A Little Christmas Magic Everyday

I have become an early riser. I like to credit my daughter with converting me as she was born an early riser. Converting her to a late riser was just never going to be and I conceded. After nearly seven years, I am grateful. The early morning has become one of my favorite times of day. I now often wake before her, gasp! It's my fresh start time, deep breath time, thinking and being time, dreaming and planning time. Most of all I'm grateful that it is my time without distraction. There seems to be greater access to peace in the early morning hours.  I don't know if it's the quiet and calm of the house, because I have a similar feeling about the evening just before bed. 

I do believe there's magic in the hours just before sunrise and after sunset, a special kind of stop and take a moment to breathe all that is life in, keep what serves your purpose and let go of the rest. I don't know if it's the magic of the little everyday transformation of light into dark, dark into light or, the routine of it all. 

Routine seems a strange place to find magic, (and by magic I mean a spark, a glint, a moment that moves you) however; it happens there with ease even. Words I never thought I would use to describe myself-early riser and lover of routine- I almost can't even type them, HA I'm still in shock myself. As I move through life I find that the spark of creativity comes just as often from something I do routinely as from something novel. Thus, I have grown to love routine...

During the holiday season, my everyday good life moment comes without fail at the end of the day just before I walk out the door. I have a routine every morning when I walk into BEM GENERAL, I turn the lights on in the kitchen and spa rooms, turn up the heat, turn the display shelf lights on, hang my bag and keys (this is a really dangerous step to skip, if you've ever helped me search for my keys, you know what I'm talking about), turn the store lights on, start the music, stir the coals and put a log on the fire, make coffee or tea, then get to work. With every switch I turn, I smile and am grateful. In the evening, it's the same routine in reverse. After Thanksgiving when the Christmas candles fill the windows with light, this is my favorite moment. Everything is quiet, the soft warm glow of (electric) candles illuminate the worn wood floors, the scent of soap, soaks and other essential oil concoctions and wood smoke linger in the air, I breathe it in and in that moment all is well, I feel only love.
My Christmas wish is that we all have these moments in our everyday, that we each have more of this magic and warmth and love than all else.


Everyday Good Life

Time and again it's the simplest things that fill my heart with gratitude.

As I was walking downstairs this morning in our warm house, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We had propane delivered yesterday and stacked another load of wood at the store. Last winter was such a difficult winter filled with bitter cold and loss. I'm grateful this morning for the warmth that was hard to find last year, and the peace a full tank of gas brings.

I'm grateful to be back in the full swing of making and selling our goods at the General store. Last night when my husband and I were unloading firewood onto the porch our daughter jumped onto the bed of the truck, still in her pink tutu from dance class, and started chucking wood from the middle to the sides where we could reach it. We could hardly keep up with her little almost-7-year-old hands. My heart was full, overflowing as we worked together.

These are the moments that inspire me to take photos, write, create. They are the simplest things and the grandest pleasures, they are the everyday.

This is an everyday good life.


Start Seeing

The day after the Journey for Justice marchers passed through our neighboring towns and I had heard some reports of what had taken place, I dropped my daughter off to catch the bus at my parents’ farm like we always do. I then sat in my truck with my mom and shared with her some of the documented scenes from the march through Gerald and Rosebud. I broke into tears as I described what I had seen, in some instances I had a hard time forming the words to describe what had been done. 

I wept.

I wept for the display of ugliness and hatred and bullying that erupted in my favorite little town. I wept for the cycle of fear and ignorance that was fueled that day. I wept for the fact that I love Rosebud and now every time I hear the town’s name, my stomach turns and I feel sick. I wept for the feeling that I don’t immediately know where we go from here, or where this event leaves us as a community. I know I don’t understand it. I don’t understand who those people even were.  I know that every time I sit down and try to put into words these feelings, I struggle. I look around and everything looks the same, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

I also know that we as a culture and society spend so much energy on classifying ourselves, we don’t see ourselves. Quit spending so much time looking for differences and similarities, and see the souls among us. See that we are all one humanity shaped by our stories and our experiences, but defined only by our existence. The greatest, the only true existence is love. We were created in love and that is the one true light that shines within us all. Start honoring it. Stop protecting it from others, stop keeping track of what others do with theirs, stop worrying, stop fearing, stop reacting. Start seeing.


