Be honest.

Or go away.

I doubt that the person I am writing this about will read it, mainly because I don’t think she follows my blogs. And if, by chance, she does read this, I hope that she understands that I prefer to use the written word to communicate my frustration, rather than trying to speak to her in person about it. I hope that she will learn from it and behave in a different way to others in the future. Because at this point, I hope to never see her again.

A couple of months ago I was teaching an Edible Landscaping class at a local library. Several people quietly edged in late – it happens, I don’t worry about it. Afterwards, one of them approached me and introduced herself. She was also a homeschool mom and Emily, who had been along with me due to a scheduling conflict, had been playing happily with her children while I conducted the class.

She was very interested in talking to me more about gardening since they had just bought a house with some acreage in Grain Valley. As I often do for people who are interested in gardening, I invited her over to see my garden and possibly get some ideas. The next week she called me and we set up a time for her to come by.

It was great having her and the kids come by. Emily joyfully played with the three younger ones and her eldest, who is fifteen or so, and she and I toured the garden, talking about all things plant and chicken and bee. The next week she asked if she could come again and I was happy to have her. At the end of the visit she mentioned that she would really love for her husband to meet me and Dave, and could they schedule something for next week?

“Sure,” I said. We set a time that would work for everyone and they all came by again.

I hate it when people disappoint me by using subterfuge. And that is just how I view what happened next.

Her husband is part of some MLM or some such nonsense. He sat Dave down and started trying to sell him on it. Dave is far more positive about MLMs than I am. He was in Amway for a while, and says he got a lot of confidence out of it, despite it not being quite his style.

I can’t stand MLMs. They are predatory and exist on manipulation and fear.

This guy wasn’t the worst I’ve seen, but I have to admit I was trying desperately to hide the hackles that had risen on my back. He was in our house, trying to sell us something. Did I mention I HATE that? He had apparently asked Dave what he wanted in the near future. Dave had said something about having a farm and so, of course, this was the selling point.

“If you really want that farm, you’ll buy this leadership program.”

For the record, I absolutely despise someone who tries to manipulate me in any way. Whether it is a used car salesman telling me how cute my little girl is, to a person peddling ‘leadership programs’ as the only way to achieving my dreams.

It disgusts me.

Worse than that, is the thought that this woman who said she was interested in gardening was probably only cultivating a friendship with me in order to get an “in” into selling me some crap leadership program that I do not need and do not want.

From the very first time I saw her, I made it clear we were secular homeschoolers. Despite this, she brought her ultra-conservative Christian leanings (and ridiculous Christian leadership program) into my home. The Christian faith I can forgive – I believe that we all have a right to our beliefs, but the ‘leadership’ book she insisted on lending me to read quite clearly categorizes anyone who does not share a faith in God as someone without values, honor, direction, or morality.

That is a line in the sand for me. I would posit that I am bound by values, honor, direction and morality far more than many self-professed Christians. I don’t need God or the bible to tell right from wrong.

If you want to sell me something – come out and say it. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t pretend to be interested in what I’m interested in, and don’t ever presume to think I am in need of spiritual intercession.

Be honest.

Or go away.

I ended up nipping their little talk in the bud and pointing out that we had all we needed, right here, to make our dreams come true. If we are so inclined, just like the Dervaes family in Pasadena, we could transform our 1/3 acre into a farm of amazing levels of productivity. And if that is what we want to do, we will end up doing it. No cultish ‘leadership programs’ needed to accomplish this, just our hearts and hands and hard work. We won’t need to manipulate anyone, sneak up on anyone and spring any MLM program on them, just us and our own intent.

We are not sheep. We are not stupid. We know our minds and hearts.

In whatever you choose to do, go forth and do it with honesty and integrity. If you choose to sell a product, make it the best product you can. If you sell your services, make them the best services possible. In all things, do good, cause no harm, and avoid manipulating others. There is plenty of money to be made in living a good and honest life. Perhaps I’ll never be a multi-millionaire. Perhaps I dream too small or put a smaller value on the classes I teach then what I could possibly earn. At least I’ll go down knowing I did my best and that I brought change, empathy, motivation and more to others.

Be honest.

Or go away.


A couple of years ago I decided to paint my toddler’s room in a garden theme, complete with a little picket fence around the perimeter, and a counting adventure of creatures on the walls – four birds, ten bees, two beehives, et cetera.

