Monday, June 27, 2011

Too fun

There's nothing like a stay in another country to bring perspective. Not sure what perspective exactly because I'm jet lagged and time crunched. Just that whatever I think I know, it looks entirely different from other points of view? That's something to celebrate for sure. I do not ever want to know it all because discovering new things is way too amazing. Here's hoping you get to see things anew. XO

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Not obliterating

Sarah says it's the solar flares that are causing all this agitation. It's also a full moon tonight. But honestly, I think it's mostly just human foibles. We can all be hot messes from time to time. Once we're into the mess, it's hard to find our way out without creating collateral damage. Direct attacks of the "You are so lazy/stupid/spoiled..." sort are way too easy for most of us mere mortals in relationships. Those sorts of attacks tend to leave a wake of broken and bloody feelings, which means we have to undo before we can even get back to the original plan. Trying to support and nurture a relationship's and a partner's journey to grow past obstacles.

So, I have my goal firmly in mind. Collaborate with my family to help identify and then bring about what we want to create. In the meantime, my job is to tend to myself so I can bring my best me to the table for that job. It can be tricky. I'm restoring by watching babies - because they are so real and like us only cuter. Baby inspiration works well for me. Fia has been it of late. Joy brother is Alder's new name. One minute she wants anything that he has just because he has it, throwing him on the ground or wailing at the top of her lungs to get him to hand it over; the next minute she's "softie-ing" his hair and calling him "joy brother". Isn't it just like that with all of us? One time our partner is crabbing, then he'll turn around and do or say something just exactly opposite of that to throw us off our game. Because humans are like that. Tricky.

Here's hoping you collaborate more than obliterate with your tricky clan. XOXO

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Growing here

Sometimes I can be such a rip. At Alder's #4 birthday party - a party Sarah threw at her own house, not mine, and a party I looked forward to almost as much as the birthday boy himself - I started ordering all 3 of my dauthers around like the queen of Sheba. I was even starting to honk my own self off. I get like that when I'm stressed out. Micromanaging details so I feel less out of control. Wish I could stop it. Sometimes I even apologize before hand when I see something tough on the horizon. I'm about to give you a really hard time. I don't want to, I'll try to behave, but I'll probably still take it out on you some way or other. I apologize in advance because I don't mean to do it.

I'm relating lately to my dad's self described foolish wish that I didn't love so many people so much. These last several days, I spent a lot of time at relationship tasks - funeral, birthday, tornadoe, hosting family from out of town... My favorite thing is tending to and factoring in the lives of my loved ones. Giving care. Honoring, respecting and valuing them. I'm so grateful to do that. And sometimes when it's like this, all at once plus tornadoes, I have to really work at taking care of myself as well. No good to others if I don't take care of myself. In fact, even if I'm taking good care of myself, I can still sometimes be a total rip, no good to others - to put it mildly - until I recover again.

There's always tension between me, you and us, and we need to be aware of all three to properly tend to them. I read a wonderful article about microboundaries, several of which I violated in the last many days. We violate others' microboundaries when we:

tell a loved one what to feel
claim to know what he feels
assume we know her thoughts, motives, wishes
negate or contradict his thoughts, wishes or feelings
speak for or tell the other what she feels
criticize his family of origin or friends
assume her experience of the same thing is the same as mine

In every difficulty there is opportunity for personal growth. I've been recently reminded that I still have plenty of personal growing to do. Wishing you fewer opportunities to learn to respect others' microboundaries, not too many opportunities to self correct when you mess it up, but the will to do it. XOXOXO

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mad skills

Fia Madrona Rose MaGillicutty is living up to her name. Fia is Italian for fire. She told us about her latest transgressions this weekend, with her bottom lip flattened and turned down - and not a smidge of regret in her eyes. She colored on the wall with crayons and her momma was very mad at her. She told her if she was a spanker momma, her bum would be lit up like a Christmas tree, but she was not a spanker momma so Fia had to help clean up her mess instead. Fia did help clean up and she did mention she would not do that particular bad thing again. Any time soon. But she also said that she hoped her momma wouldn't be bad again either, so she didn't have to become a spanker Fia. She doesn't like to dish out punishment to angry mommas, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do. She is a powerful little 2 year old wad of feisty sass.

Postings lately have been about relationship - a vital, necessary component of well being. In Fia's story, we have an example of natural consequences vs. punishment. Discipline is teaching, not just punishment. Since there is no such thing as human intimacy without conflict, healthy relationship requires mad skills, huge commitment, tremendous humor, calm acceptance without assumption or judgement and deep generosity to maintain just one. And that doesn't even describe the skill it takes to parent little power houses like Fia. Most of us have to negotiate many, many relationsips - internally with ourselves, with all our loved ones, with co-workers, and with the public. The best overall approach is to be willing to live in truth, self correct, limit expectations, appreciate deeply, attack problems not people, rely on natural consequences and clear positive behavioral requests when making change requests - and to stay grateful. Here's wishing you the commitment to develop some mad skills. XOXO

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pick your battles

So we were talking this morning about something I can't even recall. I was sipping my coffee in bed. Without a word, Dan opened the window wider, removed the screen, hopped up on a chair, then a tabletop and climbed out onto the roof. It's a pretty steep roof. He was wearing nothing but his sleeping shorts - elastic waist, red plaid cotton. I heard thump thump thumping but by the time I looked out, he was nowhere to be seen. I started remembering a John Prine song about a guy who woke up one morning, slipped in his kitchen and died. "And Oh what a feeling when my soul went through the ceiling, and on up into heaven I did ride". Figured the mystery would eventually be solved and since I hadn't heard any really alarming noises, I went about getting my morning together. Have to say I was glad when he reappeared and did the window routine in reverse. Huh. That sort of thing doesn't happen every day - but more often than you'd think. In the past, I'd have been really really angry that he would just do something like that without telling me before hand. The roof was slick with rain and we're getting too old for stuff like that.

Mystery solved, but I had to ask. He was heading to the shower without a word of explanation when he got back in. Really. I felt my head cock at that angle Jake dog uses when he's trying so hard to understand us. Once he told me, "Duh". It's been raining a lot, the gutters were full of leaves and were dumping water at the edges of the house. There was damp in the corners of the basement this morning when he went down to the laundry room. So he crawled out the bedroom window in skivvies in the rain and shoved the leaves out of the gutters. Did what he had do and cheerfully went on about his day with no further comment. No surprise there. It's who he is and I do admire that about him. Earlier in our relationship, though, we would have argued about his failure to telegraph intentions, reckless climbing, my worry for him. But really, it didn't even bother me over much. I like being surprised after 30 years of marriage. It's actually pretty fabulous. Wishing you mysteries, where with all to do what needs to be done without complaint, patience, wisdom to pick your battles and quiet, calm acceptance of the answers. XOXOXO

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


So, he said nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not "You OK?" "How did the tractor get into the pond?" "Don't worry, we'll fix it." "What do you think we should do?" Nothing. He just waded into the pond wearing his good shoes and dress pants, laid down in the shallow water and mud, fished his arm under the mower, unfastened and took off the mower deck then shoved the tractor out of the pond. Mud up to his knees. Then he laid down on the grass, refastened the mower deck, got on it, started the tractor and drove off. The waves of water, mud and anger were washing off him like sound waves after a huge bomb drops. He finished the entire lawn - which took another 45 minutes - before he made eye contact or spoke one word to any of us.

I can barely think about it without guffawing now. At the time, I was beyond furious and insulted by Dan's behavior. I speak about what's going on with me. I solve problems with words. If I stop talking, it's bad. Really, really bad. I've completely disengaged. So, I presumed he meant it that way too. In his defense, it was his brand new John Deere with a price tag that had several zeroes at the end. And it was stuck in the pond. Sarah had been mowing the walking path by the pond, backed up to get a section, thought she had it in forward - but it was in reverse. He realized something was up when he saw us three girls marching across the field as he was pulling in the drive wearing his nice work clothes. So it was a shock for him. But to me, hey, it's just a tractor. Relationships matter more.

