Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Most Beautiful Story: The Extraordinary in the Ordinary (Plus a Rant about Plastic Straws)

Just yesterday I experienced one of the most touching and beautiful moments thus far in my nearly 2.5 decades of living, and it was from a gesture so small.

To preface and give context, I have been absolutely burnt out the last few weeks. I usually make a pact with myself to post five social media posts a week, keep all of my projects in-check, and be timely with my email responses to people regarding work. But I haven't had energy or motivation for any of it. Part of it could be because I completed the Spring 2018 Body Mind Spirit Expo--which is equally as exhausting as it is wonderful--but the other part is exhaustion regarding the nature of my work.

I have so much I want to write blogposts about, which I hope to get to soon, but one of which is how I feel about climate change and the ever-increasingly dire situation the earth is. There is so much suffering, and knowing that either motivates me in my life goal to find ways to teach children empathy and how to care for all life, or it brings me to my knees from strong feelings of despair and helplessness. And friends, the second one is where I have been as of late.

Since I started a new waitressing job a few weeks ago to help pay my bills, various things I have witnessed of the general nature of restaurant function have certainly added to my sadness. Let me first say that I am incredibly grateful for this job, and I work with and for some of the nicest, most humble people I have ever met. I get treated and paid well by my employers, which is something I have not experienced in the workforce, and I could not be more grateful for that. I am also grateful to be on the front lines with the people and have the experiences I do, as they help reflect to me new perspectives and where the people generally are mentally, emotionally, morally, etc. Keep in mind that the issues I talk about do not really reflect this specific restaurant and especially not the wonderful people who work it alongside me, but rather the larger issues that are currently a part of American restaurant culture.

One of the biggest things that makes me cringe is watching the daily waste grow and grow, whether it be food, drinks, napkins, plastic bags, plastic ware, and styrofoam to-go containers. I do what I can to mitigate the waste to the best of my ability, such as not put napkins/plastic silverware in to-go orders unless customers ask, take home whatever plastic film and single-stream recycling I can (although recycling is not an end-all answer, and the issues are wonderfully laid out in this blog), only give plastic straws to those who request it, etc. In the short time since I have started working at this place, I have already created a name for the people who irritatedly ask for plastic straws in a way that gives me the impression that I am denying them a most obvious and necessary convenience. Not-so-creatively, the name I give those people is the, "straw people." And man, do they get on my nerves like no other. 

A wonderful video that displays the reality of saying no to straws. It's such a small thing, but when we actively and collectively say "no" to indulging in something like this, it does have an affect; it is said that it those who continuously make eco-conscious choices make the biggest difference. 

Before you think I might be too harsh, I want to mention that I understand that we have a culture that pushes single-use plastic on us as if our lives depend on it. Even as someone who refuses to involve it in my daily life, I still am given food/drinks/materials/etc that include it, and this nature of our culture saddens me to the core. While some of it is recycleable, a lot of it isn't, and straws are one of the items on that list. I also understand that a lot of people don't have the knowledge about the devastating impact that plastic products has on life all around the globe, most notably being ocean life facing microplastics. If that's the case, then I would like to educate those people. Unfortunately, I don't have time to do that in the busy nature of the job, not to mention that it probably isn't the time or place considering people come to a restaurant to pay for food, not to be lectured to. But similarly to the recently-charged and serious topic of gun violence, when is the "right" time or place to talk about these issues when they are of such momentous importance and timeliness?

Regardless, I am much more understanding when people say, "Can I please have a straw?" (especially for elderly or for children who have a harder time with the glass) versus, "Umm, excuse me, but where are our straws??" The ones who are rude about it are what I call the "straw people." Because again, it's not just that they are asking for such a non-necessary object that harms the environment, it's that they are having such a reaction over something so small. I would also expect that Boulder would be better with generally more respectful and eco-conscious people, and maybe it is, but I still see this behavior every day I'm at the restaurant. 

Are we Americans so especially fragile and privileged that we cannot handle having one less tiny commodity in our materialistic lives? It's as if we are all balancing on top of an incredibly precariously stacked pile of physical things representing our culture, and if you simply take out one item, such as the plastic straw (or a Twinkie--remember how people flipped out when they stopped making them in 2012?), we all come crashing down. 