I started early, first laying down the base coat and then meticulously adding the picket fence border. As I painted I described what would come next to my mother…”I guess I’ll try my hand at painting the creatures,” I said to her.

“Honey, you would be better off finding stencils or adhesives.” My mother advised, “After all, you can’t draw like Dee (my grown daughter) can.”

I agreed with her. After all, stick figures were rather challenging. What was I thinking even considering drawing and painting dragonflies and birdhouses and more on the walls? It would turn into a disaster. But somehow, the discouraging tone of her voice made my mind up for me. Out of nowhere my backbone straightened and I thought quietly, “Oh yeah? Sez who?” Suddenly I was determined to paint them all myself.

And so I did. They turned out pretty well. Especially these two strings of butterflies and bees…

When I looked at the finished project the feeling was indescribable. I had spent most of my life, nearly forty years, believing I couldn’t draw. And while I’m no Picasso, nor do I aspire to be, I was immensely pleased with my work.

Today I looked at a little rocking chair in Emily’s room and decided it needed a serious facelift. The bright red paint was peeling and it was no longer looking as pretty as it had been when it first made its way to our home. Here are the before and afters:

Bright and shiny in 2007

Tomorrow the chair will be dry enough for me to take down and put back in Emily’s room. It matches well with the garden theme and she has already grinned with delight over the flowers.

All it took for me to do this was a change in perspective. Instead of saying, “I can’t draw” I said, “I’ll go for it, the worst that can happen is that I end up painting over it.”

Life change isn’t really that much different. It is the changing of “I Wish” into “I am” or “I have” or “I’ve done”. And when you do it, when you give yourself the chance to just do it, your future opens up and all is possible.

Growing up, I was probably no more than fourteen when I read  Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Nearly everyone has heard of the movie, but what I read was the book – a ground-breaking science fiction masterpiece. The movie barely touched on the intricacies of the story, and depicted only a tiny fraction of the book. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly. One particular mantra, courtesy of the Bene Gesserit, was repeated over and over throughout the book. That saying has stayed with me for years. It goes like this…

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

This morning my husband Dave was reading an article written by his teacher, a master of many martial arts including Tai Chi, Chi Gung, Ba Gua, and countless others. Dave studied under him for nearly two decades and recently opened his own business, Kansas City Chi Gung, and teaches Tai Chi and Chi Gung. In the article, Dave’s teacher, Bruce Kumar Frantzis, drew a direct line between Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and Taoism and as I heard those words repeated I thought about reading them so long ago and how I have learned to embrace them in recent years.

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

Those words resonated through me and I found myself asking, “How often does fear stop us from becoming what we are meant to be?”

Think about that for a moment.

Fear of the unknown…

Fear of the “Well, what if…”

Fear of the “I’ve never done that, how will I succeed?”

We learn doubts and find ourselves consumed with fear at such a young age. At three, my daughter is already showing the signs of it. She will bring me a pen, marker, or crayon and say, “Draw an ‘A’, Mama.”

“Would you like me to help you draw an ‘A’ Emily?”

“No Mama, I CAN’T draw.”

She always looks sad and scared and I wonder where it came from. It wasn’t anything her dad or I said, and I can’t imagine a teacher or other family member being anything but positive and supportive.

I tell her, “Your big sister didn’t know how to draw once. But you know what? She kept trying, and she kept getting better, and now she draws beautifully. You can learn anything you want to and are willing to try at.” She nods and sometimes she lets me guide her hand, other times not.

What is it about us? Why do we stand in our own way? Is it cultural? Is it environmental? Is it biological? It seems as if sometimes our unconscious simply generate roadblocks where there is nothing but level land to walk on.

How about an example of what I mean? Okay, here goes…

I recently decided to represent myself in an upcoming court case. I checked out a book on the particular subject (one of the NOLO series) and began to read through it, looking at all of the forms I would have to fill out and learning the lingo…pro se – to represent yourself. I paged through the schedules, read the descriptions, and I was feeling good. I understood this, it wasn’t terribly difficult, and I felt capable. Right about the point that my feeling of capable was at its zenith, I got lost and didn’t understand a particular form. Was this something I needed to fill out? What did this form mean? I set the book down in a fluster and walked away.

