New Website!!

I have now moved to a new website…. please check it out! I have a post up at Love Big, Live Small that explains all the reasons for the move, and why it’s a good thing! THANKS! 🙂

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Pedal.

I was pedaling along a busy bike path with my eyes glancing to the river beside me and my thoughts were easy and slow. The air was clean and I breathed it in deeply, inhaling the memories this city always stirs up in me. The boys I thought were my world, my family changing, bending, and breaking, all of the friends I’d made and left behind, my many attempts to figure out who I was. This city has changed so much and I’ve changed even more being away from it. Contemplation, excitement, maybe even a little regret.

I’m in my hometown visiting family on vacation for two weeks and I’m amazed once again at how being home seems to quiet me. All of a sudden, I’m back to square one if only for two weeks. Back where it all started, where I made most of the beginning decisions that got me where I am today. Part of the reason why I think I get so contemplative in this city is because I am visiting the very places where my life started to take shape. These are no longer far off memories to be thought of, but real locations and people in front of my eyes. The park where we were caught by the cops after hours, the football field where we turned on the lights New Year’s Eve at midnight, the cross overlooking the city where Bryan and I first kissed 7 years ago. I can’t escape them when they are right there. Mostly why I think I tend to look back on my life, however, is because of how slow it is and how much time I have to think on vacation. I get to have lots of bike rides, quiet runs with my dog, trips to the coffee shop. I am away from all of my commitments at home and I get to just live how I want. That’s why they say you can never live where you vacation.

Over the last week, I’ve realized how important it is to take time to just be alone. Grabbing your bike or running shoes, leaving behind the IPod, and just being quiet. Taking in the world around you and watching life happen with nowhere else to be. To “find the universal elements enough…. the air and the water exhilarating” as John Burroughs put it. Obviously, on vacation having time to do this is a given. But how do we cultivate time for stillness and quiet in our everday lives?

Just like everything, it’s all about priorities. Making time for what’s important and literally penciling it into your calendar. Plan to wake up an hour early every morning and take a jog by yourself. Schedule an hour every evening before bedtime to journal. Commit to go hiking or on a walk every Saturday morning. It doesn’t matter how long you spend or how often you go for; it’s about why you are doing it. Taking the time to cool down after an argument before talking things over, thinking through some recurring thoughts you keep having, or even just to make yourself slow down and enjoy the scenery. So, make the time. To grab your running shoes. To go on a day hike. To Think. To Pedal.

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From a Wal-Mart Parking Lot

Our Wedding Day, Courtesy of Sarah Christiansen

From a Wal-Mart parking lot at one in the morning, we glanced at each other with tears in our eyes. Sunk into our seats under the burden of wanting to fix each other, my husband and I remained silent for a long time. I was plagued with doubt and uncertainty about our future together and wondering if we had gotten married too young. He was filled with guilt over spending the last 5 years getting a degree he didn’t think he’d be able to use and wondering what he would do with his life now. We sat and talked for a couple hours, daring each other to express the deepest parts of our hearts. I finally promised him I wouldn’t run away and I would do everything I needed to try and fix my uncertainties and he promised to find a way to make a career whether it was with his degree or not. And that night, we grew up as a couple, as we have done since the night before my high school graduation when he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Since last Thursday, Bryan and I have been living out of our car and it has been incredibly stressful. We’ve dealt with car issues, money stresses, our dog being scared of this temporary life we’ve put him in, still going to work during the week, and some unforeseen relationship issues. Our time together has also been a lot of fun. We took a nap in a park with our “guard dog” keeping watch, we spent some time in a coffee shop just talking with nothing else to think about, and we snuck into an undisclosed location like we were high school kids again, laughing the whole time.We’ve stretched ourselves further than I think we even thought we could go and it has brought us a lot closer. It’s funny what spending so much time together can do for a relationship.

I truly believe we need situations like the one Bryan and I are living in now to stretch us. We need to bend and realize we don’t have to break. For us right now, that looks like living out of a car for a week. What it always comes down to no matter what your situation, however, is simplifying your life and breaking down the distractions that hinder intimacy. In relationships specifically, we need to get rid of anything in the way that would cause walls to come up. And in relationships, sometimes that looks like turning off the television, cutting down your workload, and being intentional about budgeting so you have money for experiences together.