Breakfast Kefir

One of my favorite ways to have kefir daily is for breakfast. Kefir can be a pretty complete meal on its own, and a tasty way to incorporate some probiotic whole food at breakfast time.
You can make this coffee kefir drink straight in a glass skipping the blender clean up. Adding gelatin completes this on-the-go meal with essential amino acids, protein, and gut healing collagen.
Amino acids, protein, and probiotics, it doesn't get any better. Wait, we're adding chocolate and coffee too!

You'll need:
pint size glass
1/2 c. brewed coffee (Three Story Coffee available from Bem General is top notch)
1 1/2 c. kefir
1 t. powdered gelatin (great lakes brand from grass-fed animals is best)
1 t. cocoa powder
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of himalayan or other mineral rich sea salt

Add 1/2 c. kefir to glass and sprinkle gelatin on top, let dissolve completely (couple minutes)
Add cocoa.
Add hot coffee, stir.
Add remainder of kefir, stir.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and salt.


Gratefulness and Grace

I have gratefulness and grace on my mind this morning.

It is Thanksgiving week, the time we set aside to honor our lives and all that we have to be grateful for. Grace is also very present in my thoughts this week due to the testimonies given by our church confirmands this past Sunday. (and what an awesome job they did!) Nearly every testimony given by our soon-to-be newest members of the church mentioned grace and how they have come to know the definition of grace in their young lives. They've got me thinking about my experience with grace.

Grace is one of those things that is always present, accessible for us. It's one of those tools in our life toolbox that should really show the wear, like our favorite hammer that by now is worn to the shape of our own hand and maybe has a piece of duct tape or two keeping it all together.

At any moment we can choose to extend or receive grace. Often, like many good things in life, those moments come when we least expect it or feel we least deserve it. If you read my newsletter last week, I wrote a little about the cycles we experience or get caught in emotionally. I believe cycles are the natural rhythm of movement in all of life, and what we feed or put into our cycle is what we will get out of it the most. Of course most of us think of others first and what we put into helping and serving and forgiving or extending grace to them. But, what about what we feed ourselves? I am reminded through my own life experiences of feeling exhausted or overextended or overwhelmed to extend and receive more grace.

Extend more grace to myself.
Receive grace.
Stop expecting so much from me.

Again, like when I allow myself more time (even just a smidge), suddenly I find reserves of energy I never even knew I had. The same goes for grace and love, extend them to yourself just as you would your babies (human or the fur kind ;) ). When I choose to do this for myself, I am able to do it for others freely, subconsciously even, habitually.

Grace is truly one of the greatest gifts of life. And like all the good stuff...the more you give, the more you are able to receive, especially from yourself.


Bem General Weekly Newsletter: There's Still Time

BEM GENERAL has a weekly newsletter! I typically share my blogposts through the newsletter along with upcoming events and tidbits I don't talk about "other" places, read Facebook/twitter/Instagram. This week I am sharing the newsletter HERE :)
If you'd like to join the email list, go to bemgeneral.com and click the "YES, send it to me!" arrow.
Be sure to click the link and find out what's up at BEM GENERAL today, something fun I promise.


