Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All is Calm, All is Bright

"Fill me up with love, Fill me love, love, love." D. Matthews

It is Christmas Eve morning, I am sitting in my small kitchen sipping coffee and watching the clouds slowly pass by. It is mild and the snow is melting. My boys are playing quietly, together. I am enjoying the calm and stillness of this moment.

We are making christmas cookies today, the challenge will be not to eat all the dough before it is rolled, shaped and decorated. I have a holiday music playlist ready to go and we are awaiting the arrival of my Mom before we get started. My expectations are low, as it is not about the outcome but the time spent together. The gifts that are treasured the most are experiences filled with attention and love.

Enjoying holiday traditions with my boys, create memories that will hopefully bring back a feeling of warmth, happiness and a fondness for celebrating seasonal milestones. I love reading about how other families make their holidays special, and also how to make the most out of what we already have. This season, my oldest is almost 5, and it is the perfect age for enjoying everything, as it is all exciting and new. We cut out paper trees, wreaths and snowflakes to hang in our windows. Our sprightly elf is watching over us, we have candles and lights around the house and our vintage silver tree has only fallen over once, thanks to my little one. My boys are curious, mischievous and lively. Their eyes are twinkling, their dimples are merry! Their cheeks are like roses from running and playing, and their cherry red noses are drippy and stuffy!

Lots of questions come up surrounding the lore of holidays, I am feeling my way and allowing stories and experiences to be the segue into what we discuss. Santa Claus is on every street corner in December and it can be confusing to little ones who believe in the magic of giving. What a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the importance of charity and embrace the universal quality of being a part of this world. We filled 2 bags with toys and clothes and dropped it off to our local donation center. The entire experience took a day, and the extended discussion resonated. When my husband came home it was the highlight of our dinner conversation. Another holiday tradition built and strengthened with love.

Tonight, after our parties with neighbors, friends, and family, we will settle our sugar plums into bed. Our stockings hung on the woodwork with care, I'll snuggle up with my husband for a short winter's nap, and awake to the bells on Christmas day.


'I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day'

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.

Till, ringing, singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day, 
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1867

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Celebrate

"True living arrives by attending to the smallest moment and finding the eternal inside of it. S.M. Kidd"

37 years, 37 candles, 37 wishes, many more blessings than I can count. A snowy birthday with lots of love, sweetness and joy. Everyday is a celebration of life, my husband reminds me of this, and my boys are the examples. All you need is love, love is all you need.


Another year older,
Another year wiser.
My gifts are wrapped up as people.

Come into my life, laugh, smile.
Won't you stay a while with me?

Holding hands,
Singing songs,
Long distance calls.

My wish is for PEACE and LOVE,

HAPPINESS and HOPE.

Thanks for the time
Thanks for the space

Cheers to you and me
Cheers to you and me

Here's to you and me.


Michelle Heron
December 14, 2010

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

With Thanks



"Singing we'll all be together, even when we're not together, with our arms around each other, with our faith still in each other."  N. Case

It's Tuesday night, my oven is on the fritz, I couldn't roast a turkey even if I wanted to.  It seems like a lot of work anyway. So, I went to the market and bought a pre-cooked chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, stuffing, biscuits and gravy. We had what my Dad calls a "winner, winner, chicken dinner." The boys ate most of their portions and my husband was very thankful for his, as he skipped lunch to get home to us sooner. This was our Thanksgiving meal. We all held hands and sang our song, "I'm thankful for my friends and my family, I'm thankful for the food I eat, I'm happy as can be."

As a nurse, I have to work weekends and holidays. My choice, but I always wonder what it would be like to have time off along with everyone else. I work at night and it seems like I have a different view of working life all around. This year, I am hoping to have my Christmas holiday, the balance of scheduling is a constant struggle. I never really minded working the off shifts, but now that my boys are getting bigger and engaging more in the celebration of the seasons, I miss seeing them interact with family and friends, enjoying the holiday without me. I recognize how lucky I am to have my life, my loves, my freedom and my work. Service professionals in military, safety, security and healthcare are not with their families either, their sacrifices keep our extended community protected and sheltered.

Despite the brightness and beauty of the season, the holidays bring melancholy memories of loved ones that are no longer with us. Loss weighs heavier on our hearts, as we are still alive on this earth bound by the cycle of life. Our goal is to honor and remember their spirit and the gifts they have given, and that we continue to receive. When I close my eyes, we are all together sharing a meal, toasting a drink, and sharing a bountiful ritual of gratefulness.

The world offers opportunities to become a part of something larger than ourselves. All living beings who are in pain, sick, suffering or enduring a tremendous tragedy need our help and our love. Sending out a prayer into the universe is important and necessary.

May we all be filled with loving kindness
May we all be peaceful and at ease
May we all be safe and healthy
May we all be happy

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Healing Home

It's cold and flu season and no matter how well you care for yourself, that sneaky, ever-changing virus can hold your body hostage with its irritating symptoms of runny or stuffy nose, cough, congestion, sore throat, headache and muscle weakness. If you have children, it seems that pesky virus can sneak back in just when you think you are improving.  Although there is still no cure for the common cold and without getting too scientific, chicken soup remains a wonderful option for temporarily alleviating cold and flu symptoms. There are various recipes for chicken soup, but most contain specific ingredients that in combination create a powerful impact on your health and healing.

