Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Emotion of Mother's Day

Holidays are a challenge for anyone who has gone through any kind of grief.  Someone can wish someone something as benign and simple as "Happy Mother's Day" or "Happy New Year" or "Happy National Zucchini Bread Day" and depending on the associations the recipient has with that particular holiday it can make a wound surface or a wave of sadness come through.

I was looking at the kind and genuine Mother's Day wishes that friends were sharing on Facebook, but I was also noticing how many people were posting pictures of their mom's who had passed away.  How this day for them brings pain with it:  pain from all the memories of love.  Someone explained to me that the physical pressure you have in your heart from losing someone you love is that person now living inside your heart.  That you can now feel them inside of you.

But that pain of missing someone who was there for you is easier to feel than the pain from someone who wasn't there.  The child who wonders why their mother was so impatient or angry or wasn't giving them the love and support they felt they needed.  Again, I've touched on this theme many times before:  motherhood is the most demanding of jobs.  It is a full-time position of constant needs.  It takes the strength of Hercules as well as tremendous patience and wisdom.  Wisdom we don't always have until later.  There is no guide book.  We all learn as we go trying to do our very best.  I always thought because of my natural passion for homemaking that I would be the ultimate mother.  It was something I always wanted to do.  I hadn't counted on the sleepless nights or the ache and worry when your child is sick.  I constantly have to remind myself to be PRESENT with my girls.  To truly listen to them instead of get caught up in my hobbies and interests.  To look them in the eyes and really listen to them.  And then the joy comes from delighting in their interests and their happiness instead of just kind of nodding through as you try to clean up the house or check things off the "to do" list.  A friend said you never really understand how hard motherhood was for your mother or truly appreciate your mother until you become a mother yourself and then finally understand the full scope of the job.

I remember the day Melissa Madeline was born.  I remember when we took her home from the hospital and I remember looking at Jason with more love that you can ever possibly feel for someone because he had given me this child I loved beyond any emotion I had ever felt in my life.  It was the deepest form of love I could ever have for both him and for her.  I felt my world would end if anything ever happened to that precious child.  I worried about her each breath and checked on her all night.  When Katherine was born again I felt the same immense love.  But now I had two babies and looked at Jason begging for help.  How could I care for both of them.  The love was so immense I felt like I would burst.  And then the hard times came and those are the things that chip away at the marriage.  The demands of the outside world that make things so hard on all of us.  How could we start with such a perfect love of this child and then get divorced.  How was that love for our children not strong enough to hold us together?

On this day I I also think of my friends (sadly too many to count) who have struggled for years with infertility.  I especially think of one friend who finally got pregnant after years and years of trying then had to suffer the baby dying.  The worst pain of all is to lose a child.  And on Mother's Day I think of those dear friends who have suffered this worst of losses and pains.

For me I have a huge mixture of emotions on Mother's Day.  As long as my grandmother is alive (she will be 91 this June) the day is basically about her.  It isn't about my mom or the young mom's.  It is about all of us going to visit Granny.  For some reason Mother's Day has always been a lot of work in our family.  Yet another party for my mom, my sister, my sister-in-law and my aunt to rally around and cook for.  If you remember my toast  from my sister's 40th about "being raised to believe that it was our "job" to be there.  To be the hosts and caregivers and comforters and celebrators.  To let others know they matter."  So Mother's Day is not an exemption from that job.  However, about 7 or 8 years ago my sister came up with a BRILLIANT plan.  She decided that since Mother's Day is a day of work for us that we should celebrate Mother's Day the Wednesday AFTER Mother's Day by going to the Ojai Spa.  We could each truly relax and be pampered and not work or care for anyone but ourselves for those few hours we could be at the spa.  So I highly recommend to any of you to lower your expectations for the actual day of Mother's Day and do something for yourself in the week afterward:  a massage, a pedicure, a movie, alone time with a book...whatever fills you up and nourishes you so you can restore your strength to be there for others.

So as I think of this day and all that it means.  I celebrate the women who never had children but who have been the best aunts and friends and support systems for others.  Those women have often had an enormous impact on the world.   On this day I celebrate the friendship we all have for each other as we help each other along this bumpy twisting road of life.  I think with gratitude of all the lessons I've learned.  The lessons I learned from being a mother.  The lessons I learned from being a daughter.  The lessons I've learned from the friends I've had and all of their experiences.