When we live a “normal” lifestyle cluttered with all sorts of distractions at home, we are just giving a foothold to things that would get in the way of a great life. We have doubts or fears, but we stuff them inside of ourselves and choose to watch television instead of talking to our partners about it because it seems easier to catch up on Celebrity Apprentice. We are scared we are letting our partner down by not being able to provide enough, so instead of connecting with our partner and finding a solution, we overload our work schedule and spend more time away from the ones we love. It seems more often than not, that we freely choose to disengage and check out with all of the distractions around us because it is just easier. It’s easier than telling our partner we feel let down by them, that we are scared about our future, or that we have some issues we need help working out.

The couples you meet that not only stay together for years and years, but are legitimately happy have done the hard work. They might have distractions around them, but they also log in the time for each other. They check in regularly even just to catch up and talk candidly about life. They set up their lives with each other in mind and they take time for themselves when needed. They slow down life a little bit to enjoy each other and work through the hard stuff that comes up. They turn off the television, unplug the phone, set down the laptop, look into each others’ eyes, and they talk. And they grow up as a couple, whether from their couch or from the front seat of their car in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

**Just a quick note to let all of you amazing readers know that we are going to be traveling for the next two weeks, so I will continue to post, but it might be more infrequent! Thank you so much for the support!

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The Things I Keep

Scrapbooking Stuff

In one week, I will be moving out of my apartment. A week after that, I will be living out of my car with my husband and dog for a couple weeks traveling through Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. As I’m in the middle of the packing process thinking about living with just what we can fit into our car (with the exception of some furniture and small things in storage), I’ve had to figure out what’s most important to me. Out of the things I own (not including what my husband and I share), I’m keeping very few things. Clothing items, my wedding dress for a “Trash the Dress” photo shoot this summer, basic toiletries, books, outdoor gear, my small jewelry box, and my memory box. I had to make some tough decisions about what to keep and what to toss, but here’s what I decided and why:

Keepers:

Photo Albums and Pictures- I have one very old photo album that has been in our family for probably 50 years. It is my Grandpa’s old photo album with pictures of his wedding to my Grandma, her bridal shower, and various camping/fishing trips they went on with family. I also have a couple ziploc bags full of photos from my childhood that are irreplaceable. Obviously, I will continue to keep all of these things for the rest of my life and hopefully pass down to my own children. To me, they are not just things that clutter my closet, but reminders of family members I’ve cherished and who I always want to be able to look at good memories of. I’ve heard other minimalist’s say holding on to these things is holding on to the past too much. I believe it’s good to have reminders of our past and to hold them within reason. I limit myself to one medium sized storage box full and I think that’s reasonable.

Jewelry- I have several pieces of jewelry that will follow me from home to home. The most precious to me is a set my Dad passed down to me when I was 18; my Grandfather’s wedding band and my Grandma’s wedding set. My Mom and Dad also used them until their divorce. I also keep the promise ring my husband gave me before we got engaged and the emerald purity ring my Mother gave me as a teenager. Each of these items holds a place in my heart as they symbolize different places in time that are very precious to me.

My Cameras- I know this might sound like a weird choice, but I have an amazing passion for capturing life’s most beautiful moments. I know I will always have this passion, so I keep my digital camera and my old film camera with me to be able to do just that. After a couple trips of taking photos, I download them onto my computer and we save those onto a hard drive every few months. I always go through my photos when I upload them and delete the ones that I know will just be baggage, and I keep only the essentials, the ones I will look back on with fondness.

My Outdoor Equipment- Most of my free time and money goes towards my hobbies, which usually includes a good amount of outdoor recreation. Though these things can be bulky and annoying to move, I’ve decided that they are essential to my way of life and will always be around. This includes my snowboard gear, my sleeping bag and pad, my backpack, my Camelbak, my tent, and my bikes. These are the majority of large items that I own, but to me, they are also what I spend the majority on my time on so they are necessary.

