Monday, February 20, 2017

Mindfulness Intermeniate Level

Merit Badge Monday

Mindfulness Intermediate
As a member of The MaryJane Farmgirl Sisterhood, we are each given an opportunity to earn merit badges. It is sorta like scouts for grownups. And, what a great way to learn new things. This month I earned my “Intermediate” Merit badge titled, Mindfulness.

To earn this badge, I needed to

  • Meditate for an additional 21 days. The average length of each session should be at least 10 minutes. Try different types of meditation techniques, such as breathing exercises.

I am very pleased to report that I have been meditating for over 400 days! Wow! First, I want everyone to know that I never intended to meditate or use mindfulness, It just sorta happen! Moreover, it really doesn’t matter how often or how long one meditates. What is important is that you are living fully present in the moment. My practice this month has to not judge myself or others. This all came about when I was meditating after reading a bible verse from Matthew 5:43-44.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

I have to admit that I find it hard to do this. Yet, it is a practice like meditation. Something that you work on each day. So I have been praying and doing a loving kindness meditation for some people that have caused me much harm and have broken my trust. I have realized that by praying, meditating, and sending them warm wishes in thought that I have developed much compassion and empathy for them. At the same time, I do not wish to re-establish any relationship with them. This is part of my boundaries that I have established.

For this badge, I also decided to read a book called Work by Thich Nhat Hanh. Below is my Book Review. I really have found Mindful meditation a positive cultivation for a life filled with more joy and peace. I would encourage everyone to give it a try. 


How to find Joy and Meaning in each Hour of the Day

By Thich Nhat Hanh

A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman

In creating a more mindful lifestyle, I wanted to read some of the teachings for various authors that were listed in my MBSR course book that I attended. Although, I am not a Buddhist, I feel that we can all be mindful and respectful of different beliefs. I often tease that my faith is a bit Potluck since I have learned many wonderful positive behaviors from different religions and faiths over the years. Work by Thich Nhat Hanh will not disappoint you as a reader. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk, a renowned Zen master, a poet, and a peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967, and is the author of many books, including the best-selling The Miracle of Mindfulness. He has created a wonderful book titled Work that incorporates mindfulness and healthy choices. In his own words he wanted to give others the opportunity to examine and live a more mindful lifestyle. 

He states “how we deal with workplace scenarios, handle home and family responsibilities, and endure traffic jams and other challenges of modern life. By carefully examining our everyday choices he encourages us to become a lotus in a muddy world.”

I encourage you to read this book slowly and to create an open attitude as to how we can each create a kinder and more compassionate world. We live in such a busy world full of connections and disconnections. Hanh explains that in this business, we often confuse Joy and happiness with excitement or expectations of what must be. My favorite quote from “Work” was,

“Perhaps one of the reasons we don't enjoy all these activities as much as we could is because we think activities need to be exciting for us to enjoy them. Many people confuse joy and happiness with excitement. But excitement is not the same as happiness. With joy and happiness we have a sense of satisfaction. There's a feeling of satisfaction in being in the here and now, when you recognize you have so many conditions for happiness in the present moment, whether you're sitting, walking, standing, or working.” 

I used to go to lunch with a woman and would leave dissatisfied because of the constant photos that must be taken and then the play by play that was then posted on social media. It was as if I was having lunch with a camera. Sadly, it was more about the story of the other person. This book had me shift the focus on not the frustration of the lunch date but to create better choices in my life. How often have I looked at my cell phone while out to lunch with others. This book is a great means to shifting ones perspective.

Part of why I left Facebook and ended a friendship. After all it was with her camera and I was a status update and way for her to gain attention.

Let’s face it, Joy and Happiness is not a “like” icon or is an excited constant posting of look at what I have done. Joy for me the connection with a fully present moment. Experiencing the good food, the smile on the persons face as they share, and the positive reciprocal companionship is what makes a lunch with a friend a “joy.” Not the judgmental, drama, or constantly need to fill others attention. This book goes into detail how to create healthy boundaries in relationships and best of all how to resolve a conflict. I did have a bit of a giggle how even a monk can get annoyed with another monk over something that seems so little such as chewing too loudly.  In every moment of life he emphases, there are infinite reasons to suffer and infinite reasons to be happy. What matters is where we’re putting our attention.

