North Carolina I was forced to finish or give away many eyeless and earless elephants, unstuffed monster pillows, and cut, but not sewn bags.  The vault of half-finished ventures includes a list of about 20 blog post drafts, carefully thought out, started and abandoned.

Other than limiting myself to projects that can be complete in one day, it helps if I can find a group of folks that can motivate me.  So, in the name of those abandoned posts, my friends and I have begun a 30 day blog challenge.  I am hoping that this will light a fire under me to get in the habit of completing posts and publishing them rather than banishing them.

This post counts as Day Number 1.

My goal for this challenge is to create habits.  Hopefully along the way you will be entertained and informed.  My hope as always is for you to feel empowered, brave, and free.

I’m not sure what’s in store for tomorrow!

P.S.  If you’d like to join our facebook group and get motivated to blog with us, comment here or message me on my facebook page.

What and who do I stand for?

I stand for:

The helpers and healers in the world.

I stand for teachers who are raising our next generation.

I stand for mental health workers – our psychotherapists, our social workers, our probation and parole officers.

I stand for our police officers who have the almost impossible job of protecting us despite our fear and sometimes outright hatred for them.

I stand for our military service members who are on the ground fighting to keep us safe from harm and to defend our freedom. (Despite not always believing in or understanding the war they are fighting).

I stand for our non-profit workers, creating massive change in their organizations.

I stand for our nurses, our medical doctors, our dietitians, our physical therapists, all of those in the medical fields.

I stand for you, who are undervalued, underpaid, who work to help others often working harder than your clients or those you are trying to help to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. I stand for you.

I believe that we need to take care of ourselves. We need to stop believing that everyone else is more important than we are.

I believe that we need a strong team of individuals who are going to stand up and say that the systems we are working in are broken. But we are not just going to complain. We are going to make significant changes that will begin to heal our society as a whole.

I believe that we CAN do this. That we do not need to keep running the rat race. That we don’t need to continue to work in jobs that keep people sick. We do not need to be a part of the systems that generate and proliferate fear.

I believe that we can change the school systems, the health care systems, the prison systems.

And I believe that when we stop living as if there is not enough, when we recognize the abundance this universe has to offer we will see that we already have the tools and resources to do it, we already have the people, we already know how. We just need to work together and stop accepting the status quo.

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Stalling Out and Waking Up

Not too long ago, my husband and I were driving down the road.  Just a routine trip to the grocery store and halfway there the car just stops.  Pfft.  Done.  We were going 55 miles per hour and then we weren’t.  We were pulled onto the side of the road at the driveway to a Walmart.  We made a few phone calls to local tow companies, found one and then sat back to wait.  And it was kind of FUN.  All of a sudden I noticed things about this road I had been up and down many times before.  I had a chance to look at all of the trash cluttering the roadside.  I saw the trees in the Croatan National Forest.  I noticed that this Walmart wasn’t a full Walmart, just what’s called a “Neighborhood Market” whatever that means.  We sat there long enough to really take it all in and think, how did we get here?

broken-down-car Our stalled car is a great metaphor for life.  So often we get caught up in the routine and the mundane.  The wake up, go to work, come home, dinner and bed routine.  And over and over again.  About 10 years ago I remember having a feeling not too different from sitting in our stalled car on the side of the road.  One day I woke up and thought, how the hell did I get here?  From the outside everything probably looked great.  I lived in Hawaii, I was with my fiance, I had a great job doing what I had gone to school for.  I had just bought a new apartment in beautiful Kailua, we had our new puppy, Titus.  I was meeting new people.  But inside I was falling apart.  The routine had brought me to a place of being extremely overweight, I was drinking several beer every evening while I watched TV and made a crappy dinner.  Nathan and I weren’t leaving the house much.  And my job in a non-profit company was slowly sucking away my soul.  Too much work for too little appreciation, monetarily or otherwise.

I looked around me and it was like I had finally taken a minute to really look around.  I started to notice things that I hadn’t before.  Things that had become so routine that I had missed them.  Little things, like the fact that the crumb catcher under the toaster needed to be cleaned, or that I didn’t have to keep putting my coffee maker in that same corner.  I started to hone in on the present moment and notice a lot of things that I had essentially been ignoring.  I had to admit to myself that I was unhappy.

I look back at the person I was then, and I give her a lot of love and a lot of credit.  There was so much unseen stress that she was dealing with.  I wish I could reach back and give her a huge hug.  A lot has changed since then.  If I hadn’t taken the time to start looking at my life, at the reality of the world, I might not be where I am today.  I might still be at that non-profit job, because they always said they needed me.  I might never have started to get supervision for my license.  I might have let myself stay very, very small.

When was the last time you took a look around?  Took the time to see the things you love and notice the things that you would change if you had the energy for it?  I encourage you to take the time right now.  Take a deep breath or two.  Look away from your screen.  Look around you.  Do you like what you see?  If not, don’t wait, now is the time for change.  Pick one thing that you can do right now, get off the computer or phone and do it.

If you’d like a little help, there’s a group of motivated individuals in the same spot you are right now.  Let’s make some changes together.

Jumpstart Your Life