And just as I'm writing these last words Melissa Madeline is waking up.  She looked from under the covers and said "Happy Mother's Day."  Last week Melissa Madeline made fun of me jokingly and truthfully saying "this is the house of JOY."  And now in this morning she reminds me with her sweet smile that no matter the pains and sufferings in life:  JOY exists.

 photography Jose Villa 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Coach Chris

Dear Recipe Testers,

Before I write this story I wanted to share with you something my friend Eric Pederson sent to me.  Eric is a person like me with a huge heart who wants to help the world.  When I went through the divorce I realized suddenly I just didn't have the personal energy or capacity to help on the level I had previously.  All of my efforts and energy had to go into keeping myself strong so I could support my girls.  I leaned on some dear friends who helped me through day by day and was also comforted by the kindness of strangers.  In fact, I was crying in Trader Joe's a few days after we were separated and a man in the store bought me flowers.  It was so kind and it gave me comfort.  Recently I feel like I've been given the opportunity to "pay it forward" and help others who are going through the excruciatingly painful process of divorce.  I feel like I've been able to give them hope that they will get through it and that happiness exists on the other side.  And that the children will be okay.  And that they will be okay.  That life is somehow a series of ups and downs and that happiness is there is you look for it.

So I want to write about BALANCE.  About when to give and when to say no.  Because I think those are hard boundaries to make for those of us who feel they are called to help everyone.  This short passage below that Eric wrote on "Compassion Fatigue" spoke volumes to me:

"You are a good person. It's a long race. You are suffering from compassion fatigue.

Of course you care about people, but has there been a time in history when people have been put under more pressure to be charitable? You go to the store to pick up a quart of milk and pass a homeless man with a sign asking for your help, then you have to pass
 by someone selling brownies for some charity outside the grocery store, and when you pay for your milk you are asked if you want to make a donation to MS. It's a veritable attack of the charities.

Not giving today does not mean you want the homeless man to starve, the Girl Scouts to miss their jamboree, or people to suffer from MS. It just means it is someone else's turn to give today.

You have compassion fatigue because you have been compassionate. Compassion is not measured by how much you gave, or whether you were able to, or whether you fixed their problem, but that you wanted to. That compassion, even devoid of action, is precious and must be preserved. It makes us great.

So recover. Treat yourself to a margarita, a spa day, a drive by the ocean, a ride in the mountains, a day with family, or maybe some time in your church. Recharge because you are an important part of this world, and because you deserve it.

What we must not do, however, is defend ourselves with fiction that the problems are not real, that people are not suffering, or that they somehow deserve it. Suffering happens, it is not good, and we should not feel OK seeing it.

Being human means we have compassion; but being human also means we have limits. So when you feel the fatigue, let yourself off the hook. I am here to tell you it is OK, and there is no need to rationalize not giving. Tell yourself not today, I am taking the day (or week) off. It's margarita Saturday, etc.

And when you are recharged, watch out world, your love for your fellow man can make a difference that would shame the rest of us. You are, after all, kind of amazing." --
Eric Pederson

Recently, I've had to be very careful about what I can do and what I can't do.  I'm honestly asked weekly to donate to something or participate in a fundraiser.  If the girls teachers need something for school that is always a yes.  I've mentioned before that the two charities I donate to regularly are Food for the Poor and the local Food Banks, since I always think feeding people is of primary importance.  But there are many things I've had to say no to just because I literally don't have the time or ability to say yes.  

Recently a tragedy happened in our valley that had the same need an urgency as Jeanette.  It is something I had to say yes to.  (For those of you who are new to this list, Jeanette was a little girl who died of bone cancer and had her leg amputated and multiple surgeries, yet was this amazing ray of positive light.  No matter what horrors she endured she always made everyone around her feel wonderful.  There was a time when Jeanette was in City of Hope and her aunt Rosemary was with her and Rosemary couldn't work and needed money for tires and gas and food.  The necessities in life to get through the time of crisis.  Strangers rose to help her and all of you helped them through that terrible time until she could go back to work and get back on her feet.  It was the kind of "boost" that we all sometimes need in life.)