Photo credit

At the back of the book are suggestions on how to continue to create a mindful lifestyle at work, home, and even why driving in rush hour. I appreciate the way that this book is not preachy and gives the reader the choice and what works best for each of our circumstances. I highly recommend Work by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Author Annie Barrows

The Truth According to Us
A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman

Every month, I look forward to our local library book club meeting. A few years ago, we read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and everyone really enjoyed it. Therefore, we were excited to read The Truth According to us. Annie Barrows does not disappoint the reader and offers a tale that entertains, has romance, and a book that I just couldn’t put down!

“In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.”

Please click on this link to read what inspired Annie Barrows

Since, I live in West Virginia, this book caused a bit of conversation. The character development is the best that I have even seen for describing those that live in the eastern panhandle. Although the town of Macedonia is not real. It is very similar to Romney West Virginia. Moreover, It was fun to have the real towns such as Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, and Charlestown that are less than ten minutes from my home. I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite restaurants, The Bavarian Inn was mentioned along with the racetrack. 

The pace of The Truth According to Us is fast and captures the reader’s attention. My favorite characters were Willa and Jottie. I could relate to both of them in many ways. I was surprised at how well the author was able to display the behavior of loyalty between Jottie and Felix. I could really experience how Jottie lost her sense of self. Yet, I love how Jottie’s character develops in the end of the novel. I was equally pleased with the changes that were made with Layla. The romance in this novel is not too over the top and makes it also part of a detective novel as Willa and Layla discover the family secrets.

My favorite line was from the town librarian, “All of us see a story according to our own lights. None of us is capable of objectivity. You must be aware of your sources.”  
I also like, 

“You're right, Jottie, but what good is it? Rightness is nothing. You can't live on it. You might as well eat ashes." I glanced at Father, his bloodshot eyes and the stain on his pants. I loved him so. Once more, I tried to explain. "This is all we can do; it's all we're allowed. We can't go back. The only thing time leaves for us to decide" -- I picked up Father's hand and held it tight-- "is whether or not we're going to hate each other.”

Photo Credit Annie Barrows Website

Overall, everyone including myself enjoyed this novel and it produced a great discussion for a group of bookworms. The only thing that I did not like in this book was that it was choppy in some parts. Especially with the letters that Layla would write. It was almost as they were written but thrown away as they were left unfinished. This was a bit confusing and interrupted the flow at times.  I give The Truth According to Us  by Annie Barrows slightly above average recommendation.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Author Esmerelda Q. Jones

Dinner at the Unicorn Bistro
A Book review By Ginger Dawn Harman

Have you ever wanted to try something new or maybe expand your perspective by visiting a different culture? Imagine the experience and emotions that can be had by a child. Esmerelda Q. Jones has created a children’s book for ages 6 to 10 that takes the reader and the parent on a vivid journey.

“When two rhinos visit the strange, exotic Unicorn Bistro to try something new for dinner, their magical experience is anything but. With food that's hard to recognize and even harder to pronounce, they're beginning to stick out like. . . rhinos in a land of unicorns!

While they struggle through their meal, the unicorns around them aren't so keen on making a good impression. Will the local residents ruin the rhinos' attempt to try something new? Can a kind onlooker change this culture clash for the better?

Dinner at the Unicorn Bistro is an important moral lesson taught through an offbeat wordless picture book. If you like fun illustrations, tales of clashing cultures, and a bit of social commentary, then you'll love Esmerelda Q. Jones' unique picture book.“

I enjoyed this picture book and thought that the illustrations were on mark to capture a young audience. Because there is no words, this book would be better suited to read together with a parent, caregiver, or as a therapeutic opportunity. The pictures give clear examples of emotions, poor behavior choices, manners, and discrimination. I feel that this is a great opportunity to explain to a younger child what is appropriate and mindful. For example, on page three, is it ok to slurp pasta at the table? Moreover, on page four, what does it feel like to be ignored or laughed at because you are different? When one takes the opportunity to discuss and teach children moral values your children learn important skills that will carry them into adulthood. This will affect how they see the world and behave as adults. While it may seem impossible to explain the importance of honesty or compassion to a child, showing your children how good morals affect others can have a great influence on them. While every parent or teacher wants their child or student to be honest, compassionate, kind, respectful, responsible and generous, it may be too confusing for your children to understand the importance of all values. With a picture book it becomes a tool to aid in this discovery. The author does a good job creating this in Dinner at the Unicorn Bistro. 