Later, I realized that his silence was sincerely the best he had to offer and was a genuine effort at relationship - the opposite of what I assumed. He couldn't think of anything to say that would be remotely good, so he said nothing, drove until he cooled off, then asked questions later. There is no such thing as relationship without conflict and calamity. We really, really need relationship, but we could do without the assumptions or the tendency to attack each other rather than the problem. Here's wishing you some good stories to tell the grandkids. They offer many opportunities to examine your assumptions. XOXO

Monday, May 23, 2011


We sat out on the front porch watching the storm whoosh in Sunday afternoon. Straight up and sideways lightning, rolling thunder. Wind gusts and pounding rain. If we ever have a tornado, Dan and I will be sucked right up into the stratosphere because we'll be watching it blow in. Sarah told me that she'd been fiercely missing Olympia lately. The overcast, the mists, the lake - and the constant temperatures. Then the storm rolled in. They don't have thunder storms in Olympia. Or such big, big skies. If you're out at 4AM, you'll see an incredible number of shooting stars too. We can have anything, but we can't have everything. So we need to make lots of peace and awe deposits into our savings account. Partly so we have it to use later, but mostly so that doing it becomes automatic. Fish till we ache, pull weeds, surf the wind, run, look up. We'll need those moments when we're in the midst of storms. Wishing you the pleasure of a good storm and a big, big sky. XOXO

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Some days are like that. Even in Australia. Remember Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst? It's a children's book I loved to read to my kids. Everything went wrong for poor Alexander and he just kept wishing for escape to Australia. Finally, his mom explained the ugly truth to him. The facts don't change, but your interpretation can. Left the plants out to harden then forgot to bring them back in? Pretty stinky. Audit by the IRS? Rotten. Funeral? Worse. Calamity, death and taxes happen - even in Australia.

Again, the point of these stories is to take the ordinary and turn it into deliberate practice to create growth. Ordinary people handle terrible situations well - every day. People who intentionally practice using mindfulness (the ability to be present to our emotions and lives with calm acceptance)and their character strengths find those things ready and available in hard times. Curiosity, kindness, persistence, optimism, hope, spirituality, humor, creativity, courage? If we have them, we need to use them with gusto and regularity. We never know when we'll need them for more heavy duty purposes. It takes time to build habits that include self care - exercise and a friendly relationship to healthy food; meditation; - and care for our relationships - compassion for ourselves and others; kind acts. If we live, there will be hard times. We need the buffers that help us cope with them. Hoping you have the wisdom to cultivate fun, relationship and accomplishment and little need for them in a pinch. XOXO

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Unfortunately, for a two year old, she speaks very clearly and coherently. And she has an inventive little mind. So, naturally, Fia completely greened her friendly, Mr. Rogers' type neighbor yesterday. After her Aunt Allie told her, to stop the nose picking habit, that there are monsters in her nose that will bite her fingers (I could have told Allie that was a bad idea, but I wasn't there at the time), Fia concluded that there must be monsters in all the human orafices. Not five minutes later, Friendly Neighbor told Fia hi and she told him that there were monsters in her butt and they like to eat poo. We can only figure that she took Aunt Allie's story and ran with it. Literally. At the time of the greeting, she was running back and forth across the grass shared by the neighbors - little egg beater legs powered by the monsters in her butt. Makes a sort of 2 year old sense, if you think about it. I think her 3 year old brother, Alder, picked up on Dwight's discomfort because he added to the mix in a very scoffing tone that his monster didn't eat poo, just warm pee. I'm thinking Dwight will never recover and am wondering about myself. My one hope is that Dwight has grandchildren too.

Here's hoping you, too, rather than experiencing post traumatic stress, can turn moments like this into opportunities for personal or spiritual growth. XOXO

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not rusting

Maybe it's because I try so hard to wake up in a new world every day. I don't try to forget that I'm a codger. I just do. I'm surprised to notice that some parts are wearing out or behaving in unruly ways. I have a little clear white hair that keeps growing out of my chin. I yank the sucker out and forget about it, then to my chagrin, back it sprouts. FAST. Unpleasant reminder that I may think I do not need vigilent grooming due to advanced age, but I do. That ankle I sprained jumping off the bunk bed with Alder Finn and Fia after they moved here in December still hurts when I walk down stairs, especially in the mornings. Until I move a little bit, my joints are stiff when I get out of the car after a ride longer than 15 or 20 minutes. Been here with myself growing old for a long time. Honest, I don't mind that the rules apply to me too. As a general rule, I like rules. I don't mind that being human is temporary. Makes for a very wild ride. I don't mind that we will rust out or wear out eventually. I will wear out. A few aches and pains won't stop me from jumping off bunk beds or kayaking or swinging my guts out at the playground. Guess that's it. I don't love the dumb reminders that the clock is ticking. But I'm wearing out, not merely rusting. So, got that goin' for me.

I am a fan of making fun. Everywhere I find it. Our own foibles are fertile ground. The anecdotes posted on here are examples of how to be mindful about living our lives. I intend for the stories to illustrate how to use every day experiences (bad and good) to create well being. What I mean by well being is - more and frequent positive feelings, solid relationship, a sense of accomplishment, healthy spirituality, and resilience in our lives. As I've said earlier in the blog, a few people with marvelous good fortune and/or fabulous brain chemistry have been gifted with these qualities from birth, but most of us mere mortals have to work at it. They are skills that can be learned by anybody willing to work at it. People have scientifically studied the elements of lives well lived to figure out the ingredients for living well. Our attitudes (how we talk to ourselves) and the choices we make as a result of those attitudes create good relationships, supports, beliefs and the ability to view difficulty as opportunity for growth. Here's hoping you rust out too. XOXO

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New. Again.

Last night for a couple of hours I had all 3 of my grand babies in bed. Ollie was asleep on Fia's shoulder and Alder was right beside Fi Fi. I was falling asleep, but I kept opening my eyes to look again at that sweet row of beautiful, peaceful, serene faces. I wanted to memorize it. Save it for later use. Because that exact moment will never be again, it shimmers with magic if we allow it to. Here. Gone. One of Allie's (my youngest child) college friends said he didn't understand what was so charming about babies. "Yeah, yeah, they see things with new eyes. They point and say, 'Grasshopper'. So what? I've already seen tons of those. I know about grasshoppers already." So glad I don't still know it all. I love waking up to a new world every day. This morning, Alder and Fia and Dan and I (Ollie got snatched away by his parents in the middle of the night, Boo!) sat at the breakfast table on this rainy cold Sunday watching humming birds and orioles and finches and chickadees and wood peckers come eat, then fly away. We saw tons of birds. Over and over - for the first time. Here's hoping you see old things with new eyes over and over every single day. XOOX

Saturday, May 14, 2011

All it's worth

In one day. Just one day, we got humming birds, orioles, blue birds on our feeders, all the trees were flowering - for some reason we're always the late bloomers in town - and we saw a wild turkey by the pond. We have lilacs all along White Oak and they smell up the whole place. The dark pink blooms of the crab tree were ringed with hundreds of blooming daffodils, the tulips were still pretty and I got my first whiff of iris. The old fashioned light purple ones smell like grape Koolaid. Try it. Some years we can soak up that spring bounty for weeks. It was just glorious this year. And too brief. The wind and rain came and now the the ground is littered with warm, colorful petals. The spring flowers are withered by the heat/wind/rain/cold combo, now the wind is flinging their remains. We've still got the birds and they'll stay the rest of the summer performing antics and being pretty. And the next set of flowers to bloom is getting in place for their show. But, see what I mean? Enjoy it for all you're worth when it happens. It never lasts. Some years, remarkably less. But neither does the bad stuff. I know I got my spring's worth in that one day. Here's hoping you do too. XOXO

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Sassy britches two year old Fia has been showing movies on the track lighting in her kitchen - with her finger. She points up and tells me "It's my favorite movie. You yike it? You hate it?" Not only can she show movies, the track lighting in her kitchen makes ice cream too. She just reaches up, gets it, and hands it to you to eat. And you'd better eat it with grave appreciation or she gets hoppin' mad. Keeps me right in the moment, mindful, keeping up with those babies. Because no matter how occupied and serious grown up discussions and intentions might be, how could we not go along with a fabulous imagine?

