Friday, August 30, 2019

Home Practice


"Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body."
Thich Nhat Hanh

In July, I returned to the beautiful Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in the full bloom of summertime for some much needed rest and relaxation. I booked a program at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health called 'Your Practice, Your life', with Elena Brower. The outcome of this experience, was to develop a meaningful home practice that grounds and balances, bringing you home to yourself. 

As I checked in and settled in, I felt the excitement of summer landing in my body, heart and mind. I gave myself some time before the workshop began to feel into all the elements. I lounged on the grass among the colorful blossoms, and enjoyed the stunning view of Lake Mahkeenac. I took a walk down to the lake and dipped my toes in the water. I felt the warmth on my skin as the sun beamed down from the blue sky. I closed my eyes and breathed in the air to connect with all sensation. It's powerful to be present with everything that rises to the surface.


Our senses open portals, we can stay present in mind and body, while our heart shifts into spaciousness with the breath.


"You are invited to come home to y o u r s e l f. To your radiance. Your ritual. Your courage. Your clarity. Your power. Your purpose. Your strength. Your softness. Your adaptability. Your acceptance. Your endurance. Your excellence."
Elena Brower ~Practice You ~ photo credit: @verredrose

The program was more than I expected, and gave me a blank canvas for re-creating my personal practice. There was nothing too fancy about it; we moved, we breathed, we meditated, we journaled, and we rested. What I took away, was a sense of empowerment, a permission slip to move without pressure of time, or competition within myself or from others. What was left was a feeling of reassurance, to be fully human in the body I was gifted.

The presence and touch of Elena Brower feels like a warm cup of tea on a rainy day, she offers a glimpse of hope for living in our world today. With wisdom and grace, she shared simple techniques as a way to create a daily practice unattached to rigid rules or expectations. We began with stillness in an effort to stay present. We activated breath, and moved gently to explore the many layers of our being through the process of listening.

Fresh off her interviews with Eddie Sterm and Abbie Galvin, Elena shared the benefits of resonance breathing as a base for physiological healing, and the importance of ritualizing your practice to show up for yourself, with teachings that strengthen our internal world to consistently participate in our external world. Her contributions remain humble, true, and realistic. 

Practice You is a map to your highest self; a field guide of your own creation. This link connects you to Elena Brower, her book, her podcast, and her awakening deck. 

So, what does a home practice look like?

A home practice is a personal practice. It is listening, feeling and observing how your body wants to move. It is a being, breathing and sensing process. Yoga philosophy speaks about the eight limbs, yamas (attitude toward our environment), niyamas (attitudes toward ourselves), asana (physical postures), pranayama (focused breathing), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (focused concentration), dhyana (meditative absorption), and samadhi (bliss). Attempting to utilize and incorporate this structural philosophy into my daily practice has become a part of my daily tool kit. There are many creative ways to do this, and that's what makes a practice so personal and unique.

The yamas and niyamas are awarenesses of life, relationship to the self, others and our environment. I bridge these into a daily gratitude practice with a morning meditation I share with my kids. Having time to enjoy mindful movement and meditation is a luxury. I don't take for granted the opportunities I have had to train and teach. Sharing these concepts with my kids is an active process of learning and growing together. 

Practice gratitude with me.

In the space where your mind wakes, but your body is still sleeping, deepen the breath. Place your left hand over your heart and your right hand over your left hand. Hands to heart, heart to hands. Take three deep breaths, inhale followed by exhale. Think of three gratutides for your day. 

This is where the practice begins, with gratitude.

Asana is defined in Sanskrit as "the seat." More commonly, it has expanded from the seated meditation posture into any physical posture within a practice, for which there are many. Movement cares for the body. It is a looking after of your bones, muscles and tissues while helping to keep all your organs, glands and pathways healthy. Keeping an open, internal conversation between my mind and body is a guide for how I want and need to move. For example, morning is not the best time for my body, it is stiff, tight and tense from sleeping. I need a slower form of movement to warm up my muscles, and strengthen my bones. For me, a yin practice is the perfect sequence for my body in the morning or early afternoon.  Moving and stretching slowly reduces the risk of injury, and allows for breath to move in and out of the body, stimulating the circulatory, immune and digestive systems. As the day progresses, I move in a more active, fluid, and faster pace. In the early evening, I like to coordinate my breath with dynamic, vigorous, standing poses to build strength and flexibility, then wind down with a few holding poses that cool the body and relax the nervous system. 

Prepping for my weekly class is a huge part of  my personal practice. Feeling into the month, the week, the day, and the hour is a multi-sensory experience. Just as the seasons change throughout the year, the transitions in body, heart and mind are moment to moment. We can lean into the seasons of our day by taking time to notice what is happening to us and in us through mindful awareness. My practice is deeply affected by what is happening in the world, what's going on with my family, my experiences at work, and the fierce constancy of change found in nature.

Start slowly and see how and when your body likes to move. Choose four or five of your favorite poses and practice them daily. Watch as these poses evolve and change over time.

Pranayama is controlled or focused breathing. Prana is defined as "energy or life force", and ayama translates as "expansion or extension". When used alone or in conjunction with meditation or movement, the breath is the spark of the practice. Deep, focused, breathing can ground a meditation practice, or help to coordinate the rhythm of movement. Taking time to discipline yourself with breathing techniques that feel easeful in your body can shift your perception and perspective.

Breathe with me.

Find a comfortable position, connect to breath. Inhale followed by exhale.
Let the breath anchor you, settle in, stay. 
Arrive back into your body and find space to listen, notice and pause.
Sit with what arises.
Let the breath guide you back home. 

Pratyahara is a layered feeling of pulling away from your external world (the senses) and deepening into your internal world (the mind). Yoga Nidra "yogic sleep" is my personal choice for embodying pratyahara, and as a form of lying down meditation it gently guides you into dhyarana and dhyana. I listen to Yoga Nidra before bed, and sometimes in the late morning or afternoon if I have time. Yoga Nidra promotes deep rest and relaxation, it is a way for everyone to feel at home within themselves. 