Live in Love

When my husband and I traveled to New Mexico this spring, we stopped at church rummage sale. (Isn’t this what everyone does on vacation!?) Out in front of the church was a spiral contemplation garden. We had never experienced one before, so we gave it a try. I sat on a nearby bench and watched as he journeyed to the center and back out again. 
Then it was my turn. 
The guidance on the sign said to hold a question or concern with which we needed clarity in our minds as we walked the spiral path inward and back out again. My mind usually races with a thousand things from which I can't choose because I want to be certain I choose the exact right thing. So, I decided to focus on nothing and try to let whatever was going to come to me, come.
I put one foot in front of the other letting the sounds of traffic and passers by fade away, focusing on the shapes of the rocks in my path, the crunching sound of them under my feet, the warmth of the Taos sun on my shoulders. Before I knew it, everything I had entered the garden with fell away and I was at the center. Still not quite sure of the message I was seeking, I looked up. 
What I saw was my husband sitting patiently on the bench where I sat moments before, waiting. He was reading something, probably one of the shop brochures we had picked up along the way. He was allowing me the time and space I needed to find whatever it was I was looking for in that moment. 
That was when it hit me. 
Be in love. 
My heart warmed and my eyes welled up.
Be in love. 
Don't just love or be in love with something or someone. Be in love, live in it. See what is right before you and always with you. It is a choice, as I wrote about here on another day. 
We had gone to New Mexico seeking space and clarity and reconnection after facing the painful loss of a pregnancy. I was angry and struggling and trying to not harbor bitterness and resentment in my heart. I needed space, time away to find some sense of peace again. Somehow I knew in the mountains and the wide open spaces of New Mexico I could find what I was looking for, and though I didn’t know exactly what that was, I knew I would recognize it when I found it. 
I had been missing out on what I had right before me. The ability to see beauty and love in my life was clouded by the loss of what should have been, but is not. 
I was no longer going to miss present joy and love, for the past or the future.
I began to feel peace again and the vastness of the landscape expanded my soul, giving it space to both settle and soar.


Be Open to the Moments

It has been a while since I read the poem that I found pasted to the door of the room we made our first treatment room. While family was in town over the weekend, I was giving them a tour of the Farm Spa and paused to read it with them. I told them the story about how and when I discovered it, and what an amazing gift it was to discover it in that way at that exact time. 

I don't know why sometimes we are given those little gifts, but I love the moments in which they come. Little reassurances that we are on the right path. A magical little window in time through which I can see clearly.

One of my favorite lines, "When we open our hearts and our dreams up to see."
That's the trick, when we open. And, we have the power and choice to open those windows, those moments in time exist because we are open to see them. That's the thing I am constantly learning. That's the place where I want to live, to always dwell in a space where my heart and my dreams are open. Open to love, and truth, and boldness, and dreams. 

"Don't let the dream stealers take it from you
Know in your heart what you're doing is right
Fix firmly your goals and keep them in sight."

If I've heard once, I've heard a thousand times my mother say, "Be strong in your convictions." And every time I feel my heart tug, my soul want to do just that. 

How can I be bold, and firm, and strong, and open, and a dreamer all at once? Yet these are the qualities it takes to do the work of our heart, our passion, that which we were created to do. In many ways it makes perfect sense that these qualities are what it takes to do that work. It also makes perfect sense when I think back to all the times I've doubted and struggled. Dreams and the boldness to follow them comes from being firmly grounded in their true purpose. That purpose is what must be fixed firmly in sight, always. That purpose is what must be constantly defined and held in truth and love.

If you've ever read any of Marianne Williamson's work, she speaks about love being the only truth.  I believe this too, and love is all that remains.


Following Your Heart is Hard Work

Work is a very individual act. How we define it, how we quantify it, how we give it meaning, how we value it; these are all important perspectives in the discussion of work.  In a family who works, at their jobs, in their free time, out of necessity, for fun, to busy our hands and quiet our minds, for the joy of accomplishment, because it is what we do. Work is also the topic of many of our discussions. We discuss simple things like our latest project or progress as well as the very definition of what we want our everyday work to be. How will it shape our lives into that of something meaningful? How will our children view our work, our life’s accomplishments, what will it mean to them and all those who come after? Does it really make a difference? Is it all worth it?