My only problem with this book is that the author missed a huge opportunity to help the parent or teacher by not including a dialog at the back of the book with discussion topics that could talk about morals, cultures, and society views of those that are different. Furthermore, most teachers and parents want to know more about the author. This book is written by a unicorn named Esmerelda Q. Jones. Even a book written by a character such as Kermit the Frog, has an official website that one can go to that gives information on Jim Henson Company. Parents and teachers want to know a bit more about authors. Much like a cake. We have become a society that want to have available the ingredients of what is inside. With this in mind, I feel that this book needs just a bit more. The author only has a Facebook and Twitter page. But being the type of reader that I am, I was able to find this site on the author! I would encourage setting up a website. 

I do see huge potential with this children’s book and I would suggest to change the meal given to the rhinos to be perhaps a mud pie instead of a picture that looks like poop. Some parents might find that funny and some might find it offensive.  Sometimes, one small factor such as that will take away from the overall theme of the book. I give this book an average rating but could see it revised to a five star children’s book.

Update Feb 21, 2017: The author has added 23 thought-provoking age-appropriate discussion questions to the end of Dinner at the Unicorn Bistro. The updated version is now live and available at Amazon. For this reason I have now made this a 5 star review. And a new website is in the works for adults and children.

Esmerelda Q. Jones is a unicorn who lives in a magical forest on the other side of the universe. Her favorite color is peanut butter. You can find her online in all the usual places.

To Contact Esmerelda

Put your message in a bottle and throw it at the moon. Or I guess try Twitter or Facebook.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Crafts With Love

February Crafts

Stained Glass and Pocket Letters

This past week I decided to do a bit of crafting! I began with making two stained glass crosses where the glass would give an opposite effect depending on the light.

 Next, I wanted to play around with some scrap glass and add a small Valentine's Day plate. I thought that this gave the window a bit of a Victorian effect. 

Since I was trying new ideas, Why not make an agate nightlight!

Meanwhile, My husband made a bolt action rifle pen. This was his first pen than he has created on the lathe.

On Saturday, I decided to make a few Valentine's Day Pocket Letters. Unfortunately, they will be late to my pen pals but they know my heart is in the right place! 

Have you made anything special that you would like to share? Tell me below in the comment section. I hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Mindfulness Merit Badge (Beginner)

Merit Badge Monday


As a member of The MaryJane Farmgirl Sisterhood, we are each given an opportunity to earn merit badges. It is sorta like scouts for grownups. And, what a great way to learn new things. This month I earned my “Beginner” Merit badge titled, Mindfulness.

To earn this badge, I needed to accomplish:
  • Research the benefits of regular meditation on both the brain and the physical body. Research different types of meditation.
  • Give it a try: For 7 days, spend at least 5 minutes meditating every day. You may wish to use guided meditations to start. There are many free guided meditations available on the Web.
As soon as I read the email from MaryJane listing the new merit badges for 2017, I squealed in delight when I saw mindfulness. I cannot begin to list all the positive effects of mindfulness. First, my health in general has improved. My blood pressure is lower, I am able to regulate my breathing much better and now only use my inhaler once a day. Moreover, I am sick less often and my immunity has improved greatly. I also feel less stress since I began practicing a mindful lifestyle. I meditate every day and have been using the Insight Timer app. ( ) Since Jan 1, 2016! I haven’t missed a day.  I prefer the guided meditations but I have also used the bell. For the purpose of this badge I started again on January 1, 2017. 

There are many benefits to regular meditation. For one, the health improves. I am a great example of this. Interestingly one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points. In 2013, I participated in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at Winchester Medical Center in Virginia. It was an 8 week course that taught me how to meditate and live more mindfully. Our class, had a nun, several doctors, a retired preacher, and a few who were battling different medical challenges or learning to practice mindfulness within the public school and health professions. There’s been increasing interest from educators and researchers in bringing meditation and yoga to school kids, who are dealing with the usual stressors inside school, and oftentimes additional stress and trauma outside school. Some schools have starting implementing meditation into their daily schedules, and with good effect: One district in San Francisco started a twice daily meditation program in some of its high-risk schools – and saw suspensions decrease, and GPAs and attendance increase. Studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation for schoolchildren, but more work will probably need to be done before it gains more widespread acceptance. made a wonderful list. I will share it with you now! 