Insight Timer is a FREE application for meditation and sleep.
insghttimer.com

Dhyyarana (centering) and dhyana (the zone) work together to connect with a form of meditation that feels right to concentrate on. Settle into it and the absorption follows. Inevitably, once you sit, lay down or get quiet in the body, all the things you NEED to remember quickly come back to you. And then there are the distractions; family, friends, noisy neighbors, the dust bunnies on the floor, the dishes, the laundry, and the phone. All I can say, is KEEP GOING. Set your timer for one minute, two minutes, or five minutes a day and see if it can possibly turn into ten or twenty minutes a day. 

I have never been consistent at traditional meditation. Sitting on a cushion, closing my eyes and connecting to breath is a kind of torture for my busy mind and body. My experience with meditation is through the Theraveda tradition of Buddhist philosophy. I have had weeklong trainings in Vippassana 'insight" meditation, where the breath is the main focal point. My mind wanders, I return to the breath. My nose is itching, I return to the breath. I have an ache in my back, I return to the breath. This meditation style offers a clear awareness of what is happening as it happens. Loving kindness or 'metta' meditation is a popular form of Buddhhist meditation. It is the cultivation of benevolence, and more commonly known as compassion meditation. 

I have found that adding in a layer of touch deepens my focus while meditating. This is where Reiki has been a major player in my practice. Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that sends positive intention through the hands. Placing hands over eyes, forehead, crown of head, ears, shoulders, upper chest, upper abdomen, lower abdomen, legs, knees and feet creates a circuit of energy. This electric current brings my mind to the present moment. Sensing my body through healing touch while breathing in and breathing out is a compassionate meditation experience, it is L O V E in action. 

Adding Reiki to loving kindness meditation has elevated my home practice. 

Practice compassion with me.

Place your left hand behind your head and lean back. Place your right hand over your forehead and lean in. Gently find a rhythm to your breathing, inhale followed by exhale. Connect to your experience just as it is.

Saying these words silently or aloud as an intention or Sankalpa, ( a positive vow or statement formed by the heart and mind, made in the present tense) can greatly enhance the experience.

"May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be safe and healthy. May I be happy and free."

Gently move your left hand to your heart space and your right hand over your lower abdomen. Breathe in and breathe out. Reconnect your interior awareness to your outer awareness. Think about your worthy place in this world, your community, your state, your country, and all the humans who reside with you on planet Earth.

Saying these words aloud or silently, in the home of your heart can benefit us all.

"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 and free."


Samadhi doesn't have to be an epic pinnacle, it can be an awakening, an awareness, and a state of being within one fleeting moment. Every day offers an opportunity to be the best version of ourselves. Extending loving awareness to those around us, sharing our stories, our experiences brings in the act of compassion, a willingness to be available in our present life together. When I take the time to cultivate my practice, I feel whole, balanced and complete. Could that be bliss? Perhaps it is, a returning home to oneself.




"The greatest teacher will send you back home to yourself."
Nayyirah Waheed

Igniting my personal practice with a workshop was just what I needed to reconnect my heart and mind to body and breath. I met some wonderful people who gave their time and attention to the experience, refreshing my home practice. Truly living my yoga soldifies my definition of home; a refuge of security and comfort within oneself. 


This expanded awareness clears the path of obstructions, opening space for a present mind, a giving heart, and a steady breath. 

As a teacher, I am a forever student, reading, listening, observing, and understanding what is all around me. I am influenced and motivated by other teachers and students in my local community and beyond. In Sanskrit, the word Sangha means "association", "assembly", "company", or "community". Practicing yoga within a community that allows you to feel safe and accepted is essential. Yoga classes have the power to unite and inspire. The experience of practicing yoga with others can strengthen a home practice.

For me, the practice is about showing up, and staying present to what is happening now. Being true to myself and teaching from this place of truth allows others to trust, relax, and enjoy an authentic experience. I take great care to plan and prepare the classes I share with others. It is in the space of moving, breathing and meditating that I'll change everything I planned and teach from the heart.  

This is freedom for me. Freedom of expression. Taking time to find a way to make all I want to share surrounding this movement practice that is rooted in yoga, but constantly shifting and morphing, available and accessible to everyone. Connecting with daily rituals, meaningful connections, peaceful practices and inclusive communities are supportive ways to practice home. 


"My yoga. It doesn't matter if everything isn't perfect. My practice is just that. My practice.
It's my time to feel alive, calm and connected."
Jill Conyers

What does your home practice look like?

I am in a constant state of learning about other ways to practice mindful movement. The best way to learn is to share your story with others. Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear about how you move! 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Summertime

"The Earth laughs in flowers." Ralph Waldo Emerson

June is here! Summer is getting closer and closer.

Seasonal shifts are a perfect opportunity to slow down and give yourself the gift of time to be present, to feel sensation and breath in your body. MIndful movement, focused breathing, and meditation offers a pathway to connect our inner world (mind/body), to our outer world (environment), and to the larger universe around us.

As Summer approaches, here are some way to move, breathe and meditate with me.


Reiki Level I Training
Saturday June 8, 2019
10a-4p at Joy Yoga
Melrose, MA

Reiki is a Japanese healing technique called palm healing or hands-on healing. It is a practice of sending positivie intention and healing through the hands. Learning Reiki requires no special skill and is open to everyone. The emphais is on healing the self and learning to share Reiki with others. Many people who are trained in Reiki begin by using it for their families and friends. I teach Reiki as a form of meditation and self care. Reiki encourages rest, relaxation, emotional and physical wellbeing and is a wonderful complement to many forms of wellness.


Later on this month, we will celebrate the first day of summer. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky for the year. In Latin, 'Solstice' translates as "sun standing still", which references the position of the sun on this day. It is one of the earliest astronomical observations in human history. Dedicated rituals, festivals and ancient monuments are designed to align with the sun's light energy and all that it provides. We can adapt this celebration of the sun within our own modern lives by reflecting on the light that shines within each of us and listening to what we need to recharge our personal energy. 

In honor of the Summer Solstice, Jennifer Murphy, LMT and I will be co-leading a Yoga & Reiki Workshops that combines purposeful movement, focused breathing and meditation while offering a safe space to receove hands-on Reiki assists.