But, no. That is not how our survival works. In fact, it's the opposite. If we want to continue to thrive on this planet, we need to make some serious cultural, societal, political, and economic changes. We need to eliminate the consumeristic and privileged nature of our way of living that is killing the life on our planet.

ANNNNyways, back to the story--I went to work yesterday and was feeling so low regarding the state of the world. I even woke up and was thinking about a most harrowing video I saw months ago of a horribly terrified and confused baby elephant standing next to its not-so-recently dead mother who was poached. If that's not a bad mental space to start your day, with I'm not sure what is. So I thought, "You better not give me any "straw people" today, Universe. Not now." Sure enough, I am helping a boisterous table of five business workers joining us for the lunch rush that I had a feeling would be challenging--my intuition was correct. 

One male from the group waved me over after they looked at their menus, so I come over with my notepad ready. The same guy who waved me over begins to loudly tell a story to his co-workers as he wants me to somehow talk over them and take their order. Since I had multiple tables that very much needed tending to (and I was working a total of eight tables simultaneously on my own since my co-worker was on his break), I almost said, "Call me over when you all are ready to order" but figured it would be quicker to verbally force my way in there and get their orders, so I did. While some of the five people at the table were more-or-less respectful, I was extra miffed by that same guy who, after I served everyone's drinks, sassily said, "Do we get straws?"

Oh, man. That tone was starting to lump him into the "straw people" group. I replied, "Sure, how many would you like?" And he said, "Umm, don't we all get one?" That's it. He's a "straw person". I responded with something like, "Oh, we give straws by request-only because of the plastic epidemic that's destroying the environment. But that's fine." And I gave the table five straws. Once they had left, I found that two of the five people didn't touch the paper-wrapped straws, so I was able to put them back in our stock. "Maybe it is worth saying something," I thought.


Soon after that, it was time for my 1.5 hour break (they're 11-hour shifts which is why the breaks are so long), and I had planned to pick up trash in the very nearby creek area that I often visit and feel saddened by all of the waste that's desecrating the limited nature area near the heart of Boulder. Because why get upset about it when I can do something about it? And how rewarding is it to be able to fully enjoy the nature space on my work breaks after keeping it clean myself? 

While I was picking up trash with my gardening glove and putting it into my large, recycled plastic bag (which is to be once again recycled as plastic film at a nearby grocery store after being emptied), my mind was racing with thoughts that made my heart sink further. A small fraction was from the straw incident prior, but the rest was feeling such heavy despair over our many natural world's problems. "How are we going to wake up and realize our impact if we cannot even see it and do something about it here?" Even deeper, I thought about my own work, wondering if it would ever make a difference or be enough. If I want to make coloring books (with recycled paper, of course!) and find ways to lecture/teach/do workshops/educational hikes and whatever else I can think of to help educate and encourage people to care, will it be effective? Will my impact truly make any difference?

My garbage bag was already half-full with trash by the time I was nearing the end of my break. I had already found all sorts of odds and ends, including plastic water bottles, alcohol bottles, a spoon, a soap bar with glitter in it, a bike light, socks, toothpaste, batteries, TONS of cigarette butts, a kiddie pool (which was too big to carry--I plan to go back and carry on my next work break) and a whole bike seat. I could've taken a picture of it all, the trash being nicely arranged and such to be easily seen, but I wanted to spend as much time as I could cleaning up on my break, you know? During the process, I walked past many people on the path who saw me and didn't say anything, and I didn't expect them to. And then comes along a very sweet, precious young boy.

Two kids maybe around age 8-10 were walking on the path from behind me, and the boy right away said, "That's a really good thing that you're doing." And I said, "Aww, thank you so much! It's kind of fun actually, and a great workout!" (Which it was--my lower back is now stronger for it ;) ) As I was speaking, the boy immediately said, "Here," and picked a little grape hyacinth flower from the ground and held it out to me. My initial thought was, "Oh, no need to desecrate the plant-life for me!" but I instead replied with, "Oh my goodness, what a sweetheart you are!! Thank you for your kindness!" As he walked away, I continued to pick up trash, and tears began to well in my eyes as the impact of his gesture hit me. 