100 Benefits of Meditation!

Physiological benefits:
1- It lowers oxygen consumption.
2- It decreases respiratory rate.
3- It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
4- Increases exercise tolerance.
5- Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
6- Good for people with high blood pressure.
7- Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
8- Decreases muscle tension
9- Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
10- Reduces Pre-menstrual Syndrome symptoms.
11- Helps in post-operative healing.
12- Enhances the immune system.
13- Reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress
14- Enhances energy, strength and vigor.
15- Helps with weight loss
16- Reduction of free radicals, less tissue damage
17- Higher skin resistance
18- Drop in cholesterol levels, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
19- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
20- Decreases the aging process.
21- Higher levels of DHEAS (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
22- prevented, slowed or controlled pain of chronic diseases
23- Makes you sweat less
24- Cure headaches & migraines
25- Greater Orderliness of Brain Functioning
26- Reduced Need for Medical Care
27- Less energy wasted
28- More inclined to sports, activities
29- Significant relief from asthma
30- improved performance in athletic events
31- Normalizes to your ideal weight
32- harmonizes our endocrine system
33- relaxes our nervous system
34- produce lasting beneficial changes in brain electrical activity
35- Cure infertility (the stresses of infertility can interfere with the release of hormones that regulate ovulation).
36- Helps in building sexual energy & desire

Psychological benefits:
36- Builds self-confidence.
37- Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behavior.
38- Resolve phobias & fears
39- Helps control own thoughts
40- Helps with focus & concentration
41- Increase creativity
42- Increased brain wave coherence.
43- Improved learning ability and memory.
44- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
45- Increased emotional stability.
46- improved relationships
47- Mind ages at slower rate
48- Easier to remove bad habits
49- Develops intuition
50- Increased Productivity
51- Improved relations at home & at work
52- Able to see the larger picture in a given situation
53- Helps ignore petty issues
54- Increased ability to solve complex problems
55- Purifies your character
56- Develop will power
57- greater communication between the two brain hemispheres
58- react more quickly and more effectively to a stressful event.
59- increases one’s perceptual ability and motor performance
60- higher intelligence growth rate
61- Increased job satisfaction
62- increase in the capacity for intimate contact with loved ones
63- decrease in potential mental illness
64- Better, more sociable behavior
65- Less aggressiveness
66- Helps in quitting smoking, alcohol addiction
67- Reduces need and dependency on drugs, pills & pharmaceuticals
68- Need less sleep to recover from sleep deprivation
69- Require less time to fall asleep, helps cure insomnia
70- Increases sense of responsibility
71- Reduces road rage
72- Decrease in restless thinking
73- Decreased tendency to worry
74- Increases listening skills and empathy
75- Helps make more accurate judgements
76- Greater tolerance
77- Gives composure to act in considered & constructive ways
78- Grows a stable, more balanced personality
79- Develops emotional maturity

Spiritual benefits:
80- Helps keep things in perspective
81- Provides peace of mind, happiness
82- Helps you discover your purpose
83- Increased self-actualization.
84- Increased compassion
85- Growing wisdom
86- Deeper understanding of yourself and others
87- Brings body, mind, spirit in harmony
88- Deeper Level of spiritual relaxation
89- Increased acceptance of oneself
90- helps learn forgiveness
91- Changes attitude toward life
92- Creates a deeper relationship with your God
93- Attain enlightenment
94- greater inner-directedness
95- Helps living in the present moment
96- Creates a widening, deepening capacity for love
97- Discovery of the power and consciousness beyond the ego
98- Experience an inner sense of “Assurance or Knowingness”
99- Experience a sense of “Oneness”
100- Increases the synchronicity in your life

I need Motivation says it best. “Meditation is also completely FREE! It requires no special equipment, and is not complicated to learn. It can be practiced anywhere, at any given moment, and it is not time consuming (15-20 min. per day is good). Best of all, meditation has NO negative side effects. Bottom line, there is nothing but positive to be gained from it!” 