Soften & Shine: Yoga & Reiki Summer Workshop
Sunday June 23, 2019
3-5p at Joy Yoga
Melrose, MA

This workshop is a gentle, restorative yoga practice with guided meditation and Reiki hands-on assists encouraging relaxation. We will warm up the body with a grounding slow flow practice to increae circulation and find a rhythm to the breath. Longer held yin yoga poses will be taught to release the deeper layers of tissue surrounding the skeletal, muscular and organ systems, increasing our mobility and balancing the body's energetic flow. We will close with an extended Yoga Nidra session to soften and relax the whole body, strengthening our inner light, to shine from the inside out.

The warmth of the sun and longer days are a reminder of how good it is to find balance between work and rest. Many of us take vacation over the summer to enjoy the beautiful weather, find space in our days, to not hurry, to linger longer, and to let go of responsibility for a while. Join me for yoga every Wednesday in June and most of July.


Slow Flow with Yin Yoga
Wednesday evenings 730-845p
Joy Yoga
Melrose, MA
No Class July 3

I will be taking vacation in August and have decided to take my own advice and slow down. So, rather than cancelling more than a few classes, I am taking the month of August off from teaching yoga to find space in my days, to not hurry, to linger longer, and let go of responsibility for a while. We will resume our Wednesday evening classes on September 4, 2019.

For over ten years, I have met many of you on the mat for our weekly yoga class. The location has changed and new faces have arrived, while old friends continue to show up. This class has been an anchor for me, it is a constant reminder of staying present, honoring a space of learning and opening into the beauty of moment ot moment transitions. 

Thank you all for your continues patronage.
See you on the mat!



Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tao

"Human connection is pure energy. Some people rise to meet that connection and some people let it go dormant."
Tao Porchon-Lynch


Tao or Dao is a Chinese word translated as "way", "path", "route", "road" or sometimes more loosely as "principle" or "beliefs".  In East Asian philosophy, Tao is the natural order of the universe, an intuitive knowing that humans must discern in order to realize their potential and individual wisdom. This intuitive knowing of "life" cannot be grasped as a concept; it is known through actual living experience of one's everyday being.

I attended a 2- hour yoga worksop in NY on April 13, 2019 with Tao Porchon-Lynch. Tao is an American yoga master and award-winning author of French and Indian descent. Born in 1918, she discovered yoga in 1926 when she was eight years old while living in India.

The workshop was a powerful, dynamic vinyasa flow that was challenging and inspiring. Tao's beauty, grace and energy is palpable. Her 100 year old wisdom has earned her respect and reverence. She had two assistants during class, but she walked among us and stopped mid-flow to discuss in detail the imprtance of breath, alignment and intention.

Tao's mantra is: "There is nothing you cannot do."

Her hands on assists, direct eye contact, and observation of movement was impeccable. She enjoys the energetic connection human to human and emphasized the conscious effort to extend, lengthen and radiate. Tao led us easefully into King Dancer pose, highighting the foot arch in Tree pose and taught variations of Downward Dog that pushed our strength and balance.  Her beautiful vinyasa is "meditative energy in motion". Warrior 1-3, Half Moon, Triangle, and Revolved Triangle flowed from right to left, left to right. Her yoga flow is a 'Dance of Light', (Tao is a competitive ballroom dancer) choreographed to Tango music. By the time I got to meet her, I was hot and sweating from our yoga workout. As I introduced myself to her, I thanked Tao for her work. She held my hand tight, and pressed her forehead to mine as tears spilled down my cheeks. It was as if she could feel my life experiences through our physical connection and held me showing her empathy and compassion. 

Tao is a woman who continues to love each moment of life as a gift, despite hardship and suffering. 

"The power of our thoughts can make us live a happy, healthy life, or fill our body with poison, resulting in pain and then death."

She greets each day with a smile, moving and breathing as the sun comes up and keeps moving and breathing until the sun goes down. 

"Smile as you rise with the sun, smile at the beauty of life within you, and everything on this planet."

Tao has walked with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Lither King Jr. promoting peace. Shw was a hollywood actress, model, and remains a formal yoga teacher (teaching weekly classes and workshops) who trained with Indra Devi, Sri Aurobindo, and B.K.S. Iyengar. Tao has energized and uplifted me, I'm still floating. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Welcome Spring!

Winter into Spring

Today is the first day of Spring, and as we transition out of winter it is a time to remember that these seasonal shifts bring balance into our lives. The Southern Hemisphere is welcoming their Autumn Equinox as we begin our Spring Equinox. The sun that shines on Earth's equator presents an almost equal length of day and night. These transitions are felt in the observing and listening day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year. Tuning into these shifts in mind, body and breath is in the moving, breathing, meditating and feeling of our moment to moment awareness.

Another full 'supermoon' is on display tonight, but it will be our third and final. It seems these extra bright moons only happen three times a century, coinciding with perigee, the moon's closest point to Earth during its monthly orbit. So, enjoy the view as the sun sets in the west and the moon rises in the east around the same time today.

It is a pleasure to see meet week to week on the mat for mindful movement connected to breath, where we pay attention to time and space between pose progressions and focus on shapes that are held longer in the body.

Slow Flow with Yin
Wednesday evenings
730-845p
(NO CLASS 4/17/19 and 5/22/19)


Our Yoga & Reiki Spring workshop on Sunday 3/24/19 is SOLD OUT! It seems highlighting the changing seasons offers a need within the community to slow down our lives and bring in a quality of purposeful moving, breathing and meditating. In anticipation of our growing waitlist, we will have another workshop as the Summer Solstice approaches. 


Save the date: 
Yoga & Reiki
Summer Solstice Workshop
6/23/19!

Jennifer Murphy, LMT and I will be co-hosting this workshop on gentle movement, focused breathing, and longer held Yin yoga poses. Jen will guide a thoughtful meditation with creative reflection, and we will both provide hands on Reiki assists. Reiki sends positive intention and healing through the hands. The workshop will close with a lying down meditation practice known as Yoga Nidra. 


Reiki

I have been practicing Reiki since 2004, and teaching Reiki since 2016 to small groups upon request. This year, I taught my largest Reiki classes in February and March! Learning Reiki requires no special skill and is open to everyone. The emphasis is on healing the self and learning to share Reiki with others. Many people who are trained in Reiki begin by using it for their families and friends. 

