Author: micheleballantyne

Mother of 9, Grandmother of 12, blogger, artist, horse and animal lover, plant lover, nature lover!!! Currently I am involved in fiber arts making scarves and wall hangings. I also love spinning wool and will be including my character yarns into my fiber art! Yay!

Bringing a Vision to Life — PARADISE!

Tender ones.

Tender little ones.

Visions are evolving things.  As we journey through life we are drawn to things that interest us.  I have often wondered about my vision in life because my view of anything in the future, other than children, has always been vague.  The present always felt intense and exciting or scary depending on what was going on.

Lately, with the freedom to create my reality thanks to all the supporting factors, I am finding things are beginning to come together.  As I have been working on this website, revamping everything about it, I am finding the process to be a vision quest of sorts.  Over and over, as I explore different themes, I find my focus changing, moving toward several facets I am extremely passionate about:  children, animals, plants, art, survival skills, building, writing, and teaching.

If my list seems a bit long, blame it on attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which my daughter says I have.  You could say I am a Jill of all trades.  Throughout my life I have had so many interests, each of which I have pursued with obsessive intent until I feel I understand and can create within it to my satisfaction, then I find myself drawn to something new.

I will admit, with a bit of embarrassed pride, that I am an explorer.

As my new website design takes shape, so does my vision for the near future:

  • A petting farm for the most wonderful of humans — children — and their adults.
  • Workshops in primitive wilderness survival skills. like friction fire and survival shelters, for older children and adults.  I love to teach friction fire.  Friction fire was, in my opinion, the most important thing to learn when I went to Tom Brown Jr’s trackerschool.  Where else could I learn this.  Before trackerschool I thought friction fire was a myth!
  • Art workshops like felting wool and spinning wool, because I would not be happy if I couldn’t share this skill which brings me so much joy and bliss and peace all at the same time.
  • This blog space because writing is a large part of my vision and I love sharing my stories and perspective with others.  I believe each of our stories essentially belong to all of us because we are all connected.  As we share our stories, all those who hear are changed in some way.  One person’s story becomes another person’s story, and consequently moves them forward along their path.  They progress.  One person’s success is everyone’s success.  Their pain is everyone’s pain.  Their lesson is everyone’s lesson.
  • My store so I can offer my designs and art to others to enjoy.
  • The business that goes along with all these things.  The ability to work with my family, the animals, the plants, and the structures we have built here on our little hobby farm; to create an income to help provide for the costs of living while doing what I love and sharing that with others.

My desire is to offer the many things I have enjoyed learning. To pass on the knowledge that has come to me.  To complete the cycle.  I hope you enjoy what I am creating and that somehow you can benefit from what I have to offer.

Paradise is the name I have chosen for this new venture, and there is a story behind the name.  Maybe a year ago, my grandson was sitting in our back yard with his grandfather, my son in law’s dad.  He looked up at his grandfather and exclaimed with glee, “This is just paradise, isn’t it?”  Looking around at our disheveled process of building and growing this space, his grandfather, who may not have previously described our little bit of heaven that way, looked at his grandson with fresh eyes and said with a twinkle, “Yes!”

Child learning to lead a horse

A child or an adult can feel the connection between themselves and a horse as they learn to communicate though cues such as leading and riding. Very empowering!

Fear and Weight Loss

When I was a newbie at Tracker School (see I wanted to go to the Scout class, which had the prerequisites of the week long Standard class, the week long Advanced Standard class, and the week long Advanced Tracking and Awareness class.  The scout class is also a week long class where during the day you learn techniques of the ancient Apache scouts, and by night your team is camouflaged and raiding other team’s camps till usually 2 or 3 am.  Most days there is a time in the afternoon where the students do exercises on a log over the swimming hole, walking the log, walking it blindfolded, jousting with out partner, and even blindfolded fighting to name a few.  For me, this sounded very exciting, but I was terrified of not being up to the physical element of the class.

Fear drove me to work very hard on getting in shape for the class.  I lost 25 lbs and was able to jog two miles without stopping.  Not too bad for a 47 year old mother of 9.

I was also afraid of the log work over the water, so I practiced walking on the narrow edges of 2 x 6 boards nailed to posts, both eyes open and blindfolded.  That preparation taught me a little of what to expect, and how to overcome my fear.  I ended up enjoying the log work more than anything else that week!