She's a lover of fashion too, our little bit of a fuzz. Gets it from her Abuela. She always compliments my necklaces with her bitsy hands gently touching it, then my face. "I yike your neckas, Buela. You're my favorite gurul." I was so lucky to have sweet, attentive parents. But getting to be one - and now getting to be the Abuela - that is just way way better. And it's totally within our power to be attentive now, whether we saw others do it before or not. The world is brimming over with things that can put you back in the present moment with appreciation and joy - living right along side the yuck. Me, I'm paying most of my attention to the good stuff. Wishing you plenty to notice. XOXOX

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good enough

I tend to be a little slow on the uptake. Live in the moment, think about it later. So I've been thinking about being a mother two days after the day that celebrates it. It is way too easy to feel like a failure if you're a mom. If I could have been as good at motherhood as I wanted to be - if the job done could exactly mirror how much I love my children and grandchildren, I'd deserve nothing less than total, fall on your knees worship. Wasn't nearly that good and I deeply appreciate the fact, for everybody's sake. If I'd had it my way, I'd have been the perfect mother, and my children would all be emotional cripples. All we need to do is good enough, so long as we strive to self correct and offer our best as often as humanly possible. Even at mothering. People need adversity to overcome so they develop skills and then confidence in their skills. Make it too easy, you get spoiled, bored snot bombs. My children are all well balanced human beings because I was NOT the perfect mother. They have so much to thank me for. Seriously. Hear that girls? Certainly, abuse, neglect, trauma etc. are not even remotely good enough. But flawed with good intentions spit shined with an inhuman amount of effort? That is so very very good enough. And the only flavor mothers come in. Thank goodness.

So we all have, or had at one time, what seemed to be all powerful, should know better mothers. Should we have expected things to be fair? Should we have expected to be safe? Should we have expected our loved ones to know what we wanted and needed and do their best to provide it? Should we expect all that now? Being human, surrounded by other less than perfect humans in a society created by humans? Nope. I don't think so. I really think we should strive for all that - in ourselves and in one another - and far more. And expect none of it. Be grateful when we get some semblance of it, strive to create it whenever we can and hope for good enough. I wish you good enough. XOXO

Monday, May 9, 2011


It started with a few medical tests I do not recommend for recreation. Got me thinking about expectations again. We must follow doctor's orders, but nobody I ever talked to thinks a colonoscopy is fun. And though Thursday night and Friday were lost, the day of the test was fun- not at all what I expected. Because my eldest, Sarah, took me, and we spent the day laughing. Expectations play a roll in all sorts of things, including how you assess the outcome of various events. But expectations often just turn out to be wrong or they spoil things all together. They only work if you prepare ahead to laugh whenever possible and adjust downward through the rest. And even then, you'll still be surprised. So, I just enjoy being surprised.

The same weekend, I took my annual run to Sunrise Nursery to prepare for my Mother's Day gardening extravaganza. I always love the job of buying plants and flowers. Usually get lost on the way there with my best friend, buy way too much, struggle to get it all in the car... It's a fun, fun tradition and I expected this to be the same. But Michelle moved to Paris. The rip. Even so, we've managed to make this trip together every year - except for this one. So, I went all by my lonesome and I was surprised by how sad it made me. Fought off a grouch the whole afternoon. So much for expectations. It takes vigilence to rid yourself of them. I have much to learn.

Mother's day expectations were way higher even still, silly girl that I am. My entire family with their babies in tow were in and out over the course of the weekend, to my abject delight. But again, the day of Mother's Day, I expected early arrivals and the early completion of farm tasks. Every year I conscript my childrens' labor on Mother's Day as my gift request. Help me plant. They did. Just not on my time table. I started to feel sorry for myself for not getting exactly what I wanted when I wanted. But that's just silly. Some of the labor in fact is still happening. Allie traumatized herself today by sticking a rake through a frog in her effort to help her mom. My gardens got mostly planted all weekend long instead of according to my plan. Now, it's hard to walk, my fingernails will never be the same, there is still a lot to do - but my yard is beyond lovely and so is my family. Plus I've got that glow-ish feeling you get from hard work, good food,lots of baby kisses, and low and frequently adjusted expectation. I wish that and more for you. Minus expectations. XOXO

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Seize the moment

Those spider web trampolines are here already! I like to look at them in the early mornings because they're all covered in dew and when the sun hits them they really sparkle. All along my path - you can't go three steps without seeing them. I mostly noticed them before in the late summer and fall. We still have daffodils and tulips and bare naked trees, but those industrious spiders are already spinning their little trampolines from the tips of one blade of grass to the next. Amazing little things. Some webs are not as big as my palm but they all have this vortex - a dip with a hole in the middle where the spider dwells. She waits there for some unsuspecting little bug to spot her toy, take a bounce and "kaprise". They're lunch.

But I think I have just solved the mystery of why I never see them in Spring. My lawn mowing husband is usually very enthusiastic this time of year. But he didn't do my path this weekend because it was too wet down there. And he wanted to get over to the lake to wind surf. He's becoming delinquent in his lawn duties already. And that's all it takes. Give them a week and they spread out onto acres of pathway. Do you think the poor little buggers go hungry in the spring time when he's more diligent about his mowing??? Nah. But do you think they hear the mower coming and evacuate in time? I will investigate and let you know.

Here's hoping you seize the moment - and evacuate in time when necessary too. XOXOOX

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Dreamed my daughter Jesse had a new baby girl that someone tried to snatch away.  I was a hell cat.  The cute, cute baby girl and my Jesse bug were fine.  One does not mess with me or mine in my dreams.  It wasn't even a close call this time.  I kicked bootie and let me tell you, it was fun. 

I used to have helpless dreams - when bad things happened, I couldn't control the outcome or I'd wake before I knew how it ended.  Then I decided it was my flippin' dream, so I stayed in bed rewriting the ending every time I disliked it.  It's a rare thing now for me to dislike the endings or to wake up before I get there.  Even dream landscapes can be sculpted.  I am a force to be reckoned with in the dream world.  Haven't yet designed my orange squirrel costume, or named my super heroe self.  But I think it might be fun to see her in an episode or two.  I'll keep you posted.  Here's wishing you a few super heroe episodes too.  XOXO

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tiny bit

So, did I tell you how much I hate getting up at 6 AM?  Thought so.  Yesterday, Dan made it a little easier by bringing me coffee in bed.  I took a few sips, drifted back to sleep, took a few more.  Sat the cup on my chest just below my collar bone, resting my chin on it.  Drifted back to sleep.  Dumped it right down my front.  WOKE UP.  Never claimed to be a rocket scientist.  I didn't tell yesterday because I was still kinda greened, ( my dad's word for embarrassed).  Took me a minute.

