Through the eyes of a cancer patient – parallels of the COVID 19 pandemic and cancer

March is a big month for me, not because of joyous events, but rather, significant cancer dates. One could argue that the fact that I am still alive to witness these dates IS joyous, and while I agree, it doesn’t take away from the fact that along with joy there can be other emotions as well. This year, marking my five year diagnosis/no evidence of disease dates in itself, made it different, and then came COVID 19. This new coronavirus that has taken over and stopped the world in it’s tracks. Much shock, stress, fear, change, uncertainty, all due to the virus, is now tied to March also (in the US), and I couldn’t help but think that the emotions that many experienced with the virus paralleled a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was, of course, in shock, had fears of my mortality, and I was full of questions. I had to navigate the seriousness of what was happening, and how it would impact me and my children. I also felt a need to prepare, and in that case, meant stocking up on some supplies and preparing and freezing some meals. This reaction of fear, wanting information and preparation is completely normal, but when COVID 19 came to the US it was taken to an extreme. People have prepared by hoarding supplies, which is a reaction to fear of uncertainty.

The next phase for my cancer experience was surgery and then chemo. During chemo I was very isolated, in part, because my immune system was compromised and I stayed away from others, or didn’t feel well. Many days I simply hung out with my children, and when I felt up to it, we went for walks. The biggest difference for me then and now is that I am healthy and productive now. This isolation phase is what our country is currently in, with stay at home orders from the government, but it’s whole families as well as individuals who are isolating in their homes. In both cases, people can be affected emotionally, physically, and financially by isolation. During chemo I mostly stayed connected with others who also had cancer, and now, because of the pandemic affecting so many, people are finding creative ways to work from home and stay connected to each other. Being spring, many are getting out and walking too. Although Zoom service began in 2013, I was not familiar with it while going through chemo. The online video platform has been popular through COVID 19 not only for businesses like myself, but also to keep families, friends, teachers and health care providers connected.

After five months of chemo and very little social contact, I was given a short time to heal before I began radiation. During radiation I was not 100 % back into my daily life, rather I was easing into it. I had to build my endurance physically, and relationships change with lack of communication, so I had to ease back into those relationships or assess the status of them. Although this phase of the pandemic is yet to happen to date, I imagine this to be the path we are on with the COVID 19 isolation, and I encourage it. I have seen social media posts asking people about the first thing they will do when they are no longer asked by the government to stay home, as if it will be like a light switch, off (being isolation) or on (back to daily life).

I propose we take a dimmer switch approach to life after isolation, when we are able to proceed. While we move back towards our prior routines, let’s hold on to quiet moments and quality time, let’s take walks, and make efforts to connect with those we cannot see in person. This is not to say our previous routines were bad, but perhaps, a blending of the two can happen if we move slowly.

As with cancer, you and your relationship dynamics may not be the same on the other side of this experience. Or you may have changed physically. You cannot go through something so significant and be unchanged to a degree and change can be unsettling. I get it. If it happens for you, know that it’s normal and I’m here to support you. Check out my Facebook page, I have been providing stress management tips, recipes and inspiration. In addition, I am providing coaching via Zoom, and if you are interested, you can schedule a consultation by emailing me at . All the best to you and your loved ones.


Dear Cancer Center

March 5, 2015 was the date of my stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis. I didn’t choose cancer, but there are many people that devote their lives to the patients. They choose to be immersed in it, and this is for them.

Dear Cancer Center Staff:

You may be a receptionist, a volunteer, a cleaner, a nurse, a doctor, a lab tech, a radiation tech, scheduler, or social worker. You may be someone I don’t see, or forgot to mention, but this is for you. You are my village.

It was five years ago today that I received that call. A call from someone I didn’t know who told me I had breast cancer. I still remember exactly where I stood during that conversation, as my life turned upside down. After setting up appointments, my thoughts turned to my children and how I would tell them, how I would explain it to them. 

