Mind Shift -- It is Your Choice

Dear Recipe Testers,

I love Spring!  I love everything about it.  I love the bright green grass on our hills and the lupin, California poppies and other wildflowers showing up daily.   I love all of the pink blossoms bursting on the trees.  I love the daffodils that radiate sunshine.  Each day something new shows up from the ground like a present.  I dropped the girls off at school the other morning and drove by this newly planted field that was entirely purple.  I have no idea what was actually planted, but it was gorgeous with the morning sun breaking through the mist and the purple just coming through the earth.  Then another day I was rushing somewhere between Katherine's dance classes, Melissa's choir and swimming and I noticed one of my car doors wasn't closed.  I had to pull over on the side of the road because it was the back passenger door.  I happened to be next to Buttonwood Farms where the entire fence row is planted with pink blooming cherry blossoms.  There was a gentle breeze and the blossoms fell on my hair:  A magical gift in my hurried day that made me stop and breathe in the beauty of the moment.

One of the things I like about living in the country that I get to see farmers' fields daily.  I get to see all the stages of planting:  the dark freshly turned earth, the newly planted vegetables or wheat, the crops as they fully ripen, the field after harvest that must be churned up again and given time to rest to make way for new growth.  I'm keenly aware of the symbolism and analogy to human life when I see the fields.   That all of us go through stages of growth and there are times when we blossom and there are times when we must be quiet seeds resting under the dark earth.  Each stage is essential and necessary.  And each stage, even the dark earth, holds its own beauty.

An Oak Tree in the Wheat Field that I pass driving home from Los Olivos

It has been two years since the separation/divorce.  The girls and I have adjusted to our new lives and we are all thriving.  We went through a storm and we found sunshine on the other side.  Then, just after the beginning of the year the girls father announced he was moving to Florida for a new job.  Now it seems odd to say that it is a Blessing for a father to move 2,500 miles away from his children, but in this case it is.  Divorces are just awful.  They create unnatural circumstances of children packing suitcases and going from house to house.  It is exhausting for the child.  Personally, I love to travel but I can't stand packing, so imagine having to pack every week and you're not even going on a trip.  The burden of packing and constant movement is placed on the child instead of letting them be in one stable environment.  (I have many friends who lived through divorces as children who said it was far easier for them when one parent moved away.)   With this move, the girls will have "normal" high school lives.  They will be able to be here to be with their friends on the weekends and do the things they each enjoy doing.   (And "normal" is really not a great word because who truly has a "normal" life.  My friend, who has an autistic son, said the only "normal" in her life is the button on the washing machine.  We all have challenges and differences in our lives and I suppose "normal" is only an imagined perfection somewhere out there that no one really has.  We all have the ups and downs that make our lives real.)  So that being said, I think their father's move is better for the girls.  The girls are excited to fly to see him during spring break and summer.  Suddenly it seems like and exciting vacation to see their dad instead of an obligation that prevents them from being with their friends.  And thankfully with modern technology of facetime, texting and iphones they can stay in touch with their father even though he lives far away.

The downside was that we had to go back to court to work out a new custody agreement and no matter how you slice it, court is a negative place.  As you all know, I look for JOY daily.  Often it comes and surprises me and other times I must make an effort to intentionally find JOY.  On the day we went back to court I forgot to look for JOY.  The negative part about going to court is that lots of old-stuff, that you already processed and got over, gets dragged back through the mud.  So that night my mind went through all of the sad things that had occurred and I was up the whole night consumed by thoughts about things I couldn't fix and couldn't make right no matter how much time I spent dwelling on them.  I could only remember what had occurred.  I couldn't fix or change it.  At about 5:00 am I decided to get on my ipad and go on Pinterest since that is always a positive inspirational creative escape for me.  The first thing I saw on Pinterest was this little bird sitting on a stone that said "Put JOY in your heart."  And AGAIN, I REALIZED I HAVE A CHOICE:  I have a choice to either let the negative things that I can't fix consume me or I can put JOY in my heart instead.  

And I'm sharing this with all of you because if you look at the balance of life is is mostly filled with GREAT things.  In a scale of a hundred the good things take up about 95% and the bad things are about 5%.  But somehow those bad things have the potential to overshadow and consume all of life.   We become hyper-focused on that one bad thing and let it infect all of the good things.  So instead, find the the best and healthiest way to process the negative so you can make way for all the great and wonderful things that are there daily.  For me I usually have to let out the negative.  I never keep it bottled up inside where it can ferment and explode.  I find a healthy way to express whatever frustration I'm dealing with by acknowledging it and accepting that is is hard or frustrating or sad.  I feel it.  I don't bury it, deny it or hide it.  I process it.  You can do this by writing in a journal, talking to a therapist or talking to a great friend.  Just be sure that you chose a friend who will diffuse the emotions instead of inflame them.  You want someone who understands the challenges you are going through and gives you the tools to deal with them, not someone who is going to get stuck in the negative and bog you down.  You want a friend who will help you process it and let it go.  And then intentionally focus on moving you mind to something positive.  Start counting the 95% of things that are going right and then move your mind to something creative that you love doing.

Which brings me to a recent post I put on my blog that shows the science behind turning your brain from stressed, worried and and overwhelmed to calm, happy and joyful.  And how playing a game like chess or backgammon, or doing a craft or gardening or cooking or sewing or hiking can restore you.  

And this reminds me of another thing.  My friend, Anita, who I admire for her amazing devotion to her family says that she and her husband play backgammon together.  I thought this was brilliant.  So often husbands and wives spend time complaining to each other about the heavy list of chores and obligations and stresses in their life because they are looking to their spouse for relief from the pressures of daily life.  Take the day instead and play a game together gives you both a break.  Let the "to do" list wait until tomorrow.  Make some time to be together and play a game or do a puzzle or interact with each other.  Or do this same thing with your child.  It has such a positive impact.

And now, since this is a recipe email list I DO actually have a number of recipes to share.  And I have many more to come.  I've been teaching a number of cooking classes and writing lots of new recipes since that is what my creative mind loves to do!  JOY to all of you!  Maili

In honor of St. Patrick's Day here is a super easy and delicious recipe for Irish Soda Bread from my friend Terry McCagh

A super easy and delicious 

The Best Jambalaya Ever–and Great for a Crowd

from Rancho La Zaca's chef Stephanie Valentine (with short-cuts to make it even easier from Frances)
photography Frances Schultz


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