Some things are bad enough to pin you right to the wall - like one of those insects on display at the museum.  Or pouring hot coffee down yourself at 6AM.  Actually, if you've lived longer than a few years, you know -many, many things are way worse than hot coffee beneath the collar bone. Nobody escapes bad moments.  All the positive thinking in the world won't negate the facts and your pain in reaction to them.  Cognitive behavioral perspectives and healthy self talk and relaxation breathing and exercise all help a tiny bit.  But sometimes we're just pierced through and have no choice but to just be there until the pain passes.  Which it will, one way or the other.

My grandmother said "A burnt child dreads a fire".  Since we've all been burnt a time or two in some manner, and will be again if we live, we can easily take up all the room in our lives if we spend now in dread of the next bad moment.  Even if it is human nature, we need to do our best to fight the instinct.  Breathe through the bad parts, talk back to the "what if, if only, how could" borrowing trouble parts.  If it's bad enough, we don't need to make it worse with foolish interpretations and generalizations.  We need to be still.  Let it be. Laugh at ourselves and remind ourselves we can handle it.  Do the next right thing, then keep on.  It passes.  Always much too slowly, but suffering passes.  Reality doesn't change but our reactions of terror, grief, rage, revulsion to it do diminish.  And there's still some blue heron somewhere lifting off a pond as we drive past it, whether we see it or not.  Notice it gracefully floating there before it takes off.  It doesn't negate the bad, it sits beside it, still beautiful anyway.  Wishing you sweet moments, even in the midst of the bad ones so they help a tiny bit.  Sometimes that's all we get for a while and it really is all we need.  XOXO

Monday, May 2, 2011

If you don't watch out

Peach blossoms
Running down hill with arms stretched out so you can launch into flight
Colonoscopy scheduled for Friday.  Ugh
Feeding fish in a coy pond
Poised daughter presenting her redesign of an eyesore into a beautiful park
Bee lines
Boat load of weeds to pull in my gardens
Red Buds blooming down south just a little
Babies running, legs going like egg beaters
Deer threatening to jump out in front of your car
Soccer in the street at 4AM
Gorgeous wooden sculptures by lovely neice
Bin Ladin shot in a fire fight

Just a partial list of things I noticed/thought about in the last work-out hour.  There's always a choice to complain, get scared, notice and react only to what's wrong. But replaying the busy weekend spent in Muncie for Allie's landscape architecture presentation, then down to Bloomington to see my neice's sculptures at the IU art museum,  I choose to be present to and dwell on the good stuff.  The trip was as good as the arrival.  What a pretty time of year to travel south!  Even squished beside 2 car seats in the back of a little silver Saturn.  I could have focused on the squished part and the few and fleeting bad moments the grand babies had when they were resisting feeling "stuck" in their car seats. Nope.  I am way more willing to appreciate that bees have to have water close by, so where there's a hive, there is a bee highway.  There really is such a thing as a bee line. Bees moving back and forth from the hive to the water.  Watching for that is just way cooler than being afraid that you're gonna get stung.  Too much watching out is borrowing trouble and I have no use whatsoever for that.  I love to drive home on the winding stretch of White Oak.  It's usually a time of day when deer might bolt out in front of the car, so I always look ahead.  Figure I'll avoid a splat whenever possible.  I always honk when I see one - hoping it's a deterrent.  My husband yells "Hey deer!  Here deer! I've got caaaannnnddyy!" They stare at him like they're thinking about it, but I think their mommas warned them about guys like that.

It's not all sunshine and lolly pops.  Never is.  And I am willing (to a point) to watch out for the bad stuff. Just not too much.  So here's hoping you take a few deer infested curves or check out a bee line.  XOXOXO

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Upside Down

The trees just turning to fluff look pretty remarkable with your head between your legs.  I always end my work out with a few silly, outdoor yoga poses by the kids' swing set. In all sorts of weather.  Don't care what the neighbors think.  I love going from the pounding of feet, looking for all the signs of change in that same little patch of turf - the rush of blood and breath - to stillness, then seeing the world upside down. Thoughts bouncing all over just skid to a stop while I'm  holding a pose.  It doesn't work every time, but the meditation of the walk wakes up my noticing reflex or something.  So then I'm looking up at the clouds or down at the grass or through my legs at the topsy turvey trees and field - and actually really see them.  Magic.

By the skin of my teeth I squeeze in my morning workout and make it to my first Thursday 8:30 or 9:15 appointment.  I'm usually pulling into the parking lot with the client's car already parked and waiting - have to beg patience while I rush to open the door, turn on the lights, etc.  But walking round and round the muddy, lumpy circuit of mowed grass at the edge of our property, through the slog with my smelly pups playing doggie motocross, soaking my tennis shoes and then being really still is soooo worth the last minute dash to work.  Hoping you turn things upside down a little, too.  XOXO

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It stopped raining for a minute yesterday evening, just at the perfect gloaming moment.  Sun was lighting up big white clouds and the horizon had piles and piles of blue and purple clouds.  My client was leaving the office - and she has had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad set of circumstances to deal with of late.  I was behind the little rescheduling window and she was lingering in the door way.  Then she looked over at me and said, "Come here."  So I did.  She just pointed up and we appreciated it together.  Gorgeous.  That was a moment, right there.

So, technically speaking, in blogging days, we've passed the 21 days in a row for journaling about moments like that one.  If you have been faithful with the commitment to create a new habit of daily gratitude, you're off the hook - if you want to be.  I personally am remaining firmly on that hook and plan to stay on it.  According to my hero, Dr. Martin Seligman, the equivalent of Alder's red cloaked super chipmunk, lots of things contribute to thriving that are outside our control and one big thing is within our control .  Circumstances and genetics: things like age, stinky dog you-know-what, jellyfish blooms, intelligence, the foolish cult of unearned "self esteem" we've institutionalized in the last couple of decades, income bracket, climate, etc. all affect our ability to create and thrive.  But we have the one thing completely within our control that can always tip the scale in our direction.  The story we tell ourselves about what something means.  Attitude.  That was a horribly inadequate condensation of  Dr. Seligman's life work.  Read his latest writings to get the straight up details, and there will be more of my take on it later. But for now, concentrating on my attitude of gratitude/amazement/mischief;  my stories I tell myself and my intention to be of service (an instrument of peace).  And you?  XOXOXOXO

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not boring

Some days are like that, but Oh. My. Gosh.  We've all had worse evenings.  That's one good thing.  Right?  Oh,  another good thing.  I stuck to my diet.  And it was quite the "kaprise".  Got home after a 12 hour day to practice my gag reflex for what seemed like eternity. My whole house smelled like dog you-know-what.  Lucy is a BIG dog. They were in their crate for 9 hours, which I fully didn't intend, because I forgot Dan was traveling yesterday.  I followed their trail down the stairs and out the front door with bleach and a scrub brush.  Then I put in two calls, Dan and a son-in-law, to get directions for how to turn the water on to the outside hose.  Don't even want to talk about having to drag the hose over from the garage before I could wash their feet enough to let them back into the basement for a scrub down.  And you don't ever want to know what it takes to get such soiled bedding and that tray on the bottom outta the crate.   Amazing.  Utterly amazing.