I believe everything happens for a reason, and this was most certainly a simple and humble yet deeply meaningful and loving gesture from that young boy as well as the universe that has become a huge source of encouragement for me. Here, I'm feeling so disappointed by society and various people in it that are so aggresively inbiting such immensely needed change, and I'm feeling powerless to stop it. We're supposed to be leaders for our younger generations, yet I'm questioning my own work regarding teaching empathy to children and losing motivation because I'm not sure it's enough.

Yet my small act of trash collecting yielded such a stunning repsonse from a child. Whether he has wonderful parents, educators, etc. that teach him how to be a wonderfully caring human or not, he was a symbol to me that there is hope. In that moment, he showed me that I don't need to teach empathy, I can simply be present to foster it because it is already present within our beautiful children. All we need to do is show them the way, share the truth of our natural world, and they will continue to lead with their hearts. 

While I have little doubt that I am likely to continue my inner emotional battle from feeling the pain and cries of the natural world, I will do my best to remember moments like these and hold the faith; thank you from the bottom of my heart, sweet boy, for being such a bright light among the darkness.

I hope both this story and this amazing child serve as reminders to us all as to how small acts of kindness--whether they are for one another or for our natural world--can truly be a water droplet that turns to ripples and yield waves worth of impact. With that, I say Happy Spring and wish you all beautiful days filled with hope, joy, and motivation to fulfill our gifts/special roles and serve the planet in whatever ways we can. As always, I thank you deeply for taking the time to read my blog.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Taking Health into our Own Hands - Usnea Tinctures!

Taken October '15 when I harvested usnea for medicine!
Yikes, what an insane flu season we're having this year!! Practically everyone I know has been sick at some point since the new year has started. Whether it's bacterial, the flu, or some other miscellaneous pathogen, it has seemed to be persistent for a lot of people. In many ways, we rely only on Western medicine (which certainly can save lives!) to help us, but is that the only option? For some, the answer is yes--our media and culture are sure to convince us of that in this society.

You know those drug commercials that show footage of overly happy and perfect-looking families enjoying themselves in a park or running on the beach or something, while the spokesperson very radiply runs through the terrible side effects in a sing-songy, light manner? Yeah. That's often how I personally visualize Western medicine as a whole, but most especially the drug industry; not necessarily supporting your personal health and well-being, but turning healthcare into a business and trying to make money off of your ill self by convincing you of false truths. What I will say is that there are many amazing advancements, discoveries, and treatments found in Western medicine, and it is an institution filled with millions of very dedicated, educated, benevolent, and hard-working people that save lives everyday. Know that I am not referring to these aspects when I talk about this subject. What I am talking about are the larger puppeteers (especially the "leaders" in our drug companies) behind our healthcare system itself that may not have those same good intentions--aka - "Big Pharma".

You can simply look at inexplainably asinine raises in price of various very common pharmaceutical drugs within the last few years to get a sense of how healthcare is in tandem with big business in this country. Additionally, a Harvard study proved that the fourth leading cause of death is appropriately prescribed pharmaceutical drugs (and that does not included mis-prescribed pharmaceuticals and overdose drugs!). The bottomline is that, because of these reasons (and a many of my own personal experiences), I have great difficulty in fully trusting in our healthcare system as institution that genuinely cares about the health and well-being of it's patrons. Because of that, I will only seek its help if I absolutely have no other choice--especially when it comes to drugs. Although our broken healthcare system is a whole other subject for another potential blogpost; I'm writing today to talk about the aspects in health and well-being that do work--at least for me anyway.

While some may be more wary of telling of their private medical information, I have little problem doing so--especially if the information could potentially benefit others. This story begins a couple years ago; after just starting my day at work, where I felt a little twinge after I went to the bathroom...I knew that feeling. Not a huge concern, I thought, as I had had urinary tract infections before, and they have just gone away on their own. I will be fine. Until it progressively got worse and worse, until the end of the work day where I was peeing every half hour, in a lot of pain, and couldn't stand/sit still. Y'all who have had UTI's know exactly what I am talking about.