The new urgency is for the Basketball Coach in the valley that donated so much of his time to so many kids in the valley.  His whole family and wives' family has been a part of countless fundraisers and so many events in the valley, especially soccer and basketball, that if anyone has "paid it forward" Chris has.  Chris Kaping is a plumber and his wife Monique has run a daycare in their home.  Chris has bone cancer and on Monday had part of his pelvis and his femur removed.  He is still at City of Hope.  Because he is self-employed the family's biggest need right now is paying the rent and for the essentials in life like groceries, electricity, etc.  They have four children.  Friends and grandparents are jumping in to help drive the kids to school and activities (his daughter Dakota is still playing on the basketball team.)  The WONDERFUL news is that the doctors believe Chris will walk again.  The road to recovery will be long (at least a year) but there is tremendous hope and, as Hollye would say, that is a HUGE Silver Lining!

So after finally learning to say no I realized that this is exactly what Eric meant about recharging your batteries so you would be available when it is most needed.  This is exactly where I want to give my money and help.   Chris and Monique and their four kids children need the money now to get through this temporary low.  Their rent is $2,200 a month and that is on of the things Monique is the most concerned about.  Then of course, groceries and utilities. I know the community will step up to help but I also believe there is something extraordinary about the kindness of strangers that gives you a lift beyond measure.  That someone who you never gave to and whom you may never be able to repay, is giving to you.  This is the kind of giving that fills me with JOY. 

If you have compassion fatigue than take time to recharge your batteries, but if you are recharged and ready to give this is where any amount will make a huge difference and be appreciated beyond measure. 

Donations can be made Rabobank in Santa Ynez is also putting deposits directly into the account set up for Chris.  You can write ATTN: Bertha Foxen who is handling the account but either way it will get to Chris.

Chris Kaping Medical Fund
P. O. Box 718
Santa Ynez, CA  93460

I love the ripple effect from the chain of love.  It goes on and on.  

Blessings and JOY,


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Diving Through Pain

"One of the images I keep in my head when faced with challenges or pain in life is of a giant wave coming towards me. I could run from it and be pummeled and by the wave. Instead I face it and dive through it. And on the other side it is calm and peaceful. Then another one comes and I dive through it again. I learn to dive through many waves of pain.  Then another one comes and I learn to ride it." -Maili

photography David Pu'u

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Dear Recipe Testers,

I have redesigned the blog in hopes that past recipes will be easier to find.  Please let me know what you think:

Also, as many of you may know I am sadly going through a divorce after 20 years of marriage.  It has been a tremendous time of growth and learning.  I think divorce is horrible for children and believe deeply that every effort should be made to prevent it.  If that effort has been made then I believe it is best for the children to go through the divorce with grace and peace.  It is the greatest challenge not to let bitterness or anger or any of those negative feelings enter into what I describe as a "Natural Disaster."  Since a divorce feels much like an earthquake or a house burning down.  The "world as you knew it" has now radically changed.  But beauty, grace and blessings do abound if you look for them.  After Christmas I will write more about the HOW of going through a divorce with Grace and Peace.  It involves a lot of prayer and journaling and compassion.  A willingness to rise above and do the best that you can.  And while this is best for the children it is also best for you.

I realized when redesigning the blog that there are many articles about my former husband as well as pictures of our family.  I have decided to leave those as they were when I wrote them because they were true at the time.  I don't want current circumstances to alter them since they were written with sincere feelings.  As I explained to my children, I will keep all the happy memories from the time with their dad but for now it is best decision that we go forward with the divorce.  

I know a lot of you are going through really trying times in your life right now.  I want to share this passage that was sent to me.  I also want to emphasize the incredible importance of gratitude prayers.  There were often times that I prayed for peace in my heart or comfort but I have found the most powerful prayers of all are "gratitude prayers."  I was just talking on Monday with Kara.  For those of you who have followed the email list for a while, you will remember that Kara's daughter, Joele, died of a rare form of Nieman-Pick AB at age four, just after Jeanette died of cancer.  Kara was explaining to me the importance of gratitude prayers and how truly important they are in your worst moments, when you are the least grateful.  I will tell you that during one very hard time I said many prayers of gratitude, praise and thanksgiving at 4:00 in the morning.  I can't being to tell you the difference it made in my life the following day and that i actually let me sleep.  