Tossed:

Scrapbooking Material- I have collected scrapbooking material for three years now and put a lot of money and energy into this hobby. I love being creative and spending time making books out of beautiful memories I have, but I ran into a problem. I realized I was spending so much money and so much valuable present time on memories that had already been created. I would spend a whole weekend day getting two pages down in a scrapbook that would ultimately just amount to being another thing in my home. I also noticed I had all of these great ideas in my head about what I wanted to do, but it was taking forever to get anything done. I starting to feel so anxious whenever I looked at my bag of scrapbooking supplies because I knew I had so much left to do. In the end, I decided I would rather spend precious time on my life as it is now and not spend a whole day in photos from my past.

Hair Products- As a hairstylist, I’ve collected random hair products over the years from contests won at school, former employers, and distributors. I usually give them out to friends or family after they’ve collected under my sink for awhile. Still, I realized that keeping all of those products (most of them aren’t even for my hair type) was just a waste of space. I am no longer going to seek out free products from my distributors and when the offer arises, I will turn them down. I’ve realized there is no point in keeping something “just in case”, so I have gotten rid of all of my hair products except for the dry shampoo that I use regularly for myself.

Old Drawings- The cousins that I’ve been blessed to watch grow up are now 5 and 6 years old. Over the last few years, they have taken to drawing us lots and lots of pictures. I went through a folder that I have for various documents today and realized that I had hoarded so many of these pictures. They are so sweet to me and I love seeing how much the girls have changed even through their drawings, but mostly these pictures end up in the back of a drawer and I forget they are even there. Today I decided to keep one from each of the girls and limit them to that. Their drawings are tucked into a special section of my folder that I reserved for letters from the child we sponsor and they will stay there for good, right next to his.

In life as well as in our homes, it’s important to assess what’s going on. What causes too much stress or doesn’t help you cultivate a healthy lifestyle? What is important enough that it is worth holding on to for good? I try to ask myself these questions constantly with the actions I take in life and the things I allow into my home. Being intentional about taking this inventory regularly (whether you’re moving or not) is essential to living a minimalist life.

**Just a quick note: I will be pretty busy these next couple weeks packing up my apartment, house sitting, trying to work out details on an apartment to come home to after my trip, doing last minute planning for my trip, getting in clients before I actually leave, and working on my book. I will try to post on here as regularly as I can, but please be patient with me in this time! Thanks so much for the constant support!

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Simplifying Our Transportation

The "T" in Boston, MA

We are accustomed to living lives of convenience. We can take a plane across the country in just a few hours, can record our favorite television shows and watch them whenever we want, and we can grab just about any type of food from our freezer and heat it up within minutes. Let’s face it, it’s just a fact that we like things to be easy.

A coworker of mine just returned from Spain where she faced some serious convictions. She noticed the Spanish all lived intentional lives. They rode bikes everywhere, utilized their public transportation, and lived close to the city to alleviate need for more fuel in the small cars they did drive. Since coming back, she’s decided to simplify her transportation efforts and she’s done a great job at it. She rides her bike 2 or 3 times a week to work and has become more intentional about where and when she goes places.

What if we all looked at our lives to see how we could simplify our transportation? What would it look like if we had more need for bike lanes and less for gas station lines? What if we wouldn’t worry when revolution rises up in North Africa because it could mean higher gas prices? How would it affect our city if everyone chose to work around bus schedules and riding bikes home before dark? These are dreams I would love to see carried out. Here are some ways I think we could all simplify our transportation:

  1. Choose to take the bus, walk, or ride your bike just one day a week. If you can’t commit to anymore than that, just start small. Plan your route and how long it will take, check the bus schedule, or plan to just walk. Even doing this one day a week, you’ll quickly start to crave the fresh air and love the time to think before and after work.
  2. Set your life up to be small. You will be much more likely to actually do these things if you are close enough to work, home, school, the store, etc… The point is to set up your life in a way that you are less dependent on the things you don’t need. If you live 20 miles from work, it’s going to be almost impossible to ride your bike to work, but the closer you are to the things you do, the easier it becomes. When choosing a job, buying a house, sending kids to school, or other things that become major decisions, try to set them all up within a certain perimeter. Also, remember that the closer you are to the city, the closer you usually are to more amenities.
  3. Think public transportation. Even if you live too far away to walk or ride a bike, you can still take the bus or railway. Not only will you save tons of money in gas (the local bus rides in Denver are $2.25), but you will learn the intentionality that has to be cultivated to use public transportation. I hear a lot of people complain about how inconvenient the bus system is here in Denver, saying you have to wait at a stop for around 15-30 minutes and usually leave your house an hour before you would need to if you just drove. I always tell those people that the people planning the routes are only going to keep cancelling routes and time slots if people continue to not take them.
  4. Be practical. Invest in the right equipment and the right bike. If you get out of work later at night, make sure to have a light installed on both ends of your bike. I also use a bike computer so I can time myself and keep track of my miles per hour averages. In Denver, the weather is always changing and I’ve become accustomed to always having my bases covered. I usually have a jacket even if it’s sunny and clear when I go into work, and I usually bring a second pair of shoes or just wear tennis shoes to work. Also, if you plan on riding the bus or lightrail, buy a ticket book from the store instead of using cash. This will keep you from spending your bus money on other things and make it more convenient if you don’t happen to have the correct amount. Be practical in knowing what to expect and don’t underestimate knowing how to plan.

These tips are all baby steps when it comes to traveling around your city as a minimalist. But by starting with these things and perfecting a couple at a time, you will be surprised by how quick you become a pro at simplifying your life through simplifying your transportation.

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On a Personal Note…

Good Friends Look Like This

This is going to be a weird post, I’m just saying. You might feel like you’re reading my journal. However, I’ve had a really hard couple months dealing with family issues and it has made me ask some really tough questions of myself. I’ve had to do a little evaluating of the relationships in my life, and after doing some really tough thinking, I thought it would be a good idea to post about it because it really applies to what I talk about on here.

We say as minimalist’s we strive to live life based on what’s important. Most of us have decided that means faith, relationships we spend time in, and investing in our community to make it better. What if the relationships we spend our time on are toxic? What if they leave us worse off than had we not pursued them? Even though we want to make things work (with family members, etc…), do our relationships with certain people become more of a burden? And what I’ve really dealt with recently… Are these people I want to spend a lot of time with when I have children to think about? Do I want this person having negative influence on my own daughter? These are the tough questions we have to ask, and the questions I fear I’ve found the answers to in my life.

Last week, I lost relationships with my Mom, stepfather, two older brothers, and sister. The only family members that love/have contact with me are my father and future step-mom and my younger brother who has to see me when I’m in town because my Dad has partial custody of him. That’s a really tough statement to chew on. I have loved my family so deeply over the last ten years since my parent’s divorce and have tried so hard in my adult years to be fair to everyone. I’ve tried to hear all sides of everything and be there for everyone. Until recently, I really felt like I was making progress. I truly believed there was nothing my family could do that would make me want to discontinue a relationship with any one of them. I was on speaking terms with everyone over the last couple years from time to time and my Mom and I were even planning a day of sewing when I go home in April. Things were really looking up and I felt like my hard work was starting to pay off. And then, we got some news that we just couldn’t get through. I won’t go into details because it really doesn’t matter. But everyone had to choose a side, and when I chose the “wrong” one, I was cut off from most family members. I chose to stand up next to my Dad, just because I didn’t want to see him go through anything else alone, and it was made clear that I would no longer be able to be in relationship with my mom, sister, and brothers. We went to court and it was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. All I wanted was to go back in time 15 years to when we were just kids and didn’t know about the legal process. I wanted to be able to hug my Mom and tell jokes with my brothers, but not at the expense of my Dad. I just wanted us all to be able to be in the same room without glares and nasty comments. It was a very intense time, but going through it really showed me what my future needs to look like.

Throughout the three days we were in court, I realized more and more each day how bitter and angry my family was. Each time I was called a “Princess”, I realized how easy it was for my family to make me feel alone. Each time it was said that my Dad bribed me to be in a relationship with him through offering money and gifts, I knew how far my family had come to knowing reality. And each time I heard bitter persecution of my Dad and the lies they told of our childhood, the more I knew I needed to let my family go.