Folks, I walked away for THREE days. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the book. In other words, I had allowed the fear to consume me. What did I know about law? How could I even consider representing myself? What if I filled out the forms wrong and the financial and legal ramifications were significant? If I screwed up and it meant us losing a significant amount of money or with judgments against us, I wouldn’t just be harming me, I’d be harming the financial future of our family. My little girl. My husband. My grown daughter who is hoping for a little bit of help with college if I can swing it.

But then I was reminded of a completely separate incident. One I have quoted before, but it bears repeating. A few years ago I wanted to get my recliner re-upholstered. But I knew nothing about it and there were few books on the subject with enough photos for me to be able to follow. I didn’t want to pay an exorbitant amount for someone to do it for me, so I needed to somehow swing it myself. My mother said, “Honey, someone put it together once, you can take it apart.” And that one sentence was IT. That was the impetus I needed to move forward.

And as I thought about the legal paperwork, those words ran through my head and I thought, “Others have done this. And if they could do it, then so can I.” I sat down and I began pushing through the paperwork, one schedule and addendum at a time. It took hours, but I finished them all. When the fear or confusion came I researched the lingo through the internet and made sure I understood what the questions were asking. I pushed aside the fear and allowed reason and questions and learning to roll through.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear stops us from accomplishing the unknowable, from learning in the moment, from living lives freer than what we have now.

Don’t let fear stop you. Recognize it for what it is and choose to believe in your capabilities, in the you, and the bright tomorrow that you can effect change in. Do not let fear kill your dreams or stifle your ambition. Know that you are capable of so much more and do not allow it to control the outcome of your future. Let it pass through you.

When it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

I ‘ll admit it. I’m a bargain shopper. I still frequent used clothing stores (a holdover from my penniless youth) and I feed my book addictions by vetting nearly all books I wish to buy through the local library first before purchasing what I can’t live without used through Amazon.com or Half.com.

I had recently purchased “The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics” for my daughter and the seller, Better World Books sent me the following email:

We’re just checking in to see if you received your order (The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics) from Better World Books. If your order hasn’t blessed your mailbox just yet, heads are gonna roll in the Mishawaka warehouse! Seriously though, if you haven’t received your order or are less than 108.8% satisfied, please reply to this message. Let us know what we can do to flabbergast you with service.

I was amused and intrigued. It was certainly not a standard email to receive from a company. 108.8% satisfied? I was amused enough to go check them out and promptly took advantage of the bargain book sale, 5 books for $15. I ordered ten and as I processed through the payment pages waited for the ax to fall. How much was shipping going to be? When the total came to $30.50 (.50 for a carbon footprint fee) I was shocked and excited. No shipping fees? Nothing except for that 50 cent fee? No way!

But it was true and I realized I now have a new favorite place to buy books. I sent them the following email:

Okay, I’ll admit it. You got me.

Good prices on books? Check.

Insanely cheap shipping? Check.

A strange and captivating sense of humor? CHECK!

After reading your follow-up email on an order I had made for one of your books and being amused and intrigued, I visited your website and bought ten books. So yeah, they’re off the bargain rack, but I really like your business model. Keep up the good work! I’m looking forward to getting all those books!

When someone impresses me, I like to give them a big thumbs up. Check out www.betterworldbooks.com for some great book deals!

Within moments of waking I found my thoughts focusing on Mercedes Lackey who, through one of her characters, described what could very well be her writing method (at any time she has – one book in planning, one book in process, and one book being edited).

Recently I’ve been reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” and he shares his ideas of what has worked for him in terms of successful writing. I caught myself thinking about this as I started on my self-assigned 2,000 words for the day (that’s how many Stephen King writes). I caught myself contemplating whether this was the magic pill. If I write like Stephen King says to write, I will be successful like him.

This last thought is a bad place to be. And not just for writers, but for anyone.

What works for one person, does not necessarily work for another. Stephen King goes on to mention a large desk that he had for many years, which occupied the room to the exclusion of other things and sat in the very middle. He writes of choosing a different desk, one that resides in a corner and is no longer presumptuous or overbearing.

I caught myself patting myself on the back for having a corner desk! How silly is that?

We yearn for the magic pill or the perfect trifectate of events or steps that will guide our way to success. We believe it is there, somewhere, and we spend far too many weeks, months, years and even decades in search of it. This creature of our own imagination – it does not exist!