The following week I walked into the cancer center for the first time. The appointment was a blur, with so much fear and unknowns, even once I left. The place that was then so big and scary, is now so familiar and welcoming. You, who work there, you have become my village.

After all the tests and decisions about the plan of care, then surgery, I became a member of the village. This community that could not exist without each other.

I remember receptionists asking how I was feeling, as I checked in the day after chemo. 

I remember conversations with volunteers, various staff and nurses before and during treatments. Know that I loved learning about you, because in doing so, you allowed normalcy in a situation that was anything but normal. 

I remember you listening with compassion. You allowed me to vent, but also offered me ideas or solutions too. I remember the concern in your eyes.

I remember the gentle care. I know you didn’t want to hurt me with the needle sticks, or when accessing my port. I know you felt sorry when it did hurt. 

I remember that my scars did not phase you, as I lay down for radiation. 

I wonder if you knew I was shaking that day I came back for a check up, months after after the end of active treatment. As much as I cared about you, I didn’t want to be a member of the village anymore.

I remember so, so much more, but some memories are starting to fade, and that’s good. 

Now, when I visit each month, I still get the greetings, the gentleness and the care, but I am more of a visitor than I am a member. Eventually my visits will become less frequent, but today, the day my life turned upside down I wanted to visit you and tell you ‘Thank you.’ While patients don’t choose to become members, you do. You show up and care for people that very much need you. You choose to be here, and in doing so, you make a difference. 

Thank you, with all my heart.


Honoring National Cancer Prevention Month

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, which was first observed in 2004. It is intended to encourage communities to educate each other on the steps you can take to prevent cancer. If you follow me on my Facebook page, Inspired Vitality of Minnesota, you may have noticed that throughout the month of February I did just that! There are four important pillars that I believe contribute to cancer prevention, so let’s start at the beginning.

Week one was about exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight. Exercise is good for all of your organ function, like lungs and heart, but it is so much more. It helps you move throughout your day by improving strength and flexibility. It may reduce the risk of cancer by helping control weight, reduce sex hormones or insulin, and strengthen the immune system. By choosing activities you enjoy you will be successful at incorporating exercise into your daily routine.

Week two (Valentine’s week) I focused on the importance of quality relationships. When you are unhappy or stressed as a result of your relationships, or lack of them, it can have an impact on your immune system. If you are lonely, or unsatisfied in the relationships you have, I suggest you seek out more people with whom to connect. You can join a group or take a class.

“Each relationship nurtures a strength or weakness within you.” ~ Mike Murdock

Week three I dove into plant based eating, and showed you just how simple it can be to put quality food into your body. There was this recipe for a
plant based “egg” salad sandwich, I gave you the ingredients for a homemade soup, and showed you a simple on-the-go snack of veggies and hummus. Nourishing your body does not have to be difficult!

The last pillar in week 4 is about alcohol, which can increase one’s risk of cancer. For more information about the link between alcohol and cancer, read this article.

Anybody that who has gone through cancer wants their loved ones to do all that they can to prevent cancer. This is because they know what the treatment is like, and thatprevention is better than the cure.


Cervical Cancer 411

The best way to beat any cancer, is preventing it in the first place. While we don’t want to become overly obsessive in a quest to, “do everything right” in prevention, it is important to be aware of what is within our control and make the best choices for ourselves. Many people are not comfortable with the topic of cancer, I get it, I used to feel that way. But, having cancer and going through treatment is far more uncomfortable than learning the facts about it.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, so, ladies, this one is for you!

You go in for that check up, you know, the one you don’t like, but do it anyway. The doctor talks with you, does a breast exam, and then…the stirrups. We know it’s important, but do you really know what the doctor is doing?

Do you even know the purpose of a Pap smear?

A pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix to test for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. And, if caught early, it may be curable. While the cause of cervical cancer isn’t clear, HPV does play a role. Most people with the virus never develop cancer, which means lifestyle factors contribute to a diagnosis, but HPV is found in the majority of cervical cancers.