One of my teachers, Karl Direske, of Wilderness Fusion, told me, “There is only a fine line between fear and excitement.”  I can see that.  I was so excited to go to Scout class, but I was also afraid!

Sometimes the desire to do something can drive us to overcome our fear and accomplish something we really want to do.  In this case, I was afraid I would not be physically fit enough for the class.  My desire drove me to spend a couple years preparing both mentally and physically.  When I finally registered for the Scout class I was also registered for a Vision Quest class the week before, and an Ancient Scout class the week after.  One of the young men in my school, upon hearing my plan, thought three classes in a row would be too much for me and I vacillated about taking the three classes consecutively, but an older woman from the school said, “Go ahead and do it if you want to.  Don’t let him talk you out of it.  You’ll be fine.”  I did go ahead, and it was wonderful!  Not only did I succeed in the classes, I also lost another 25 lbs during those three weeks, and was finally down to my ideal weight!

Fear is the opposite of faith, but fear can be turned to faith through preparation.  That reminds me of a scripture I heard once . . . “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”   Well, whaddaya know, ha ha!

Hosted a Felting Workshop Today!


I hosted a one on one workshop with a great artistic lady named Elly from Corvallis.  She made one very fluffy colorful scarf plus a smaller neck warmer scarf.  Here are photos of the large scarf as it is drying on the rack.  I taught Elly my method of felting which is much faster than the rolling on the noodle method.  MUCH faster!

We had fun and she says she will probably come to another workshop and make more felted items.

If my readers are interested in learning to felt, or just want a place to felt where there is instruction and lots of supplies (merino wool in all colors, silk fiber, wool locks, and more) for your project, please call me at 407-766-2588 or email me at and we will schedule a workshop for you.  I can have up to four participants at my workshops.  Workshops are 6 hours for $100, or 3 hours for $50.  In a 6 hour workshop a more complicated item can be made, like the scarf in the photo Elly made using locks of wool as a fringe and decoration, and possibly a second simpler item like a smaller neck warmer scarf.  In a 3 hour workshop a less complicated scarf or other item can be made.  You may notice that each side of the larger scarf Elly made is different.  The scarves you make at my workshops can be made to be reversible.


The flip side of the scarf.

IMG_4856 Elly at the workshop

After the wet felting, Elly applies a little needle felting on some stubborn fibers!

The “Explorer” and Weight Loss

I have successfully used many different diets, but I never want to use the same one twice because it’s boring to repeat something I’ve already explored.  Instead I will try something new.  I am beginning to think that is why there are so many fad diets; people want to try something new rather than the tried and true.

I am an explorer.  I love to learn new things, and once I’ve learned, I want to move on to something else.  To stay with the same old thing would be like torture.  Some of the things I’ve explored are public school, college, marriage, motherhood, divorce, another marriage, art school, water color painting, oil painting, acrylic painting, ceramics, jewelry making, printmaking, drawing, sewing, quilt making, drying and arranging flowers, herbal remedies, holistic medicine, wild edible and medicinal plants, survival school, philosophy, spirituality, friction fire, building structures like: log and cob, traditional stick frame, barns, art studio, shed, gazebo, remodeling, decorating, accounting, gardening, to name some.  These attracted my attention and I explored them with passion for periods of time.  I have loved learning and doing each of these things and I still dabble in all of them, but if I thought I would have to do any one thing on a daily basis I panic!  I can’t do that, I’m too restless and curious to stick with one thing.

The diets I have tried that work for me are: counting calories, food combining, the “don’t eat anything after 5 pm except grapefruit” diet, the Suzanne Somers diet which is also based on food combining, the pH balancing diet, the blood type diet, to name some.

Now, I can start using any one of these diets, which I know work, but sticking to them is a real challenge because I have already used them.  It’s boring to repeat a diet because the learning has been done.

I have been trying to develop something new.  I would like to be so in tune with my body that I can sense what I want to eat that is good for me and supports me becoming my ideal weight for health and happiness.  Remembering to check in with myself deeply, and asking the Sacred Question about what I would benefit most from eating, is where I slip up.  Changing my habits can be hard, but doable if I am curious enough.  I have to want it bad enough to make it happen.