If you are interested, here is a link to Dr. Stephen Rennard's research study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  http://www.unmc.edu/publicrelations/article.htm

When we take the time to care for ourselves and those we love, there is a strong energetic current that connects us. Our hands can offer comfort, compassion and tenderness through healing touch. There are many benefits to gentle touch. It is calming, relaxing and helps to balance your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  You have the power to provide healing touch on yourself, others or seek out a certified healing touch practitioner.  http://www.healingtouchinternational.org

Children are very responsive to healing touch. Congested babies and toddlers are miserable, and as a parent if you are sick too, it is double misery. Hot, steamy, showers can help encourage congestion out of the body. A couple drops of essential oils into a shower or bath offer an alternative therapy to decrease inflammation. If you are interested in learning about research directed toward fighting some of the toughest bugs with the use of essential oils, here is a link to Dr. Sue Chao's study at Weber State University in Utah.  http://www.youngliving.com/MRSA_article.pdf

Nasal irrigation with a netti pot or nosefrida for little ones is very helpful as well. Getting the mucous out of the chest eases congestion. nasal irrigation is a wonderful way to do this. As your children get older, teaching them how to blow their nose, and cough up phlegm is a good habit. http://www.fridababy.com

Follow this with lots of cuddling, snuggling, gentle massage of backs and bellies, and hug therapy can promote rest and healing for all.  According to Kathleen Keating author of "The Hug Therapy Book", touch is the primary way we contact and connect with each other. Our skin is the antennae that feels, touches and meets the world outside of ourselves. With touch we meet, bond, and belong.    http://www.bykathleenkeating.com

As a mother of two children with asthma, I know all too well how quickly cold congestion from a virus can spread into a nightmare of respiratory distress. Both my sons have had one too many emergency room visits, and overnight hospital admissions. When sickness invades my home and affects my children, I fight it with all I've got. Knowledge and experience can lessen the stress of sickness, but sleep deprivation doesn't help with coping or healing. Leaning on your support systems and finding balance to care for yourself while caring for others is most important. My younger son has his first ear infection and developed croup from his recent cold. My husband is astute and noticed his cough quickly, another trip to the pediatrician, and we are armed with more fighting power.

One of the most important things you can do is rest and hydrate yourself and your child. Water is essential to help balance homeostasis while fighting off a virus or bacteria. The body's natural immune defense can cause low to high fevers in children. Hydration is key in helping the body fight illness. Frequent hand washing is also essential, consider wiping down counters, doors, door knobs, refrigerators and bathroom fixtures often to decrease the spread of illness within your home and to your family. Another key tip is to wash bed linens and switch out your toothbrush after an illness, so as not to reinfect yourself.

Here is my chicken soup recipe and other small offerings for rejuvenating your immune system.




Chicken Soup with Shiitake and Ginger

4-6 organic chicken thighs (skin on, bone in)

*4-6 cups filtered water or bone broth

2-3 T organic extra virgin olive oil

2-3 large cloves finely chopped garlic

2-3 T freshly grated ginger 

1 large sweet onion chopped into crescent moons

1 cup finely chopped shiitake mushrooms (dry brushed)

2-3 rinsed celery ribs cut into 1/2" diagonal crescent moons

4-5 medium sized organic carrots unpeeled (rinse and scrub) and sliced into circles

2-3 strips wild atlantic Nori (sea vegetable)

sea salt, fresh ground pepper, thyme, rosemary, lavender (herbs de provence), turmeric and cumin to taste


Place chicken thighs in a large pot with 4-6 cups water and boil to make your own chicken broth add a pinch of sea salt.  About 30 minutes and simmer broth.

In another large stove pot, (I like to use my Le Creuset dutch oven)  add olive oil, garlic, ginger, onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, seasonings and saute until tender to make a mirepoix.

Slowly add chicken broth and chicken thighs to the mirepoix.  Cut up the Nori strips and add to the soup.  Simmer soup for 2-3 hours or until the chicken falls off the bone.  Before serving, I de-bone and de-skin my thighs then place the pieces of chicken back into the soup.  

For the little ones, serve the broth over rice cereal or with warm fresh bread to dip. My boys don't like anything floating in their soup except chicken and carrots, so I infuse all the healthy ingredients into the broth and then strain it.

For the adults, I like to add a bunch of fresh herbs just before serving, sliced into strips.  Fresh basil, cilantro, flat leaf parsley, napa cabbage, lemongrass, scallion, baby bok choy, baby spinach, kale or swiss chard adds crunch and texture. Sometimes, I add more grated ginger or freshly sliced thai chiles to zest it up. Season to taste.

Another option is to add 1/2 cup of sweet brown rice to the soup and simmer for 3 hours creating a congee, also known as rice porridge.  The rice thickens the soup adding texture and heartiness.  The congee is nice for little ones too.

Homemade chicken broth is the most important ingredient, I use it as a base for most of my soup recipes. You can simplify the soup and just use, carrot, celery and onion as well. Lots of add-in or substitutions, sweet potato, butternut squash, parsnips, turnips, white or purple carrot, depending on the season.

*Bone broth is a wonderful option to use instead of filtered water, with more amazing nutritional benefits than chicken broth. If you have bone broth on hand, add it to your chicken soup for a power packed healing soup. Here are some links to the benefits of bone broth and how to make it.

http://lotus-life.postach.io/post/making-chicken-bone-broth

http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful

Vegetarian Options

It is also possible to create a healing soup from vegetables. Here are some easy ways to incorporate a nourishing, vegetable based soup into your diet.