What are the risk factors?

This is a no judgement zone, but you do need to be real with yourself and know that early sexual activity, as well as many sexual partners, increases your chance of acquiring HPV and puts you at a higher risk for cervical cancer. Having other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) also increase your risk. Smoking puts you at risk for one type of cervical cancer and if you have a lowered immune system due to another health condition and have HPV you may be more likely to develop cervical cancer.

Steps to prevention!

Most women who have abnormal cervical cell changes that progress to cervical cancer have never had a Pap test or have not had one in the previous three to five years. Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions so they can be monitored and treated. Talk with your doctor about their recommendation for routine screening. While you’re there, you may want to consider discussing whether an HPV vaccine is appropriate for you. Practicing safe sex and not smoking are additional lifestyle practices that will keep you on the path of prevention.

The health of your cervix is not likely on your mind daily, but perhaps this gentle reminder this month will encourage you to make your health a priority. What’s good for your cervix, is also good for your whole body! Besides maintaining healthy relationships, fuel your body with nutritious food and quality sleep. These things are the combo for prevention of a multitude of disease, and will allow you to truly live in health.


How to Stop a Food Pusher in Their Tracks – Lessons From a Dessert Supplier Turned Veggie Advocate

I love to bake. I don’t remember at what age I began, but it seems I have loved baking all of my life. When I was in high school, thinking about my future, I considered becoming a baker, but then decided it would take the fun out of it for me to have to do it day in and day out. When I bake, it is for the joy of it, on my terms. For me, the process of stirring, rolling and creating is very meditative, and then watching the look on the faces of those eating my treats brings me joy.

Over the years, baking became my escape at times. When I was stressed, or needed time alone, I would bake, and I became good at it. Not professional quality, but good enough for people to ask me to be the one to provide dessert for holidays and gatherings. My specialty was Scotch Shortbread cookies, using a recipe from my Scottish grandmother. Even she was thrilled when I would make her some shortbread.

I never considered myself a food pusher. Although I always offered and it made me happy when people did eat my treats and enjoy them, I don’t think I ever went beyond a, “Are you sure?” when someone rejected my offer.

For decades I happily baked sweet treats on a regular basis, and even looked for reasons to bake for others. But, since being diagnosed with cancer and then learning about the effects of sugar, I only bake when I have a specific reason. You see, I have a hard time justifying making sugar and fat loaded items, knowing what it does to the body. I began asking myself why would I provide those I care about with something that may ultimately cause disease?

Instead I now want to provide people with food that nourishes them. And guess what? Preparing nourishing food to share with others gives me as much joy as watching the faces of those eating the sweet treats. Now when I go to gatherings I’m more likely to bring a colorful plate of veggies and a bean dip, or make a comforting pot of veggie soup for someone in need.

What does all this have to do with food pushers?

People who lovingly create food for others get joy and satisfaction out of watching you eat the food. Watching the look of, “Mmmm” on your face makes the time and effort worth it, which in turn, feeds their soul. But, there is a line between lovingly creating and offering food, and pushing it upon someone. Pushers cross that line and become insistent that you take a taste, or eat more, or even hand you food that you either didn’t ask for or already had stated you didn’t want to eat. They take the emotional satisfaction of providing food for others to a whole new level! Food pushers attempt to make your food decision for you.

Do you know a food pusher, perhaps at work or in your family? With the holidays people are making more food, and going to more gatherings and you are bound to encounter food pushers.

What can you do when a food pusher crosses that line?

The quickest and most effective way to stop a food pusher in their tracks is simply to say, “No, thank you,” and then change the subject. A good tactic in changing the topic is to compliment the food pusher. Imagine this: You’re at a family gathering and that well-meaning relative comes to you with a plate of her home baked favorite treat. Maybe you don’t like the item she is offering, or maybe it is not within your health goals, or maybe you simply are not hungry. It does not matter! You CAN simply say, “No, thank you. What a beautiful _________ you are wearing! It really matches your eyes.” If you don’t want to be quite that direct, you could say, “That looks amazing. I’m full now, but maybe later.”