I have to ask myself, “Do I want it bad enough?  What do I need to do to make it happen?  Am I willing to do what it takes?”  I have to be still and listen to the answers emerge from the stillness.  I can ask more than once and peel back the answers, layer by layer, all contributing to my understanding.  With these answers I will know how to proceed.  I will have the power to move forward and accomplish — I will also have the power to let it go and not pursue it.  The choice is mine and the way is shown by the answers to those Sacred Questions: “Do I want it bad enough?  What do I need to do to make it happen,” and finally, “Am I willing to do what it takes?”

These questions can be used for anything we might want to pursue in life.  I spent about 10 years going to classes at Tracker School to learn to trust myself.  By asking the Sacred Questions I learned I have the answers within me, I just had to learn to uncover them and trust myself.

Sleep, Your Schedule, and Weight Loss

Fatigue is one of the biggest triggers to eating food that is not on my diet.   When I am tired I eat to try to bring my energy level up.  This usually does not work and I end up taking a nap after I’ve eaten.  Why not just take the nap and skip the calories?  I’m learning to do just that . . . unless, of course, I don’t have time, then my diet goes out the window, and once I start sliding down that slippery slope, reining myself back in can be almost impossible (I might as well have some ice cream too since I already blew it).

Why do I not have time to rest when I need to?  Because, like most of you, my time is not always my own.  I have teenagers whom I chauffeur around (willingly), I have errands to run, I have projects.  I do my best to keep my time commitments to a minimum because my anxiety levels demand it.  Even so, there are times when things sort of pile up and I abandon my diet in favor of quick pick me ups I can get while I’m out and about.

My issue with getting enough sleep would be easier if I didn’t have insomnia at night.  I don’t want to go to sleep.  I don’t want to dream because my dreams are so often frustration dreams.  I would rather be doing something I am interested in doing.  Plus, sleep would be easier if I didn’t become anxious at night when I know I’m scheduled to get up early to take my daughter to school, or scheduled to do anything before noon.  Then anxiety will keep me awake and just make things worse.  I finally realized that trying to go to sleep when I feel anxious just doesn’t work.  In addition, thanks to my nerve issues, I have been needing at least 12 hours of sleep every night to feel good and awake.   So instead of stressing about not getting enough sleep, I find I’m better off getting up and doing something I want to do rather than laying there worrying about not getting to sleep on time.  Then, when I come home from taking my daughter to school, I go back to sleep.

I do take medicine to help me sleep, which only works when I’m not stressed.  I also listen to podcasts to get my mind to stop and relax.  Or I listen to meditation music. some of which is very helpful too.  Still, getting to sleep is sometimes a struggle.

I obviously have not solved my sleep issues yet, or my scheduling challenges . . . I”m still working on finding the solutions.  Of course, there are always plenty of obstacles and excuses for not losing the extra pounds I’m carrying around. However, I will declare loudly, GETTING ENOUGH REST IS ESSENTIAL TO MY BEING ABLE TO STICK TO MY DIET!  I’m still working on it.  I hope you are all succeeding in your goals, and weight loss if that is one of your goals!  Happiness and health to you all.


Competition and Weight Loss


Yesterday, I told my daughter I lost more weight when we were competing.  We had a chart online we could update and we would earn “stars” (points) when we accomplished certain things during each day.  For example, exercising for 30 minutes got a star, each of us eating within our personal calorie goal got a star, drinking enough water got a star, avoiding gluten got a star.  For each day we could each earn 4 stars.  After a month, we would see who had earned the most stars and they would get a prize from the other one.

That worked very well for a couple months, then we realized if we are not equally motivated the race becomes too lopsided.  I lost 18 lbs and she lost 10.  I was intense and strict and she was dealing with a family of 6 and didn’t have the energy to be so strict.  I didn’t want to get too much ahead because much of my motivation was to help her reach her goals, more than I cared for my goals, so I slacked off, waiting for her.

Competition can work very well if at least two of the participants are serious about it.

I decided I will compete with myself, and reward myself.  When I was competing with my daughter we decided together what daily goals would earn stars, but alone I am setting up different goals.  Now I get a point for getting enough rest (which for me with my nerve condition is 12 hours a night), doing things that bring me joy instead of stress, drinking enough water, exercising, and staying within my calorie goals.