Due to continued requests for Reiki I, I have added a small group Reiki I training at Joy Yoga. 

Reiki I Training
5/19/19 
10-4p

Register at joyhealthylife.com under Wellness Workshops for Adults. Space is limited.

For those already trained in Reiki I and wish to learn more, there are 3 spots left for Reiki II training at Borealis Yoga. 

Reiki II Training
4/6/19
1-5p

Register at borealisyoga.com under workshops. 



Where Meditation Comes to Life

Jedi Yoga returns in May with back to back workshops!

May the 4th Be With You
Saturday 5/4/19
Joy Yoga
Melrose, MA


Revenge of the 5th
Sunday 5/5/19
Borealis Yoga
Medford, MA

Jedi Yoga is open to all kids ages 6-10. We will bring balance to the Force with Yoda's peaceful warrior flow, use breathing techniques and mindful concentration exercises to train our Jedi mind. Combining movement based activities, meditation, and creative Star Wars poses we will awaken the Force within! Costumes are encouraged!

Registration and times should be up soon for both these workshops!


Thursday, February 14, 2019

May This Be Love

The way you speak to yourself matters. 

Writing prompt: Consider imagining your younger self, and then speak to her the way you speak to yourself now.
Waterfall
Nothing can harm me at all
My worries seem so very small
With my waterfall

I can see my rainbow calling me
Through the misty breeze
Of my waterfall
Jimi Hendrix

When I turned 12, I stopped speaking in public. I barely spoke in school, my voice was heard only when necessary to get by in classes. My middle school yearbook was filled with notes from other kids to "speak up", "you should talk more", and "I can't hear you!" My parents just thought it was a phase and didn't make a big deal of it. My younger sister carried me, protected me and spoke for me. It seemed she understood the pain I was going through and knew no other way to help but to hold my hand through it. 

I found it difficult to make eye contact with others. When in public, I hid behind anything I could find. The hatred and disgust I felt for myself was overwhelming. I would look in the mirror and see pure ugliness. It was as if my heart and reflection were taken over by a demon. Adolescence is a bitch, hormones hijacked my emotions. My body was changing in ways my mind wasn't ready for. I couldn't connect to my identity as having self worth, self respect or diginity as a human being.

It was during this time that I met my best friend. She was my complete opposite in appearance; tall, thin, blond, curly hair, and in personality; outgoing, social and secure. She was the yang to my yin. We found connection in our love for being outside, music, movies, books and our imaginations. One of the first gifts she ever gave me was a journal. Words poured out as if they were tears, emptying all the fear, worry, and insecurity from my mind and body. Journaling was my form of therapy, working through emotional and physical problems on my own terms. This gift of friendship and writing remains an active part of my days, both of which I am most grateful for.

Life is filled with good and bad experiences. It seems the bad experiences are the ones that birth change, as they are the ones that push one to seek refuge. Sometimes you just have to endure it for a while, and listen.

Music has always been an inspiration, it has pulled me from the deep, dark places of my mind.
A great distraction to the reality of life. It was popular to have casette tapes when I was young, as compact discs were just starting to be made. Music became portable, you could play albums on a "walkman" and create a soundtrack for your life. The sounds I listened to began to change the way I thought of myself. At home, my Dad had a record player and a large collection of vinyl records, which sound much better than casette tapes. I would get lost listening to records, laying on the floor of my bedroom with the volume turned way up so I could feel the vibration reverberate into my body. At the time, I had no idea this was a form of healing. I knew nothing of sound therapy, it just felt good. Nature has the same holisitic effect on me, it picks up the fragmented pieces and glues them back together. Tuning into the frequency and vibration of the Earth is music in nature.

I fell in love when I was 17. We shared a ride to college a few days a week, met in between classes, and discovered all styles of music together. We made friends, worked hard, and traveled together. Seeing more of the world opened my eyes to all the possibilities available to me. Slowly, my confidence grew, I was building courage to enjoy life and all its freedoms. His affection and attention gave me the space to feel safe, to share my vulnerability with the world. That sweet, patient man is now my husband. We have two loving children who challenge, inspire and call me to be the best version of myself.

If my 42 year old self told my 12 year old self that I would become a strong, beautiful woman who is loved and respected, I wouldn't have believed it. I was lucky to have a supportive family, and to find close friends who helped pull me out of the rabbit hole I tumbled into. It's even more amazing, that I am able to lead movement classes and workshops, and speak at public events. You could say I overcame my period of silence, but the anxiety, doubt, and negative thoughts are still present in my life. They creep in unexpectedly, crippling me, holding me hostage in my own body. Thankfully, those feelings don't last long because I know they don't have power over me anymore. I've already been there, I've hated myself long enough. I've faced my fears of shame, embarrassment, humility, and it has only made me stronger. When they do show up, I just think of my younger self. The image at the top of this post is me, age 6. My heart melts for her sparkling blue eyes, sweet, genuine smile and heart full of love.

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
Simon & Garfunkel

Monday, January 28, 2019

Winter Soul Food

It's winter in New England, cold, rainy, slushy days contrasted with milder, sunny, snowy days. Winter is a time for comfort, warmth, and soul food. Here are a few (healthyish) recipes that I make during this season that are hearty, vegetarian, and gluten free.


Potato, Leek, and Fennel Soup

Gather your ingredients, 2 large potatoes, 2 medium sized carrots, 1 medium size fennel bulb with stems, 1 large leek, butter, salt, pepper, cumin and herbs de provence. Rinse vegetables, peel the potatoes and carrots. Slice the fennel bulb into small pieces saving some of the stems for later. In a large pot add 2 generous tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Turn heat on to medium flame and add in the sliced leek and chopped fennel bulb.




Stir and saute the vegetables on medium flame, add in 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1 teaspoon of herbs de provence. 




Once the vegetables soften and cook down, add in chopped potatoes, carrots and 5-6 cups of water. Add 1-2 more tablesoons of butter (or olive oil), the rest of the fennel stems, and cook on medium flame for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the potato and carrots are soft.



