My turn! 2017 has been quite a year and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you cheering me on (literally!) and sharing your love and kindness with me. When I didn’t know how I was going to pull off Road School 2017, family, friends and strangers donated money and offered support and love throughout our journey. When I needed to raise $2300 in order to walk in San Diego for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day breast cancer walk, you gave. When I was terrified to do my first Sprint Triathlon last month, your love and encouragement got me through! There are so many people who have lifted me up and shared their love and light with me. I am forever changed and I know I am blessed to have you in my life.
Now I would like to give something to you:
This December, I am showing my gratitude for my community of family, friends and generous supporters, and to everyone that could use some sweet reminders to slow down and stay present during the busy month of December. I want to help you bump up your Self Care, and encourage you to give yourself extra love and support during this holiday season.
My Gratitude Giveback is an invitation for you to turn inwards, to your soul sanctuary, and create a conscious, caring respite space for yourself during this often busy month.
Each week will focus on a different theme:
BODY BASICS (as in ‘duh’ I knew this already, but sometimes we forget!)
LETS GET PHYSICAL (I like to move it move it)
NOURISH THE SOUL (don’t forget your beautiful soul)
PRESENCE vs. PRESENTS (be here now)
You will be guided through each theme with weekly meditations, journal prompts, live Q & A conversations on Facebook, tips and tools for maximizing self care, and a resource list to support you if you would like to go deeper.
When all our reptilian instincts are telling us to stay in and hibernate, our culture is inviting us to “Eat, Drink & Be Merry.” When the days are getting shorter and it feels good to snuggle up to a fire and a good book, society is giving us the messages to go out every night and celebrate until sunrise, shop till you drop, and eat and drink all the things that you spend the rest of the year avoiding because they aren’t healthy. This can also be a lonely time for folks who watch the Hallmark holiday movies and compare themselves to the picture perfect lives on the screen.
I know things get busy at this time of year and the intention of this offering is to help make December more easeful, nurturing, and meaningful. You can join on the first of the month or the last day of the month, all the material is FREE and offered from the heart. It is my joy to share this with you all! The only thing I need from you to keep you in the loop is your email address.
I know many people are feeling overwhelmed with everything they are reading and hearing about in the news. Whether I am discussing the natural disasters, or the latest events in the United States, every conversation I have with friends revolves around what we can do, how we can help. I had tea with a friend of mine, a retired attorney and fellow yogi, who said “I didn’t used to believe in evil.” and paused for a moment, calmly picking up croissant crumbs with his fingers, “Now I do.” Things are feeling pretty dire – more than usual. Is this just me? I wonder… I am deeply saddened by recent happenings in the world (both natural and human) and I also believe that we are greater than this and that LOVE conquers all.
I have written before about Yogi Bhajan‘s prophecy that the world’s hectic pace will only continue to increase and many people will be overwhelmed – on all levels – and not know how to keep up with the chaotic energies. He went on to say that a third of the world’s population would die, a third would go nuts and the last third would be left to hold it all together. There are times when this prophecy feels like it has come true and it’s my choice to decide which third of the population I want to be a part of.
The day this picture (above) was taken, I had just driven 500+ miles in very challenging driving conditions: high winds, forest fires and driving rain for several hours. I was driving a 22 feet van that I was not wholly comfortable with and even hydroplaned a few times. When I finally pulled into the RV park, my legs were shaking. I then proceeded to get into a huge argument with my daughter who left to stay with a friend for the evening. I called a friend and sobbed. After the cry, I felt…so much better. Lighter. Less alone. Normally, I like to cry in private and talk to friends after I’ve had my breakdown. I made a conscious decision to let myself be seen in my tenderness and it was a personal stretch. I am grateful I made the decision to be vulnerable and reach out vs. keep it all to myself. Thank god for loving friends that are lifelines!
When the darkness befalls me (whether because of what’s happening out in the world, or because of whatever is going inside of my own psyche) it’s time for me to reach into my Self Care tool box and use whatever is appropriate for the situation at hand. I don’t intend to be Pollyanna or to sound naive, but don’t underestimate the power of Self Care! When the world feels overwhelming, I turn inwards and listen closely. “What do I need right now?” I ask myself. Usually an answer pops right in. Othertimes, I have to just use trial and error to see what helps. Getting out in nature is always a great place to start for me.
Spending the last month on the road, in a van, living with a 15 year old boy, has challenged my self care routines. There is very little alone time (something that I normally rely on heavily for self-sourcing), there is limited wifi (connecting with friends/lifelines is almost nil), the weather was initially very challenging (exercise was not happening for days.) I wasn’t meditating, I wasn’t practicing yoga, I was feeling isolated from adults and totally catering to another human 24/7. Thankfully, I am remembering my own teachings on Self Care and Self Love from LOVELUTION! and putting my oxygen mask on first again. Phew!