Hear me loud and clear when I say, you do not need to explain yourself to ANYONE! You do not need to add an explanation to your response, Like, I’m not eating sugar right now. That will only elicit discussion and more pushing. But, giving the food pusher a compliment turns the situation around and will make them happy in the same way it would if you had eaten their creation. And you will get bonus points if you ask them for the recipe.

You see, people who make food for others put the L ingredient inside of it – that’s LOVE. Not eating the food that is lovingly prepared may evoke a feeling of personal rejection, even though the recipient is only saying no to the food and not the person. By showing the giver some love, they may not even notice your food choices. Coming from a place of love and appreciation, while still respecting your own wishes and boundaries, is the bridge of peace between you and the food pusher.


Natural Sugar vs Added Sugar

What is sugar anyway?

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate and it gives you energy. Sounds good, right? Not all carbs are the same! The two types of sugar, natural and added, are very different in how they provide you with energy.

The natural sugars are what you will find in fruits, vegetables and milk. The great thing about natural sugars in the fruits and veggies is that they also have fiber, water, and nutrients. With the natural sugars, not only are you getting so much more, but because of the fiber, the sugar is released slow and steady. This means a steady stream of energy, as well as the benefits of fiber, vitamins, minerals and water. You may be wondering about fruit or vegetable juices. If the juice is 100% juice, without any added sugar, it will contain some nutrients and water, but it does not have fiber. Fiber is really the key to the slow absorption of the natural sugar and prevent sugar spikes.

Added sugars are found in many processed foods that you purchase. Of course there is added sugars in sweet treats, but it is also hiding in bread, crackers, cereals, dressings and sauces. Anything made in a factory likely has sugar added for texture, preservation and taste. Items that are labeled low fat typically have more sugar to compensate. When foods that contain added sugar enter your body it gives you a spike of sugar – your liver gets hit with an excess amount of fructose and what isn’t used for energy turns to fat. Over time, excess fat in the liver can cause Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), which means the liver is not functioning correctly. Too much added sugar over time is also associated diabetes, heart disease and joint pain.

How much added sugar is too much?

The FDA currently recommends added sugars be limited to 50 grams, or about 12 1/2 tsp, per day for those consuming 2,000 calories a day. The American Heart Association, on the other hand, recommends women limit themselves to 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugars per day and men limit themselves to 38 grams, or 9 teaspoons, of added sugar per day. There is more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar in one can of a popular soda!

The FDA is now requiring food manufacturers to list the amount of added sugars on the products nutrition facts label, but they have until 2021 to make the changes. By having the information consumers will be able to gauge their added sugar intake and make choices based on the information.

Do you want to learn more?

You may be wondering about all the different names of sugar on food labels. Or, is honey natural or an added sugar? I know it’s not realistic to significantly change sugar habits during the holidays, so if you are in the Twin Cities, I will be holding a class all about sugar in January 2020. Watch my social media for details, Facebook: Inspired Vitality of Minnesota and Twitter: @InspiredMN. Enjoy the upcoming holidays, in moderation, and in 2020 we will tackle sugar together!


Which is easier – preventing cancer or treating it?

Making healthy choices every day is hard, there is no denying that, but I can tell you first hand that going through cancer treatment is harder than any workout, or changing the way you eat. Yet many people follow a path of unconscious decisions that lead them to the consequence of disease.

Being in the midst of Pinktober, aka, breast cancer awareness month, I want to be sensitive to those fighting the disease. I know the onslaught of pink can be encouraging for some, while for others, it can be painful to be reminded of the disease that has forever changed them. My first October after being diagnosed I was angry at being surrounded by pink, and the reminders that came with it. I didn’t want to be in the pink club, and I hated that I was that one in eight diagnosed with breast cancer. I also didn’t like retailers benefiting under the guise of awareness. Where was the money going, really, I wondered. But, this year I decided it is my choice to ignore the retailers promoting pink products and instead put my energy into education.