So, bored yet?  Because Dan's day was equally fun.  He's windsurfing on his off time.  I knew he'd beat himself to a pulp - he's not enjoying any sport unless he gets a little bloody.  But "kaprise", different kind of pulp experience.  There was apparently a bloom of jelly fish in the bay down where he's surfing.  We talked while he was on his way to the grocery to buy vinegar - guess it takes out the sting.  And makes you smell like a salad.  One of the goobers wrapped itself around his thigh down to his knee.  So, since he didn't take his wet suit along (the water's 80 degrees), he went to the sporting goods store to buy some protection for tomorrow.  Ended up with women's lycra tights.  I don't even want to think about it.  Just don't think about it.  Didn't I say I wake up in a new world every single day? One never has to be bored. XOXO

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oxytocin junkie

We're almost to the magic 21 days - if you didn't skip a day yet.  If you did, try to get back on the 21 days in a row plan.  Even when things are tough,  gratitude and friendly self talk and breathing for relaxation are good things that work at least double duty.  I'm about to get serious again and talk more about other tools for the 'how to thrive' toolbox.  More about how to relax, be assertive, organized, free from past hurt and stuff like that.  Starting this week sometime.  Today I'm too soaked through with oxytocin from my house full of lamb and apple tarts and chaos and funny babies yesterday.  Dwelling a little on good memories is taking up a lot of space for in my brain and heart and gut.  Did you know that oxytocin is the neurochemical you get from loving?  It can be romance, baby smiles like Oliver's (7 months old now) with the only two teeth he has on the bottom sticking out, a good long talk with a dear friend, visiting puppies at the pet store, volunteering.  We have lots of neurotransmitters - in our heart and gut, too - not just our brain.  It's some powerful stuff that oxytocin.  Makes you believe in magic.  I get myself regular doses any way possible and dwell on memories after, because they work almost as well. Oxytocin junkie. That's me.

So, closing today with something I have on the cork board behind my computer because I love it so much:

Peace.  It doesn't mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Wishing you lots of oxytocin soaked memories of the weekend, many more today and calm in your heart.  XOXO

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Once a week Alder and Fia sleep over at Abuela and Grandpa's house.   The two babies and I sleep in one big bed and grandpa has to sleep alone.  When they wake up, newly 2 year old Fia starts talking - something about me being her sweetie this morning and Alder carrying her up to the ceiling, where she flew around like a fairie.  The stories are all connected by "and then", so they never really end.  Alder joins in a bit more slowly, but once he's fully awake, he starts talking too, like I can understand them both at once.  This morning he said something about a dream with fairies in it, too. The fairies wanted to live in his hair but he was too tall and they couldn't get up there because they didn't have wings and couldn't jump high enough.  So he had to lift them up very carefully.

My favorite part of Saturdays is whatever it is they say when we first wake up.  Last week, Fia told me she had a nice "kaprise" for me.  Alder told me that morning fairies are what make red tulips.  Night fairies make daffodils. He's such a little poet.  He said "These words stay in my hands and the words are in my whole body". Last weekend we decided we shall all be superheroes someday.  Alder will be a red flying chipmunk.  Fia will be a purple butterfly named super Fia.  Grandpa will be a blue jay with a wonderful crest on his head as part of the costume.  I will be an orange squirrel.  Of course. We make quite a weekend team since they moved here from Olympia last December with their parents, whom we also love but don't have as many interesting words.  It's only been a few months but it feels so normal and correct.  Seeing them at least once a week instead of every few months.... What can I say?  I'm grateful.  I notice.  Hope you have a lovely holiday full of gratitude and noticing.  XOXO

Friday, April 22, 2011


"Good morning, my sweet gu-rul.  How ya doin?  Goooood?"  Miss Fia's two year old morning greeting to her momma  says lots about her world, doesn't it?  Loving, safe, secure, friendly little place, our Fia's world.  Right now she has a cut on her knee that she calls her "chop".  She'll show you first thing.  She's pretty amazed by it.  She's so very lucky to have parents who create a world like that for her, allowing her room to grow into her feisty little self without fear, surrounded by love.  It's a lot easier to make that kind of world for your children when you grow up in it.  But it's never too late to start having a good childhood, to start feeling amazed by everything.

Really.  Think about it - waking up, a chop on your knee, a morning in spring, a smelly dog greeting, grass, stink bugs, shoes - everything is pretty amazing about being human.  Hard for me not to have some spiritual sense that there is a design to it all.  I wasn't going to talk about this part until we got done with mind/body discussions, but since it's a religious holiday, I decided to just philosophize about a couple of my biases. So far, what I've figured out is that being human is a short, wild, fabulous ride.  I genuinely believe we are before we were born and that we will be after. Also that while we're being human, random things happen all the time for no apparent reason.  But the marvelous thing is, we also do get to create in this phase of existence.  Our thoughts, our choices, our energy, our bodies - we create.  If you sow a patch of pumpkins, you'll get a few random weeds, but mostly, you'll get a crop of pumpkins.  Some people are actually surprised by that.  Makes me laugh.

So, I have observed that thinking and behaving and choosing "gooooood" is  likely to create good.  Other than that, it's a mystery and I am more than willing to let that be.  My bias is that one cannot come to a healthy spiritual self via fear or dogma, brow beating or meanness.  Mostly it comes from being still, using ritual like prayer or meditation and reverent, open, grateful observation.  That stuff gives me deep joy.  Right now.  Maybe it'll guide the next phase of existence when I'm done being human, if there is a next phase.  If not, I don't care over much. Makes me happy to be deluded in this manner, and as the Chef sings in The Little Mermaid, "Don't hurt cause you're dead..."  Hope you have a lovely holiday!  XOXOXO

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I like fashion.  Getting dolled up is fun.  I even put on a little mascara and perfume when I go outside to garden in my own yard.  For me.  I'm well beyond looking good in a bathing suit, but being semi-geriatrically put together makes me happy.  So when matching became unfashionable, I was a hot mess, let me tell you.  That was one of my rules.  Sheesh.  I remember the start of my fashion woes when my mom and Aunt Sara told me not to buy saddle shoes.  I swore saddle shoes would never go out of style.  We were all right about that.

Sarah, my oldest, made me a color wheel while she was away at college to help me understand what went together and what didn't.  It's still in my closet.  Jess and Allie are so used to my befuddlement that,  when we're getting dressed under the same roof, they will just pick out things for me that can go together.  Dan even does better than I do.  If there are no other options and I am in doubt, I show him and ask if it's OK.  Being a husband of 30+ years, he merely offers a yay or nay, never commenting on fit or style.  I pick out my work clothes for the entire week on Sunday night - every single thing down to the ear rings, belts and shoes - so I can get to work on time, without a crisis of indecision.  Naturally, just so you know, a bunch of models in the NY Times fashion page are matching lately.  This took much too long.  My mom used to say to just wait a minute, it'll change.  A minute is a relative thing, but she was right, of course.

So, thoughts for the day...  Be still.  It'll change.  Have fun.  Watch for fun.  Observe and participate in baby magic or any other sort of frisking whatsoever.  Get dolled up.  Make fun. Of yourself whenever possible.  Some of us are easier targets, but if you observe, you will find plenty of fodder. I take my foolishness very seriously.  I hope you do too.  And I hope you keep on being grateful with everything you've got. XOXOXO

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


All right.  I admit it.  I'm sick of this weather.  It may not look like fall or winter any more, but it  feels like the end of November.  I hate getting up at 6 AM and if I could give myself a coffee I.V., I'd be wheeling one of those little bags around with me all day today.  It's Wednesday, a no time for exercise day no matter how much I need it.  And every single one of my loved ones has bleek aspects to their lives right this moment - and that doesn't account for the suffering of my clients.  I hate that I can't do one whit more about it than I'm already doing.  Suffering sucks - and for parents, if you are one, you know -if it's your children, square that.  You're supposed to take care of them and be able to fix it, but sometimes you just can't.   Crap, crap, crap.  Plus I just noticed in the mirror of the shabby bathroom at the bowels of the Guyte building at Purdue where I sit in my tiny office T & W mornings, that I have white deodorant smears on my shirt.  They are not coming off.  There's a bumper sticker on the door to the Anatomy & Physiology room - you see it when you go out of the bathroom.  Some days it's really just the truth.  "Oh, I'm stuck in a vortex of unspeakable evil.  And you?"  Think maybe these feelings were brewing in yesterday's rant about mean people at the BMV?  It feels good to dwell for a minute on how rotten things are.  Like a good soak in a hot tub.  Once you get started, it's amazing what you can pile on.  But self indulgence only gets you so far, then the water gets cold and your fingers and toes get wrinkly.