This is an easy to make soup recipe that is inexpensive, quick and nourishing. Enjoy it with a large hunk of sourdough bread! This recipe makes a few servings, I love sharing it with friends and always give some to my Mom. It's her favorite!



Here's another great recipe that is versatile and satisfying!


Butternut Squash Polenta with Arugula

Polenta is a beautiful food that can be mixed and matched for savory or sweet flavors. It's a great breakfast variaton instead of oats when honey, maple syrup or a dollop of your favorite jam is added. Cook up your corn grits aka polenta according to the package. Make sure you stir often with a long-handled spoon because of the pops and bubbles.


Peel, slice, and roast a medium sized butternut squash in a pan that can hold 1-2 inches of water. I like to drizzle the squash with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and cumin. Herbs de provence is one of my favorite herbal blends; lavendar buds, thyme, rosemary, parsley, tarragon, marjoram, savory, sage and chervil can add depth to your dish. I bake the squash in a water bath at 375 degrees for 1-2 hours, or until the squash is soft.


Any extra favorite veggies can be added; garlic sautéed mushrooms in olive oil make this vegetarian dish taste meaty.


Rinsed fresh arugula has a peppery taste and wilts nicely over the warm polenta and squash. Toss the leaves with olive oil, sea salt and a squeeze of lime to brighten the dish.


Garnish with homemade guacamole if your avocado is ready to eat. Scallion, cilantro and shredded colby jack cheese pair well with this yummy meal.


The versatility of this dish is perfect for the 'picky eater' too!

Hope these meals spark comfort and creativity 
during these winter months.

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mindfulness for Kids

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." Aristotle
What is mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it best. "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation."

As parents, it is difficult to bring this type of awareness into the lives of our children if we do not have a firm grasp on what mindfulness means in our own lives. In my experience of becoming a parent and being with my children, it is they who have taught me about mindfulness. Simply stated, mindfulness is moment to moment awareness, staying present, being here now. Kids have an innate ability to be mindful, they also know how to move and breathe with their whole bodies. As adults and parents, we have a lot of 'undoing' to relearn this wise art.

Thank goodness the beautiful process of growing and learning never ends. I love finding new ways of handling stress and life difficulties with resources, coping tools and mindfulness techniques. I can't regret not having them as a child myself, but remain grateful I have them today. Emotional survival skills to self soothe can decrease tension, anger and frustration, and help to open up to experiences of peace, kindness, compassion and resilience.


Here are some ways we bring movement, breathing and meditation into our home.

Moving

Moving is natural and free, it feels good to move. I leave a yoga mat rolled out at home for stretching, and when I get on the mat, my children follow. They love assisting in yoga poses by gently pressing hips down in child pose, finding their balance in tree pose, timing their holding strength in plank pose and partnering up in double down dog for a fun connection. Head below the heart poses or hanging upside down can help calm our nervous system. Moving our bodies in a way that is needed to find release, relaxation and rest is important to the continued functioning of our bodies.

"Action is movement with intelligence. The world is filled with movement, what the world needs is more conscious movement, more action." B.K.S. Iyengar

Many friends and parents have asked me what kind of yoga I recommend for kids. The internet and social media are full of interesting options. I encourage real life experiences for the social interaction, attention, listening and observations qualities that bring about inquiry. Kids yoga classes create mindful participation unlike anything that can be shown on a screen. Purposeful movement, focused breathing and mindfulness meditation for kids is becoming increasingly popular in our school curriculums, before or after school programs and in many yoga spaces, gyms and fitness centers.

My kids started weekly yoga classes at ages 5 and 6, and we had wonderful resources (see list at bottom of post) to continue the learning at home. If the concepts of movement, breathing and meitation appeal to you, it is important to practice at home. Kids can have outside experiences of these topics, but if they also practice in their home with family and friends it intensifies the outcome and it becomes a healthy resource of self care.

Here are some programs my kids have been involved in:

GoNoodle is a fun movement and mindfulness program that incorporates moving, dancing, and rhythm with amusing songs. www.gonoodle.com

BOKS is a free Boston based movement program that empowers school communities to strengthen minds and bodies through movement. www.bokskids.org

I have a friend who brought the BOKS (Build Our Kids Success) program to her children's school last year. She registered for the training with her husband, and they both run the program before they go to work. The structure of the program allows for playing, socializing, running, focusing, and cooldown activities. This simple act of dedicating time for their kids, and the kids in their community to move and breathe brought them closer together as a couple and strengthened their marriage.

The 100 mile club is a national organization that encourages a healthy lifestyle with families and kids through physical activity. My kids have this program at their school. We are grateful for the time our teachers and parents volunteer, supporting the students to move and breathe. www.100mileclub.com
Any activity that increases strength and confidence, driven by an intrinsic desire to accomplish a personal goal is an amazing source of building resilience. It provides opportunity to believe in yourself, and when you believe in yourself, you can do anything in life.

Colorful yoga books or cards that show yoga poses and activities are great as kids are reading and embodying the movement. In the end, whatever keeps kids curious, imaginative, creative, moving, breathing and meditating benefits the mind and body while providing a feeling of wholeness and connectedness.

Moving in Nature

As a child I was lucky to have a large backyard connected to woods for extended exploration. I have vivid memories running over green grass in the light of the setting sun we called the 'blue hour', which held those last few moments of day. I remember running fast and jumping high over rocks and fallen tree limbs as if I could fly.

Getting out into nature connects and expands our awareness towards the environment we live in. Kids need to run, jump, spin, sway, climb, hang and be wild. Fill up their senses with the nature of being alive. As a family, we hike throughout the year. We enjoy the changing seasons here in New England. Making connections through seasonal transitions help us to remember that nothing stays the same. Change is a constant in life. Finding the constancies throughout the day is a wonderful start to setting a peaceful pace to the busiest of schedules. Taking time to stay present with each transition of the day allows for increased time and space to notice what is happening inside and outside our minds and bodies. Expanding that awareness to a more universal quality, we find comfort when the sun rises and the sun sets. We keep a close watch on the planets and constellations that are visible in the night sky, and the changing phases of the moon. We discuss the shapes that wax toward a full moon or wane toward a new moon, and how the Earth rotates on its axis, constantly moving and spinning.