What does that look like? Have you heard that expression “If Mama Aint Happy, Aint Nobody Happy”? I’ve started making sure that I am doing something for myself each day that fills up my tank. Whether that’s a solo run, a tea date with a friend, making time to write at a wifi cafe or bringing back my meditation practice (why oh why do I ever let this go?) The expression “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” is my simple prayer and intention. I want to shine as brightly as I can so I can add my light to all the other brilliant lights in the world and we can shine light in all corners, dispelling the darkness and love it up so that it doesn’t need to spread.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the LIGHT that is you. -L.R. Knost
All my life I’ve been traveling. I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon. Another country, another culture, another climate. At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s. At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s. After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL, listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States. I moved from place to place feeling like an alien. This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life. Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.
One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself: parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc. The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.
I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl. If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger. The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in. And I feel…free. I feel anonymous. I feel alive with possibility.
The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking. It’s been exhausting. Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean. I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off. I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home. In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home. I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share. I am home. I am my home. Wherever I choose to go, I will always be home.
That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else. I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.
My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester. Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.
I’m not sure if it was the rainy day today that made me even more dreamy than usual or just the seemingly random events that occurred this morning. I read a woman’s post on Facebook that said she remembered her birth, that there were bright lights flashing in her face as she entered the world. I thought about this (and her) for most of the morning. Marveling that somebody remembers her own birth. I believe her. It’s just that I don’t think there are many people that remember their own births.
I’ve been tripping out on that more and more. How special each one of us is…and how really getting to know somebody (for me anyway) is like learning a new language. Sometimes like becoming an expert in a whole new species, surrendering preconceived notions and judgements.
I am driving on the road, past where the body of a young raccoon has been decomposing for a couple of days. I can smell it. But today I see another raccoon, a big one, dead on the other side of the road. “Oh no!” I exclaim. I wonder if they’re related, was this the already decomposing one’s Mama? My heart sinks as I touch my heart.
I have a vivid memory of riding in the backseat of my grandparents car. We passed a dead dog on the side of the highway. I was shocked to see it. I didn’t realize that this could happen. That dogs could get hit by cars and their bodies could lie by the side of the road, cars whizzing by. I spent the rest of the ride in silence, deeply saddened. That was a gray day too.
Early this morning the phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number but I answered it anyway. I rarely do that. “Is this the Grief Support Network?” he asks. “Well…not exactly”, I answer. Yes and no. The hotline still transfers over to my cell phone even though I haven’t worked there in 6 months. They don’t know how to fix it.
I start to go into a rambling explanation but then stop myself and ask if he is looking for support (sometimes it’s a sales person.) He is. He tells me what’s going on and I listen. He explains to me that he has plummed the inky depths and also connected to his brightest divine nature. “I can tell you get it,” he says. And I do. I am sitting at my computer in the darkness, having an intimate conversation with a “stranger”.
The older I get, the more I feel that each one of us speaks our own language and to really listen to somebody, to really get somebody, takes a certain amount of amazement and awe in humanity in general. What delicate and finely-tuned creatures we all are; senstive, unique, miraculous energy bodies that communicate on so many deep and subtle levels. Right now, for me, this is the best show in town. Peace and Love.
This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van. His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.
By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life. Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school. I had no idea what to do or how to help him. Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me. What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.
As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment. What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road? What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler? As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up. Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.
Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan. Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life. He became motivated and finished 9th grade. He joined a gym and is working out daily. He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living. We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October. He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip. We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.
We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:
Vancouver to Baja from September through December.
Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.
Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening. People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31! Finances are an issue. I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.
I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes. And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do. I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.
Donations will go toward:
Online Educational Consultant
Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
NOTE: 5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens. This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.
There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway. As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him. Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017! #roadschool2017
Just coming off a whirlwind weekend visiting a college with my oldest, soon to be 18, my daughter.
We landed in Denver and I stopped to fill my water bottle at Root Down, my favorite stop at DIA. After filling it, I screwed the cap on tight and turned, just in time to see a man being wheeled past, only a few feet from me, a swarm of paramedics administering CPR. I could see his chest going down and up, an alarming amount of distance really, it was not natural, not at all. They were pumping his chest with their hands. He was wheeled down some hallway I’ve never noticed before – the whole thing happened in seconds. “This is an emergency” I thought. I sucked in my breath. It did not look good.
Right there in terminal C a man was possibly dying. Probably dying by the look of the whole scene. I shut my eyes and felt the tears. Heading down the escalator to the train, I wanted to stop and tell the people swarming from the doors, “There’s a man possibly dying up there!” Life and death so close.
Of all the things I kept thinking about this weekend, “Life is Short” was one of the most prevalent thoughts. Memories of my girl as a toddler, scenes of her as a youngster, bed time, reading her stories, singing to her. Watching her struggle and falter and careen into some hard years.