Is it all worth it? That is the one I ask myself on a nearly daily basis. My work requires hard labor sometimes, heartbreaking losses sometimes, repetitive monotony sometimes, big risks sometimes, financial hardships sometimes, and love always.

I put my heart into everything I do. Most days it feels good.

There is a creativity to all of it whether its figuring out just the right combination of essential oils for a bath scrub, designing store fixtures out of stuff we already have, using what’s in the pantry to get dinner on the table, or finding solutions to keep our animals safe and healthy.

Sometimes the creativity is what drives me and challenges me; sometimes the creativity is what threatens me and makes me feel the most vulnerable. 

People talk about working in the flow, a place where things come together and move forward with ease. I think I feel this in many aspects of my work, but it is still work. Hard work. Hard because I have to feel that what I’m doing is the right thing, the thing that’s gonna take me somewhere, somewhere I’ll be glad to have gone. Hard because sometimes, it’s just physically hard work. Hard because someone is gonna be critical and say it doesn’t matter, and I have to know it does.

I was talking with a friend recently about how hard it is to put out into the world something with a piece of your heart in it. I told her how much I struggle with feeling so vulnerable and anxious. She said to let those feelings drive you. Feel them. She said what I’ve heard other creatives and entrepreneurs say, feel those feelings and let them push you to do your best. Even suggesting that the times when she didn’t feel the nervousness and anxiousness, she didn’t perform as well.

Work is hard, life is hard, but the more heart I give it, the more it means, the more it is worth, the more love and feeling and happiness and goodness it is.


Out of the Eclipse

In spirit of the lunar eclipse this morning, I am posting a series of before and after photos of Bem General. If you were able witness the beauty of transformation this morning from the faint darkened glow of the eclipsed moon fade slowly back into full brightness, you may perhaps find similarities in these photos. With every forward step we take, life's breath comes back into the space.

I can feel it awakening, calling, and readying for more.

The before photos are from one of our first events featuring resale and consignment goods. The after photos are of our evolution into a Vintage Rental, Venue, Farm Spa, and Artisan and Farm Goods Store.


The ceiling color was taken back to a Vintage Beadboard White, before years of cigarette smoke accumulated. This much brighter color reflects light from the new industrial inspired IKEA fixtures. Walls were covered in a lighter version of our SchoolHouse Slate custom chalkboard paint.


Schoolhouse Slate covered walls provide a backdrop for the original enamel green store shelves and artisan goods they now hold.


Our SchoolHouse Slate walls proudly tell a bit of the artists' and artisans'  stories behind the goods they produce.


Warm green paint and a salvaged door wall create an inviting reflexoloy and massage space in one of the Farm Spa treatment rooms.

An original light fixture freed from layers of cigarette tar and retrofitted with a mason jar lights the space.


Farm Spa Green sets the tone for serenity, covering the original and pallet clad dividing walls of the remaining four spa rooms.


The Farm Spa sitting room with it's salvage door wall, vintage wingbacks, and artisan table by Cooper Woodworking.

Visit bemgeneral.com for more information on booking a spa session or event.


Bem General's Heart

Our general store is located in a small farming community called Bem. It’s a place where people are from. A place people come back to, if only for the ice cream at the Bem Church picnic. Bem Church recently celebrated it’s 145th anniversary with a Heritage Day. Members arrived in period clothing, letters and spoken word were heard from past clergy, and many stories told of family and friends through the years. Members whose families had founded the church were recognized. What a fun and fascinating day! I’m continually amazed by the rich history of our community. 

People often come into the store and ask me if I’m from here and my answer is always yes, and no. My family is from here now, but hasn’t been here for generations; I think at least 3 generations is the requirement to be considered from here. ;) I do have many memories of the store as a child as do all the members of our community who frequented what was then Kreter Store. When giving a tour of our Farm Spa, one of my favorite memories to recall is that I and my two cousins took piano lessons in what is now one of our massage rooms. I tell about how the Farm Spa used to be the living quarters and our massage room was the living room, and the piano sat on that wall right there. I still picture it there sometimes when I step into that room, with the metronome ticking away. 