Long story short, I left work at 5:30pm on a Friday and found that there was no 24-hour urgent care anywhere near me. I was in so much pain and releasing very bloody urine--I couldn't even drive ten minutes without having to stop at a grocery store or two to bolt to the bathroom! Hence, I had no other choice but to go to the emergency room. I was there for a total of 30 minutes, I did a simple pee test, and they told me that I wasn't pregnant and I definitely had a urinary tract infection--two things I knew and didn't need the doctor to tell me, I just needed the prescription for my infection. I didn't find out until months later when I got the bill that the total cost was $3,000+. (Moral of the story is DO NOT go to the emergency room unless you absolutely, absolutely, absolutely have to--go to urgent cares, and have information on stand-by of addresses, phone numbers, and open hours are for those near you.) If urgent care was open, the same treatment would've costed most likely no more than $ needless to say, "upset" doesn't even begin to sum up how I felt.

But anyway, the doctor gave me a prescription for Cipro (antiobiotic) and a pain reliever, both costing me no more than $15 combined. While this method did eventually work (even though I spent a mostly sleepless night and another full day in absolute agony--took awhile for them to kick in), the consequences were more than I would've bargained with if I only knew. Because sure enough, I got another uti a few months after that (used antibiotics to treat it), and another after that, and plenty more "smaller," less severe ones after that.

After doing plenty of research, I learned that there were many women out there who were just like me. They had started with a uti, took antiobiotics for it, and kept getting on getting them once, twice, thrice again, and continuing to treat them with antibiotics. It didn't matter what methods women used to avoid utis, they just kept happening. Some women were getting them so often and so frequently that the doctor prescribed them low-dose antibiotics to take everyday, always! I then read about how e.coli--the bacteria to blame 90% of the time one contracts a uti--can become antibiotic-resistant after taking antibiotics too many times. I was absolutely shocked at this--how could modern medicine be failing us so badly regarding a simple, well-known infection that has occured countless times in the human race?

I went to a different (non-emergency room) doctor the second time I had a uti, and we had a wonderful conversation on antibiotics, one that I hadn't had with any other Western medicine doctor prior. She said that we should always be careful when we choose to take antibiotics; since they effectively kill all bacteria in our systems, including the "good" bacteria that serves as immune support, we can end up putting our bodies in more susceptibility than if we first tried other methods that were less abrasive. She gave me a prescription for cipro again, just in case I needed it (which I did out of fear when the pain was reeeeeally bad at one point), but she highly recommended some other supplements for me to try first. One of them was usnea, which I remembered identifying in the Colorado Rockies while on an amazing and extremely informative herb walk with Brigitte Mars from Boulder, CO. I got very excited, and did further research--perhaps I could make my own medicine!

So, Usnea is a gray-green lichen that grows on tree branches/trunks. Like all lichens, usnea is a living organism made up of a symbiotic relationship between alga and fungi. Usnea is also called ‘Old Man’s Beard,’ which is fitting considering its condensed filaments that resemble a tuft of hair. One way you can identify usnea is by tugging on one of the gray-green filaments which reveals an elastic white cord within; the gray-green portion is the alga, and the white cord is the fungi. The lichen itself is known to be the ‘lungs of the forest,’ as it is sensitive to air pollution and absorbs toxins in the air. This means that usnea should be harvested as far from urban development as possible. That said, usnea essentially grows only in healthy forests, so its presence in itself is a good indicator of a safe environment to harvest. As usnea is a slow-growing lichen, it is important to harvest them from fallen branches (say, after a storm) rather than from living trees. This said, always have an herbalist identify a plant before you harvest yourself!

Usnea is found across the world and has been used as a medicine and food (in small amounts) for at least two-thousand years by the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and Native Americans. This lichen is a powerful antiseptic, analgesic, antibiotic, antimicrobial, antifungal anti-inflammatory, and even possesses potential anticancer effects. It additionally cleanses the lungs, cools fevers, controls bleeding, removes toxins, and lowers congestion. Usnea is considered by the Chinese to be a cooling and drying herb that is said to work best to counteract situations of heat and moisture, so: 1.) Be sure to be drinking plenty of water while taking it, and; 2.) Don’t use usnea if you are experiencing chills. Also, usnea supposedly works very well in conjunction with Echinacea.