Being a stress eater, a depressed eater, a bored eater, and a tired eater, I believe these new daily goals of rest and happy activities for stars will have a positive effect on my weight loss efforts.

I also set up a place where my sisters and daughters and I can post images of clothing we like.  Constant reinforcement of rewards will be helpful as well.

Also, of course, reevaluating my weight loss motivations through focusing is helping me recognize and let go of negative, self sabotaging roadblocks as well.  Click here for more on focusing when it comes to motivation and self sabotage.

The Sacred Questions and Self Awareness

There was a time in my life when things were just so bad!  In my mind I felt hopeless.  I could not see a way out.  I was stuck.  I had been taught all my life, however, that we are special and that we humans are meant to overcome our difficulties in life; to learn and grow from them even.  In those dark moments I thought to myself, “If I could just know who I am, I could overcome my problems!”  My question was, how could I know myself?

Like many of us, if not all, we have been taught how to behave since childhood.  Stuffing our emotions is often part of that learning.  As we grow we become more and more disconnected from ourselves, disconnected from who we really are.  Instead we play a role set out for us by society and our families.  This is normal for a society, but in my opinion, when the disconnect is strong, broken people are the result.

“Know thyself!” is an admonition given to us students by our teacher Tom Brown Jr. in Scout Class at Tracker School.  “Know thine enemy!” is the second.  “Sometimes thine enemy is thyself!” he states, almost an after thought, but likely is key to the awareness of self.  These are sayings handed down by the Apache Scouts, Tom says.  “Know thyself, and Know thine enemy,” seems to be a common theme in warfare.  Self awareness can help us learn if we are thwarting our own progress, if we are the enemy we face.

The Sacred Questions are the key to knowing ourselves.  “How am I feeling?  How can I heal it?  What more can I learn from this?” and many other questions that can spin off them take us on a journey of self discovery.  As we move through the layers of emotions and feelings, learning what we feel, why we feel this way, and what we can do about it, we move closer to who we really are.  Meaning, the emotions are not us but are reactions to things in our lives based on our experiences and the people around us.  The problem is the reactions are based on limited perspectives; what we can see and understand from our limited viewpoints.  Our perspectives are so limited we can in no way understand everything around us and therefore our feelings and reactions are skewed by our limited perspective.  In stronger terms, our perspectives and reactions are wrong simply because they are based on limited understanding.

What I am proposing is to get past the emotions and reactions which are the byproducts of our living experiences, and get to the pure self; the essence of who we are, which is hidden beneath the layers and layers of feelings and emotions.

When our class was sent out to our individual sit areas in the woods (where we could be alone) to do this exercise, we were given 45 minutes.  We wrote down each layer and why we felt that way.  I worked very hard to move through the layers because I had paid a lot of money for this class and I was going to get the most out of it!  Shortly, I found myself being distracted after each layer.  My mind would wander off in a day dream until I remembered the exercise and pulled myself back.  Going deep in those layers was surprisingly difficult.  There was some resistance by my physical mind; almost a little tantrum of not wanting to look for another layer, thinking there could not possibly be anything else, and being tired of the exercise.  This resistance was almost painful.

I remembered, though, when Tom sent us out he hollered after us in his booming voice, “If you think you have gone through the layers far enough, keep going!!!”

I am so glad I forced myself to move doggedly through the layers.  This exercise gave me a priceless gem of understanding.  I got to the point there were no more layers of emotions, only a vision of energy, symbolism which I understood, and a sense of who I am at the most pure level: strong, powerful, amazing.  I was shocked at that revelation and couldn’t help bawl my eyes out for the next half hour; not even stopping when we were called in, it was that uncontrollable.  I was full of joy and gratitude for what I saw/understood.  I can never forget that moment and the change it brought to my sad, hopeless and helpless little life.

I share this exercise with you.  Could you make use of peeling back the layers to learn who you really are?  Would this enable you to approach life from a greater understanding.

If you should choose to do this exercise you may share your results here.  I would love to see how it works for other people.

The Sacred Questions and Weight Loss

The Sacred Questions are questions we ask when focusing.  The Sacred Questions can be anything we want to know about.  The Sacred Questions are asked to bring greater awareness to anything we might encounter.