So, here's the thing that gets me through days like today.  It's temporary.  (Disclaimer:  If this sort of hopeless/helpless/anxious mood lasts longer than a month, go get some medication and see a therapist.) Not death and taxes, but everything else about life and your current circumstances.  The weather.  Temporary.  Sleepiness.  Temporary.  Suffering.  Temporary.  Joy.  Temporary.  Sick.  Temporary.  Being human.  Temporary.  There are always slivers of truth to tune into that make you feel better in the face of seemingly immovable other truths.  Maybe that's delusional, dwelling on good stuff in the face of uck.  What can I say?  I choose delusional.  A lot.  What the hell?  If I'm wrong, I still feel a little bit more in control because I just reminded myself I am in charge of how I interpret the meaning of things and therefore how I feel.  We're not really in charge of much more than that in this being human phase of existence. That's actually a good thing.  It's a good thing I don't have a magic wand because my children and clients would be emotional cripples. They'd never overcome a single obstacle themselves because I'd be way ahead fixing it before there was a moment's discomfort.  So, we do have that going for us.  No magic wands.  Be still a minute with the stuff you feel rotten about.  Let it just be what it is.  Then move your focus elsewhere.  Right (or delusional) thinking makes for right choice which sets us up for better consequences - or at least keeps the opportunity for a better outcome in the realm of possiblity.  So, sometimes I'm delusional.  I got that going for me.   XOXO

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


There's not enough time.  I hate weather like this.  That was so rude.  Wa wa wa.  I had a client last Tuesday tell me how much he was dreading the "bad" weather predicted for the weekend.  Really?  It's Spring in NW Indiana.  What do you expect?  We're not having tornadoes or tsunamis here, just a little cold rain. And afterwards you can practically see the tulips open, the buds pop out and the grass green up. I even don't mind that it's stayed a little cool lately because that makes the spring blooms last a little longer - and when you work outside in cool weather, you sweat less.  There's usually quite a lot of hard outdoor garden labor needed in early spring.  A good hot day feels fabulous when you're lounging, but it wilts daffodils and crocus and abuelas who have trouble lounging.  Is it really that tough to see things this way? 

People who insist on being crabby can be contangious.  Not sure how it rubs off, but it can if it hits you at a moment when your defenses are down. I'm asked regularly how I do this line of work without wanting to off myself - or my clients.  I guess people wonder that because we've all been hijacked by someone else's bad attitude.   But the people who get the juice in life out of being nasty or victimized work at the bureau of motor vehicles. (Just in case you work at the BMV, that was a little joke).  They're drawn to jobs that cause misery. "You don't have enough ID. Cruel smile.You get nothing for waiting half a day in that line. Go back home and try again later."  I'm just saying - generally speaking, mean, pessimistic, self important, self indulgent people don't go to therapy.  I guess those folks have it down pat- feeling special, being the exception to the rule, powerful, or the heroe or heroine of a sad, sad, story. I almost never see them in therapy because they have it figured out already and don't intend to confuse themselves with facts.  So, though I hear tragic things daily, the people who go to a therapist just want to find a way to cope, not prove that their misery is epic, justified - whatever they need to make it permanent. I like being a healer and hanging out with folks who inspire me.

Because change is uncomfortable.  And being happy isn't bestowed.  It's earned and created.  Sometimes you have to wrack your brain, if you're one of us mere mortals whose brain isn't serotonin soaked from birth, to tune into or remember what is good.  And take steps to create more, or dwell on it or talk about it.  I am junk yard dog determined to do it every day.  You?  XO

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not my fault

Alder started it.  Even when it's three-year-old-urgent to get to the bathroom, he skids to a stop by the Easter lily in the hall and takes a deep sniff.  Then he whooshes off to the bathroom.  Three year olds have a lot to teach me.  I never pass that lily without a pause and a big sniff.  It's a new rule.

Besides making dumb rules for myself, one of my character flaws is to finish what I start.  It's been richly rewarded, but it's still a flaw.  I tend to work on everything until it is DONE. So I finish within my time frame at the cost of excellence.  I push my physical self to the point of unnecessary aches and pains and utter exhaustion to finish a project.  I constantly struggle with balance and living in the truth.  While I insist on waking up in a new world every day, with awe, delight and a knowledge that something new is about to happen -like a goose, or a 3 year old - I still work hard and I must get it done.   With that attitude, I'm constantly at risk of becoming a human doing instead of a human being.  A silly old grown up.

I think the one thing that makes a person crazy is insisting on not living in truth.    And the truth is, I am not a 3 year old, there are responsibilities and planning involved in running my life, my gardens, my budget, my practice, etc.  All that can so easily spin off into worry (borrowing trouble), and hurry. Being fully present to the moment can be tricky if you're always in a rush.

So, this weekend, I planted 36 bulbs in the barn garden, put in 6 new rose bushes, and 6 grasses, installed a sand box under the play set slide area and filled it with purple sand, built two little raised bed garden plots beside the slide for the babies to grow veggies, and wove apple branches along the garden's edge so the vines would shade the sand box and make it a cozy green tent in the summer.  I was pretty sore and tired at the end of all that.  But while I was doing it all with my Alder and Fia, we sang Little Bunny Foo Foo and Bear Tracks on tree stumps.  We marched and kissed and took breaks and ate snacks and slid down the slide and stuck our face in the Easter lily.  Made all the difference in the world. XOXOOX

Saturday, April 16, 2011


"A big ole goofy man, dancin' with a big ole goofy girl.  Oh, baby, it's a big old goofy world."  John Prine.  It sure is, isn't it?  My youngest daughter, Allie, in the throes of taking herself so very seriously at the beginning of her college career, like we all did, accused me of trying to act like a three year old.  Exactly.  Which makes me think of a poem my Aunt Betty used to recite.

The Pert Chicken by Marian Douglas

There was once a pretty chicken,
but his friends were very few,
for he thought that there was nothing
in the world but what he knew.
So he always in the farmyard,
had a very forward way,
telling all the hens and turkeys,
what they ought to do and say.
"Mrs.Goose", he said, "I wonder....
that your goslings you should let,
go out paddling in the water.
It will kill them to get wet."

"I wish, my old Aunt Dorking,"
he began to her one day,
"That you wouldn't sit all summer,
in your nest upon the hay.
Won't you come out to the meadow,
where the grass and seeds is filled?"
"If I should," said Mrs. Dorking,
Then my eggs would all get chilled."
 "No, they won't" replied the chicken,
and no matter if they do.
eggs are really good for nothing.
What's an egg to me or you?"

"What's an egg?" said Mrs. Dorking.
"Can it be you do not know?
You yourself were in an eggshell,
just one little month ago?
And if kind wings had not warmed you,
you would not be out today,
telling hens and geese and turkeys,
what they ought to do and say!"

"To be very wise, and show it,
is a pleasant thing, no doubt.
But when young folks talk to old folks,
they should know what they're about."

There's not much new someone hasn't already figured out, here in this big old goofy world, but this goofy old girl is looking at it like a three year old and it is way fun.

Friday, April 15, 2011


If you're a rule follower like me,  and you're doing precisely what I've asked, you are awfully busy.  You're constantly minding your thinking and interrupting it with cartoon versions of yourself committing violent acts or singing goofy songs,  talking back to your sassy self talk in a foreign language while breathing with your belly sticking out and staying on the look out for ways to be grateful.  I think that might be enough for a minute.  We've not hit the 21 days it takes to create even one new habit and if you're a mere mortal, you will have skipped a day or two and had to start over on the 21 days anyway.  So let's have some fun for a little while.  You keep working on spinning those three tasks into your life - minding your thinking and talking back to it; breathing for relaxation and writing your 3 daily gratitude experiences.  Meanwhile, I'll tell some stories of how I've been doing with that juggling act I'm asking of you.  I'm willing to be humiliated for the greater good.

