Choices and change

Creating the life you want involves choices. 

I made a wonderful choice a few months ago, and I am now back in the United States Peace Corps as a Response Corps Volunteer in the beautiful  country of Macedonia. I spent three years in Macedonia from 2006-2009 as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in the Municipality of Bitola. I’ve been lucky enough to journey back here for pleasure and projects each fall since then.

When the opportunity to serve again with the Peace Corps in Macedonia arose earlier this year, I decided to give it a go. Response Corps and I are good friends. Last year, after visiting Macedonia for 6 weeks, I flew to the Republic of Georgia to serve as a Response Corps Volunteer at the Ministry of Environment for three and a half months. As always, I had a great time, learned a lot about myself and the world and lived with an amazing host family in TbilisiResponse Corps offers short-term, very focused assignments to former Peace Corps Volunteers, and now for the public, as well.

I invite you to follow and share my three month journey – I will be posting photos and more about Macedonia in the weeks ahead, along with my Wishful Thinking Works posts.

Creating the life you want takes couragecommitment and change. What have you been thinking about doing? What excites and inspires you? Why not spend a few minutes this week, exploring what’s ahead for you? Click here for easy to use sheets that can help you explore your dreams – big or small.

Then check out the The Power of Fortune Telling to take your dreams to the next stage!

PS Rest assured your dreams are possible, there was a time when I believed living and working abroad was an impossible dream for me, and I have happily proved myself wrong time and time again. And, I’ve seen my clients change their lives in ways they never thought possible.

Challenge the limits you’ve set for yourself – push the boundaries of your dreams. Take a risk in the direction of your dreams.

Wishful Thinking Works!

PS Here is a post about one of my favorite places in Macedonia, the nearby village of Dihovo.

How to become your personal congruency champion

Creating change takes action, and action in the direction of your dreams is a form of congruency. It’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It’s doing what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it. It’s living according to your values. 

Congruency, if you let it, can be a powerful motivator and an amazing life enhancer. Here’s how:

After you have moved in the directions of the dreams by taking a risk or moving forward with an action step on the way to a goal – give yourself credit for doing it. Each and every time you accomplish your daily goal or just do something that is in accordance with your values or your dreams, stop and tell yourself something kind, supportive and energizing.

Examples:

  • “Wow, I did it. I walked for 30 minutes. I did just what I said I would do. I’m really happy that I did what I said I would. I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “I promised myself I would start using Active/Constructive communication more often, and I did. It felt great and I could see how happy it made . . . it felt good for me too, and I feel proud that I did what I said I was going to do. I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “That wasn’t easy, but man doing it felt great!  Come to think of it, “I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “Passing up that piece of pie wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, feels great to be taking better care of myself.  I’m really am good at doing what I say I will do.”
  • “Not smoking is killing me, but I feel great to be doing what’s important to me in the long run. I’m good at doing what I say I will do.”

5 tips to becoming  your personal congruency champion:

  1. Be specific – include the action you took when you give yourself credit.
  2. Be you – put your supportive statements in your words; they have to sound right to you.
  3. Be positive – always end with the sentence “I’m good at doing what I say I will do.” It took courage, energy and commitment to do what you did, so you are not exaggerating or lying – you are good at it!
  4. Be consistent – try to champion yourself each and every time you do what you say you are going to do. Repetition is important when forming a new habit, and becoming your own congruency champion is new for most folks. So no matter how corny or awkward it feels, do it and keep doing it! Learn to catch yourself doing good, and the verbally reward yourself for doing it.
  5. Be aware– take 30 seconds to savor at least one congruent moment a day.  You can savor the feeling right after you do it, or before you go to sleep at night, or first thing each morning – pick the time that works for you.
    1. Please note: This is an important part of the change process, because walking the walk can be difficult and may not feel uplifting or rewarding on any given day or in any particular moment, but feeling good about doing what you said you were going to do is an empowering elixir, and if you let it, it can change your life – so savor your success.

Change takes change, and for many of us living in accordance with our wishes and giving ourselves credit for doing what we said we were going to do, is new – it’s a change. Achieving change takes support. Becoming your own congruency champion is a great way to give yourself the support you need.

I know you can do it!

