Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Photography Challenge: October 19, 2018

Cee expanded the types of photos that can be used for her Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenges. Now we can include: single flowers, buds, multiple flowers, bouquets, flower fields, wildflowers, tree or bush blossoms, autumn leaves, spring leaves, decorative cabbage, berries, still life, fake or silk flowers. I’m going to take advantage of that change and share a photo I took in my neighborhood last week. I love how it turned out.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: October 14, 2018

I had scheduled six work parties to be held in our Greenbelt Restoration site between September 30 and November 15. The October 14th work party was the third of that series. On that day, 12 students from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class and four staff participated in the event.

During the first part of the work party, we focused on creating a path that goes from one of the lower parts of the Hanford Stairs to the far side of the site. We had placed cut-up debris (dried blackberry canes, ivy and small branches) along the path during the October 6th work party. At the end of that event, the volunteers had filled 20 buckets with wood chips so we could start spreading chips at the beginning of this work party.

Once we emptied those buckets, everyone walked to the wood chip pile to refill their bucket. And so the bucket brigade began. We spread wood chips three inches high and three feet wide along 285 feet of pathways. These wood chip paths are so much easier to walk on than the uneven paths that were there before and the wood chips will (hopefully) keep the paths from getting muddy and slippery during the winter rains.

(Click on any gallery to enlarge the photos.)

The new paths are beautiful. We even made a roundabout around a large fern!

Once we finished working on the paths for the day, we took a short snack break. Afterwards, we divided into four groups. All of the groups continued projects that volunteers had begun during the previous two work parties.

Group 1 cut up debris (dried blackberry canes, ivy and branches) into 4-8 inch pieces.

Every week this debris pile gets smaller. When we started on September 30, the pile was 4-5 feet high and you couldn’t see the planting area on the other side of it. Now the western part of the pile has branches that are too big to be cut with hand clippers. The rest of the pile is about 2 feet high and you can easily see what is on the other side of it.

Group 2 continued the process of taking apart the compost pile. They separated small and large branches, placing the big branches on a pile and cutting up the smaller ones. One of the students started spreading the composted dirt.

On the morning of September 30, the area where the compost pile was looked like this:

Before September 30

This is what it looks like at the end of the October 14 work party:

The trees and shrubs that are planted in this area next month will certainly benefit from the rich soil.

During a site visit in May, the Green Seattle Partnership and Seattle Parks Department representatives told us that we had planted one tree too close to power lines. Group 3 transplanted that tree, moving it to a more appropriate area.

Group 4 removed bindweed and blackberries from the area where we will be making paths next weekend.

When the volunteers in the first two groups finished cutting up debris, they brought it to this area. Once there, it was spread on the paths-to-be.

While the student groups were working, my neighbor John, cleared many blackberry shoots from one of the planting areas and then moved a pile of big branches and logs to a new location. He also removed ivy that was scattered throughout that area.

Before we knew it, the work party was over. Week by week, we are getting closer to having the site ready for the winter rains and for planting new trees, shrubs and ground covers.

The students at this work party were a delight to work with. I thank them for their work and also want to thank Shirley, Claire and Dave for being team leaders during this event. I so appreciate them and all of the other volunteers who are helping to turn this land back into a healthy forest.

Challenges for Growth Prompts


During the first quarter of 2016, I created a series of 12 Challenge for Growth prompts. At that time, the challenges were published one week at a time.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that many readers were not following my blog back then. I have decided to publish a post that includes a list of all 12 of the personal growth prompts.

Since it is easier to make behavioral changes if we focus on them one day at a time, each of the weekly challenges start with “Today, I focus on…….” While I believe you will get the most benefit from a challenge if you focus on it for an entire week…. or longer…. it will be up to you to decide how long you want to focus on a particular challenge— even one or two days during a week will have value.

If you decide to take on these challenges, consider sharing your experiences in the comment section of this post. I’d love to hear about them.

You can, of course, begin or stop the challenge process at any time.

Challenge for Growth Prompts

Week 1: “Today I focus on my needs rather than my wants.”

The nature of the mind is that as soon as one desire is met, it is off to the next one, often without taking any time to appreciate the desire that was just realized. An endless stream of wants leads to the experience of scarcity; we never feel full, we never think we have or are enough.

One way to create a sense of abundance in our lives is to decrease the number of our desires. We can do that by putting our primary focus on meeting our needs and then prioritizing our wants.

The first step for many people is to learn to differentiate their needs from their wants. Some examples: We need water – We want a soda; We need food – We want a big restaurant meal; We need shelter – We want a new house.