"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." John Muir

Breathing

Breathing happens consciously and unconsciously. We breathe all day while we go about our daily activities, and we breathe at night while we are asleep. Conscious breathing is a wonderful way to connect to the here and now. During busy mornings, we pause before we head out the door for 3 deep breathes. Breathing in and breathing out completely, emphasizing whole body engagement, closeness and a purposeful start to our day.

Deep breathing is a great neutralizer, it's a referee in a heated battle. Conflict happens in our home happen more often than I would like. Holding onto hate or anger turns into negative energy that seeps into our cells causing sickness and dis-ease. Minor squabbles need not be intervened upon, but the larger situations that involve physical harm and hurting with words need intervention. Insert 'The Three-Breath Hug' by Shonda Moralis. In her beautiful book, 'Breathe Mama Breathe: 5-minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms', she offers many simple ways to find moments of mindfulness and meaningful family connection throughout your day.

"When you hold a child in your arms, or hug your mother, or husband, or your friend, if you breathe in and out three times, your happiness will be multiplied at least tenfold." Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditating

"If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation." Dalai Lama

Guided meditations and audible yoga nidra sessions bring deep relaxation into the mind and body. Yoga nidra navigates our brain waves from the more active beta and alpha waves down to the slower, more restful theta waves. I'm a big fan of Jennifer Reis and her Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra practices. I have attended many workshops with her over the years. I truly enjoy the sound of her voice and the content of her guided meditations. Her Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra for children is a true gem, soothing for bedtime with beautiful background music and nature sounds. www.jenniferreisyoga.com

Recently, I was able to record a guided yoga nidra practice I wrote called, 'Space Meditation'.  It is appropriate for all ages, but geared toward young people as a way of connecting to ourselves, to each other and to the larger expanding Universe. www.insighttimer.com Click on meditations, then click on teachers, then type in my name. Writing and recording a meditation was exciting, balancing vocal tracks and music levels will come. It's all a learning process.

When we have time to sit, breathe and be together, I teach my kids ways to meditate. 

Using our thumb and the four fingers on our hand, we work our way through the practice with presence, (Sa) knowledge, (Ta) patience, (Na) strength, and (Ma) communication. The 'Sa Ta Na Ma' meditation is a symbol of the potential that exists within is. It is a moment to moment awareness of what is happening to us and in us with every breath, every sensation, and emotion, accepting it for what it is.

The thumb represents the practice of presence. We start with "thumbs up for showing up", and breathe together. We can practice sitting, lying down or just upon waking while still warm and cozy in bed.

The index finger is for 'Sa' knowledge. Jyana mudra is the wisdom gesture, and it is the most well known mudra to practice during seated meditation. Touch the thumb to the index finger, the other three fingers gently press together extending outward and down. This begins to connect mind to body, tapping into our inner knowing and instinctual ability to know or feel right from wrong. Trusting our inner knowing, insight or wisdom is empowering, it defines our individuality and uniqueness.

Press the thumb to the second finger. 'Ta' is for patience. Cultivating patience offers an opportunity to endure and persevere in times of challenge, strain or hardship. Recognizing the difference between minor irritations, annoyances or frustrations and larger ones can help us respond appropriately. We use the breath to anchor our feelings or sensations that rise, breathing and breathing out helps to redirect to the here and now.

Press the thumb to the fourth finger. 'Na' is for strength. Strength is more than just physical power, it is persistence, surendering, letting go without giving up. It's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you get back up. Strength is resilience.

Press the thumb to the fifth finger. 'Ma' is for communication. We breathe in and out to find peace in our minds and peace in our hearts. Many of us find that our anger, frustration, and irritations in life come from miscommunications. Name calling, negative words and harsh tones to what we say to ourselves, and each other can produce feelings of conflict and injustice. Taking a deep breath in and out before we respond with words, can help give us space before reacting in a way we could regret. Breathing deeply supports our ability to find a calm space in our minds before we speak.

This meditation is a wonderful way to bring focus, concentration and connection into your life. Connecting with your kids in a way that helps you as well as them is a true gift. The 'Sa Ta Na Ma' meditation can be serious, but remember to keep the fun in the practice, that's what calls them back for more. Laughter is contagious and it releases wonderful endorphins throughout your body that heal.

Each hand opens one finger at a time, and we breathe one breath at a time. At the end of the meditation, we have engaged 5 deep whole body breaths and paused on a one word mantra to enhance the experience. If we have more time, we chat about how we feel and what we experienced in our meditation. For example, if we practice this meditation as a way to ground us upon returning home from work or school, we linger to talk about any situations that have challenged our ability to show up with presence, knowledge, patience, strength, or clear communication. Talking about experiences, good or bad helps to bring balance into our life, creating a sense of belonging and whole being awareness.

"From the act of observation in which attention is awakened, arises the art of teaching." Vanda Scaravelli

As a mother and a yoga teacher, it is important to me to offer what I can to those who are interested. I recognize that everyone is on a different path or journey of becoming. My goal is to provide movement, mindfulness and meditation to those who seek it with authenticity, affordability, and accessibility. If we show up for ourselves, we teach an important act of self care. Self care is a necessary human regulatory function of individual choice and care for body, mind and spirit.

Books and Resources

Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Mindful Child and Mindful Games Activity Cards by Susan Kaiser Greenland

The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Shefali Tsabary

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn

The ABC's of Yoga for Kids: A Book for Coloring by Teresa Anne Power and Kathleen Rietz

Yoga for Kids by Susannah Hoffman

I am Peace by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds

Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems by Kate Coombs & Anna Emilia Laitinen

Yoga Pretzels: 50 Fun Yoga Activities for Kids & Grownups by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish

Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement and More by Mallika Chopra

Breathe by Ines Castel-Branco

Joy Yoga: A Yoga Studio for Kids and their Grown-ups www.joyhealthylife.com

Sharon Marrama: Here Comes the Sun Yoga for Kids www.herecomesthesunyoga.com

Kundalini Yoga for Families www.luminainfinite.com

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Home

"There are two gifts we give our children: one is roots and the other is wings." Anonymous

My Mom and I found a small bird nest in the back yard of her home this past summer. The back yard of my childhood home. The home I returned to with my husband and sons after selling our 'too small' condo, and finally finding our current home only one year ago. We both took a good look at the beauty of this miniature nest. It was built well, sturdily packed with the perfect consistency of found materials. Carefully collected grass, sticks, and hay crafted into a cup shape for little eggs to be nurtured. My Mom held the tiny nest in her hand, and she said, "Wherever it was, I hope it served its purpose."