The ajvar trilolgy – redux

Have autumn changes begun in your part of the world? In southwest Florida, where I live the changes are subtle, but perceivable if you slow down enough to notice.

As the weather begins to change, every country has it’s fall traditions. In Macedonia where I spent three years as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006 to 2009, and have been lucky enough to return every year since then. Macedonian fall weather is similar to the crisp, cool and colorful days of northeast Ohio where I grew-up, but one of their traditions is very different and so aromatic that the wonderfully rich and dusty scent of roasting red peppers in preparation of making ajvar stays with you for life.

Ajvar (pronounced I-var) is a delicious tasting, dark-orange to deep-red, roasted red-pepper spread that can make even the coldest winter day seem a bit sunnier. Every Macedonian home has their special recipe, and each is equally delicious. To honor and share the ajvar-making process, I wrote this post last year while visiting Macedonia; I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to give ajvar a try, which I whole-heartedly recommend, you can find it at Trader Joe’s and many Eastern-European grocery stores here in the States. It will add zest to your table and will be a perfect accompaniment to any fall party, where family and friends gather to share companionship and a respect for traditions – including football!

In Macedonia, making ajvar is not only a tradition, it’s part of the fabric of life.

Families gather in villages, towns and cities for days of roasting, plunging, peeling, cooking, and stirring deep red peppers to creamy perfection. The aroma of roasting peppers permeates the autumn air. Kilos of peppers are bought in Macedonian fresh markets (pazzars) for the equivalent of American pennies. (One kilo equals 2.2+ pounds.)

Fall pazzar favorites

Their pungent crimson, thick, flesh dominates the cooking scene at this time of year. It seems every family has a special recipe for creating this rich spread, which is scooped into sterilized jars, set on shelves and shared with family and guests throughout the winter.

Fresh peppers are stuffed with cheese or meat and baked to perfection. Peppers of all shapes, colors, and intensity – burn-your-mouth-hot to sweet and mild – are served at almost every meal swimming in oil. The remaining peppers adorn walls and balconies, and are dried so large chunks of their leathery, slightly crisp, dusty-flavored goodness can be added to a delicious array of meats and bean dishes to warm-up meals during the colder months.

This year my American guest, Annie, and I had the honor of being on-hand for part of my friend Dragica’s ajvar-making odyssey. Dragica’s spirit and love of life flavors everything she does, her tasty ajvar being no exception.

We arrived after the ruby red capsicum had been roasted and peeled – a full day’s work. Our day of ajvar making (watching) began when the wood was burning and the peppers were slid from a huge pail into an even wider-mouth enamel pot for the long and arduous cooking and stirring process. Ajvar is always made outdoors, and city neighbors set-up shop in garages and backyards.

This year, after enjoying Turkish coffee and rakija in the mid-morning shade and chatting in broken English and Macedonian with her friendly and interesting neighbors, we moved to the steamy garage to talk with Dragica’s husband and college-aged sons, Marjan and Dan, who were home for ajvar making.

We decided the process might benefit from some literary inspiration – Dragica loves writing poetry, and within minutes we had created the following masterpieces. (Please remember these words were created with love, just like ajvar, and followed some homemade rakija sipping, which is basically moonshine-light and another great part of the Macedonian way of life. I must admit not everyone was sipping, but those of us who did felt even warmer and cozier.)

And, now without further ado . . .

The Ajvar Trilogy

Created with love and inspired by moments shared by Dragica, Marjan, Dan, Annie and me.

The Flavor of Ajvar

Red as the burning coals
Hot as a chick
Ladle mixing food, family and friends
Circle of life
Tastes so fine, makes me want to drink a bottle of wine.
With bread and cheese, we will eat with ease
Rex sits watching like TV.

Notes: Rex is their huge German Shepard, who sat  quietly by. Can you guess which lines her sons added?

Lace in the window

Smiling faces looking down
Cooling breeze
Smell of smoke and peppers overtakes the day.
Mother and sons, paddling together.
More oil, much better.

Ajvar Beach

Many friendly people sit on ajvar beach.
Who asks what is that?
Foreign fires burning,
Roasting tradition.
Sharing time with family and friends as the earth tilts away from the sun, is a wonderful way to lighten your mood and warm-up your life. Do you have some favorite fall traditions? What do you love to do?
 
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