Here's a good one. Sometimes I glue my toes together.  I hate when that happens.  Trying to suffocate a wart on the end of my right middle toe that comes and goes since I timed Allie's Lowell Dolphin swim meets bare footed.  I've had it removed twice but it just keeps coming baaaack.  Tried duct tape, which keeps coming off.  Tried three different OTC wart removers.  So I decided to try super glue.  Made sense at the time.  Glued my sock to my toe yesterday and two of my toes together.  Sheesh.  But I'm not bored.  XOXO

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Alder, my oldest grandchild (3),  Fia and I were walking down the path to our pond, which Fia calls our jungle.  It is kind of a mess of willows and weeds, fallen tree branches etc., but we love it.  We'd stopped to examine a new bud on a low branch when Alder spotted a vapor trail that was two parallel white tracks across the blue, blue sky.  It really was cool and I have no idea what was making it.  He did.  He said, "Abuela, I think that's a rocket making a space railroad track."  We sat right down in the grass and watched it happen.  Baby magic.

I said I'd talk today about what to do when your body doesn't cooperate with your plan to manage your thinking and savor magic with joy and abandon.  OK.  I had other ideas, but I keep my promises.  The thing is, it takes hard work, determined practice and focused effort to make change.  Change is uncomfortable.  And sometimes, things like depression or anxiety or other medical conditions interfere.  We have the silliest tendency to think that somehow it's a failure of character or will to acknowledge mental illnesses and treat them with medications that are effective and easily available.  We don't give ourselves or others grief for needing blood pressure or thyroid meds or for taking an antibiotic for an infection, but somehow it's different when it's our "mind".  Just FYI.  It's not.  It's your brain. If you have been feeling rotten and working hard to stop it, but your body just will not cooperate, go to your doctor.  Have a screening.  If she gives you medication, swallow it daily and do not feel like that is some sort of failure. These medications work differently than Tylenol.  If you feel something right away, it's probably a temporary side effect.  Hang in there, those pass.  The full benefits can take 6-8 weeks.  It is worth it.  We can now see, with some of the expensive new brain scan techniques, increased numbers of connections in brain structures when medication are used.  Healing.  Practices (cognitive/behavioral) and exercise also make visible brain change.  Do all of it together if that's what it takes.  That is not a bad thing.  Taking care of yourself so you can give your best selves to those you love, your community and the world is just the right thing to do.  XOXO

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ta da!

The pale green fringe on some of the bushes is rocking my world.  All those stark, bare branches then yesterday, ta da! there it was.  Green fringe.  In a minute all the leaves will be out and the green will be ubiquitous.  We won't even see it, so we certainly won't appreciate it.  It will be background to the drama of our lives.  So, I am today being delighteded by bare branches in the AM and green sighting in the PM.  It happens that fast.  So fleeting.  And it's happening whether we notice and appreciate it or not. Why not?

These techniques I'm blogging about are all "practices".  Things to incorporate into your daily life with purposeful, determined intention.  Being delighted doesn't float down like the blue bird of happiness and land on your shoulder.  You won't be happy when....... you win the lottery or buy that house or move to San Diego or go on vacation.  Enough money is good.  How much is enough?  People who win the lottery usually have some brief bliss. but then their level of happiness goes right back to their pre-win days.  The source of joy is not external.  The planets do not have to allign and good fortune does not have to wonk you on the head.  There are happy people in cold climates and warm climates, with very little money, and a lot, with generous government services and bleek ones, with diseased and healthy bodies, young and old, during periods of tragedy and ease.  Your thoughts and expectations are crucial to creating happiness.  Tomorrow we'll talk about how sometimes your body won't or can't cooperate with the cognitive practices you're building into your life, and what you can do about that.  XO

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You think you know

Fia, who turned 2 in January, put her forehead on mine, both little hands on the sides of my face, and nose to nose told me "You are my favorite Abuela."  That sort of magic can do me for weeks. Having her 3 year old brother and family right here instead of on the West Coast, I get baby magic now almost every day.  Really, really lovely stuff, that baby magic.

So, relaxation breathing - the opposite of anxious - is another sort of magic.  Some of you already do know how to breathe for relaxation.  If you've taken yoga or voice lessons or just watched your child napping, you know the real action happens in the belly, not the chest.  But for most adults, a deep breath is heaving your ribs open with chest and shoulder muscles.  That is not conducive to a real, deep breath.  We best operate our lungs with our diaphram, which is a muscle that sits below the lungs and works like a fire place bellows.  When you breathe in, you are actually stretching that muscle, pulling air into the bottom of your lungs; when you breathe out, you tighten it and force the air out. 

Steps to breathing for relaxation:  1.  Drop your shoulders, loosen your neck muscles, think of your arms like noodles and imagine your body is loose like a rag doll (but not falling out of your chair).  2.  Slowly pull air into your lungs by loosening your diaphram muscle.  Your belly should fill up like a balloon as you do a slow count of 1001, 1002, 1003.  3.  Tighten the diaphram for the out breath which should be longer.  Count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004 before you end the breath.  Your chest only expands a lttle at the end of the breath because you're filling your lungs from the bottom up. Your neck and shoulder muscles should get looser as you breathe out, and there should be a quiet pause between the in and out breath. 

Try to do that belly breathing all day long.  Shoot for 10 times a day, every hour.  Take at least three slow belly breaths every time you think about it - more if you can.  Try for a second to focus on the quiet between breaths.  It keeps you in your body and keeps you from reving up and staying nervous.  It's best to practice when things are "normal".  Trying to calm yourself once you're in a panic is sort of like trying to ride a bicycle for the first time on an interstate highway.  Won't turn out well for you.  Believe it or not, this breathing for relaxation takes practice like everything else we've talked about so far. Breathe like you know how to do it.  All day long.  And are you still writing the gratitude things?  XO

Monday, April 11, 2011


Ollie likes to grab my hair when we look at stuff cheek to cheek.  It's one of my favorite baby magic moments. His momma says it's my fault that he pulls their hair.  I am having so much fun with this.

Saturday I talked about simple things you need to get it right with your mind.   1.  Notice and honor the narration always going on in the background, spoken in the language you lived.  It can be mean or scary or sad or glad.  You get to choose.  You're the one talking.  2.  Talk back if you don't like what's being said. Just because it's a true feeling doesn't mean it's the truth.  Tell yourself another part of the truth - with gratitude and a sweet focus on the present.  3.  Do it over and over and over.  Dwell on the good stuff until it becomes a habit.  This is pretty simple stuff that may take years to fully work at your will. 

Sometimes we get hung up on not so random thoughts that trigger mean, scary or dismal feelings.  If you can't shake them loose, here are some ideas:  Use visual or auditory cues to stop the thought.  Make up whatever works for you, but feel free to use any of the following... Imagine a cartoon version of yourself at your perfect weight, dressed exactly right with the perfect haircut.  Perfect you, vicious snarl on your face, using a death ray gun.  Laugh at yourself.  Or yell the word STOP (only in your head, silly) with an exact visual of a STOP sign.  Sing yourself an annoying song.  Tell yourself a one liner joke.  In some manner that works for you, interrupt the thought. Do several things in a row, whatever it takes.  Then take 3 slow belly breaths and tell yourself a kinder part of the truth that makes you grateful.  Tell someone else that thing that makes you grateful.  Do it over and over and over until it sticks.  Tomorrow we'll talk about how to breathe.  You only think you know, smarty pants. XOXOXO

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Big scary looking black mutt number one of our two dogs is an epic coward. Lucy sounds so fierce when someone knocks at the door, then she hunches behind me when they come in. "Go get 'em, mom!" Thunderstorms really flip her lid.  So this morning we had Loony Luce.  I went out onto the front porch and sat with her a bit to help her calm down.  Really glad I had the time to do it. Cool morning air, big, big world, awesome spring rain, dog leaning up against my legs for reassurance, tail thumping.  Lucy and I both felt soaked up in the moment, there on our mostly dry front porch. We could practically see the rain making the grass greener, unfurling the leaves on the trees and lilac bushes...