4-6 cups of water

2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

2-3 large cloves finely chopped garlic

2-3 T freshly grated ginger 

1 T plus 2 tsp of shoyu (*see recipe below for my soy free version)

1 T chickpea miso (traditional japanese fermented beans, this one is soy free and power packed with probiotics)

1 large sweet onion chopped into crescent moons

1-2 medium sized organic carrots unpeeled (rinsed and scrubbed) cut lengthwise or an a diagonal

1 cup shiitake mushrooms (dry brushed)

1-2 (rinsed) celery stalks cut into 1/2" diagonal crescent moons

1 cup dried daikon, soaked in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes, reserve the soaking water

2 pieces of kombu (sea vegetable) halved

In a large saucepan, layer the ingredients in this order: kombu, onion, garlic, ginger, miso, carrot, celery, shiitake mushrooms and dried daikon. It is believed that by layering vegetables and allowing them to cook undisturbed, their nutritional energy gets even more concentrated. Pour the water on top, including the reserved dried daikon water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a gentle simmer and add 1 tsp shoyu.  Continue cooking for another 35 minutes, then add the remaining tsp of shoyu.  Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat.

This a rich and hearty vegetable broth easily served by itself, over sweet brown rice, or with chopped greens and spices as listed above with the healing chicken soup.

Soy free Shoyu

1 cup vegetable broth (see above recipe)

1 T balsamic vinegar

2 tsp unsulphured molasses

1 tsp sea salt

pinch garlic powder

pinch of ginger powder

Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to lightly boil for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool then store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.


Apple Tea  (helps thin congestion)

2 cups water

2 T grated ginger + juice

2 T grated lemon zest + juice of 1 lemon (oranges are good too)

1/4 cup raw unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar

*2-3 spoonfuls local organic raw honey (not to be consumed by infants under 1 year)

1-2 cinnamon sticks for infusion

Simmer all ingredients for at least 30 minutes to infuse mixture together.  Strain and serve. For the little ones, I add apple juice or orange juice to cool it off and cut the vinegar taste.


Magic Mix  (natural cough suppressant)

*1/4 cup local organic raw honey (not to be consumed by children under 1 year)

1 T unsulphured organic molasses

2 T fresh grated ginger

2 T ground cinnamon

1 T each of ground turmeric and cardamom

1 tsp ground black pepper

Mix above ingredients together creating a paste, take 1 spoonful 3 times a day and before bed to help suppress cough and thin congestion.  You can store this mixture for up to 3 months in the refrigerator, but I like to make in small batches to keep it fresh.

Aromatic Chest Rub (breathing comfort)

1/2 cup extra virgin organic olive oil or organic virgin unrefined coconut oil

2 tsp. castor oil

10 drops essential oil mixture of eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, frankincense, and chamomile

15 drops essential oil mixture of lemon and sweet orange

Whisk ingredients together and place in an airtight container, then refrigerate to harden.

Make your own balm or buy a pre-made certified organic chest balm. Massage onto chest and back right after a steamy shower and breathe in. For little ones, cupping your palm and very gently provide short, quick pats onto the right and left sides of the upper and middle back. This helps to loosen mucous and congestion, also known as chest physical therapy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Just Breathe

"Breathe, breathe in the air." Waters, Wright, & Gilmour

October brings a cool, crisp feeling into the air, deeply breathing in and out consciously enlivens the soul and connects us to the constancy of change. This season is burning red, vibrant orange, and golden yellow. There is so much beauty to take in, it is a multiple sensory experience of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.  Fall is for celebrating a full harvest moon, reaping the benefits of sweet, sharp apples and buttery, sugar pumpkins, gazing into the burning blaze of a fire, feeling the warmth, and settling into autumn delight. We enjoy friends, family and seasonal transitions as the earth prepares for winter.

Spending active, quality time in nature especially in the fall is a glorious experience. Once the body begins to move in rhythm, the breath follows.

In yoga, the breath is the spark of the practice. Every movement and sensation is guided by the quality of the breath.  Riding the breath like a wave, focusing on the deepening, tide-like movement of air in and out of the lungs, unites mind, body and breath.

Noticing the breath, acknowledging its presence in our life, we can allow it to help us through challenging moments and re-direct our awareness into this moment, making an effort towards mindful living.

Breathe: To inhale and exhale air naturally and freely. To be alive. To pause, to rest or regain breath. To move, or blow air gently. To allow air to pass through. To be manifested or suggested, as an idea or feeling. To reach fullness of flavor and aroma through exposure to air.

Pranayama is a sanskrit word meaning "extension of the life force." Prana is the life force or vital energy and Yama is to extend or draw out.  There are three functions of breathing, inhalation or puraka, exhalation or rechaka, and retention or kumbhaka.  The lungs are the organs that function during the cycle of breath, the diaphragm is a large muscle below the lungs that contracts during inhale and relaxes during exhale. Holding or retaining the breath increases carbon dioxide levels in the blood, raises the internal temperature, and increases the absorption of oxygen. Preferably, the inhale and exhale is practiced through the nostrils with the mouth closed, as long as there is no congestion. The muscles of the face are soft and relaxed, particularly the muscles of the mouth and throat remain easeful.