This week practice identifying which of your desires are needs and which are wants. When looking at your list of wants, decide which are the most important to you.  This week give priority to meeting your needs.  If you put energy into obtaining any of your wants, be sure they are ones you have identified as priority wants.

Week 2: “Today I look for the good qualities in others.”

When we are in a bad mood, we may find ourselves focusing on someone else’s faults. When we focus on the negative, we are likely to see negativity all around us. Remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

People often get triggered into negative thinking when they are with someone who reminds them of a person who hurt them in the past. In the psychotherapy model I use, we refer to that as “putting someone else’s face” on the present day person. That process is also referred to as projection.

Clients in therapy frequently project their parents’ faces on their therapists. I remember a time in the mid 90’s when a client was always angry with the male co-therapist in one of my therapy groups. He knew that the therapist reminded him of his father, but he was having a hard time “getting his dad’s face” off of the therapist.

This therapist had some unusual characteristics so I said to the client, “Did your dad ever wear an earring?” and “Did your dad sometimes wear red toenail polish?” The client started laughing. His father would NEVER have considered doing either of those things. Seeing the differences really helped him separate the therapist from his father.

This week focus on looking for the good in others. If you have trouble finding anything positive about a person, consider whose face you might have on them.  If you decide it is a parent, or a boss, or someone else from your past, identify ways the current day person is different from the one in your past.  Then “de-role” the present day person by saying to yourself, “You are not (insert the name or role of person from the past), you are (insert the name or role of the person in the present).”  After you de-role the current day person, you may be better able to identify some of their good qualities.

Also consider making lists of the positive qualities of anyone you have negative thoughts about, whether they be from your past or present.

Week 3: “Today when there is nothing to be done I will do nothing.”

In our over-doing world, many of us have lost the ability to simply BE. Our days are filled with doing things and our minds are filled with thinking. We may be bombarded with electronic stimulation such as radio, television, emails, texts, video games, internet surfing, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, etc.

Too often when we are not over-doing, we are over-thinking.  We rarely have new thoughts; usually we are just recycling the same thoughts over and over.

It may be that when we are quiet, we are uncomfortable with the feelings and thoughts that surface. We try to shove them down by potentially addictive behaviors like over-doing, substance abuse, obsessive thinking, and over-eating. We can learn to see those uncomfortable feelings and thoughts as indications that there are changes we need to make in our lives.

Most of life’s peak experiences happen when we least expect them. In addition, bliss is unlikely to come when we are thinking or over-doing.

This week take some time to focus on being rather than doing. If there is nothing that NEEDS to be done, don’t do anything.  Take the time as an opportunity to simply BE. Watch the internal messages and impulses that come up when you do that. Note them, but don’t act on them. Allow yourself to continue being.

Consider making a commitment that during your being time you will not use the phone or computer and will not have any electronic music, television or radio going on in the background.  If taking being time sounds impossible to you consider starting with five minutes- or ten minutes- or fifteen minutes a day.  You can build up your being time slowly if you need to.

Week 4: “Today I take time to think before I say Yes or No.”

While some people have trouble saying Yes and others say No to every request, I believe it is much more common for people to struggle with saying No. This struggle often stems from childhood experiences. It may not have been okay, or even safe, to say No in our families of origin. Many of us were taught/programmed to please others by doing what others wanted them to do. As an adult, we may say Yes to things we don’t want to do; say Yes but then not follow through on our commitments; or say Yes reflexively without taking any time to think about the request.

I once heard a joke that addresses this issue. “What happens when a codependent dies?” Answer: Someone else’s life flashes before his eyes.” While it is a funny joke, it is also a sad situation and it may be true. You cannot live your own life and do everything everyone else wants you to do.

The first step in looking at this issue may be to observe struggles you have in saying either Yes or No. At the same time, start pausing to think before you reply to a request. You may need 15 seconds or you may need 48 hours or more to get clear. It is perfectly appropriate to respond, “I will think about it and get back to you.

This week focus on thinking before you say Yes or No.

Week 5: “Today I repeat the affirmation ‘I am Love’.”

Occasionally I ask my psychotherapy clients what they would think if they overheard someone talking to a child the way they talk to themselves. They often respond that they would think the child was being abused. I believe when we direct endless criticism towards ourselves, it is as if we are abusing a child, but in this case it is the child within us.

One of the tools I have found helpful in stopping negative self-talk is to flood one’s mind with a single affirmation.  I’m not talking about saying the affirmation 10 times in the morning while looking in the mirror. I ask clients to say their affirmations a minimum of 1,000 times a day for 21 days. Actually, I prefer that they say it 10,000 times a day or more, or better yet, anytime their minds aren’t being used for something else!