As a Christian, I know about love and forgiveness. I’ve always thought I had to forgive everyone who hurt me AND continue a relationship with them for the rest of my life. Through the events of the last week and some serious evaluating, I know that’s not true. I can love and forgive all of the members of my family who have treated me badly and I can say from the bottom of my heart, I do. And I wish them the best for their lives. But I can also say that I will not be spending my time with them any longer. I’ve seen the depths of where they will go to get what they want and I want nothing to do with it. I’ve always said I don’t want to cheat my husband and future children out of our lives together by dealing with my siblings and mother’s issues. I believe my husband and future children deserve that. Just like that, the decision was made. On a regional jet, 30,000 feet in the air, somewhere between Boise and Denver. I need to move on from the relationships that hold me back.

I realize my family issues are very extreme and you probably don’t need to evaluate as much as I have, but I would challenge you to think about who you spend your time with. Seriously. Do you come home from hanging out with certain friends and find that you are more on edge than normal? Or do certain friends put pressure on you to say or do things you don’t normally say or do? Do you change who you are based on who you are with?

Minimalism is all about focusing on what’s important. Relationships are not just important, but essential. Make sure you are using this short time you have in life on the ones that truly matter. The friends that lift you up and speak the truth to you. The family that knows you better than anyone and looks out for you. The spouse that always leads you back to love and forgiveness.

**I want to thank you for hearing my heart. This was a hard post to put into words, but I know there is healing in the written word. And I also know I’m not the only one who deals with this. Thanks!

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Engaging in Your City

Living an intentional life goes beyond your own household. It means living intentionally in community, in the neighborhood and city that you live in. Living a life of purpose that is far more than what most people realize minimalism is. It is, at its core, being engaged in what’s going on around you in the communities you call home and recognizing needs in those areas to fill. It’s helping your friends find fulfillment outside of material possessions, giving to those who don’t have any basic worldly possessions, and choosing to live with a local mindset.

I believe in this idea so much. It requires more effort, eyes to see what is around you, and a loving heart to put others above yourself, but it is the most rewarding way to live. Basically, you won’t be able to just jump in your car, drive to the store, use the self checkout machine, and come back home without having made contact with one person. Over time, you will be so engaged with your community and the people around you that you will know the clerks at the store and their stories, you will notice the handicapped couple that ride their electric wheelchairs to the store in any weather and stop to talk to them, and you will notice where sidewalks need new pavement and appreciate when they get it. Here are some ideas about how to take the first steps to get there:

-Walk, Ride a Bike, or Take the Bus: You won’t see your city intentionally from the seat in your car. You will, however, know all of the songs on the radio and how to cultivate anger over construction sites and that doesn’t do anyone good. For this step, I’m not even asking you to stop taking your car to work. Even if you just try this to the coffee shop or a friends house, try it and recognize all of the new things you’ve never noticed. What I notice on my bike/bus commute in the morning is how much trash is always surrounding my bus stop, how there are about 7 gas stations on my 4 mile bike commute, and how the 76 bus is so busy now that they took out the 15 minute stops that there are always people standing in the bus. This step is all about being aware. We will talk about what to do with that awareness later, but for now, open your eyes to the things around you that you’ve never noticed behind your windshield.

-Invest in the Local Economy: Here in Colorado, supporting local business is huge. You will hear people talk about it all the time. And I know here in Denver, we’ve been hit by the bad economy, but I truly believe we are not feeling it as much as other cities because we all rally together to support local businesses and they are thriving. Three years ago, a time when it was pretty dumb to start a business, my salon popped up and the four of us that work together are doing really well because of our client’s commitments to supporting a locally owned salon. But not only does it keep the city going when things hit, it allows you to see your city in a different way. You get to know the owner of your coffee shop and hear about how he started it twenty years ago. You get to buy your vegetables from Al’s Garden next door to my salon and support someone who’s lived in the area for generations. You get to start a business doing what you’ve always wanted to do because you know people will be there. And you get to put real faces with every business you support, shedding a whole new light on the city you live in.

-Talk to People: Ask your barista/bus driver/waiter/store clerk their name, and if you have more than a couple seconds, ask about their story. Get to know the people that you see day in and day out, but never find the time to get to know. These are the people that you do community with whether you realize it or not and they are the ones that contribute to making your life what it is with their service. Thank them for what they do and try to spend time around them. If you are going to work on a project, do it at the coffee shop and spend a few minutes talking to your barista. If you have a few minutes, go talk to your neighbor that you always see smoking outside alone and hear their story.

