A Pause For Reflection

The rush is over … the presents unwrapped, and the New Year a whole week away. How will you spend these ‘bonus’ days of 2011? Feet up, enjoying a well-deserved rest? Feeling guilty for all the ‘should-haves’ that never got done?  Setting some no-regret goals for the future? The Mountain Farmgirl sees them as a unique opportunity to appeal to our ‘better selves’ without beating ourselves up in the process. Come join her in a brief “Pause for Reflection”…

I consider it the “Bonus Week” … this time between Christmas and New Year’s.  If we’ve piled pressure upon ourselves with holiday demands such as shopping for (or making) long lists of Christmas presents, cleaning the house and preparing a feast for visiting relatives, making cookies for the local holiday ‘swap’, organizing a group of carolers in the neighborhood, or making costumes for the children’s Christmas pageant … then starting today you have the slight reprieve of a well-deserved and much-needed rest!

So I’ll be brief, so that you can go back to whatever you were doing. But here’s some advice I’d like to share while you’re enjoying it: This week try to give yourself permission to keep the pressure off.  If you have school-aged children, there are probably neither classes nor homework to check on (and if you homeschool like we do, most likely you are on ‘vacation’ too!). Revel in the freedom from endless lists and self-imposed responsibilities. Take a deep cleansing breath and feel the tension melt away! Then consider how this would feel for more than a few brief moments in your year. Occasionally we get such ‘time off’ when we are sick ... but then we are too ill to enjoy it.  Our bodies know when rest and healing is required even if we don’t, and if we don’t consciously indulge ourselves in this precious-but-necessary commodity called ‘down time’, then often we get sick and are forced to do it.

Since we’re in ‘decompression mode’ right now, this might be a good time to reflect on where we’ve been this past year and where we’d like to go in the upcoming one. It’s so easy to look back and think about all the things you could’ve, would’ve, should’ve done. Rather than feel good about what you DID

do, you’ll feel guilty about what you DIDN’T! This self-sabotage thinking doesn’t accomplish anything positive and actually makes us feel inadequate and depressed, so don’t go there!  It’s taken me a while to let go of that behavior. While it’s great to hold ourselves accountable for what we have or haven’t done, let’s not beat ourselves (or puff ourselves) up about it! Every day is a new beginning, a clean slate. It’s a given that there will be mistakes we can learn from.

I read an article last week by someone I respect a lot in the blogging world who advocates something totally radical --- at least for a list-oriented person like me --- which is the goal of “Have No Goals”!  Honestly, I couldn’t wrap my mind around that at first. Not have goals? You’ve got to be kidding me!  How would anything ever get done? How will I become a better person? How will I accomplish the things I want to do in my life? My art? My business? My relationships?

In my family, when I was growing up, the worst thing you could ever say about someone was that they were ‘lazy’, and I’ve lived my whole life proud of the fact that it is a term that has never been applied to me. I once had a fierce German grandmother who had no interest in her grandchildren until they were old enough to be put to work and help her on the farm. I overheard her talking about me to someone one day: “She’s a worker,” she said. Three words. A deep sense of pride welled up in me; I had become accepted … I had arrived!! Sadly, it was based on ‘what I did’ rather than ‘who I was’ and there lies the crux of the problem that we take into our daily lives from childhood.

The treadmill of responsibilities that we pile upon ourselves do not often reach into the hearts of our lives; they are mostly external. And while many are necessary for our very existence, such as putting a roof over our heads or a meal on the table, we often get so busy in making the details happen  that we neglect the spiritual side of our natures, that of attending to and feeding our souls. I know this, and still the Protestant work ethic has been ingrained into my every cell so thoroughly that I even jokingly refer even to our homeschool as the ‘John Smith Academy’ (No Work, No Food … get it?!). And so the tradition of To Do lists perpetuates to yet another generation.

Of course the wisdom of successful everyday living is in the balance that lies somewhere between the two. ‘No goals’ doesn’t work for me, at least in my pre-retirement stage of life. General goals are important as long as we are not too busy to smell the roses along the way. To be fair, the article I read actually makes a distinction between “Choices” and “Goals”. The author considered such things as Being Happy, Being Healthy as ‘choices’ whereas pressures and stresses of To Do lists were what he considered ‘goals’.  I guess that’s a matter of semantics and definitions.

The last couple of years I have tried to have more generic goals underlying those long and ever-present daily To Do Lists! Some will remember me writing about the ‘Year of Living Frugally’, my continuous ongoing life-experiment to live lightly – and small -- upon the earth. Sometimes I’m more successful at it than others. Sometimes I fail dismally.  I keep trying. 2011 was my year to unleash the pent-up artist within me. I have let her out, and it has been liberating! Both of these life-choices will continue, but I haven’t yet adopted my latest focus for this new year. I’ll use this week to think more deeply about it. I call it “The How” list … they are descriptions of HOW I want to live my life. Some of the ideas I’d like to incorporate are:
• living more kindly
• living more intentionally
• slowing down; being more present and ‘in the moment’
• living more healthfully
• living a more service-oriented life with the focus on others rather than myself


Of course there are always “The WHATs” to consider … those concrete, measurable goals that require real, everyday work as well, each with their own unique set of responsibilities. For me they include:
• Helping my son Noah and his fiancé plan and experience a wonderful wedding in May, in whatever ways I may be useful to them
• Continuing my writing of blogs and articles for publication
• Doing the daily marketing for my business
• Homeschooling our son Joshua

So now it’s time for Show and Tell … What about YOU??!
I hope each and every Farm Girl had a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it), and that the joy of the holidays will continue this week as you find your personal guiding lights to live by in the coming year. I’d love to hear what some of them are for you.  Please drop me a line in the comments below … and as always, may your lives be blessed with all the things that your minds can conceive and your hearts desire! Happy New Year!