Now a young woman, going to college. Beautiful big eyed girl. At ease (mostly) with herself and with life. She’s ready. I watch her from a distance.
Leaving the airport, we drive straight to her dad’s house. It’s Passover and we are going to his “Bob Marley” Seder. Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery and people will play instruments and sing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.
On the way, we stop and pick up my daughter’s boyfriend. I hear her in the back of the car whispering to him, “You are part of this family”. We arrive and the table is crowded with friends and relatives and exes and children. We open the door for Elijah. As usual, everyone is starving as we slog our way through the Haggadah – the book we read that tells us what Passover means and why we celebrate as we do.
On this night I sit between my son and my friend Starling. There is laughter, and the usual chaos. There are people complaining that they’re hungry, and children who would like to drink more wine, there’s raucous singing, and music breaks for more Bob Marley songs, there’s dancing, and food. And more food! Tsimmis (my favorite), and brisket, and smoked turkey with gravy, and matzah and charoset and soup and gefilte fish. Everyone is stuffed.
I look around the table. There is love. There is forgiveness. There is laughter and subtext. History. There have been heart-aches and illness and crises and hard times. Tonight we celebrate Redemption – being saved from sin and error and gathering together to celebrate another year with love and grace.
I raise a glass and thank the cooks. And I remember the people that can’t be with us; the people that can’t be here and the people that have passed before, and yet they feel so close tonight. And I say a prayer for the man at the airport and his family. We all drink. L’Chaim. To Life. Life is short. We are all part of this family.
I do the dishes. The kids stay at their dad’s. My heart is full with just a tinge of sadness. The full April moon follows me on my ride, lighting up the mountains that wait silently for me to arrive, home.
I work with people with broken hearts. I am deeply touched by their stories, their tears, their longing. I am also touched by their resiliency and bravery; to seek support and be willing to share with strangers. I am heartened by the comfort these group members take from connecting with each other. It reminds me how much we humans are social creatures longing for connection.
What drives us to keep going? For me, it is the most basic and yet profound human experience I can describe: connecting from the heart with others. Love.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
They say we have star particles inside of us. It’s true. Look it up. I think this is as magic as it gets. I like to imagine that I used to be a star, before I came into this body. In my fantasy, I peek down on planet earth and I see people living their lives. Tucking their babies close to their hearts, right under their chins, breathing them in. Getting licked by their dogs and succumbing to their joyful, unconditional expressions of love. I see lovers, breathing, bodies moving, sensual awareness and electricity. Watch friends sharing a smile, no need for words. I admire a body running fast along a trail, legs pumping and lungs bursting. I would want that, as a star. To experience humanness. To BE.
“Sign me up!” I shout. “I want to feel! I want to touch. I want to love!“
But…the Universe answers…’In this full tilt, multifaceted life, there are ups and downs. Not every day is filled with laughter and joy. There is hardship and strife. Do you still want this?’ “Yes I do!” I exclaim without a second thought. “See ya!” and off I go without a backward glance. That is so me.
But that is just a fairy tale. And here I am. Alive. On Earth. And some days life feels excrutiatingly painful. My dog dies. My lover betrays. My baby grows up and pulls away. My friendships end. A relative takes his life. There are bills to pay. My body hurts when I run.
What do I do when life feels unbearable? I Isolate. Cry. Pray. Reach out. In that order.
I reached a very low point several weeks ago. I felt alone and out of choices. I was scared. I cried and prayed. Then I got up off my knees and I made a couple phone calls. To some “lifeline” friends. I wrote to my community and asked for daily texts through the month of October and people started signing up. Every day I would get a message of love and support on my phone. Some people sent inspirational poems. In just a few short weeks, I started to feel better. Uplifted even. I felt the loving connection of human contact and was filled with gratitude for the people in my life.
They say there are no accidents in life. The ongoing grief support group I had agreed to facilitate started during that time. I got to sit with people who where struggling with their grief; to witness people who loved so deeply that their hearts were broken when their person died. Being of service added meaning and depth to my life and I felt on purpose again.I am humbled and amazed at both the tenderness and ferocity of love. And the tenacious courage we humans – made of skin, blood, water and bone – access again and again to continue loving. Even when it breaks us.
Since I started letting people know about the online suicide support group that begins next Monday, I have been contacted almost daily by people who are suffering, sometimes years after their loved one’s death. Each person has held their grief tenderly in their hands and I have held out my hands to hold it with them for awhile. Not wanting to move too quickly or speak suddenly, wanting to keep the reverence of this moment. Being allowed to hear these sacred stories has been my honor.
Humans have a deep need to belong – to each other, to someone, to a group, to a purpose. After a traumatic loss like suicide, people tend to lose their bearings for a time. Who am I? What’s next? How do I keep going? What’s the point? are all questions that can come up. Gratitude can feel impossibly elusive. The main focus of the Suicide Loss Support Group is to connect people to each other. To share our stories and to learn to bear the beams of love – together.