I have wanted to share thoughts on what a home means to me for a while now. Home is a cherished place of safety, shelter and comfort, a place to grow and be cared for. A home is different from a house. A house is built, maintained or renovated with planning, organization and structured materials. A home is what you put into your house, and I am not talking about the materialistic objects that fill up the space. A home is a feeling, a sanctuary for the body, heart and mind to rest, to be fed, to be held. A place where you can shed the layers of armor that protect your inner world when you are exposed to the outer world. A home is where you can truly be yourself.

A year ago, we uprooted our children from the only home they knew. That 950 square foot living space of love and comfort was a gem. Large south facing windows brought in sunshine, even on the cloudy days, the church bells rang every day at 12 noon and echoed into the one hundred year old walls of our tiny home. The location was amazing, easy work commutes, walkable and quiet for a city. That is, until the banging, running, and screaming started. I'm not talking about my wildly loud boys either. The horsehair plaster was crumbling from the ceiling, our built in hutch with our vintage china was filled with sawdust, sand and plaster chunks that drifted down from the upstairs poundings. Our house was changing, it didn't feel like home anymore, and it was out of our control.

Living underneath a young family wasn't easy, but the home I brought my sweet babies into was getting smaller and smaller, the walls were closing in on me. I felt trapped, unsettled and unhappy most of the time. We had to change our living conditions. It was a sensitive time as well. We decided to sell our condo only a few short months after my Dad passed away. I was still grieving, angry and sad most of the time. Working, packing, moving and preparing the condo to sell were welcome distractions to my current situation, and I dived into the challenge. Always having a task to accomplish is a good way to avoid your emotions. I avoided my emotions as much as possible. It was easier to stay on task and keep going. If I was busy enough and kept myself going, going, going, then sleep would come easily. If I didn't, then I was left to my thoughts and sleep deprived.

Working in the evening, I would leave around 1130pm and get home close to midnight. Heading home stirred up discomfort, so I found solace driving in my car listening to podcasts, music or audio books. When I did arrive home, I would get out of my car, take a moment to pause, and look up at the night sky before walking in the door. This small action turned into a ritual for me, and I started noticing what was happening around me. What planets were visible, what phase the moon was in, how the air felt that night. I began using my senses to really be in the moment. Soon, I started to focus on the changing phases of the moon, its transitional waxing and waning shapes, the color and glow it exhibited based on its closeness to Earth day to day, week to week, and month to month. It seemed natural to start talking to the moon on my ride home. It also felt right to send my prayers and wishes up there too, which led to having conversations with my Dad while I was alone driving in my car. The moon and my Dad were together up in the dark sky. I would imagine my Dad's smile, blue eyes, and handle bar mustache on the moon face. He would sit on the curve of the waxing or waning crescent moon, swinging his legs, smiling, laughing and listening. My Dad was my man in the moon.

Intention is a powerful thing. My husband and I shared the same intention to sell the condo and buy a house for our family. We were focused together, strong for each other and did what we had to do. Our actions backed the intention. We made a plan, packed up everything, stored it in our parents garages and basements, and moved in with my Mom. While our intention played out, my fears and anxieties swelled. Alone most of the time, driving in my car, getting to one place and another, I had to stay positive. I didn't have time to dwell on the past, I needed to stay present and confident in our decisions. To help myself along, I would recite this affirmation I created for the situation, while looking up at the moon, talking to my Dad, or I would say it silently to myself. "There has to be something better for us." I did this for three months.

Moving in with my Mom was easy and extremely difficult at the same time. The commute to work and school was long and filled with traffic. My oldest son had three months left of 2nd grade, my younger son had preschool twice a week, and we didn't want to pull them from their regular schedules. As it was, we were uprooting them from so much already. We had to leave early to be on time for a school that was four towns away. My husband and I met on the road to exchange kids, drop them off or pick them up from childcare. We were lucky to have so many friends and connections to make the impossible seem possible. Five days a week, the boys left at 630am and returned at 630pm. The days I worked, I didn't return home until well after midnight.

My Mother was amazing, selfless and supportive. She got us all up early, helped to make the boys breakfast, lunches and had dinner ready when everyone eventually came home. Home, our place of comfort, shelter and security. Our place to grow and care for each other. Love held us together in the home I grew up in. The home that was built the year I was born. The home that was the same age as me.

Mom and me with baby Amy.

On our long drives, my boys and I would have time to talk. We had deep conversations about life and death, we discussed our thoughts, our situation, and we released many frustrations with tears or laughter. My older son has a strong sense of intuition and compassion. He has the capacity to understand large concepts and relate them to our everyday lives. One afternoon we were driving home, and the boys were talking about their home. My younger son was sad over losing his home, not knowing where we would end up or what would happen. My older son soothed him with these words. "Don't worry about that, home is wherever I'm with you. Home is wherever we are all together. Mom, Dad, me and you." Hearing those beautiful words, melted my heart and eased all my fears about what would happen to us. We had each other. We were already home.

After months of pushing away my feelings of grief and anger over losing my Dad, I was now living in his space. My husband and I were sleeping in the finished basement of my split level childhood home with our two boys. Surrounded by all of his things, his music, his tv, his couch, his bar, his fireplace, his poker table, his golf clubs and his checkerboard collection. My Dad was all around me. This was a help and a comfort to me in many ways. I knew that the support I felt from both my parents was needed to get me through that challenging time. I needed a home unbound by the structural walls of a house to feel safe enough to grieve. I needed a space to be cared for and to be reminded that all I am, all I have and all I need is here. I needed the difficult journey to find that comforting feeling of home within myself, so that wherever I go I can find solace in the home of my heart.