The spine must be uplifted, alive and strong so the muscles of the respiratory system and diaphragm can function properly and freely. In order to do this, find a comfortable seated position. An easy cross-legged position or sitting on the heels, use of a pillow or block is helpful to maintain spinal alignment. To inhale is a passive motion and to exhale is an active motion. The movement of inhalation is an "undoing"movement in which tension is released.  The body must be relaxed so that the lungs can receive the inflow of air. Exhale completely, let go and surrender the weight of the body to sink towards the ground.

~ Dirgha Breath or Simple Deep Breathing ~

Bring awareness to your natural flow of breath, inhaling and exhaling. Notice the parts of the body that expand and contract as you move the breath. As the upper body rises to meet the inhalation, feel the upper chest lift and the rib cage expand. Pull the breath into the belly, feel the fullness of the breath at the base of the spine, hold or retain the breath in the body for one to two seconds. Feel the energy, the life force circulate and permeate your body and mind from the inside out, then release the breath. As you exhale, the breath moves along the spine up and out, the lower body softens, rooting the pelvis closer to the earth. The Dirgha breath or three-part breath is engaged as the body moves into a rhythm connecting the presence of mind to the breath. On the inhale, the upper chest, the upper back, and the rib cage expands and lifts.  The breath is slowly pulled into the base of the spine, filling the abdomen and low back.  The momentary retention of breath occurs and then the exhale moves up and out along the spine. This is the whole body breathing.

~ Ujayii Breath or Ocean Breath ~

From a place of focus and connection to a simple deep breath, there is a layer of inner vibration or sound that can be created using a gentle constriction of the back of the throat upon the exhale. Building on the principles of simple deep breathing or the Dirgha three-part breath, pull the breath into both nostrils and into the back of the throat. The upper chest, rib cage and abdomen fill with breath, hold the breath for one to two seconds and feel the energy circulate. Your lungs are full of breath and the back of the body is widened. Softly and slowly exhale and release the breath from the base of the spine, relaxing the rib cage and softening the upper chest. Gently pressing the tip of the tongue towards the back of the front teeth, the exhale occurs through both nostrils as the throat constricts. There will be a slight hissing sound as the breath escapes the body. This is deeply relaxing and the cycle begins again.  Imagine calm waves moving onto shore as you inhale and as you exhale visualize the pull of the tide drawing the water back out to sea.

Any time taken to sit quietly and rejoice in the power of the breath to restore a sense of calm and ease to the mind and body is time well spent. One minute, five minutes, twenty minutes or more, connecting to breath or moving in sync with the breath unites the mind and body, allowing a greater sense of connection to self, to others and to the universe. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summertime

'Nature' is what we see- The Hill- the Afternoon- Squirrel- Eclipse- the Bumble bee- Nay-Nature is Heaven-
'Nature' is what we hear- The Bobolink- the Sea- Thunder- the Cricket- Nay- Nature is Harmony-
'Nature is what we know- But have no Art to say- So impotent our Wisdom is To Her Simplicity.
Emily Dickinson
Summer is bittersweet. The beginning is full of hope and excitement filled with warm, sunny, long, languid days. The smell of blossoming flowers in the air, butterflies, bees and birds are swooping around happily. Sleeping in with the windows open, lounging in bed with my boys softly breathing beside me, a perfect summer dream. Going to the beach in the evening, watching the waves moving in and out, an easeful and peaceful release. While I can create my own rhythm and routine, the reality is that I can't lay in bed, I have a life full of responsibility. These beautiful, summer days are for squeezing out every second of fun. Seeking new adventures and excitement for my boys on a daily basis is an expectation, while still working, balancing schedules and maintaining household duties. My husband wakes at 6am, off to work, home by 6pm, and without missing a beat, helmets are on, and they are all speeding away on their bikes as another adventure unfolds.

The boys of summer are covered with dirt, they jump into every puddle, collect pocketfuls of sand, drip popsicle juice everywhere, they live in bathing suits and pools, lakes and oceans become their bath tub. Slowly seeping into the heat of mid-summer, family vacation is finally here, and then it rains. We discover that relaxing with young children is impossible, cranky kids need naps and a constant supply of food. Long car rides, expensive tickets to amusement parks, museums, train rides, and beach permits, time off from work, can create stress if expectations are high. Stay in the moment, try not to hold onto potential outcomes, learn to let go and surrender into the true potential of summer. Right now, I love every dirty hug, sticky kiss and sweetly intended bouquet of flowers personally handpicked out of my garden.

I remember my own summers of freedom, swimming, reading, playing with friends. Summer nights lit by big, full, yellow moons that hung in the sky while I stayed out past my bedtime. Breathing in the night air with my heart beating hard against my chest, memories endure as you feel it all. Being in nature and enjoying all her beauty intensifies physical sensations. Waiting for the soft, quiet stillness as a hummingbird feeds on the nectar of flowers in bloom, listening to the song of crickets and summer bugs, watching the bats fly overhead as the sun goes down and the owls hoot in the big pine trees that sway with the wind. Close your eyes and remember these moments of feeling alive, share the simple enjoyments of each season, find connection and balance with our Earth. New memories are made by opening up all senses, acknowledging the complexity and mystery of life, 'Nature is Heaven.'