Cancer screening is important, and if awareness months are effective, people will be reminded to get their screenings done. But, to truly prevent cancer a person needs to make conscious choices every day that brings them further away from the path of a diagnosis.

Will you choose the path of prevention?

What can you do? What are the choices on the path of prevention?

First, move. Walk (or run, or swim, or dance) the path, literally. If you are new to fitness, always talk with a doctor prior to starting, and start slowly. Physical activity helps with weight loss, or to maintain a healthy weight, and it strengthens immune defenses. For women, excess fat cells produce estrogen, which help cancer cells to form and spread. Maintaining a healthy weight is ideal in prevention of an original diagnosis, as well as a recurrence. The immune system plays an important role in preventing cancer, as well as other disease. It detects and destroys abnormal cells, and most likely prevents or curbs the growth of many cancers, as part of its normal function. So many reasons to make exercise a part of your daily routine!

The next step is to limit alcohol. Alcohol increases estrogen levels and impairs immune function. While red wine is known to have heart healthy benefits, you can get the same benefits from eating red grapes and without the cancer risk. The World Health Organization division of International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that all alcoholic beverages are carcinogenic to humans. For some, completely eliminating alcohol is not something they want to do, but limiting the intake to one serving a day is recommended.

What is it about estrogen?

We all have estrogen in our bodies, yes, even men. Despite the symptoms, post menopausal women have some amount of estrogen as well. When it comes to breast cancer, approximately 80% of breast cancers are hormone positive, including estrogen positive. This means the cancer has receptors that respond to, or feed off of, hormones. When you put excess amounts of that hormone into the body with food and alcohol (yes, we’re getting to the food), it can cause DNA damage, which is the first step towards cancer. Even if you choose organic, grass fed animal products, the animals naturally contain hormones and you ingest them.

If you haven’t already guessed, the third step in cancer prevention is to choose plant based foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds all lower the risk of cancer in several ways. Not only do plant based have the ability to lower estrogen levels, they also provide your cells with a nutritional armor that protects against mutations. There are a great deal of various compounds in plant based foods that create an anti-cancer environment, so much so that rather than go into detail I will link you to reliable sources. If you want to dive deep into the scientific reasons for plant based eating, specifically for breast cancer, I highly recommend the book: Breasts – The Owner’s Manual by Dr. Kristi Funk and her website, Additional resources I trust are: and

If you currently consume a standard American diet, drink alcohol and don’t exercise on a regular basis, following the path to prevention of cancer will take time and effort. The changes don’t have to be done all at once. It’s a step by step process! It is truly a conscious choice every day, and having been through cancer treatment, I choose to make choices that will reduce my risk of going down that path again. My sincere hope is you will learn from my experience and make preventative choices for yourself.

This blog is dedicated to all those who have experienced cancer.


Inside My Story Sunday

Have you noticed I haven’t blogged in a couple of months? I hope so…that means you’ve been reading my posts! A couple of months ago I decided to start a live series on my Facebook page called My Story Sunday. While the series was great, the preparation time for each video took time, and something had to give, so blogging was put on hold. If you haven’t watched the videos, start with Chapter 1 here:

Throughout the My Story Sunday I provided hindsight tips and insight information, but I bet you didn’t take notes on this valuable information so here’s a list of the tips throughout the series. While the information is particularly relevant to those diagnosed with breast cancer, some of it can be helpful to those with other cancers.

Hindsight: If I’d only known then what I know now, this is what I would have done differently.