Please share this information with anyone you think could be served by having a supportive community to belong to:
Suicide Loss Support Group: Losing a loved one to suicide can be extremly shocking and sad. There can also be shame or societal stigma associated with this type of loss. In this group, you will be connected with others who have each experienced this particular type of loss and have the opportunity to share your story with each other. This is a six week support group that meets online once a week. The group is open to 8 participants who have lost a loved one to suicide. Each week we will begin with an exercise (breath work, guided relaxation) to open the group. Everyone will have an opportunity to check-in with the group and share. There will also be topics for discussion and materials emailed weekly. There is no “homework” for this group, only handouts that are optional and ideally helpful. Cost for this group is $180 and includes 6 weekly group sessions and weekly materials that will be emailed to each participant. A pre-group screening call is required. To arrange a phone call, please contact me.
Dates and time: Mondays; 11/21, 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19 & 12/26 6:00 – 7:30pm MST Time
Our two arms together say everything. So different and yet similar. Here she is at 16, tender skin with battle scars. There I am, with my semi-colon tattoo I got when I didn’t know what else to do, how else to support my girl when she didn’t think she wanted to live. I just couldn’t believe the story was going to end this way! Spoiler Alert: The guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. But I do. Get the girl. At least for now. For a little more time. And I’ll settle for that.
When I brought Lili home from the hospital at three days old, I knew then that I didn’t have a clue about parenting. How was I going to keep this tiny human being alive? I’m embarrassed when I see these photos of her first day home. The first one is of me crying, looking like a child myself, holding her. The second photo is me, back in my hospital gown (that’s right, I changed BACK into my hospital gown even though I was at HOME) and got right into bed. I wished I could have stayed at the hospital, where the nurses knew what to do and I was supervised at all times.
From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I loved Lili. That was the first thing I said when the doctor placed her on my chest: “I love her.” I look back at the early years of raising her and I ache over the mistakes I made – some big, some smaller. But there were also shining moments too, where my natural instincts to nurture and protect and supply entertainment were present. Parenting has been a humbling experience to say the least. One that has broken my heart open and brought me to my knees many times over.Lili was just three days into her 15th year when her dad and I made the impossible decision to sign custody of her over to strangers. Before he signed on the dotted line, her dad looked up at me, hand shaking and asked “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?” All I could say was “I don’t know.” But I knew that we couldn’t keep her safe anymore. Lili was clinically depressed and anxious and her self-harming behavior had become extremely dangerous, and possibly life-threatening.
The year leading up to this decision to send her away, and the first several months of her being gone, were the hardest time of my adult life. I fell apart. I would see friends at the grocery store and turned away to avoid conversation. I sobbed when friends posted pictures on Facebook of their daughters dressed up for homecoming, celebrating “normal” milestones that we weren’t having.
I couldn’t make sense of what was happening in my life and I certainly couldn’t control it, so I had to surrender. I didn’t do it readily or gracefully. In fact, I was a wee bit rebellious at first. I was advised to “do my work” by the therapists at the program Lili was in and let her do hers. I hated when they would say that! I was sad. I was grieving. My daughter was gone. I was angry. I didn’t want to do any “work”. And truth be told, I was fucking exhausted. I needed a break.
I spent 3 months in Santa Cruz on the beach. I went to yoga, I spent time with my other kids, and I started to “do my work.” Which meant excavating some old territory that I really would rather not have looked at, like my childhood and my marriage(s) and mistakes I made as a parent. As a mom, I’ve had to sit in the fire of my own guilt and shame around choices I’ve made, even as I understand that I was doing the best I could. Rough terrain. Although there were many days of darkness, my mantra became: “I trust the universe” because even though my life seemed tragic (to me), I wanted to believe, needed to believe, there was a greater reason for what was happening.
While Lili was learning more about herself and getting honest, I was taking a long look at my life and noticing what was and wasn’t working in it. She and I are both at turning points in our lives. After 20 months of hard-ass work, Lili is graduating from her program and coming home and my marriage is ending. My divorce is final next month. I’ve done this as consciously and kindly as possible and I’m proud of how Andy and I have both shown up, with a few bumps along the way, but mostly, with open hearts, love and respect.
When Anna Yarrow said she had some sessions open for her Spirit and Bone project, I was excited to have a photo representation of this potent time. The words “Spirit” and “Bone” are strong – and sinewy and bloody – kind of like the past couple of years. Gritty. And Lion hearted. The hero’s journey down into the abyss and back up again. I have grieved what I thought I knew, who I thought I was, what I thought the future held. I am more open to what actually IS now, and I look forward to welcoming my daughter home – who she has become, what she is showing up as and beginning this new chapter in my life as well.