Three months go quick and here I am at the end of our summer days. Sitting on my front porch, enjoying the sound of loud, smashing trucks and quick quarrels, while my eyes focus on large iridescent bubbles lightly floating over small heads. All of a sudden the days are shorter, the nights are creeping in earlier and the temperature has dropped. Most of us who live in New England can't wait for the start of fall. These early autumn days of blue sky, warm sun and cool, starry nights require fleece jackets and soft, faded jeans to come out from the bottom of drawers. Then another hot day sneaks in and you are glad the last air conditioner is still in the window, and at least one fan is in the house. Preparations are made for school, early bedtime and I still have to switch out the laundry, fold it and make dinner. Everyone says these are the golden days, enjoy them while you can. Enjoy every moment of life, celebrate it, laugh often and do everything with the intention of love in your heart.

So, I take a deep breath in and smile happily to myself.

On the last day of August we celebrated at my parents house with good friends, enjoying dinner and time together on a beautiful evening. As I stepped out of the house into the setting sun, I saw one lonely dandelion left on the lawn. I stopped, picked it up and held it up to the sky. Before I made my wish, I paused and thought of all the loveliness in my life. Gratitude filled my heart as I heard my boys squeals of laughter behind me. I said my wish aloud into the universe and watched as all the last fluffy, white blossoms flew away.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Listening

You, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by.
And so, become yourself, because the past, is just a good bye.
Teach, your children well, their father's hell, did slowly go by,
And feed, them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you're known by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

And you, of the tender years, can't know the fears, that your elders grew by.
And so please help, them with your years, they seek the truth before they can die.
Teach, your parents well, their children's hell, will slowly go by.
And feed, them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you're known by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.
CSN&Y
One morning on a very hot day, my boys and I hiked into the woods. There were rocky paths filled with large tree roots and big tempting mud puddles. At times we had to abandon the stroller due to rugged terrain. There were highs and lows, scrapes and falls, exciting discoveries, laughing, singing, crying and whining. The beauty of spending time in nature, away from home, technology and constant distractions, creates an opportunity to truly be with one another. It also offers space to breathe, to be, and to enjoy the sounds of the earth not normally heard above the din of daily life and routine. As we walked, we enjoyed quiet moments of observation. "Mom! What kinds of animals live here? How big are the woods? Did you see that moss on the ground! It's soft, fuzzy and covers the whole tree! Where does that path go? Come on, Mom! Let's Go!"

We hiked for about an hour and the sun grew higher and hotter. The need for rest and nourishment became apparent and we set down our blanket and enjoyed a small lunch together under the canopy of balsam and fir trees. Mosquitoes and black flies broke up our picnic pretty quickly and the boys were once again on the move. With sweat pouring off us, moving at a slower pace, the two mile loop was feeling more like a ten mile loop by the end and the boys easily talked me into a treat. Sitting on a bench next to the mooing cows and bleating goats, shielding our eyes from the bright light, my two sons shared a cup of fast melting ice cream, and even I got a bite or two. Sticky, pink sweet cream dripped onto chins, shirts and hands, my boys were content and in this moment, so was I.

As a new mother, there is a constant, nagging feeling of inadequacy and worry. Am I a good parent? Am I disciplining them enough or not enough? Why don't they listen to me? Of course, there is never a doubt of love. It surrounds us like a protective bubble. My love for my boys is impermeable but I wonder if what I say is getting through to them.  Parenting is the most difficult challenge of my life and my most rewarding accomplishment. Having my babies after 30, cultivating a fulfilling career after college, marrying my first love and pursuing personal interests, left me with experiences I thought would prepare me for raising and guiding two spirited children with sharp minds and devilish grins. I want my boys to grow into kind, respectful, smart, compassionate individuals who carve a path for themselves in life that leads to happiness. How do I help them do this? How do other parents do this? How did my parents do this?

After our dessert, the sugar rush was creeping in as the giggles turned into screaming and our walk turned into a run. They were off and I was left wildly chasing them, towing a backpack and the stroller behind me, hoping they don't fall head first into the nearby pond. Their little heads barely visible behind the tall grass, dandelions and fragrant lilies. Feeling like a crazy lady unable to contain her children, I hollered, "Stop! There are cars, hold hands, wait for me! There is a road ahead!" Once I caught up with them, I was amazed to see they had listened to me! They stopped by the edge of the parking lot, standing there my older son leaned into my younger son reaching for his hand. "We have to stay together little brother, hold my hand and I'll watch out for you." My heart beat slowed down and we quietly walked to the car together.

In my private moments of insecurity, anxiety and fear as a parent, I need to remember these days. This was the day I started believing in myself and my children. I have to trust that the lessons given out of love are being understood. What I say and do impacts the reaction, response and experiences of my boys. Securing seat belts, wiping hands and loading up the car, I was offered a small validation in my parenting confidence followed by a lesson in letting go.

"...so just look at them and sigh, and know they love you."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Resisting

"And the more I go inside, the more there is to see..."

The daily events of my life take me on a roller coaster of emotions and reactions.  Waking up too early, cleaning up mess after mess of smashed food on the floor, boys yelling, throwing and pushing. Battling discipline and love, creating life lessons out of fun and adventure. Providing nourishment, safety, respect, and strength with a smile. All before one sip of coffee. Like me, most parents maintain multiple jobs in an effort to pay bills and balance it with raising children. Staying up all day and going to work at night leaves me feeling and looking like a zombie.