  1. I would have tried a whole food plant-based diet prior to hormone replacement therapy for peri menopausal symptoms.
  2. I would have asked questions about breast density when my earlier mammogram results made a notation about it. Questions such as; What does density mean? and, Should further testing should be done?
  3. I would have joined an online support community sooner than I did, because I found it to be helpful with information and support. My favorite online community for breast cancer is:
  4. Post mastectomy I would have tried men’s v-neck t-shirts. (No excess material with men’s shirts. Women’s are made for breasts!) For a dressier look, prints and scarves are helpful with camouflage.

Insight Information: Random information I have gathered over the years.

  1. Always make sure you are comfortable with your medical team, and if you’re not, explore your options.
  2. There is much involved in whether a mastectomy vs a lumpectomy is recommended for a patient. Ask questions and know your options before making a decision.
  3. After being diagnosed, try to have some cancer-free time each day. Spend time NOT talking about cancer, even if only for an hour.
  4. To manage the post-mastectomy surgical drainage tubes you can purchase belts with pouches (some intended for showers, some not), or simply wear a hoodie inside out and place bulbs in the pockets on the inside.
  5. If you are considering reconstruction, a great reference book is: The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook by Kathy Steligo
  6. If you are experiencing a metallic taste due to chemo, try smoothies. You can put a lot of nutrition in them and the cool, fruity taste may be soothing.
  7. If you know you will be loosing your hair and it’s naturally long, you may want to get a short cut to lesson the trauma as hair falls out. Some may choose to proactively have their heads shaved, and some salons will shave your head for free if your hair is falling out from chemo. It’s worth the ask!
  8. Wigs, hats and scarves are all good options to keep you warm and comfortable with a bald head.
  9. There are eyebrow kits with stencils to aid in drawing in eyebrows if you choose to do so.
  10. Radiation is typically scheduled for a certain number of treatments and take place Monday through Friday.

There are seven chapters in the video series, so these are just the highlights. There is much more detail in the videos! Please check them out and comment with any thoughts or questions.

Our experiences become part of our stories, and to pass along what we have learned in the pages of our story is an invaluable gift. May your story end in health, joy and peace!


Living with & within gratitude

Gratitude is defined as: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. When asked, “What are you grateful for?” many respond with; family, food to eat, a place to live. If, in fact, these are what the person has in their life. These basics; community, food and shelter are the obvious things we can be thankful for, but also what we most often take for granted. Imagine if you didn’t have just one of these three, how much harder your life would be! In reality, there are many who do struggle without the basics, and even if you are not exposed to it daily, deep down you know this and appreciate what you do have.

How can you live with gratitude?

Experts encourage people to keep a gratitude journal, or simply listing three things you are grateful for each day, in order to remind ourselves of what we do have. This is what I call living with gratitude. It’s the first part of the definition; the quality of being thankful.

What is living within gratitude?

Living within gratitude takes things a step further. It is the second part of the definition; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. What does this mean? Say, for example, you are standing in a line and the person behind you strikes up a conversation. You’ve already had a long day, you might be feeling a little grumpy, and would rather not engage. You do have a brief conversation, however, during which the other person smiled and showed positive energy. You feel better as a result, and when you reach the front of the line, you return the kindness to the clerk. What happened in this scenario is a mindset adjustment. When you make a conscience decision to pause, and allow kindness and appreciation to flow between yourself and others, you are creating an environment of gratitude.

Gratitude for material things takes a mindset adjust as well. It’s really hard, for example, to feel gratitude when your furnace breaks down in the middle of winter. But, pausing and remembering that there are those without homes who are either huddled outside or sleeping in a shelter can put things into perspective. Sure, there is time and expense involved when things break down, and it is appropriate to feel upset at the circumstances. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, and then think of others to gain perspective and appreciation.

Why is gratitude important?

The number one reason to live with and within gratitude is simply the more you focus on being thankful, the less time there is for negative thoughts. You create increased happiness and less stress for yourself and others. In addition, it has been shown that being more optimistic has positive effects on physical health. Gratitude could be one of the easiest steps to better health! And, once you truly live within gratitude, you glow. It’s the kind of glow that makes people feel your positive energy and want to know the secret to it.