Home is where our hearts are connected, arms wrapped around each other, held, supported, and loved.

I remember driving to the condo on a Friday night after work before the weekend of our open house. I swept the kitchen floor, and touched up the back porch steps with paint under the moon light. I gave the condo one last look and made sure everything looked perfect. Driving back home that night, I saw a red fox crossing the street. It stopped in the middle of the road in front of my car. It extended its large, fluffy tail, paused, looked right at me, and then moved along. The connection was unmistakable. That red fox was telling me something.

As fate would have it, our neighbors were away the weekend we planned to show the condo. This was a blessing I could not have foreseen. I'm not sure we would have sold it so quickly, if the upstairs neighbors were banging around during the open house, but it felt like a lucky break. We had our open house one weekend in April, and had multiple offers that Monday morning. We sold our condo in one day, for almost double than what we originally bought it for. Our incredible realtor was organized and professional, as she went through the details of the many offers on our condo. Perhaps seeing that red fox was fortuitous; luck, fortune and opportunity seemed to be on our side.

Immediately after we sold our condo, we began the search for our new home. I went about this as if it was another job. During the week, I researched different locations, and drove by neighborhoods and homes for sale. On the weekends, we toured homes for sale with our realtor, while dragging our boys along. Our realtor was an Earth angel, patient, flexible and hopeful. Part marriage counselor, referee and spirit guide, she forged ahead on the hunt for our new home.

Four months went by as we looked at home after home. Every week, I would wait for new listings to post. I researched homes, locations, communities, schools, and drove by every potential home of interest. I was actively working a second job of finding a home for my family. We were getting tired, we hadn't found a single home worthy of putting an offer on. Friends would say, "You will know it when you find it." "The right home is out there, just keep looking!" Still working, commuting and struggling with our schedules, we kept going. It was around this time I realized my affirmation wasn't working for me anymore. I continued to talk to my Dad via the moon, absorbing its energy and seasonal shifts. June 2017 brought a beautiful full strawberry moon in my sun sign of Sagittarius. It was the farthest and smallest full moon of the year. I remember my horoscope said it would be a symbol of transformational healing in relationships, and finances. I was determined to stay focused on my path, but I needed a new affirmation. "There has to be something better for us." turned into "There is something better for us." I just needed to change one word.

We found our home at the end of July. It was an older home, a definite fixer upper. There were so many charming characteristics about the house, it felt like it was telling its story, as we explored every nook and cranny. From the glass door knobs, to the picture molding, the hardwood floor, the radiators and the cozy fireplace, I could imagine our family there. I felt my family there. I had a sensation that washed over me and felt my grandfather, my father and my uncles in the house with me, despite the fact that they were all no longer alive on Earth with us.

The house was a sturdy build, with good bones. A solid structure over a hundred years old. Oddly, when we went into the garage my husband and I locked eyes and knew we were putting an offer in.
Our smart and savvy realtor prepared two offers, and we wrote a personal note to the owners making it clear how we felt about the house. Offers were due by 12N on Tuesday June 13, 2017. I had a talk with my Dad that morning, and it went like this... "Dad, I know you are watching over us. If we get this house at our lowest offer, I'll know you helped make it happen."

Our offer was accepted.  June 13, 2017 was exactly one year to the day of my Dad's passing. It is also my parents wedding anniversary date. They would have been married 46 years that day.

Nature is constantly prompting us with an opportunity to look beyond what lies before us. To live fully through each season of our lives as it comes. Some seasons are smooth and calm, while others are turbulent and rough. However it flows, if we miss the prompts that nature gives, we will continue to remain disconnected, untethered and uprooted. I believe our purpose is to connect with each other as human beings, to live in harmony with other animals, plants and the dynamic Earth we reside on. For me, looking up into the night sky and seeing the expansive quality of the known and unknown is a strong reminder that we should not take for granted the possibilities of connection beyond this living, breathing Earth. Every morning the sun rises and the day progresses. Some days are rainy, stormy, windy, gray and cold. Other days are warm, sunny, breezy and clear. In the evening, the sun sets and then the moon rises, whether we see its vibrant full moon glow, or trust in the darkness of the new moon. These constancies of nature provide a grounding point for me, to rise up from sleep every morning, care for myself, my boys, go to work, and fully embrace the waxing and waning of this life journey.

Nature is a part of us and when we are more connected with it, we are more connected with ourselves. 

Finding that bird nest with my Mom was a symbol of our home. The home we created together as mother and daughter provided me with the courage I needed to extend my wings and find my own home with my husband. That sweet little bird nest represents all the love, warmth, enthusiasm and commitment that is required to create a happy home. Home, where we can raise our boys together and watch them grow strong and fly.

I couldn't have predicted our sweet house would bring so much prosperity. The boys have adapted to their new school, and we met wonderful families who continue to welcome us with open arms. We fell in step with new friends, new opportunities, and new experiences, extending our community beyond the walls of our new home. It has been a full year since we have lived in our own home. The boys have found new places to play, we are building a garden, and setting down new roots. The house needs a new kitchen, bathroom and maybe another bathroom, we have electrical work, plumbing and basement renovations ahead of us, but it feels complete because our home is full of love, family and friends.

"What makes a house grand ain't the roof or the doors...if there's LOVE in the house, it's a palace for sure."  Tom Waits


I realize that my situation in life is very different from others, but my definition of home remains the same. "A home is a feeling, a sanctuary for the body, heart and mind to rest, to be fed, to be held." Everyone deserves to have a home. The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless strives to provide a bed for every child, basic needs of food, clothing, and furniture, accessible and affordable options for housing support, medical and mental health care, social services, job training, employment and so much more. 

I stand by my definition of home, and support those who require more assistance and have the courage and strength to seek out resources within their community. I was lucky to have my mother who was so willing to give her personal space, her time, and her care for my family's outcome. My husband and I were able to maintain flexible work hours and commutes to provide a consistent school schedule for our children. I am grateful and humbled by my experience. I'm sharing my personal view of what home means to me to shine a light on the very basic needs to rise up and live, to show my children what it means to serve our community on a larger scale, to bring hope into the lives and homes of others.