Then interestingly enough that following day, Robert Jones, emailed me and said he needed to return the book HERE IF YOU NEED ME by Kate Braestrup.  I had forgotten all about it.  I bought the book at the bookstore the moment Jeanette died.  Just after I found it, I got the text that Jeanette had died.  The book is very comforting and it's basically about us all being there for each other.  The authors husband died in a car accident when they still had three young children.  The book describes that God is present when we are there for each other during their difficult times and that through these efforts small and large miracles occur.  The timing of him returning the book was like getting a big hug and another wonderful reminder about gratitude.  It in fact seemed like yet another one of those Divine coincidences or small miracles.

‎"But then, a grateful heart beats in a world of miracles. If I could only speak one prayer for you, my children, it would be that your hearts would not only beat but grow even greater in gratitude, that your lives, however long they prove to be and no matter how they end, continue to bring you miracles in abundance."
-Kate Braestrup

I was also sent the below that I found very encouraging.  I've read it over and over again.

In life, we think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem. The real truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together for a time, then they fall back apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.

Personal discovery and growth come from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Suffering comes from wishing things were different. Misery is self inflicted, when we are expecting the “ideal” to overcome the “actual,” or needing things (or people, or places) to be different for us so we can then be happy.

Let the hard things in life break you. Let them effect you. Let them change you.
Let these hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don't cop out on that. Don't run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.

WHAT IS THE LESSON IN THIS WIND? What is this storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage. With full honesty and -

~Pema Chodron

The irony is that I began this recipe testing email this morning with the intention of sending you the link to Santa Barbara Magazine.  My mom and sister's gingerbread houses are featured in this month's issues.  I had posted a link to it on my blog.  Melissa Madeline and I were looking at it together and she was helping me chose the new layout for the blog.  Then all of our family pictures popped up from Yosemite.  They made us both sad for a moment and that was when I told her I wasn't going to delete them.  I was going to leave them as they were.  And I need to add last years trip to Yosemite when the girls and I went on our own and still had a magnificent time.  If anything, I think the girls are learning to be strong women.  To find their own interests, abilities and things that make them proud of who they as individuals are.  They are learning perhaps too soon what some women learn in their 20's or 30's but they are learning the lesson.

Perhaps it does make sense to send the link to the gingerbread now.  Because the bakery was built by their grandmother, Susan Halme, and is run by she and my sister, Melissa Halme Redell.  So it is yet another example of strong women in their family who work hard following their passion and in turn that passion brings JOY to others.  

Which reminds me of another small miracle.  When I was married our stocking holders were the word N O E L.  There was one letter for each of us and then Princess had a snowflake.  This year we needed to buy new stocking holders.  I wanted to get P E A C E and just use the three middle letters.  Melissa Madeline said how about J O Y.  We looked and looked and it took us quite some searching to find the stocking holders that said J O Y.  And we were joyous when we found them.  Since then, JOY keeps coming up in amazing places.  The little miracles reminding me I have filled our little house with joy and that my girls feels joy living here.  