When I asked myself the Sacred Question, “Why do I want to lose weight?” and I got a faint hearted or wishy washy response I realized I was not asking the right question.  My heart was not cooperating with my idea to lose weight and I needed to change the question.  I asked a different question, “Why do I NOT want to lose weight?” and got some very powerful core reactions and answers to why I would NOT want to lose weight.  There is a lot of fear involved with the prospect of my being my best physically.  This is something I will look deeply into as I am ready, day by day, asking many more Sacred Questions.

Some Sacred Questions might be, ” What am I afraid of?  What can I do about it?  How can I heal it?  What more do I need to understand about this?”  With each of these Sacred Questions I will go to nothingness, thoughtlessness, and see what returns.  There may be an image, a word, an understanding, a feeling, an event relived, or other type of answer.  There may even be something in the environment that answers my question.  Each Sacred Question can be asked over and over, peeling back the layers of answers to that one question.  New questions may spin off answers received, taking me in a new direction of understanding.

The Sacred Questions can be asked by anyone, whether looking within or looking outside ourselves, at our environment.  The Sacred Questions can be asked about absolutely anything.  I learned about the tool of the Sacred Questions from my teacher Tom Brown Jr.  He learned about the tool of the Scared Questions from his teacher, an Apache elder, Stalking Wolf.

If you have not tried this technique for introspection relating to weight loss, or anything else, I encourage you to try asking and see what you find out.  As Tom Brown says, and I paraphrase, “The only failure of the Sacred Questions are the failure to ask them.”  And, interestingly, the simple act of asking will uncover a lot.  Exploring our psyche through asking ourselves questions and surrendering to the answers that return will shed light on dark places; bring hidden things to our attention.

This can be painful but the pain does not last.  This is what is called ‘leaning into the sharp places’ and by doing so, and feeling those painful spots, we can help heal them.  After all, it is impossible to remain in a feeling forever, the emotions will come and they will go.  From my experience, as I feel into those painful places, it hurts a lot.  I know it is not fun.  I have had some things that have taken me years to get over, but I believe by occasionally shedding light on those wounded places, usually unwillingly I must admit, I was able to gradually let go of the pain.

Now I have some work ahead of me and this introspection may take awhile.  I want to understand my aversion to looking and feeling my best.  Why does this image repulse me?

What introspection might you be curious about?  Remember — and this is paramount to the success of this exercise — there must be only kindness and non judgement when asking the questions and receiving the answers.  Only through love of self and understanding that there are reasons for everything can healing occur.

I would love to hear about your experiences if you should decide to try asking the Sacred Questions and surrendering to the answers.

If you would like to read another post about focusing, click HERE.

Motivation, Self Sabotage and Weight Loss

Motivation.  We may think we know why we are motivated to lose weight and look our best, but could our idea of why we are motivated really be holding us back?  Sometimes we think we intend to lose weight but in reality we intend to stay the way we are, only that intention is hidden.

This morning I began questioning why I am having difficulty losing weight when losing weight has been easy for me before.  Why do I lack conviction?  Why do I sabotage myself?   I found some answers through focusing, or as my teacher Tom Brown Jr. would call it: inner vision or looking within.  I began with the question, “Why do I want to lose weight?”  I surrendered to nothingness and waited for the answers to arise, one by one.  The answers that returned were wishy washy and lacked conviction: “I want to look good.  I want to be healthy.  I want to feel good.  I want to be my best.”

I was puzzled by the lack of conviction I felt so I asked myself, “Why do I not want to lose weight?” and surrendered to nothingness to feel the answers arise within me, one after another as I peeled back the layers of my motivation to stay as I am: “Looking my best scares me.  I feel safer when I am heavy.  Looking less than my best helps me to be invisible.  More will be expected of me if I look and feel my best.  I’m too angry to want to look good.  Thinking about looking my best makes me feel like I want to cry and die.  I feel vulnerable when I think about looking my best.  I feel broken when I think about looking my best.  I want to scream at the image of me looking my best.  I want to scream at everything when I think about looking my best.  I feel pain when I imagine myself looking my best”

Wow.  These answers, as I go deeper and deeper are getting more painful and violent the deeper I go.  I have some very real issues regarding looking good.  I have some strong programming about staying heavy and tired and ill as I am.

This is a lot to take in.  I am going let this information simply be for a while and let my conscious mind ponder these answers..  I will work on this later.  My brain is on overload right now.  More later.


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