I was at a Heartland Coach Alliance meeting yesterday (HCA) and as part of the end of year program we went around and each spoke for one minute about what we had learned that year as a coach. I couldn’t shake the memory of reading Stephen King’s book and his remark about ideas being fossils in the ground. “Opportunities are like that,” I said, “Opportunities are all around us, we just need to dig them up.”

I went on to share the thought, which elicited many nods of agreement, that we stand in our own way far too much of the time. We limit our success by standing in the way, waiting for the miracle. My job as a coach is to teach you to step out of your own way and teach you to allow yourself success. Part of this is accomplished by reminding you that there is no magic pill or perfect trifectate of events that you need to be waiting for.

Put yourself out there and strive towards your goals. Take others advice and try it out, but don’t accept it as gospel. Don’t assume they know what is best for YOU. Only you know that!

I woke up this morning with a pounding headache. My little Emily asked, “Mama, why do you have a headache?” I explained to her that I get headaches due to a number of causes…low humidity, stress, sleeping with too many pillows or with my head in the wrong position, and if I have too much chocolate or caffeine.

I couldn’t tell you what the reason was today. There was low humidity, but hubby got the humidifiers all pumping away this morning. I fell asleep with two pillows instead of one under my head and I’ve had more than my fair share of stress recently. So who knows?

In any case, I couldn’t bring myself to eat until the pain subsided to a manageable level (about 1/2 an hour ago) and I fixed bacon and eggs and sat down to eat breakfast while I continued to read Stephen King’s “On Writing.”

Something he said, or perhaps my emotional state, which is often threadbare when I am in pain, brought the tears to my eyes.

He wrote, “You must not come lightly to the blank page.”

As I write this, I feel the tears and emotion gathering again. I know my brain is still hurting, and that makes me vulnerable, but I think that the words too are incredibly powerful. The concept of “not coming lightly” to your life or your life’s work strikes a chord deep inside.

In “Handed My Own Life” Annie Dillard writes that we “do what we do out of our private passion for the thing itself” which, to me, says much the same thing as King is relaying.

Approach your dreams with focus and intensity and dedication. This is not a test run, it is not a “gee, I guess I’ll try it”…this is your life!

What is it that you want from your life?

What is it that you want more than anything?

Close your eyes. Visualize it. Imagine yourself in the future you so desperately want.

You must not come lightly to that future.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the road to Hardyville.

For those unfamiliar with the ‘road to Hardyville’ check out Claire Wolfe on Wikipedia.

There are a few quotes that I keep close to me, always with me or nearby, and Claire’s is one of them:

“You want to live in Hardyville? I’ll tell you the secret, then, that Hardyville is as real as it is imaginary…

How do you get there? If you can’t find Lonelyheart Pass, you can start in the direction of Hardyville by thinking about the way you’re living now. Are you racing like a little maze-rat, just to keep yourself in fancy toys? … Are you living vicariously, via television? Do you choose to spend your days in a little gray cube? Is your mind in a little gray cube? … Have you put your kids in day care, soccer and gymnastics, more than in your life? Do you hate your life, but somehow never manage to take real steps to fix it? Are you using people — or being used by them — instead of having honest relationships? When it comes right down to it, do you choose convenience over independence? Do you choose the status quo over the uncertainties of happiness? Do your deeds fail to match your words, your hopes and your ideals?

Then you’re not on the road to Hardyville. If you want to be on the road to Hardyville, then turn around.”

Recently with the nation’s economy, and our own family’s personal financial woes, I have made a mental note to write out two very important questions and post them anywhere I can think of.

The first is in direct relation to our economic woes. When I am tempted to purchase something, I need to ask:

Is this item worth sacrificing my future freedom?

Because buying that “I gotta have it” instead of waiting and evaluating the need is the main reason we are in the situation that we are in personally as a family and also as a nation.

The second question I need to be asking is:

Am I on the road to Hardyville?

The concept of Hardyville is more than just a libertarian, ‘give me freedom or give me death’ rallying cry. It is about creating a life that you can live with, that you can find peace and happiness and satisfaction with. It is not a matter of geography, it is a matter of wellness, inside and out. You’ll know you have reached Hardyville when you have strong, deep relationships with friends and loved ones. When you can look in the mirror and like what you see.

Sometimes life can be overwhelming and you might think that you’ll never find the road to Hardyville. It’s easy to lose hope in the moment when you are stressed out. But Hardyville is waiting for you, accessible and possible. When you are ready, you will begin or resume the journey.

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