Sending JOY to all of you,


The holiday spirit comes alive one sweet treat at a time.
Annabelle Murray, Margot Josefsohn, and Madeline Murray show off their work of art.
Annabelle Murray, Margot Josefsohn, and Madeline Murray show off their work of art.
Frosting-covered fingers dove into bowls of gumdrops, and little faces were laced with cookie crumbs at Santa Ynez Valley residents Pierre and Marguerite Josefsohn’s first annual gingerbread house-making party. This kid-friendly event was inspired by a holiday trip the Josefsohns and their children took to the Solvang Bakery’s own Gingerbread Decorating Workshop. “It was such a memorable day,” said Marguerite, “we decided to make it a Christmas tradition of our own.”
The children gather around the decoration station and nibble on cookies.
Nine children—who arrived at the Josefsohns’ home with smiles and sweet cravings—were greeted by mouth-watering comfort food prepared and served by award-winning chef and owner of the Ballard Inn, Budi Kazali. The kids nibbled on lunchtime favorites such as mac-n-cheese and sipped warming hot apple cider and hot chocolate before the main activity—adorning gingerbread houses. At the center of the decorating station stood a Christmas tree covered with cookie ornaments, and draped over each chair were personalized aprons. The kids scurried to their spots, indicated by individualized house-making kits—fit with a handmade assembled house, frosting, cookie doors, windows, shutters and doormats, sugar trees, and a personalized cookie provided by Melissa Redell, co-owner of the Solvang Bakery.
 Hosts Pierre and Marguerite Josefsohn.
Hosts Pierre and Marguerite Josefsohn.
Redell and her mother, Susan Halme, have owned the bakery since 1981 and have been creating gingerbread houses for the past 30 years. Halme sketches and designs the houses and is always coming up with new details and ideas to make them even cuter. While at this event, watching the kids decorate was the most fulfilling aspect. “Seeing the original ideas that some of the kids had—and the joy in their eyes while they decorated their very own edible creation—was my favorite part,” said Redell.
As the construction progressed, so did the spirit of the season. The house exuded cheer with red, green, and gold glittering decorations that have been collected during the years. Los Angeles florist and friend Consuelo Aceves spent days transforming the home into Santa’s workshop. Complete with holiday tunes jingling in the background, the children frosted their houses, lingered at the candy station, and tasted a little of each treat—more than 25 sweets such as red licorice, colorful Skittles, and Necco wafers for embellishing their creations. “The children seemed to eat more of the gumdrops then they used for decorating,” said Marguerite.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Tiago Wiesenthal bites into his cookie with ease; a basket full of  colorful candy decorations; Greer Biddlecomb is all smiles at this sugary soiree; Remi Josefsohn gets ready to frost his masterpiece; a house made with love; giggles flow from Luca  Wiesenthal as he delights in his personalized treat.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Tiago Wiesenthal bites into his cookie with ease; a basket full of colorful candy decorations; Greer Biddlecomb is all smiles at this sugary soiree; Remi Josefsohn gets ready to frost his masterpiece; a house made with love; giggles flow from Luca Wiesenthal as he delights in his personalized treat.
After the houses were complete, Redell person-alized each one with an edible nameplate and wrapped it up with a bow. By the end of the after-noon, the wee ones’ tummies were satiated. Needless to say, they were satisfied and “a new tradition was born in the Josefsohn house,” said Marguerite.ginger box
 Little Leighton Hale has her eye  set on a shiny ornament hanging from the bounteous Christmas tree.
Little Leighton Hale has her eye set on a shiny ornament hanging from the bounteous Christmas tree.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Journaling Your Way to Grace

A dear friend of mine gave me the journal 45 Days of Grace. When she first gave it to me I wasn't quite ready to write in it. It has prompts for each day and I wasn't sure I wanted to write from a prompt. I usually like to write freely about what is currently circling around in my mind. So I waited a few months before I began it. Beginning it and working through it was miraculous. It is amazing the clarity you can get to through writing. So often our minds are caught up in the secondary issue or a superficial issue. Somehow with writing you can begin to peel back layers and get to the core problems which leads to depth, understanding and in the end: Grace.

The journal is divided into three sections: Mind, Body and Spirit. Here are some examples of some of the prompts:

"What conversations or continuous loops do you play over and over when your mind is filled with noise? ("My mind on the hamster wheel...")

"I'd love to learn..."

"I'm puzzled by..."

"What activates the juices of your mind..."

"I am nourished by..."

"My heart aches..."

"Wrestling with God..."

There were honestly days when I resisted writing if the prompt was perhaps too painful and I felt I was doing well that day and didn't want to dig up anything painful. But everyday that I wrote I left feeling an immense sense of peace. And on almost every page I gained some kind of insight or wisdom. Something I hadn't seen before. Something different than just me complaining of an overwhelming list of things to do. Sometimes I diverged for a minute on the page and them came back to the topic. Sometimes I had so much to write that I inserted extra blank pages to finish writing.