When we flood our minds with an affirmation over a period of time, it may start flowing automatically during the day, and sometimes during the night as well. Imagine what it would be like to have something positive going through your mind day and night, instead of all of the negative messages.

This week internally repeat the affirmation “I Am Love.”  I suggest you say it at least 1,000 times a day.  (It takes 15-20 minutes to say it 1,000 times.) It will help you to stay focused if you use a tally counter from an office supply store or an app such as Counter +.  If you find yourself engaged in negative thinking during the day, start saying the affirmation again.  Be gentle with yourself no matter how many times you repeat it.  There is no right or wrong way to do this challenge.

Week 6: “Today I listen attentively.”

Sometimes when we are listening to another person, we may find our minds wandering to problems at work or home, or to future plans.  At other times, rather than paying close attention to the person’s words, we may start thinking about how we are going to respond to them.  Or we may reflect on advice we want to give them when they stop talking.  If the person is angry, instead of listening to them, we may start planning our defense.  These communication patterns often leave people feeling unheard, discounted and/or disrespected.

This week practice giving people your full attention when they are talking to you.

Week 7: “Today I unplug.”

Don’t panic. I’m not talking about totally unplugging. But think of how much time during the day you spend engaged with emails, texting, instant messages, Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, Twitter, Snapshot, surfing the Internet, playing video games, watching television, online shopping, talking on the phone, etc.  What would you think and feel if you no longer had access to a phone, computer, television or any other electronic device? Does the thought of not having those things bring you a sense of relief, panic or something else?

This week commit to unplugging for some period of time each day. Pick a time of day when you normally use those devices and then set an amount of time to unplug that would challenge you, but not set you up for failure.

Week 8: “Today I stop my repetitive thinking.”

So few of our thoughts are actually new; we recycle most of them again and again as we ruminate about past traumas, feel indignant over ways we were slighted, or obsess about possible future problems.  Overthinking keeps us trapped in our heads, rather than living from our hearts.  It also leads to depression and anxiety.

We may believe if we think about a problem long enough, we will figure out what to do about it. The reality is that inspiration is much more likely to come when our minds are silent than when we are in a never-ending cycle of analyzing.

This week commit to stopping your repetitive thoughts. One way to do that is to say “Stop…..Be here now” to yourself and then focus solely on the present moment whenever you find yourself in unhelpful thinking processes.  Distracting activities such as working in the garden, exercising, reading, writing, walking, etc. may also be helpful. If there is a problem you actually need to think about, set a beginning and ending time for doing that, rather than letting it take over your day.

Week 9: “Today I say something to a child that I wish had been said to me when I was young.”

Did you hear the things that you needed to hear during your formative years?  Were you given enough guidance, enough love, enough validation?  Are there words that you wish you had heard from your parents or other adults during your childhood or teenage years?

This week give children or teenagers messages that you wish had been said to you when you were young.

Week 10: “Today I do not waste food.”

In 2012, the National Resources Defense Council of the U.S. concluded that Americans waste 40% of their food. Food is wasted at the farm level, between harvest and sale, during processing, during distribution, in grocery stores, in restaurants and in our homes. The study also reported that American’s throw out 25% of the food and beverages they buy. You can learn more about these statistics at: Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.  As I searched for more recent statistics for this post, I read that American households throw out 150,000 tons of food each day.

Many children in my generation grew up with parents who demanded that they eat their food because of the starving kids in China. As a result, many of us learned to tune out that message and disregard the fact that there is some truth to that way of thinking. I believe it is important for us to become responsible citizens of the world.

That does not mean we should force ourselves or our children to eat when we/they aren’t hungry. It is also not about shaming people into cleaning their plates. Instead, I think we should focus on how much food we buy, how much we cook, and how much we put on our plates. Children will be more likely to finish eating their food if they are given small portions. They can always ask for more if they are still hungry after they finish the original serving. That is true for adults as well.

While these are U.S. statistics and may be higher than those in other countries, I doubt we are the only country with the problem. This week focus on not wasting food.

Week 11: “Today I do something I’ve been resisting.”

A co-therapist I used to work with often told clients that it may take 75% of the time one is in therapy to do 25% of the work that needs to be done. The remaining work is likely to be completed much faster. I also remember hearing Amma, my spiritual teacher, say that we ask her to clean us up, but then we won’t hold still for the bath. The common factor in these two circumstances is resistance.

Resistance isn’t all bad.  It would be unhealthy to walk into a new situation and turn ourselves over to the whim of other people.  Blind faith can be dangerous.  It also takes time to determine a correct course of action.  However, when we know that there are changes we need to make, holding on to resistance often results in us holding on to, or creating, pain for ourselves.  It may also stifle our growth.