Usnic acid (a.k.a. sodium usinate) is the main component in usnea that fights off many gram-positive bacteria and multiple kinds of infection. The list includes strep, staph, bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumococcus, athlete’s foot, cellulitis, gangrene, candida, vaginosis, chlamydia, trichomonas, yeast infection, bladder infection, kidney infection, colds, flus, and skin infections; it can treat both chronic and acute infections. The herb can be ingested for internal infection or applied topically to wounds to prevent and/or fight infection; it’s even said to be more powerful than penicillin! Usnic acid is effective in the human body because while it wipes out bacteria, it doesn’t harm human cells. Usnea is additionally used in skin creams, sunscreens, toothpastes, mouthwash, and other skincare products as a preservative or active ingredient.

However, too much usnic acid can cause damage to the liver which is why it’s important to not take more than the suggested dosage and duration. We know this since there’s a man who supposedly sold a weight-loss cure that was composed of only usnic acid, and recommended such high doses of the drug that it had caused customers to suffer from liver damage. But in much smaller doses as well as giving periods of time between usnea treatments, this herb shouldn't affect one's overall health outside of improving it when ill with infection. After all, how could it have been discovered independently by various cultures all over the world and used so successfully to treat common infections for hundreds of years?

Alright, now that I know the background on this amazing lichen, how do I put it to use for my health?I did more research into making tinctures, and found that certain ones require water while others use grain alcohol to essentially pull the nutrients from the herb. I found this awesome video (directly below) showing all of the steps in making an usnea tincture, which truly gave me the incentive and further eradicated the fear in my mind of, "what if this all goes wrong?" Anyways, this man essentially filled a ball jar with usnea lichen he himself harvested in the forest, and further filled it to the very top with vodka (70% alchohol content is the minimum you're looking for). He then closed the jar, put it in a dark space (a cupboard, in his case), and left it to gain its potency over a few months.


After doing further research to verify the information in the video was valid, I did exactly what he showed in the video. I went foraging with my dear mother on a beautiful hike in the middle of a forest of tall ponderosas and pines, and we found so much Usnea; it was very fulfilling and exciting. I also bought a giant bottle of vodka at Costco (told the cashier I was using it for medicine, and he laughed...he thought I was joking). Five large jars were filled with my usnea harvest and vodka using the method described above.

From my Usnea, Prickly Pear, and Juniper Berry Tincture-Making Adventure of Fall/Winter '15!

Additionally, I ordered tincture bottles on Amazon that I filled months later after the tincture had developed. I have been taking these tinctures to successfully treat utis (and any other infection I have!) ever since--I have not taken antibiotics since, and have not needed them! (Disclaimer: I did lots and lots of research on dosage, herb content, and alcohol content before establishing my own safe dosage for my tinctures, and I insist that you do the very same for yourself if you ever choose to make tinctures!).

Here's another very informative video about using usnea as medicine! He describes how usnea fights pathogens in a less invasive but still very effective way compared to other herbs.

While I recommend you absolutely still turn to Western medicine when you have to, I write this blogpost to encourage us all to perhaps look to the ancient, plentiful, affordable, and powerful medicines we have in the herbs we have around us. And perhaps you can use them in tandem! Taking probiotics through supplement form and/or eating probiotic foods is highly recommended while taking necessary antibiotic courses; you can oscillate the timing so that your gut and immune system can have a chance to build and continue to keep at least some stores of good bacteria; for example, if you take antibitics every 12 hours, you would also take probiotics every 12 hours, just 6 hours after each time you take the antibiotics.

Garlic is another unbelievably powerful root used for immune support, and has been for hundreds of years! Consuming as much raw garlic as possible is important when you're sick, and can make all the difference. Salad dressing is a great place to put your raw garlic in that makes culinary sense, although depending on how sick/unwell I may be, I may just put a teaspoon of chopped, raw garlic in a glass of water and quickly chug it, once every few hours. If you can handle that, I highly recommend it--it's a highly effective way to boost your immune system! Echinacea, colloidal silver, goldenseal, cayenne, vitamin C, dandelion root, astragalus, elderberry, and reishi mushroom are also among a long list of mightly herbal/supplemental immune-boosters out there for when you're feeling under the weather, or even as a preventative during flu season. Pineapple can be used to treat persistent coughs, and Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals will soothe throat pain pretty miraculously!