After being away for a while I went to a yoga class, which was an unexpected luxury on a weeknight for me. Less than five minutes in, I found myself resisting in all aspects of mind, body and breath. I was looking at the clock often and generally feeling anxious, stiff and inflexible. After warming up slowly, awakening my spine, engaging my breath, I become aware of my upper back and neck. It must be having two young children who want "up" all the time, lack of sleep, and limited time to stretch, but the burning pain and tightness began to wrap around my muscles. My breath stopped, the pain was so sharp that I began to feel anger towards my body and judging myself for not practicing as much as I should. Discovering this truth humbled me, attempting to undo these harsh feelings, I took a deep breath in, acknowledged my vulnerability, and started to work with my body, not against it.  


The moment I became conscious of this intense resisting, I began to let go. My change in perception of what was happening in the present moment broke down an internal barrier, the wall of negativity I built up in my mind. Suddenly, I had more space for my breath and took the poses into my body as if I was drinking a cool glass of water. Unfolding from within, I surrendered and let freedom of movement overtake me. 

I needed that yoga class and the rest that followed. At the end of class, I was deeply relaxed and felt recharged. Ninety minutes of feeling, moving, breathing and being brought an inner harmony and balance back into my body and mind. Driving home I realized how much I was resisting in my life as well. Moving from moment to moment without enjoying, lingering or acknowledging. My life is one big succession of tasks and responsibilities, I was allowing the build up of stress to take its toll inside my body. 

Staying calm, confident and happy is my choice. In a life that revolves around putting others first as a necessity and a priority, I need and deserve to set aside a block of time for myself.  Turn off the constant chatter in my brain, go inside and rejoice in the beauty of my life.



When I look into your eyes, your love is there for me
And the more I go inside, the more there is to see

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around you
Everywhere, it's what you make
For us to take, it's all too much

Floating down the stream of time from life to life with me
Makes no difference where you are or where you'd like to be

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around here
All the world is birthday cake
So take a piece but not too much

Sail me on a silver sun, where I know that I'm free
Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea

It's all to much for me to see
The love that's shining all around here
The more I learn, the less I know
But what I do is all too much

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around you
Everywhere, it's what you make
For us to take, it's all too much

George Harrison


Friday, June 14, 2013

Ten Years Gone

"We are eagles of one nest, The nest is in our soul."  Page & Plant
Ten years ago I married a wonderful man, he is my opposite in every way, yet we are drawn to one another through some kind of energetic current. I must have known the moment I met him that we were meant to be together. Early on in our relationship, I had a dream that I was kneeling with open arms in a big green field, a little boy with light hair and blue eyes was running to me with a smile so big it could save the world. It was a premonition, a hope, a dream, my reality.

My husband is a light hearted man, he loves, he laughs and he enjoys all he can of life.  I am constantly struggling with staying in the moment while he is living it.  I have realized after many years of yoga, reading and meditation experiences that I want to be like him. He stays calm, cool and collected naturally and can focus on one task mindfully. He is a man of reverence, patience and love. An amazing father, even though he feels like he is still finding his way, he is doing a pretty good job after four years with two beautiful boys. 

Becoming parents has changed who we are in many ways, some for better, some for worse.  The discovery of who I am now in comparison with who I was, keeps my husband on his toes. My emotions run high, my priorities have changed and my love for all my boys grows stronger every day. When dinner is over, the dishes are washed, the laundry folded, bath time done, pajamas on and the boys are finally asleep, I wrap my arms around my man and rest my head against his chest. We have busy lives and little time for each other, but celebrating the wonderful monumental moments of life is worth all the hard work. Happy Anniversary, my love. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother is Love

"One of these mornings, you're gonna rise up singing, and you'll spread your wings and take to the sky."  G. Gershwin

Growing up, my family always celebrated Mother's Day in combination with the birthdays of my sweet Grandmother and my Aunt Jen. Both of these lovely women have passed on and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of them. I am grateful for the time I had with my Grandmother, she taught me the value of finding happiness, patience and faith.  Her love of writing, poetry and music has shaped my life and how I express myself.  Finding beauty in oneself, creating art, observing my surroundings and letting go of fear are lessons my Aunt Jen strengthened in me. If I can carry on their legacy it would be to pass on these wonderful gifts to my boys. My son tells me we now have angels in the sky watching over us.

Today, Mother's Day is special because I am a mother now. I look back on my memories of being raised by a family filled with love, kindness and acceptance. We learn from our Mothers and they learn from their Mothers. Any woman in your life that fills you with warmth and makes you feel needed and important is a Mother. I am lucky to have so many women in my life helping me learn and to be loved by, but the most important woman in my life is my own Mother. She is beautiful inside and out, artistic and imaginative. My heart and mind fill with memories of her singing to me, reading to me and caring for me. Her perfume, her makeup, her jewelry, fill my senses and return me to a time and place of comfort. I loved watching her sew, knit, garden, bake and cook. I learned everything I needed to survive on a basic level by watching my Mom. She quietly kept our house, and my sister and I clean. She curled or braided our hair before school, washed and ironed our clothes, sometimes twice because we would change our minds so often. Handmade Halloween costumes, birthday celebrations and Christmas holidays were made special because of her persistence to find or make the perfect gift.

My Mother is a constant support in my life, a phone call away, and available to me and my boys on a moments notice. My Mother reminds me of what I was like as a child and she helps me to understand the complex emotions and actions of my boys. She guides me on this new journey into motherhood, validating my questions, concerns and doubts. When I feel lost and tired and I need a hug, my Mother is there for me waiting with open arms.