This week do things you’ve been resisting doing.

Week 12: “Today I eat and drink food and beverages that honor my body.”

Most of us know which foods and beverages are healthy for us to eat and drink. However, when fast food restaurants, sodas, desserts and junk snacks call out to us, we succumb, much like an alcoholic giving in to the call of alcohol.

As alcoholics in recovery know, unhealthy habits are changed one day at a time. This week eat and drink only food and beverages that honor your body. Treat your body as if it is a temple, a temple worthy of great respect.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Oct 6, 2018

Nineteen enthusiastic students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in our October 6th forest restoration work party. Our staff consisted of two GreenFriends members and a volunteer who had helped at the September 30th work party.

As always, the work party began with an orientation. Afterwards, we formed a bucket brigade to spread wood chips along the paths throughout our Greenbelt site. Last year, the paths got muddy and slippery during the winter rains. We hope by covering them with a thick layer of wood chips, we will prevent that from happening again.

The first photo below shows what the wood chip pile looked like at the beginning of this work party. The second shows its size at the end of the event. It is even flatter than it looks! There is no doubt in my mind that the pile will be gone by the end of our next work party.

(Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

For the second week in a row, I got so immersed in the work that I forgot to take photos of the bucket brigade. But I can show you the results of our work!

Halfway through the work party, we took a 15 minute snack break and then divided into three work groups.

Work group 1 

Last year, when we cleared the land in the southern part of our site, we piled the blackberry vines and blackberry root balls that we removed on nearby drying racks. We ended up with four large piles of debris that is taking up room that could better be used for planting.

We decided to eliminate the piles by cutting the debris into 3-8 inch pieces and then spreading it on the paths that we will be covering with wood chips during our next work party.

I had spent a considerable amount of time cutting up the debris in one of these piles prior to this work party. I don’t have a photo of what the pile looked like when I started, but the photos below will give you an idea of what it was like when this group started working on it and what it looked like at the end of the work party. The size of the pile has decreased at least 50% since the beginning of October. I hope we can finish that task soon.

For now we are placing the branches that are too thick to cut up at one end of the pile. We will decide what to do with those later.

Work group 2

The second group worked on a compost pile that had been created on the site many years before this forest restoration project began. Volunteers in the last work party had started removing trash and branches from the pile. The photos below show this area before and after the September 30th work party.

On October 6th, two of the students dug out a plastic garbage can that was buried near the compost pile and then began to remove bluebell bulbs that had been multiplying in the pile for years. They also separated more trash and branches from the rich soil.

While the two students were working on those tasks, three others removed big branches and tree stumps that were scattered around an area where we will be planting trees, shrubs and ground covers in November. Once the big items were moved to a different part of the site, the students raked a pile of dried bamboo branches away from that area as well.

When they finished those tasks, the students joined the two who were working on the compost pile. They sorted the branches that had been removed from the pile of dirt. The small branches and dried blackberry canes were cut up so that we can spread them on the paths; the bigger branches were stacked. The photos below show what the area looked like at the end of this work party.

Work group 3

The third group dug up blackberry shoots and blackberry root balls from the area where we will be creating paths next weekend.

At one point, I started hearing shouts of celebration coming from that direction. I wondered if the students had dug out some huge root balls. That is always cause for excitement. When the sounds continued, I got curious. Eventually, I walked to that part of the property and asked the staff member what was happening.

I learned that some of the students were having a competition to see who could cut down the longest blackberry vine. By then, they were working in an area that we have not cleared before, so they were finding some LONG vines! Some of the cut vines were put on a small drying rack while others were taken to an area we call The Rack Zone. (The Rack Zone is located in the foundation of a house that burned in the 50’s. It is filled with large piles of dried or drying blackberry vines, blackberry root balls, ivy and bindweed.)

Look at the length of the vine in the last photo. I don’t know who won the competition, but that vine was certainly a contender. (Remember, you can click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

All of the debris that had been cut up by the first and second work groups was spread on the areas where we will be constructing paths next weekend. The photos below show what those future paths look like now. (The paths will be 3 feet wide except in the occasional places where several paths merge.) The last photo is of the section where I believe the students found the long vines.

Fifteen minutes before the work party ended, we began to clean and put away the tools and supplies. As they finished that work, the volunteers began to gather for the closing. These photos were taken while we waited for the last few students to join us. Once everyone was present, we celebrated all that we had accomplished during the three-hour work party.

Afterwards, everyone brushed their shoes to remove any remnants of invasive plants that might be spread to other properties, said goodbye and went on their individual ways. Several participants told me they hoped to attend one of our next work parties!