Regarding any post about foraging and making your medicine go, you got to have the disclaimer: please do not harvest/consume any plants until you have identified the plant(s) with an herbalist--we do have poisonous and noxious plants here in Colorado (as most places do), and making the wrong mistake with identifying plants can be deadly! Regardless of what specific medicine we're talking about--whether it's a traditional brand-name drug or a long-used herb--it's always important to be cautious. Certain chemicals in their timing, dosage, and chemistry with other chemicals (in other drugs, medicines, foods, etc.) within our bodies can certainly be harmful to us if we aren't careful. Ephermerality is a concept we don't fully mentally grasp too often; I think we easily forget that our bodies are temporary, merely borrowed molecules, eventually from one living being to the next.

I only got into herbs and making tinctures after spending many hours researching plants and going on hikes with other herbalists. It started with realizing that all the plants I look at when I go for a local hike were had some common purposeful use from the Native Americans who once resided there; this giant blob of plants I regarded as being one thing became this diverse and multifaceted group of  beautiful, unique living beings that contained a wealth of uses. I became very empassioned about local plants and decided to expand my knowledge in how to utilize their medicine. If this is something you are interested in and you live in the nearby area, I highly recommend Brigitte Mars' herbal hikes! There's also The Boulder School of Herblism, which I have certainly seriously looked into getting into! And of course, there are many books on the subject as well as online resources out there.


While everyone has different stances on healthcare and what methods work/don't work, I truly hope you all are staying healthy and taking good care of yourselves during this brutal and record-breaking flu season. Whether you ever think about making tinctures and discovering the magic in the "weeds" that exist all around us, I can't tell you how freeing and gratifying it was and is for me to take my health and well-being into my own hands when nothing else worked for me. Regardless how you personally go about your health, I hope you successfully discover the methods that work best for you. Feel free to write in the comments if you have tried any other amazing remedies that you found successful in curing infectons! :)

As always, thank you deeply for taking the time to read this blogpost! Have a most wonderful week!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

New Year Reflection and Thoughts on our Changing Society

How has this past year been for you all? What was your 2017 theme? While there have been many triumphs for me personally, I feel that I have been mentally and emotionally exhausted the past six months especially, and I am positive that at least a large contribution to that is due to the many global and cultural atrocities that are coming to light. This past year has been one of plenty of introspection and especially transitions for me--that would be my theme for 2017. Transitions through work, transition of location cross-state, transitions through personal development, and most notably, transitions of values.

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted two kids; a boy and a girl. It has never not been a part of my mind as I thought about my future. Consciously, I wasn't completely sold on the whole American dream, 'green-lawn-with-white-picket-fence' vision, but in a way, I was still following that conditioning. I had this idea that you sort of somehow effortlessly flow from being a young adult in your early twenties to being able to physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially handle children. It is only in the last year or so that this idea has completely changed for me.

I have become increasingly aware of the issues going on in our globe, specifically climate issues, and what large contributors are present but widely disguised in our culture. These problems are becoming so pressing and grave that I often find it hard to live the life of ignorance that we are socially constructed to. (I intend to write a more in-depth blogpost about climate issues and how it affects everything, but I will try and keep it brief for this one!) When I researched the topic more, I found out that having a child in this consumerism-driven country is the single most carbon-producing thing you can do in your lifetime!

If making such a huge carbon-footprint isn't a good enough reason to rethink having children, just look at the economic and financial factors that go up against millienials in this era. College tuition has gone up 1120% over the last three decades, leaving thousands of millenials plagued with potentially a lifetime of school debt. Rent, utilities, food, gas, and other living expenses across the country are only getting higher while wages have overall been very slowly increasing, or staying near the same depending on the job or location in question; this means that our current minimum wage is not enough to support individuals in this society.

Many millenials are then forced to life with their parents since they have no way of developing a savings, let alone paying their bills and debt. For this reason, they are then put down for 'not leaving the nest' or 'not being enough of an adult' by those that don't understand the societal and economic cirumstances that keep them there in the first place. Not to mention that the workforce here isn't always an easy thing to handle these days...

Whoever said there are lazy millenial workers out there need to show me where they are, because I've only seen hardworking ones in my community. Many I know work multiple jobs, sometimes working part-time jobs all around the hours of their full-time jobs!
While I waited for my printed decks to arrive (as well as feeling low on funds after both moving and my car dying) this past summer, I decided to get a part-time job. For months, I tried to get in touch with companies over some decently basic jobs. From online translation to teaching painting to paint-n-sips to instructing pottery to even cake decorating, I couldn't believe the lack of timely response--if any response at all--for the handful of jobs I applied and even interviewed for. Overall, I felt little to no care and respect for my time and energy by businesses, both big and small.

The job I finally did get and decide to pursue had a very lengthy training (where pay was minimum wage for over a month), and yet I somehow learned nearly all of the tricks-of-the-trade and how to successfully perform the job from my co-workers rather than the manager. It was a relatively fun job that actually never left me looking at the clock, wondering when it was time to go. But that was mostly because it was incredibly fast-paced, physically and mentally-exhasuting job that was a constant balancing act of multitasking.

While this job has served me over the last 6 months, it was also a very hostile environment to work in. Five co-workers (who were all wonderful, professional people and hard workers) have quit in the short time that I have worked there, one was fired for reasonably expressing the unfairness in the workplace to the manager, and all of us nearly all quit at the same time after the company's HR department refused to help us. There's been emotional meltdowns, lies, severe unprofessionalism, and a lot of both time and extra hard work gone unpaid for. I am shocked at the level of consistent unfairness and disrespect I witnessed.

I made the tough decision to once again lack reliable, consistent pay in my life and say enough is enough--I'm going back to my full-time work as a self-employed artist. I knew this was not a healthy environment for me to be a part of. Why should we choose to live our short lives often in frustration, irritation, and stress over the unfairness of our institutions--especially the workplace, in which we are involved with the majority of our days? 

Overall, I feel an unbelievable sense of freedom after recently leaving this job. And yet I am so grateful for it, as well as the job search prior, as it all reflected to me the sick way we treat our fellow humans in the business world--I think I needed to go through it to fully understand it and how I can support those in my community. As I reflect back, I can't say I've had a single job with a company--big or small--that left me feeling remotely well-treated and cared for.

Mind that when I say "cared for," I do not mean working a little to profit a lot, I mean working hard for a professional business that has honest, down-to-earth morals, where I am not disrespected inside or out of the workspace, and am paid a reasonable amount that is promised to me for the work I put into it. That's really all I am looking for out of those jobs. Perhaps I have simply been a part of only the less fortunate jobs out there, but I get the impression that this is a situation that many of us have at least experienced once--that is, if we are not already currently experiencing it.

It's not an unpopular opinion to see greed present within corporations (both big and small), which are represented in just about every direction we look here in this country. You can barely drive a mile in the area (if that) without seeing a brand name somewhere, whether it be on a big billboard, a chain/branch of that business, or even a soda can lying the street. In this country, we have a very unhealthy relationship with work, and it shows. We are socially constructed to have much more of a driven, work-heavy, and corporate mindset compared to that in other places. In this country, work becomes us. We are our work. 

When you meet a new person, one of the most traditional things to ask is, "What do you do?" meaning, "What is your job/career?". While inquiring about hobbies/interests may be part of why you ask the question to begin with, that aspect almost always comes second. If one takes time off of work for personal reasons, it can be looked down upon by peers. Most, if not many jobs, are working within coporations, often a hierarchal system that is set in place by whoever is in the very top position, who is often paid exponentially more than those working at the bottom.

As I look at this messed up system and difficulty to financially thrive, I think, "How could I possibly do this and support a family?" The only ways I can clearly see is that you perhaps studied how to be a doctor, an engineer, or are involved in some other well-paying field. Or, of course, you just happen to be born into a very wealthy family. Even graduating from college does not guarantee you a good job; I have multiple peers who, after getting their masters, will land minimum wage jobs right after graduation to make ends meet and try to chip away at their debt. This is quite insulting to the time and energy it took for phD students to acquire the knowledge and passion they currently have within their degree. It's also an incredible shame to our society; when the educated (and our educators!) are not given a decent enough means to live from the earnings in their field where they cannot adequately focus their time and energy on their work, we are severely missing out on the knowledge, the science, the studies, etc. that they have to help our species grow and expand.