I once heard an amazing story about a young man who was learning how to “evangelize”. He was very eager and excited to the get the message of Jesus out to those in the inner-city he was working in. He knocked on a woman’s door with a Bible in hand and asked her if she knew Jesus Christ. She became upset because she had other things to do and slammed the door. The young man felt discouraged and wasn’t sure how to proceed. He remembered that the woman had been smoking cigarettes and the baby she was holding wasn’t wearing a diaper, so he headed to the nearest store and bought cigarettes and diapers. When he went back to the woman’s house, she let him in and they sat together smoking cigarettes, playing with her baby, and talking. That young man learned a valuable lesson about people that day. All of us just want someone who genuinely cares and wants to know us. Whether you are a missionary like that young man or a hairstylist like me, make sure people know you hear them. Once you start doing this, your involvement in the city comes from such a heart of love for the city because you actually know the people that make it up.

-Live in Community: If you are single, this means living with roommates. If you are married or have children, this can mean living with roommates. If you can’t do either of these things, living in community means having best friends that challenge, strengthen, and confide in you daily. It means learning how to love and forgive, learning to continue on when you can’t seem to get through. It means doing life with others of all ages, demographics and backgrounds. This is a central concept to engaging in your city. The people around you make up the city you live in, and by living in community with them, you are learning the key principles of living intentionally, for yourself and others.

-Notice the Practical Things Around You: This is kind of the next BIG step. You can learn to do all of the things above, but if you don’t actively notice what’s going on in your city, you will never reach this intentionality. As you start to form relationships, take notice of what’s going on. In the last week of challenging myself to do this, I’ve noticed I have a neighbor who wears the same cut-off shorts all the time, sometimes even when it’s freezing outside. I’ve also noticed that a lot of people on the bus don’t realize the fare recently went up and don’t have the extra 25 cents to ride. On a larger scale, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of talk about being pro-life or pro-choice and that we have plenty of protesters at abortion clinics. And something I realized yesterday, there is a high school close to my salon that is mostly low-income and has a 46% graduation rate. It is impossible to ignore these things if you are out walking to your store, talking to the people you meet, and getting to know your city. I emphasize the seriousness of this because you will probably not see these things if you choose to stay closed off in the same bubble of friends you grew up with, in the suburbs, always in your car.

-Do Something About What you See: This is the buildup, the seemingly last step. Once you’ve gone through all of the things above and have become an integral part of the lifeblood of your city, you have to do something. And guess what? It never ends. You will always be working on this step. Remember my neighbor that wears the same shorts? I’ve committed to getting him a gift card to a clothing store nearby. And the people I notice who can’t pay bus fare? I’ve started carrying extra change in my wallet to pay their extra fare. The abortion protesters? A friend made me aware of this situation, and I’ve decided that in the near future I’m volunteering to work with a pregnancy center to counsel women, because nothing speaks louder than our love. I’ve also committed to starting a group for people to go to the abortion clinics that people protest at and staying after the protesters go home to pray with and talk to the girls coming out afterwards, because that seems to be when they need someone to listen to them the most. And the high school with the 46% graduation rate? I spoke with someone about volunteering my services to help do hair for girls heading to prom and helping out with their after-prom dance. I’ve been made aware that the same high school also has a high amount of teen pregnancy and I’d love to help reduce that by giving them a safe place to go after prom.

I say these things not to toot my own horn, but to show you my heart. I wanted to be invisible in this city for the last three years and turn a blind eye to the things I saw. I’ve spent too much time saying someone else would step up and take care of it. But after living intentionally on a small scale, these are the things I’m noticing on a larger, city-wide scale and my heart is breaking for the city I’ve come to love. As my heart breaks, however, I’m coming up with ways that I can help. And that’s what this way of life is about. Living small so not only can you find life away from material possessions and fleeting desires, but also so you can spend that extra time investing in your community. Making the place you love that much better. And that is what it looks like to engage in your city.

**Thanks for reading my thoughts! If you’d like to get an e-mail when I post new material, subscribe to the right. And if not, then please tell a friend about what inspired you and spread the word, or comment below to let me know what you loved! Thanks!

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