Until next time, 

Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from  Cathi, The Mountain Farmgirl



By: Cindy
On: 12/26/2011 07:24:25

It's glorious to have a whole week without HAVING to do anything. Much needed rest, absolutely, but more importantly having the time to go within and contemplate and dream. No stress, no deadlines, no alarm clocks going off at 6:15am. There is a website called "Inner Christmas" that addresses this idea of going within during this sacred time of year. Twelve nights actually, where you are free to explore and listen and nourish yourself in a way that far too easily gets put on the back burner in life. It's easy to find on Google and touches on many things you have pointed out here. Thank you for gently pointing us to a soft place to land during these blessed days between now and the New Year. Enjoy your week!

Thanks, Cindy. Our college age son Noah just left this morning after a glorious week with us, and now I am ready to take my own medicine and relax! I will savor every moment.  Wishing you a sacred time as well, and a very happy New Year. -- cathi

By: Ruth
On: 12/26/2011 07:25:25

I LOVE your blog! And this latest one especially hit home for me! We women, the caretakers - no matter how issues/times evolve, we still find ourselves in that role, don't we? And we do have those times of hopelessness, feeling we can't get it all accomplished! I'm going to reread this every time I feel that way! Thank you for sharing - ALWAYS! I feel better and renewed w/every email offering you send our way!! Happy holidays!!

Thank you for your very kind words, Ruth. Yes, we are the caretakers, but we so often don't take the time to take care of ourselves, forgetting that if we  get sick and are out of commission, then everything else suffers, too!  Wishing you a wonderful week and a fabulous New Year! -- cathi

By: Marty Harger
On: 12/26/2011 07:27:07

For 2012, I will begin each day with joy in my heart and a smile on my face. What I send out to the world, will be returned in abundance. Happy New Year and thank you for all your words of wisdom. Today's message really resonated...whew, now I must put my feet up and stare at the mountains for a few minutes. Let it snow...at least here in Utah!

Dear Marty, Utah is a world away from NH, but it is snowing here too, and thinking of you writing to me, with snow gently falling, makes the miles seem less! I appreciate your heart warming comments. I wish you all the best in the coming year. Blessings, cathi


By: Pat
On: 12/26/2011 08:10:00

Hi Cathi ~ I live in a small town just south of Concord, NH and my husband and I are empty-nesters with 4 grandsons and another on the way any day now. We are full of anticipation for what 2012 will bring and we feel thankful that we are finally where we always wanted to be. In 2011, we moved into a log cabin at the end of a dirt road on 8 acres of land that we will be using for organic gardening and we have lots of chickens that give us a bountiful supply of eggs that we share with relatives, friends & neighbors. We plan to supplement our food supply (we are on a fixed income)with turkeys and roasters this spring. I just love your blog because there are so many fantastic ideas and comments from other country girls. Best wishes for a wonderful 2012 ~ Happy New Year!!
Moose Hollow Farm

Dear Pat, How wonderful to hear from a fellow NH farm sister! Congratulations on moving to your paradise at the end of the road! Best of luck to you and your husband as you continue your stewardship at Moose Hollow Farm ... and also on your upcoming grandchild. If you are ever a couple of hours north and get to the White Mountains, please look me up here in Jackson at The Lodge! A veryy happy New Year to you, too! - cathi

By: DrMolly
On: 12/26/2011 08:11:03

Thank you Kathi for a wonderful reminder about slowing down. Even in my "almost there (only 9 months to go) retirement time" I keep having to be reminded I need to slow down and live my life as wish it not as it's "supposed to be". From the botom of my heart - Have a great New Year

Dear Dr. Molly, Thank you so much for writing. 9-months and counting?  Woo hoo!! From what I can tell, 'retirement' is a misnomer ... I think it can get busier  than when 'working' ... but hopefully it is doing what we want to do, rather than what we  have to!  I hope it will be a wonderful year for you in every way! - cathi

By: Deb
On: 12/26/2011 09:54:07

Thanks for the wise words. I feel that this week is "sacred" for me as I too feel that it is a week for self-reflection and time to regroup and plan for the coming year the things that are important to me.

Great posting, thank you.