Taking care of children is also exponentially expensive. Even when we don't think at all about the enormity of college tuition, expenses are very high. There's food, diapers, clothes (that they grow out of), utilties (water, heat, etc.) in a safe home, and whatever additional furniture/materials needed to raise a healthy child. You might argue that there are ways to cut expenses, and there certainly are. For instance, children's books can be found at libraries, thrift stores have plenty of affordable clothes, family and friends might be able to hand down cribs, strollers, etc. But even then, for many families find that this is not enough to be afforadable. And in addition to these expenses, there's also daycare.

If one or two parents spend all day working to financially support their child, that child needs to be watched. If you are already working at minimum wage, how do you pay a sitter at minimum wage to take care of your kids for the same amount of hours that you are working? Even parents on benefits struggle; SNAP (national food benefits program; food stamps) benefits have been severely cut, especially in this last year due to the brutal tax cuts that have been recently made.

Mind you, if you do have kids or are highly motivated to have kids, I write all of this with no intention to insult or press judgement; despite the climactic repurcussions and potential financial struggles you may be facing, we do serevely need a generation that is smarter, more conscientious, more open-minded, and more empathetic than we are if we want to do our best at saving the life on this planet. This just gives a greater responsibility to parents nowadays; for those who do choose to have children, it is of the utmost importance to raise them with the right morals, with special focus on teaching empathy, openmindedness, and pursuing truth. We need a new generation that will be willing to continue to courageously fight for what's morally right despite what our culture, media, or government may say. In addition to that, we need a generation that is caring enough to support those outside of ourselves, despite our differences; to me, that includes not only humans, but the life that is also trying to survive on this planet.

That's why I am very excited to be working on children's books to teach good morals in how to care for the earth and one another. The last six months I have been so distracted from the part-time job that I have been severly disappointed in my own lack of posts (both blog and social media) as well as greatly reduced focus on my own work. But I am so happy and excited to be back, doing what I feel is the best way I can contribute right now. Up until this last year, I dreamed of doing Reiki full-time and helping people, but my focus has dramatically changed to helping the life on this planet. After all, humans are the true infestation on the earth, right?

While I admit writing this post is certainly cathartic and healing for my own self, I truly write this for all of you hard-working people out there. I hear you, and I feel you, deeply so. Whether you are working in the corporate world, for a small private company, or just doing you (like my crazy self!), I encourage you to always remain true to yourself and to get out of situations that may be toxic for you. While I personally have left the coporate "machine" for my own personal standards and morals, starting your own business as millenials in this economy is much harder than the past. 

So, simply do what makes you happy as much as you can, and do what you need to in order to survive. Millenials have become a new generation of transitions, and less so of stability--may all of us embrace this cultural shift and focus on quality of life more than quantity. This world has come into an extremely pivotal time; more and more dire situations are coming to light, whether it's close to home or affects all life globally. It's becoming harder and harder to have the time and enough true rest to replenish our physical, mental, and emotional systems. So may we all be gentle with ourselves and those around us, for all of our sakes--empathy is very important right now. We are all in this together, and the more we are there to support ourselves and one another (and stand up for what is right!), the better off we all are. 

While we cannot always control the circumstances around us, we can control how we meet those circumstances. Hence, this is a perfect time to consider the following: Which aspects are unhealthy and need to shift out of your life? What aspects of your life need to be honored and have more focus put upon them? May this new year be one of courage, integrity, and truly reaping the rewards from following our hearts. Wishing you all big, big blessings for this new year; may we instigate positive change in our own lives and beyond! 

As always, thank you very much for reading, dear viewer. I know this wasn't the most positive of posts (nor straightforward by any means, haha), but I felt these issues are pervasive and important enough to have a conversation about regardless. Speaking of conversations, please feel free to comment below; I would truly love to hear what you all would like to focus on for this new year! :)