It's so easy to overlook, minimize, downplay splendid moments.  The story we tell ourselves is always running in our minds - even if we don't recognize it.  We have a permanent sports announcer, narrating our life to us, blow by blow, in the language we learned growing up. Because you learn what you live. Grow up in Russia, speak Russian. Since it's just you talking to you, it's easy to think it's more "honest" when you're critical or harsh.  You know that you thought ugly, embarrassing, icky things.  So only you can be honest with yourself and call yourself out for it, tell yourself the harsh truth. Especially if criticism is what you lived growing up, it can become your autopilot language.  How you view and speak about yourself and the world. Gotta stop that.

True feelings and old habits of thinking are not the only truth.  The way we describe an experience creates its meaning and therefore our feelings about it.  That thunderstorm/silly dog behavior this morning could have been "Sheesh I hate my dog. What did we do to make her such a nutcase?  When will it ever be really spring instead of just mud season?  It's the weekend already.  I only have a couple of days to work outside and now it's raining.  My whole day is gonna suck and my dog sucks, too."  See why gratitude practice is such a good thing?  If I started my day thinking like that, I could make my whole day suck.

After so many years, I had to really think to re-view my morning in that sorry, complaining way.  I no longer have to work to find good things.  They hijack me, like that soaked through feeling I had sitting outside in the rain with a neurotic dog.  But when you first start minding your thinking, being present and searching for the good is not easy.  You have to notice your thoughts, listen to the language you use to talk to yourself.  It's there, always in the background.  Recognizing the thoughts and tone of speaking to yourself may only happen after you've felt your mood dive South.  Go backwards in your mind to figure out the trigger.  A glimpse of your changed figure in a plate glass window?  An off handed comment someone made that triggered a quick, mean, knee jerk thought?  Then you have to honor that your thoughts feel true, and come from learning what you lived, even if they are sorry or complaining or mean as snot things you'd never say to anybody else.  You're not an idiot for doing this to yourself.  Everybody does. Next, interrupt the cycle and talk back to the true feelings with something else that is also true. Don't lie to yourself, but be nice and dwell on the good. Over and over and over and over again. Like you're learning to speak Chinese. We'll talk more about all that tomorrow.  XO

Friday, April 8, 2011


Got a phone call this morning a little after 6 AM.  Usually those don't mean good news.  It scared the puddin' out of me.  It wasn't catastrophic, but not good news either.  So during my exercise, which is what I use to ground myself, I tuned in to the rhythm of my feet, the ripe cow smell (farmers are fertilizing) mixed with new grass in the wet air, how much traffic there is so early in the day.  That was the best I could do to quiet my brain.  My walks are my meditation or prayer or means to the present moment.  They get me in my body, because I'm pushing it.  That gets me out of my head.  I  can 'what if' myself to shreds if I let that go unchecked. Some days, it takes most of the work out to get the endorphins going enough to bleed off the anxiety and start to enjoy the squirrel sighting or giggle in surprise at the sound of peepers squealing and plopping into the pond.  But that is my intention and so I do it.  Even on days that might not be so swell later on.

 So the idea today is that sometimes it takes hard work to tune into the gratitude channel, or be present to the present moment and notice what is with some pleasure.  That doesn't mean it isn't worth doing.  Are you still writing your three things?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mindful gratitude

My gratitude story for the day:  Cows are really BIG.  I walk by a farm on my work out that has these silly fluffy ducks with stickin' up hairdo's milling around outside.  When I see them,  I need to visit them and watch them scatter a little bit.  Wouldn't you?  So this morning they were out by the barn and I had a close up visit.  I can't imagine how little ole me was able to also spook the cows by the barn into a bovine stampede.  Honest.  Didn't do that on purpose. And no fences were damaged or anything, but it sure gets your heart rate up.  And, not kidding, cows are BIG. 

Now, why gratitude is such a really good thing:  In a nutshell, what you pay attention to grows.  And you notice what you believe or expect. So, being human, it's only natural that what's wrong with the picture gets our attention.  Plus, it's programmed right into our DNA to do that.  Imagine your ancestor out in the prairie looking for nuts and berries.  The grass nearby rustles but the wind isnt' blowing.  If the tendency to notice that something's wrong was missing, that guy is right out of the gene pool.  He's that tiger's breakfast.  So, since there are way more people than saber toothed tigers, we do not need to focus on what is wrong with this picture. Instinct helps us along with that just fine.  In fact, we do it so well in order to prepare ourselves for the next bad thing that suddenly that's one of our habits of thinking, a constant companion.  Worry.  Mistrust.  Judgment.  Gossip.  Suffering.

If something is wrong, trust me, we will know it soon enough. You do not need to practice looking for it.  You are a fine tuned machine when it comes to that.  And if you live, being human means something really wrong will happen more than once or twice - usually when it's mighty inconvenient and utterly unwelcome.  You need to work at finding what is right with the picture.  Hard.  Daily.  Or risk getting all the juice in life out of being ticked off or worried or being a tragic victim.  All of us feel like our own suffering is louder and greater than other people's. And it sure is juicy.  But as Gran says about the "Why me?" folks,  "Well, why not you?"  Even in the midst of great suffering, you can be grateful.  Try it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Being enchanted is my job.  It's my daily practice.  In one form or another, it's what I've taught people as a licensed, PhD psychologist in my prairie private practice for nearly 30 years. And in exactly that form - being enchanted, or grateful, or happy- it has been my deliberate, focused intention for at least the last 15 years. You can teach yourself how to be resilient, happy, enchanted as well by following this blog.  Want to learn how to be like a goose and wake up in a new world every day?  In this blog, I'll write about grand baby magic, looking at grass upside down, breathing like you don't really know how - living well in your body, mind, spirit and relationships.  It's all pretty simple, but it's not easy.  Shall we?


I love rules.  I've always been one of those good girls who followed the rules.  Show me the rules, I'll follow them so well and you'll just love me.  I know.  You probably hate me already.  I was about 9 (Thank you very much, mom and dad.  You are wizards.) before I realized that some rules suck. As a 56 year old PhD licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice, a husband, 3 daughters, three magical grand children and two dogs, I've read lots of other people's rules, made up and tossed a lot of my own and can honestly say that there are some things that work if you practice them.  I love extravagantly, use my aging body reasonably well and am mostly happy so the rules work for me.  

In this daily blog, I'll give you rules I've learned to follow in the care of  mind, body, spirit and relationships that do create happiness.  And this one that won't.  Since middle school, I made up a rule that I had to wear wool at the beginning of the school year.  Bobby Brooks pleated skirt, sweater and knee socks.  So, whether it was 100+ degrees or not (which it usually is in Central Illinois in late August, early September), all those long first days of school, I tortured myself in lovely fall colors and hot, itchy wool.  Don't do stuff like that.  If any of my rules strike you as silly, don't do that either.  You can pick and choose.  But practice for a while - 21 days in a row (harder than you think) before you toss them.  And start with the first rule - gratitude.  Not kidding. I have 15 years of daily practice and it's a good thing.   Every day for 3 weeks (it takes 3 weeks to make a habit), I'd like you to write down 3 things that made you grateful that day.  Feel free to share them at the end of each of these blogs.  I'll start each of my notes with one of my 3 things.  XOXO