It may not be an effortless transition!

Just because gratitude is one of the easiest steps to better health, does not mean the transition to a gratitude filled life will be effortless. (Certainly less complicated than finding time to exercise and cook healthy meals each day! All of which are important.) It takes effort to make in-the-moment decisions and adjust your thoughts. but over time it will get easier. Share the secret! Eventually, expressing and showing appreciation for the people, things, and experiences in your life, will become a lifestyle. It becomes a part of you. A part of the smart, beautiful, creative, kind, amazing, thankful you!


Do You Have A Happy Place?

I admit it, I’m a suburb lady. I like to be close enough to bigger cities to have options, such as entertainment venues, but also have a little distance for less traffic and more safety. I like the convenience of being close to the stores that I frequent, and also like a quiet neighborhood. It’s not the city, nor the country, for me it’s just right. However, for 19 years I have had the honor of going to a farm weekly in the summers, and sometimes more, and I consider it my happy place. It’s funny, even to me, that a place I go to only ten to twelve times per year brings me so much peace and joy, but I think the infrequency is part of the magic.

This farm that is so special to me is Freedom Farm Therapeutic Riding Center in Waverly, Minnesota. The therapeutic horse back riding is for children and adults with physical, mental and emotional challenges. The farm also has Healing With Horses – a veterans program, and Freedom Academy – an alternative learning program and Accredited Public High School. Freedom Farm is located next to the home of it’s founder, Susie Bjorklund and while there are some staff, the farm relies on many volunteers for it’s programs, fundraising and operation. This is the what, and now I’ll try to capture the why.

Let’s begin with the drive. For me it’s about a 45 minute drive one-way to the farm. As city turns into country I notice myself taking deep breaths as I leave my daily environment and the sights take over. The sky becomes bluer, and occasionally I see an Eagle souring through it. The grass and trees are a deep, rich green. Without buildings in the way, the landscape stretches out and the cotton-white clouds look close enough to touch. The natural beauty calms me. As I drive past fields and tractors I think about the farmers and how grateful I am for their hard work to produce the bounty of food often taken for granted by city-goers.

Once at the farm, the sights and sounds are evident. There are riders and volunteers arriving, staff moving horses from outdoors to the arena, as well as a cat and puppy in their favorite spots. You can smell the hay, and hear the horses and goats. More deep breaths.

It’s the energy, though, that really makes this place special. Freedom Farm is love, kindness, friendship, healing, learning, laughter and respect, all mashed together into a calm, yet happy energy. The stars, among all this energy, are the horses. Their personality, strength and unconditional love creates magic. I have witnessed this magic in riders learning to talk, learning balance and posture, overcoming sensory issues..all while riding. Then when the ride is done, there is bonding between the rider and the horse during brushing, and hugs before departing. These large, beautiful animals truly heal, physically and emotionally. Here’s a link to learn a little more about about the horses.

While I am passionate about Freedom Farm and I encourage anyone in the area to think about volunteering there, a happy place for you may be something completely different. Perhaps it’s a cabin, or simply a patio or deck outside your home. Is there a place you go to for soul searching? A place you find yourself going to over and over again? Whatever, wherever this place is, it should be a place of calm and joy. It is essential to a person’s wellness to create opportunities for happiness. Sometimes, I know, this is easier said than done and in this case, one could multi-task. Now I’m not encouraging you to bring work into your happy space, although doing work in a calm, happy environment would certainly make the task easier to complete. In the case of Freedom Farm, volunteers are in a joyous place, and they are providing a service. Perhaps there is a place you love, that feeds your soul, AND it’s a place that you can give to with your time.

Choosing a happy place may take some thoughtful, creative consideration, but it will bring you increased energy and focus, better sleep and better mood, and a sense of calm and joy. It may even bring you magic!