In the end I loved it so much that I won't finish it. I have three days left and I don't want it to be over. Isn't that crazy. I talked with my friend who also did the book and she and her sister did it together and neither of them wanted it to end either. I am going to go back and finish those last three pages and I know when I will be ready. I'm just going to make them linger--perhaps writing only one a month for the next three months.

In the meantime I have started another journal. This journal is more of The Morning Pages recommended in The Artist's Way. I was given The Artist's Way years ago and never touched it. I didn't really consider myself an artist so I didn't really think it was for me. Of course I wasn't realizing there are so many forms of art from writing to cooking to singing to painting to gardening to the traditional forms of art painting and sculpting. I feel like the book should be called Healing Your Life and Finding Happiness or Making Your Brain Come Alive or just WOW! It is an understatement to express what a positive book it is and how it gets your mind flowing with possibility and excitement. It is the Power of Positive Thinking come true and the people who have had success in their own form of art after completing it is astounding.

I could quote the entire book it is that wonderful. It helps you get to the CORE of your feelings and your potential. It eliminates the negativity/censors/judgement in your mind and even explains why some people feel "safe" in their negativity. The author first recommends skimming the book. Skipping around and reading parts of it and kind of skimming through it before actually beginning it.

So often we complain/vent about the superficial when there is something deeper underlying the way we feel. The Artist's Way actually gives you steps and tools for uncovering all sorts of emotional blocks. It truly helps you "break-through" to discover your true emotions and lead you to your greatest potential. It helps conquer fears and all sorts of things and the way she writes is as the safest most encouraging friend. So you feel safe and good while you unlock the best parts of you.

"'This marriage is not working for me,' the morning pages say. And then 'I wonder about couples therapy?' and then, 'I wonder if I'm not just bored with me.'"

"I have outgrown this job," may appear in the morning pages. At first, it is a troubling perception. Over time, it becomes a call for action and then an action plan." p.81

It truly is so hard to start picking out quotes and passages because I want to copy down the entire book. If I had to pick another favorite part it is near the end about the Sacred Circles. We tend to have this illusion that only one person can succeed. That only one person can be "the best." It is far from true. Cameron writes this so beautifully there is no point in me paraphrasing. I will just write her words:

"Success occurs in clusters. Drawing a Sacred Circle creates a sphere of safety and a center of attraction for our good.

The Sacred Circle is built on respect and trust. The image is of a garden. Each plant has its name and its place. There is no flower that cancels the need for another. Each bloom has its unique and irreplaceable beauty.

Let our gardening hands be gentle ones. Let us not root up one another's ideas before they have time to bloom. Let us bear with the process of growth, dormancy, cyclicality, fruition and reseeding. Let us never be hasty to judge, reckless in our urgency to force unnatural growth. Let there be, always, a place for the artist toddler to try, to falter, to fail, to try again. Let us remember that in nature's world every loss has meaning. The same is true for us. Turned to good use, a creative failure may be the compost that nourishes next season's creative success. Remember, we are in this for the long haul, the ripening and harvest, not the quick fix." -Julia Cameron.

I can give you thousands of examples of success and this kind of determination. From JK Rowling's 12 rejections of Harry Potter to Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, who was rejected 60 times! (You can get the links to these stories of rejection and triumph if you click on the author's names.) JK Rowling's Commencement speech at Harvard was called The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination. The Diary of Ann Frank was in the trash pile and rescued by Judith Jones. Julia Child's cookbook was rejected 6 times. Failure, disappointment, rejection and mistakes are all a part of of life. And they are often opportunities to stretch, grow and move in a new direction.

"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies." --JK Rowling

What I have learned from all of this in this miraculous year of growth and transformation is that we all make mistakes and we are all struggling with some kind of challenge whether large or small. Let me say that again: WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. And it is so important to forgive yourself and go forward. Sometimes I feel I'm in the movie Groundhog Day and I make the mistake again and again until I get it right. But then a lightbulb goes on when you realize what does and doesn't work in your life, in your relationships and in your daily happiness. For instance being patient and kind with your children instead of yelling at them when you are tired and frustrated is a BIG lesson for me. Maya Angelou wrote:

"what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'Well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that's rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn" -Maya Angelou

As you may be able to tell quotes and words INSPIRE me. My journals are filled with my favorite quotes. They can be a spark as well as a comfort.