Working in a place with such rich history, that houses so many memories, the good country childhood kind of memories, is something I am very grateful for. Bem is the kind of place that makes your heart sing, it’s the kind of place you feel. It’s the kind of place you love that stays with you forever, whether you’re just passing through, from here, or FROM here. 

All these things and more are why I feel so passionate about bringing the healing arts work and local food work that I and my fellow practitioners and farmers do, to life here. At the heart of Bem is community, the strength of it’s community is service. What we do here at Bem General is serve in a healing way, in a nourishing way, and in a creative way. We have fun, we laugh, and we gather. 

I invite you to make time to experience Bem and bring a friend. We’d love to have you!
I’d also love to hear some of your stories (even if we’ve heard them before, tell us again, here) they never grow old. Comment below with a favorite memory, recent or not. 


Moving and Being

I moved the cows yesterday, closer to the house. I love having them in the front pasture where I can look up from the kitchen sink and see them grazing or napping in the sun. 

Just in time too, my Cricket should be calving very soon. When I went to gather them up yesterday, she was lazily lounging in the afternoon sun. I scratched her behind the ear and then laid across her back and petted her mile-wide belly. She is my favorite girl, don’t tell the others. She is the one that instantly makes me smile. She is the one that always calls back first when I call to the herd. Actually, most of the time she calls me first. Isn’t that the way it goes though, with animals and kids? They train us much better than we train them. I promise, she knows the sound of my truck and my voice instantly. It’s impossible not to smile when I look up and see those big brown Jersey eyes already trained on me, waiting to see what I might bring. 

Cricket was my first Jersey calf, she was love at first sight. Honestly, all my girls have been. Last year was her first year calving and she had a rough time. She still-birthed two beautiful little bulls, and was down for a day. My heart was broken for a bit. But, then she got back up and became one of my easiest milkers yet. 

This year I’m anticipating a better outcome. There’s not much in life that brings more joy, happiness, and contentment than a healthy beautiful baby on the ground. Well maybe fresh milk, butter, yogurt, cheese…they can make me pretty happy too.

I realized when I went out to gather the girls yesterday, that these are the joyful moments that keep me going. I was dreading it a bit, not for any  reason in particular. I love being with my cows. But, in the moments before heading out, it was just another thing on my To-Do-List which, by the way, seems to grow exponentially. It’s crazy to me how at times, even the things I love to do, are clouded with dread and infiltrated by procrastination. Over and over again I fight this same battle! I’m not exactly sure why, maybe I’m just really lazy at heart and have a severe case of denial about it. I’m cleverly disguised as a productive, responsible adult…I don’t know. 

I do know, however, taking action is the only thing that cures it. When I stop thinking and do, I’m miraculously cured of the dread and overwhelm. Suddenly I’m in those joyful moments that do make the work worth it. I’m reminded that this is one of the things I love most about farming and living in the country, there’s an abundance of laborious work. (did I just say that!) Really though, nothing clears my head and cures my overwhelm like work. Work that I don’t really have to think about. Work that once started, just flows. Through the freedom of movement, I can begin to think again and dream and be. 

           Miss Cricket, Beauty Queen


Pink Flamingo Smoothie

2 C TAZO scarlet citrus rooibos tea
3 T coconut oil
1 T or packet gelatin
1 C unsweetened grape juice 
juice from 1 lime


Brew 1 tea bag scarlet citrus tea in 2 cups hot water, remove bag. Dissolve gelatin in warm tea. Dissolve coconut oil in warm tea/gelatin mixture. Add all ingredients except ice to blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Add ice to fill blender, blend until smooth. Garnish with lime and enjoy!