Oh and after you have meditated for a while, you might enjoy a Mindful retreat! Can you believe that I have done this and went an entire weekend with NO TALKING! I encourage everyone to give Mindfulness a try!

Friday, February 3, 2017

You Will Not Have My Hate

You Will Not Have My Hate

By Antoine Leiris

A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman

I found this book in the “New Arrivals” section of our local library. As I started to read the very first page of this novel my eyes began to well and I let the tears fall. Antoine Leiris writes from a personal place where grief and struggle have become part of his world. Not through any fault of his own but his story became very public and reaching out to others in a most difficult time. 

“On November 13, 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed by terrorists while attending a rock concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, in the deadliest attack on France since World War II. Three days later, Leiris wrote an open letter addressed directly to his wife’s killers, which he posted on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his seventeen-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. He refused to let the killers have their way: “For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.” Instantly, that short Facebook post caught fire, and was reported on by newspapers and television stations all over the world. In his determination to honor the memory of his wife, he became an international hero to everyone searching desperately for a way to deal with the horror of the Paris attacks and the grim shadow cast today by the threat of terrorism.”

Hélène Muyal-Leiris and Melvil Photo Credit:
Antoine Leiris

I remember the news of the Bataclan Theater attack. I remember the Facebook post that Antoine wrote that became a viral message to all. This book offers a different perspective that sadly the world faces today with terrorism. We often only see the news that is projected from the national news media. We see pictures constantly plastered of the attackers or are given detains about them. Yet, this book is the personal thoughts and words of a husband who now raises his son alone. The reader will feel the emotions of the crying baby as the father reads a ladybug storybook that his mother with once read. You are given the real life images of the looks, actions, and experience of life after a huge loss. 

Antoine Leiris states, “No one can be healed of death. All they can do is tame it. Death is a wild animal, sharp-fanged. I am just trying to build a cage to keep it locked in. It is there, beside me, drooling as it waits to devour me. The bars of the cage that protect me are made of paper.”

Leiris and Son Photo Credit: Vogue

I appreciate the honesty of Leiris and the gentle reminders to my own actions after a loss. It is so easy to say, “Why me?” or to become bitter. Yet, Leiris doesn’t hold back with his words. It really had me pondering when he stated,  

“Of course, having a culprit, someone to take the brunt of your anger, is an open door, a chance to temporarily escape your suffering. And the more odious the crime, the more ideal the culprit, the more legitimate your hatred. You think about him in order not to think about yourself. You hate him in order not to hate what's left of your life. You rejoice at his death in order not to have to smile at those who remain.”  

It is this that helps him to move forward along with his 18 month old Melvil. 

James Tivendale says it best, You cannot "enjoy" a book like this - but that is the point. It is a memoir of emotions that I hope none of us have to ever feel. Adjusting to the highly unfortunate direction his life has gone; Antoine decides to write a Facebook post to express his state of mind and thoughts to the perpetrators of the macabre acts of that night. It went viral.

This was the Facebook post! 

You will not have my hatred

“Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I do not know who you are and I do not want to know, you are dead souls. If God, for which you kill blindly made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife has been a wound in His heart. So no, I will not give you this gift to hate you. You have it coming, but if I respond to hatred by anger that would be giving in, to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want I’m afraid, that I should look at my fellow citizens with a look of suspicion, that I sacrifice my freedom for security. Lost. Same player still playing. I saw her this morning. Finally, after days and nights of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left this Friday night, as beautiful as when I fell in love with here 12 years back. Of course I am devastated by grief, I grant you this small victory, but it will be short lived. I know she will be there with us every day and we will be in this paradise of free souls that you will never have access to. We are two, my son and I, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I have also no more time for you, I must join Melvil, who wakes up from a nap. He is only 17 months old, he eats his lunch like every day, then we will play like every day and his whole life that little boy will affront you by being happy and free. Because no, you won’t have his hatred either.”

I read this book in less than two hours, I would encourage others to read this heartbreaking book. One will leave with a respect to others grief, understanding of those affected by senseless crimes, and it takes away all power to those who harbor such hate. I highly recommend Antoine Leiris’s book, “You Will Not Have My Hate.”


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