A Mother’s love is something
that no one can explain,
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it
or take that love away . . .
It is patient and forgiving
when all others are forsaking,
And it never fails or falters
even though the heart is breaking . . .
It believes beyond believing
when the world around condemns,
And it glows with all the beauty
of the rarest, brightest gems . . .
It is far beyond defining,
it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret
like the mysteries of creation . . .
A many splendored miracle,
man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence
of God’s tender guiding hand.

H.S Rice

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Come Together


In the wake of the tragic events from Monday leaving many suffering, mourning losses and grieving lives, I am saddened to hear of the passing of one of my co-workers. Her death was unrelated to the events in Boston, but equally as heartbreaking.  As a nurse, there is a mental, emotional, physical and sometimes spiritual connection with people.  Our business is people in crisis. We are the helpers, the healers, and the hand holders.  Last night my long overnight shift began with the discovery of this sad news in the midst of the recurring images of Boston's explosions.  Tragedy comes in many forms and it is relentless, the only constancy in life is the unexpected. My thoughts and feelings are filled with overwhelming empathy for the families touched by the senseless violence incurred at a moment that was supposed to be filled with triumph and joy.
In talking with the nurses that worked beside this beautiful woman for almost thirty years, I realized she was their sister, friend, and extended family away from home.  I am grateful for the long nights spent discussing the challenges of motherhood and how to cope with parenting and work balance.  I valued her wisdom and experiences and am honored she took the time to get to know me.  We shared tough decisions at the bedside caring for the critically ill and she taught me new ways to look at outcomes and goals of care. She was an exceptional nurse, an earth angel guarding over her patients, filled with love and protection for her family. In many work places there is a board of news to keep communication open, informational posts next to obituaries and birth announcements. Birth and death and birth and death, it is as constant as the breath.  People move into this world and people move out of this world.  We carry their memory in our hearts and minds. We carry our children, holding them tightly.

As my co-workers came into work this morning, I was dreading disclosing the sad news to them.  There were hugs, tears, confusion, distress and remembrances, but like every nurse we take a deep breath, redirect our energy and focus on the task at hand.  We are caregivers, we are nurses, we are strong. As we move forward, my friends and family have encouraged me to concentrate on those who help, support and remain unyielding to fear.  Inspiring generosity, giving protection to other living beings, helping others to be safe, and practicing respect for the preciousness of life.  We are surrounded by good people, those moving towards the fire, the images on the news coming out now of local heroes uplifts the human spirit. It is a reminder that we are one, struggling through the complexity of life together.  As a nurse, I am grateful to work alongside such compassionate, knowledgable and kind people.  I am proud to be a part of the helpers and to serve people in any way I can.

There are studies that show that those who are happiest are not wealthy, they are the ones with strong, emotional connections to others.  Communities in the Eastern part of the world teach generosity to their children, to give something of themselves everyday.  A smile, a hug, time to listen, to notice, to play, to sing, to enjoy simple acts of friendliness towards one another.  In the Western world, we tend to ask our children what they learned in a day, the Eastern world asks their children what they gave.  In an effort to connect and inspire generosity we need to live as one, wrap our arms around the world and show love. Remember the goodness, our shared wish to be happy. Giving to another is a way to give to yourself, for we are all one interconnected whole.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hold On

"Holding moments with the depth of care." V. Bunyan
My younger son gives the best hugs, they make me feel loved and needed.  When he locks eyes with me and reaches out, his little arms wrap me up and his chin rests perfectly in my shoulder. He turns his head to the side and settles in for the best squeeze of your life.  He is holding on tightly to the only moment that exists, the present. The moments that fill up my day are precious and challenging.  In the morning we all snuggle in bed together and I am awakened with sloppy wet kisses.  My older son cradles my face in his hands, peering into my eyes and says, "Good morning Mom, what are we doing today?"  The boys start giggling and playing, knees and elbows soon find their way into my neck and we are up.  As I drag myself from the warm bed, glancing at the clock's earliest morning hour, my day begins.  Breakfast, clean up, playtime, clean up, lunch, clean up, nap time, playtime, clean up, dinner, bath time and bedtime.  On my busiest and most stressful days, I try to look through the eyes of my boys.  I have to refocus my impatience, frustration and anger into another emotion quickly. I want to show my boys happiness, kindness, thoughtful, patient and caring ways to live and to act. Meltdowns, tantrums and whining happen and are inevitable, finding a way to listen and talk, explain while disciplining, to living truthfully by good example.  Showing and feeling love is the best gift of all.

Balancing work, child care and school schedules,  errands, meals, and endless laundry fills up all of my extra time. But the in between moments are the most important, first words, story time, coloring, spelling, baking, walks and surprise visitors. Take time to notice your surroundings, feel the wind on your face, enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate as you watch the trains and cars pass by.  When I look back on my life, I want to remember playing peek-a-boo, hide and seek, singing songs, dancing, building and stacking blocks, riding bikes and family dinners.  Daily life can be a struggle, but slowing it down, living and really attending to each moment, make it linger and the memories will imprint on your soul.

Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard.  My husband and I had a rare uninterrupted conversation together last night and an even rarer moment of alone time.  As our discussion progressed he said, "I'm just counting on things changing."  I snuggled in next to him feeling warmth through his shirt, holding on tight, bracing myself for the ride.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cultivating Joy

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come."
Alexander Pope
Spring brings the spirit of growth and renewal. It is physically evident in nature as the little green begins to rise up out of the earth. Our lives shift from a sleepy, wintery, hibernation and awaken into days that are longer, brighter and warmer. We begin to stretch and come alive again. In cultural traditions all over the world, spring is a time of re-birth and new beginnings. It is also a time to remember the cycle of life, honoring the inevitability of suffering and loss by finding joy in what remains.

Symbolically, the crocus flower represents the first signs of spring and stands for cheerfulness. The yellow, purple, and white flowers are peeping out along my hedgerow and my sons were able to spot the little pop of color and promptly rip them from the ground. Now they stand in a vase on my table and I am reminded of  the power of positive thinking. In my life, the glass is half empty and living in a world of uncertainty leaves me anxious at times.  With the help of friends and family, I have been taking small steps in rooting change in an effort to strive for happiness, positivity and optimism. What is my hard work for if not to celebrate life with the joy it can create?

We have all been on the dark road, long nights of restless sleep, a path leading nowhere, circling back around just to begin again. The options are to continue thinking bad thoughts or strengthen the power to choose not to think bad thoughts. There is nothing to lose by thinking happy thoughts.  In the face of adversity, we have to hope for the best. We continue on with the power of positive thinking. Courage, loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity and altruistic thinking are the tools for genuine happiness. Sympathetic joy, is the third abode in buddhist principles.  It is recognizing joy in the basic goodness of all beings.  One of the ways to share joy is to dedicate the merit of what is good in our own lives to the well being of others.

As I grow older, I am more affected by the outcomes of my actions, my speech, my thoughts and reactions.  I am humbled by the moment to moment awareness of my life. Recently, I attended a workshop on cultivating joy, it came at a crucial point in my life and impacted me by acknowledging the basic nature of myself which is pessimistic, impatient, sad and weary at times. Sharing an afternoon with women of diverse ages and backgrounds, I slowly began to discover the similarities of our lives as we discussed life, read poetry, experienced a guided meditation with sound therapy and found connections bound by the nature of what it means to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  At the conclusion of the workshop, we were presented with a joy journal to continue the fulfillment of recalling moments of joy in our day.  The awareness of these moments can be celebrated on an occasion of relevance, such as birthdays, holidays or the turning over of a new year.

The hope of spring is filled with emotions that are important in changing our perception.  Life is meant for living, enjoying, laughing, and finding connections.  The dark rabbit hole of sadness, depression, worry, negativity, and apathy in life is visible and within reach at any time.  Life is never perfect. Everything that exists eventually ceases to exist. Longing, loss, and suffering will also fade away.  We have the power to choose to live and to enjoy. Find love and happiness in life and breathe in the beauty around us.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Get Up, Stand Up!

"Get Up, Stand Up! Don't give up the fight." B. Marley


Recently, I voyaged to Nantucket with my boys for an extended weekend.  My husband was working on the island for a couple weeks and we were all excited to reunite our little family.  There were no plans set, just time, carved out to be together.  Winter in Nantucket is cold, desolate, serene, beautiful and quiet.  The sun peeked out during small moments of the day and we walked to the beach with the sun shining on our rosy cheeks.  I bundled my boys in layers of winter gear and off we went. The beach is wonderful in the winter, the waves are rhythmic and constant. Getting back into nature reminds me of the simple and basic needs one craves in life. There was snow on the dunes and the paths that led to the beach were rough.  My older son is strong and his excitement allowed him to take off  running down the sands, flying like the wind.  My younger son has just learned to walk and although he is tough, navigating the earth was difficult.  He fell down many times, but continued to get up.  Watching him, instead of attending to him was an act of absolute mindfulness for me.  I was there with him, observing but attentive and allowed him the freedom to discover the moment himself.  I could see his determination in action and the pure joy in his face when he accomplished his task.  Falling down and getting back up.  He was strong, confident, focused and did not stray, there was never any self doubt that entered into this action.  It was a beautiful and humbling thing to be present for, the will to live, to survive and to not give up the fight.  Get up, stand up! Show up for your life.

In living a life truthfully, the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhist thought consists of eight basic principles.

Right Understanding embodies the Three Characteristics of Existence. Impermanence; everything and everyone is changing all the time. Dukkha (Suffering) is inevitable and nothing we strive for in life will bring constant happiness. Not self, the idea that we are all connected, not separate.

Right Thought; Nothing exists in the way that it appears in your mind. Take time to examine the origin and consequences of your thoughts.  In the words of the Buddha: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own mind.

Right Speech; our speech is to be kind, truthful, gentle and helpful.

Right Action; strive towards non violent actions, cultivating motives of generosity and kindness.

Right Livelihood; Live and work with values that promote respect and honesty.

Right Effort; Staying gentle and patient with ourselves and others, this includes letting go and acknowledging our imperfections and our associated guilt. Become who we truly are, who we are meant to be.

Right Mindfulness; Notice, feel, listen, taste and observe. Be aware of what we are thinking as we are thinking it. What is happening to us and in us moment to moment. 

Right Concentration; Stay present, without holding on to the past or focus on what the future will bring. Stay awake and aware, acknowledging pleasant and unpleasant emotions.


These principles help me to move through the complex details of day to day and get to the heart of life.