You may think I'm crazy but I also have a gratitude journal. I don't write in it everyday because I often drive around thinking about what I would write in my gratitude journal and what I am thankful for. So it has the same positive effect. And my girls and I have started this practice of each saying two things we are grateful for every night. It is amazing how happy you are when you go to bed, even giddy sometimes, when you talk about the parts of your day that you are grateful for. I love hearing theirs and they love hearing mine. So if the other two journals don't seem like they would work for you then perhaps a gratitude journal is something you will enjoy.

In my journals I repeatedly came upon recurring themes; perhaps the biggest being that "Kindness Matters." The other thing that surfaced over and over again was my greatest weakness: Patience. (Patience I could write about for pages and I already wrote a blog post devoted to Patience alone.) Over and over again Patience, Compassion, Understanding, Kindness and Prayer kept surfacing. I'm a better mother, a better friend and a better person now. I can still stumble but for the most part I have this sense of Peace and Grace that I carry with me most of the time. I can feel the times when I get anxious or stressed but mostly I can pray through those and if those prayers come in the form of writing in a journal they are even more powerful. The result is a sense of calm and belief in the goodness in the world. A delight in the possibilities that exist and the Blessings we are showered with daily. Peace and Grace to all of you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

If I Were to Die Tomorrow

This poem is written by my dear friend, Mary Natwick, from her book Waking a Lover. I enjoyed the poem so very much that I wanted to share it with all of you. I particularly connected with the part about sunsets, since I am so often struck by there unbelievable beauty. They feel like such a gift; just like Mary's poem.

If I Were to Die Tomorrow

I never got to go on an African safari
or see the Northern lights
or visit Schotland and Wales, or take a ferry
up the Sognefjord in Norway to my ancestors' farm
I never got to climb Mount Everest
and that pilgrimage through Spain sounded so tempting!
--and Stonehenge--
--the Amazon River--

but it was never on my list to have so many good friends
to have such a Buddha-teacher son
to have a husband who knows me so intimately
he can even explain me to myself
it was never on my list to love little scrinchy newborn babies
no moments made my list,
like the scarlet tanager singing in the blossoming pear tree
the coyote sitting on a desert road at sunrise
laughing uncontrollably never made the list
and sunsets: tonight while driving into stunning purple and
orange swirls I said "this must be the best one ever"
even though I've seen a thousand such -- can you imagine,
a thousand spectacular sunsets!

How lucky can a person get?

If I were to die tomorrow, I would have only a few
regrets -- one of which might be that my list was
so much shallower than my life

Monday, June 6, 2011

Yosemite 2011

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." --John Muir

We just returned from our annual trip to Yosemite. I've been going since I was 7 years old and it gives me immense joy to see the delight on every child's face and being under those giant redwoods and surrounded by the enormous boulders and gorgeous waterfalls. The children riding their bikes have this sense of freedom and independence that perhaps feels like driving a car for the first time when you are 16. There is something different about riding a bike there. It is truly the ultimate playground for children topped off by a campfire every night. As an adult I'm moved by it's beauty every year.

It was a unique year this year. It was unusually cold. No bathing suits by the river and instead winter jackets, space heaters and lots of blankets in the tent cabins. Somehow in the cold I felt like I was visiting a new place. I have to be honest and say I wasn't looking forward to the cold when I saw the weather report. Camping in the cold did not sound like fun to me. Many people cancelled their reservations when they saw the weather. But there was a beauty to the cold I hadn't seen before. I hadn't seen the clouds in front of the granite walls. And because of the record snow fall this year there were waterfalls that didn't previously exist. The giant dogwoods were in full bloom instead of at the end of their season. My sister and I went on a walk and when we came back the boys were all playing hide-and-go seek among the rocks. And for all the work it is for the parents with planning, loading, driving and setting up camp, to see the kids blissfully playing reaffirms the joy is worth the effort to get there. And even though a large number of people visit the park is so large that you are still able to have moments alone. Moments in the wilderness.