Dear Deb, It is so nice to hear from you. I will be thinking of you as you enjoy the week of self-reflection, as will I be. I hope the coming year will be everything you hope for and more! Thanks for writing, cathi

By: TJ
On: 12/27/2011 07:53:47

How ironic; I'd just finished updating my Daily/Weekly Calendar with my to-do list and schedule. It makes me uncomfortable to see blanks where normally we are busy - I'd actually written "NO BSF", "NO Chi-Tu Do", "NO Awana" on their normal slots, just so I could see it written down. :) My husband says I don't "do rest well".
Well, perhaps I can spend the week recharging my cranky Kindergarteners (we homeschool also) and slowly returning the house and our lives to normal, rather than racing the clock and checking off my list. Thanks for the very timely reminder!! God bless you!

It is funny how hard it is to be still and do nothing!  ... almost as hard as being quiet and just listening!  It doesn't come easily to us, but is a skill worth acquiring! (I'm still learning, by the way, and not always successful!!).  Thank you so much, TJ, for writing and sharing your thoughts.  I hope you have a wonderful year ahead. - Blessings to you and your family, cathi

By: Debbie
On: 12/28/2011 13:43:06

Dear Sister Cathi,
Happy New Year from the Beach! I love this post... I too have always been goal oriented, but with a twist. I tend to follow my daydreams better than I do lists, but I have taken up keeping better track of them by writing them down in a journal in order of importance. At night I leave my pages open to the universe on my night stand in hopes the waves of inspiration will return with more guidance. I guess what I'm saying is that I am more intuitive about what and how I spend my time vs. a concrete to do list! It works for me, most of the time, but like everything, it's not perfect... what is really? I'm thoroughly enjoying some much needed and deserved down time this week... Oh, I can hear the rustlings of new ideas and inspirations for the coming year in the back of my mind, but I'm keeping them quiet for now...They'll have their say eventually! :)
Enjoy this time of rest!
Farmgirl hugs!
Deb ( your beach blogging sister )

My Dear Friend,

You are always so faithful with your comments and I very much love hearing from you! I love your open journal idea ... 'must try that! I'm always catching myself thinking that it's "I" who am directing my days and my lists ... but that is deceptive thinking; there is so much more at work! Thanks for that reminder, and as you indulge in that much needed R&R this week, I can't wait to hear how those "rustlings" manifest themselves this year!   Lots of love and hugs from the mountains, cathi  PS Happy New Year to you and your family

By: Nicole
On: 12/29/2011 07:07:40

Hi Cathi!
I love this post. I feel the same way. This week, there is no school, no girl scout meetings to drive to, no knitting classes for me to teach, no deadlines, and yes, no "to do list". I have said "no" to invites for play dates, and have made sure that my daughter and I "recharge our batteries", much to my husband's urging. (He says I am so much like the Energizer Bunny, and I do have a tendency to push myself to the brink of exhaustion). This week, my daughter and I have made no formal plans, just doing what we feel like with each day when we get up. No rushing. It's a great week. Have a Happy New Year (and a relaxed week)! Hugs! Your blogging sis, Nicole (Suburban Farmgirl Blogger)

The Energizer Bunny lives at my house too, Nicole ... and I have hidden her batteries this week!  Enjoy the week with your daughter (and husband) with no outside pressures. I love reading your posts, and hope we can meet some day.  In the meantime, thanks so much for writing and have a very Happy New Year! much love from the Mountains from your farmgirl sister cathi

By: Becky
On: 01/05/2012 09:46:54

I was so intrigued by your story of your German grandmother as I come from the German work ethic myself and I struggle to balance work with rest and peace. I have a job that you literally could do 24 hours a day and it still would not be enough so it is important to limit myself. My father never called in sick a day of his life and he is very ill now and literally worked until he got too sick to go on. I am reminded so profoundly by your words of the Puritan work ethic that there is a happy life balance there that is just as important as work. To a new year with a good balance!

Thanks so much for writing, Becky. The same to you in the New Year; here's to 'Balance' ... with just enough wackiness thrown in for good measure!! Blessings!

By: Theresa
On: 01/09/2012 19:26:24

A winter's night greeting to you, Cathi~

I sit here with a gentle light glowing, windows open, and the "inherited" fountain serenely bubbling away. A full moon spellbinds me as I prepare for a late night of reading of gifts from our local library.

This CHRISTmas found me truly gentling in for the season. Not a usual for me as I enter my 60th year. Reflection upon each and every CHRISTmas card. Making ONLY the candy that we truly adore. Popping sugar popcorn with the hubby to the tune of his Grandma's recipe. Redeveloping my mama's Slovakian kolachi recipe. One of the kindest CHRISTmases ever.

My only question???? Why did I wait so long to gentle into the season? To remember the reason for the season? Ah...sometimes we are entertained by angels unawares. Your words of wisdom are perhaps, a divine inspiration.

Thank you! A blessed Happy New Year to you and your family~
Grandma T over @
Tindel Den Cottage
Lake Wales, Florida

Dear Grandma T, Your poetic words transport me into their raptuous mood ... your CHRISTmas sounds delightful, and I am so glad you wrote to share your beautiful holiday. Wishing you the best, as you carry these sentiments and lifeways into the coming year.  Blessings to you, Cathi

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir