Facing Up to It

Facing Up to It

9 days post injury
9 days post injury – July 2022

“Did you lose consciousness?” asked the ER nurse taking my blood pressure. “No, but I kind of wish I had!” was my bruised blend of sarcasm and agony.

Two hours earlier:  I was relocating river rocks from one side of the backyard to the other. I started off cautiously, shoveling a few rocks into two large plastic painter buckets. Then powerlifting a bucket in each hand, I shuffled to the other side of the yard and deposited the rocks to their new location. I was a slow motion, sweaty old milk maid.

Our wheel barrel, seemingly from the 1800’s, had a flat front tire. I couldn’t help thinking we must have another garden variety wagon to transport the rock filled buckets. I searched and located a dusty low lying five wheeled circular flat dolly and I was in business. Setting the bucket on the roller’s round surface, just inches from the ground, I filled it to great excess, able to increase the quantity tenfold! I shuttled my payload to and fro, pleased with this clever system—bending at the waist, leaning forward and gripping the sides of the hefty rock filled bucket I was able to push this makeshift quarry to be dumped in its new territory.

Quite proud of my ingenuity, speed and efficiency until…one of the wheels caught on a slightly raised edge of cement along the racetrack, I mean garden pathway, abruptly stopping all forward motion except for the rocks, bucket and me. Gravity paired with hundreds of heavy rocks, leaning forward and my tight grip on the sides of the bucket, careened me to the unforgiving cement, face down. I am sure there is a clever scientific formula which reads…

gravity + momentum + hundreds of rocks + “I’m pretending to be a flexible, gymnastic flipping 25 year old”  = @#%$& +  bruised elbow, scraped knees, gravel cuts on the cheek + one very broken nose.

During the two weeks of bed rest, qualifying for the Quasimodo lookalike contest and having my ENT doctor pretend I was Rocky as he reset my nose, the post-injury mental baggage claim circulated and I watched each item with its individualized name tags;  Shame – Blame – Regret as they rotated on my internal conveyor belt of self assessment. Why did this happen and how could I have been so careless and yep, unaware of the risks?

The lesson hit me right in the face…literally.  I was doing too much, too fast, too many rocks in my bucket, too unaware of the possible pitfalls of a wheel getting stuck. I had not adjusted. I became too comfortable with what I thought was working and increased my load, accelerated my pace and became more invigorated with finishing than focusing on the moment. Sound familiar?

Life can get heavy and we often react quickly to manage, move and dispose of the burdens we carry. Racing around the track of life, loading more than should be pushed, we fill days up, tumbling, dulling awareness, getting scraped, bruised and perhaps broken.

This is when CHOICE is a necessary container and INTENTION a powerful vehicle. Choice means to thoughtfully assess what is the task before us, how much can we really carry and do ALL the “stones” really belong to us or could some be carried by another? Intention is the focused energy applied to the task, with consistent evaluation of how we are doing, feeling and progressing.

In reference to our late 50’s, early 60’s aging process, a friend recently spoke about making each step deliberate. Yuk. I used to simply leap saying “yes!” and not pausing to consider labor required. Each step, task and endeavor included spontaneity, speed and voila, accomplishment. Are you kidding, being deliberate seemed the counterpoint to “just do it!” Waiting for the CT scan to confirm if I had a concussion or brain bleed, well, let’s say I faced up to a few realities.

As my recovery progressed, the swelling abated, purple tinted black eyes morphed to a jaundice yellow hue and new items came into view on my baggage claim of emotions; Gratitude – Relief – Acceptance – Deliberate.

I appreciate and value my brain; there was no head injury.  I cherish having a body that moves, swims, dances and hugs; the only break was my beak. I love to smile and laugh broadly; relieved all my teeth are still in their original spots. I deeply love this one deliberate, beautiful life and focus my intentions to face up to it every day.


Transformation Part 2:  Stop, Stand and Start

Transformation Part 2:  Stop, Stand and Start

It was time to grieve the ending of my complacency, avoidance and magical thinking. High scores and bigger numbers are welcomed results for academic exams, bank accounts and maybe even “likes” on Instagram, yet not on a blood test for cholesterol and glucose. Numbers don’t lie, yet I had been doing quite a bit of falsifying the discomfort I felt in my own skin until the “H” for “high” on the computerized notification really represented, “Hellooooo, is anyone home???”

I had to stop being a negligent homeowner who doesn’t stay on top of necessary maintenance. Buckets of grief filled over about a four year period, absence from exercise, working more and playing less, and indulgent eating habits I’ll blame on the pandemic. All of these and more contributed to my home “body” being less than structurally sound.

We can sit in the driver seat of our intentions, yet don’t have the key to get started. Or, we fill up the tank of our motivation vehicle, yet run out of owning its purpose only to abandon the expedition on the side of our lives. Here are a few examples of those who STARTED at various ages and stages of their lives:

  • Audrey Hepburn stars as Eliza Doolittle in the film version of My Fair Lady – age 35
  • Mark Twain publishes The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – age 40
  • Gustave Eiffel completes designing the Paris tower that will be named for him – age 56
  • Betty Ford opens up her self-named clinic for substance abusers – age 64
  • Michelangelo designs the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome – age 72
  • Barbara McClintock wins the Nobel Prize for Physiology for her revolutionary work in genetics – age 81
  • Mother Jones, union organizer, writes her autobiography – age 94

To start a change is to gather the sticks of self-kindness, the kindling to ignite living differently. We can contemplate how our “home” gets neglected, how the “fire” was extinguished, yet action ultimately comes from stopping, standing, answering, listening, believing and waking up. I had to find the KIND in kindling to ignite personal change, stand up and respond to the deeply knowing self that was calling to be better, healthier. At whatever season of life you currently occupy, it is completely, most assuredly, in the present that we must start where we stand.

Where do you stand today? It is not easy to finally stop, stand in front of your denial and know something needs to change. What needs to stop so that you can stand and answer the call of what you must start? Is there a relationship needing renewal? Career efforts requiring inspiration? Physical laments calling for attention? Creative possibilities hungry for attention? Emotional challenges demanding healing?  Life transitions asking to be acknowledged and accepted?

Here were my kindling items:

Focused Energy – Plan, purchase and create healthy nutritional supplies

Investment – Make self-care a daily deposit of ingestion and activity

Return – Telling the truth to myself, revisiting core values of physical health

Encouragement – Self-soothing messages to make healthy choices

Since September 2022, my numbers are all less…pounds, cholesterol and glucose. The “H” for high has retreated from the scoreboard. By gathering KINDness for myself, I experienced fulfillment in the midst of deficit. Acceptance led to action. Action fueled transformation. Transformation generated energy, renewal and a reminder…all things are possible when we choose to be kind to our bodies, hearts and minds.


Transformation Part 1: Stop, Stand and Start 

Transformation Part 1: Stop, Stand and Start

Last September, I knew an aspect of my life needed to come to an end. Looking back, it was more about stopping certain behaviors and habits more than starting something new. I had reached the finish line of being uncomfortable in my own skin.

In 5th grade, I towered over classmates and had an inspirational teacher who always encouraged me to “walk proud, shoulders back” as I would slouch to be compatible with my shorter pals. Fortunately, due to genes, I always fit in my counterpart “jeans” pretty well, until I didn’t. Throughout my 40’s, I held steady, fluctuating a bit here and there, with affirmations from friends who would say, “You are so tall, if you lose or gain weight, I really can’t tell, you always look the same.”

Traveling quite a few decades from my 11 year old 5’4 self to last September and well, I most certainly did not look the same. Grief over my mum’s passing, my son launching off to college, hormonal aging, potato chips, Covid, more ice cream and less movement had weighed heavy on me…literally.

A stanza from an early 1900’s poem by Berton Braley entitled Start Where You Stand came to mind in considering this idea of personal transformation:

“Start where you stand and never mind the past,
the past won’t help you on beginning new,
if you have left it all behind at last.
Why, that’s enough, you’re done with it, you’re through.”

The first word of this title really says it all. Start. Wherever you stand, is where you must start. Not in the past, where old footprints and memories remain. We cannot change our life experiences, our story up until today. It has been written, inked, the legacy has traveled through time. No, we cannot go back and start from a former reality. Where we are is where we start.

Nor can we start in the future, for the “what if’s” are merely a vague sketching of what could be. If we only aim toward tomorrow, we risk missing vital aspects of where we stand and what we feel in the moment.

My body had been polite, slightly nudging me out of one size of jeans to the next. Then my eyes would spot a photo and I’d delete. My body started to ache, hurting at my rejection of paying attention. When I received blood test results, I had to stop, stand, be very still and start to listen.

It was time to grieve the ending of my complacency, avoidance and magical thinking. It was time to start caring for myself differently.

End Part 1 – Stay tuned for Part 2


2023: Manifest Your Dreams—You are Capable!

We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.
—Ellen Goodman

There used to be a stationary store in town which was far too “old school” to have a surveillance camera. Yet if it had, the footage would have documented my annual visit in early December. That’s right, once a year I used to visit this shop to make a solitary purchase; my appointment calendar.

The shop closed, I tracked down my favorite calendar brand (Quo Vadis & Exacompta) and now order online. Today, as I open the delivered package, I find myself tenderly admiring the pristine, fresh pages awaiting the plethora of plans, client schedules, expected and TBA events for a new year. Often I am asked if I keep a Google calendar to which I reply “I am pleasantly ‘old school’ when it comes to pencil and paper scheduling.” I love the tactile satisfaction of my calendar companion accompanying me as we journey another year together.

On this last day of 2022, I place the “old” and “new” planning diaries side by side. One is clearly worn, even a bit scrappy with a wrinkled cover and weathered pages with hundreds of scribbles, names, notations, earmarked corners and plenty of experiences documented in shorthand to commemorate 365 days of work, play, chores, joys and challenges.

The other shines smoothly with its unblemished cover, crisp white pages comprising an eager canvas awaiting the colors, landscapes, characters and story of the next 365 days. One book holds the tale of life lived, the other holds POTENTIAL.

This opening quotation is a meaningful metaphor for counseling.  So often, the focus on psychotherapy is on those “flawed” life situations; betrayal of trust in a marriage, financial distress, our less than perfect bodies and challenges in overcoming often heartbreaking disappointments and scars from childhood experiences.

In taking a peek at the definition of the word “potential” here is its extrapolation: Capable of development into actuality. WOW, what a fantastic New Year’s motto, “I am capable of developing my dream, plan, attitude and ideas into actuality!” This fresh, blank calendar book is anticipating stunning, spectacular potential to fill each page of your life, with capabilities of turning possibilities into actualities.

I am in awe of how the human spirit is CAPABLE of dealing with the “flaws” of life. Hope in the midst of adversity, healing after heartbreak and insight from loss. So many of my clients find the path to restoring confidence and contentment is through identifying their POTENTIAL; the ability to apply courage, determination and inspiration to develop their greatest self.

As you embark on each page of this New Year, find room for your capabilities, strengths and wisdom to manifest your desires and dreams. Make this a year of diminished flaw seeking and monumental potential building!


Queen Mum

We used to call my mum “Queen Mum” as she adored afternoon tea and scones, bagpipes, British mystery and comedy shows and of course, Queen Elizabeth II. With a lilting Scottish accent, my mum definitely fit her adopted anointed title with grace, tenderness, humor and a quiet respectful wisdom. Most days, I catch a deep breath, release a sigh and grasp a loving memory which floats into my thoughts as it is four years this very week since my mum passed from our world to the next.

My mum loved the Queen who was only seven years her senior as Elizabeth was born in 1925 to my mum’s 1932. Even though my mother’s family was crowded in a small, impoverished flat in Montreal, with seven children, relying on extended family to support a fatherless home, she held an adoring desire to emulate the young queen’s grace, faith and service to others. Sharing bath water on Saturday evenings for the weekly scrub and washing up, my mother would describe a bubbling excitement for the next morning when she would put on her freshly ironed handmade dress to attend church service, followed by a beloved uncle’s visit accompanied by sweet treats for his eager clan of nieces and nephews.

Being filled with loving acceptance, generosity of spirit, believing our human intention needs to embrace and be of service to others were guiding lights that helped guide my mother’s 85 years and I believe, made her a “sister in purpose” to the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II departed this world just a few weeks ago, a life lived in quite opulent surroundings and circumstance with a global landscape, she embodied and was faithful to her aims and I believe, deeply honored her place on this planet.

September is a month of reflection and a refocusing on how to apply energy, talents and direction to what remains of the year. With the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, and remembering my mum, both now embedded in this calendar month, I am struck by the “call to purpose” their lives represent.

Emotional wellbeing is enhanced by giving, sharing smiles, helping, and embracing every sacred moment. Gratitude defeats despair and connection prevents loneliness.

September will soon conclude as we tumble into the thick of autumn. Consider how you will refocus, redefine or recommit being true to grace and service. Perhaps wave to a neighbor, smile as you cross paths with a stranger in a parking lot, volunteer to a community need, notice those around you and lend help where you can.

And remember, enjoy a “cuppa” tea every chance you get. Cheers 🙂


Choosing to ‘Come Around Again’

I know nothing stays the same
But if you’re willing to play the game
It’s coming around again
So don’t mind if I fall apart
There’s more room in a broken heart

—Carly Simon

Carly Simon’s song “Coming Around Again” captures the fading vibrancy of a romantic relationship. The lyrics embrace the demands of parenting and managing mundane tasks that chip away at the early days of heart fluttering newness. Its message is quite practical while inspirational:  be patient, trusting, believe in love, steady on and what we once knew to be true, can come around again.

Since March 2020, we stumbled through unknown territory with worried anticipation; would what we used to experience ever come around again? Traveling abroad, attending a packed concert hall, meandering through masses of crowds exiting a ballgame, or jumping into an Uber without a mask? Would our joy, spontaneity, courage and willingness to explore come around again? Time is an elusive yet reliable companion. For many, time faded and became no more due to illness and death. Yet, for those of us fortunate to be here to answer the call today, we now greet what was a far distant wished-for tomorrow during these Covid years.

My son and I traveled to Ireland and the UK in June and I returned with an abundance of jet-lag and fulfillment. Awakening each day in Dublin followed by Cornwall, I found myself buzzing with anticipation and emboldened by crisp winds and strong English breakfast tea. Oh how I had missed the joy of discovering uncharted streets, familiarizing myself with new territory, being a contemporary guest on ancestral soil, eager to be seen as a brave newcomer answering the invitation of the faraway wind, Neolithic stones, Gaelic tunes, and the rugged Irish Sea.

I was a child, eager to open every birthday package simultaneously, each gift more spectacularly perfect than the next.  Landscapes deeply rooted with centuries of tales, accents thick in Guinness and an abundance of fish and chips, penetrating folklore melodies of poignant longing and seagulls squawking as if to say “Welcome back! Glad you came around again!”

Make room in your heart, dive into the curiosity pool, wake up to your dreams, venture and dabble in curiosity, share smiles with fellow voyagers and cheers to each of us coming around again.


Build the nest, for the bird of hope needs a place to rest.

Build the nest, for the bird of hope needs a place to rest.

Many arriving on the therapeutic couch are weary travelers, stretched to capacity and fatigued having marched across a risky, unknown terrain for over two years. The pandemic, workplace demands from home, challenged by new dimension of effective parenting, rising costs of supplies and since February, a harrowing war in Ukraine; violence and abject suffering within each click of an iPhone. Mt. Peace and Mt. Harmony are distant summits, barely visible, climbing elevations seemingly, hopelessly out of reach.

What happens when we lose our grasp of hope’s existence? Shaking our heads and wringing our hearts, is the concept of “losing” hope synonymous with denying hope? When we deny that hope exists, our thoughts become an internal “Whack a Mole” game. With every glimmering pop of hope, we grab our hammer of despair and whack it down.

Hope:  a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Denial:  the action of declaring something to be untrue. 

Perhaps “Hope” thrives when we become more paced, patient with our expectations. Scale back from the quest to reach the peak of global Kumbaya (albeit a righteous aim), try on more “Hope” and wear it for awhile.

With that, an Emily Dickinson poem archived in one of my college literature brain cells, landed in my cerebral inbox.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Dare I be as bold as to challenge Emily, yet I believe “Hope” IS asking something of us. The bird of hope needs to be greeted with a warm, welcoming nest, to find shelter within our hearts, our minds, our souls. “Hope” needs to be fed by our belief in healing, wisdom, learning and striving to be courageous. “Hope” needs to be quenched with the belief we can be kinder, truer and better.

“Hope” exists when it has a nest in you.


Rituals of Reassurance

To many people, holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.
Philip Andrew Adams

The other day I found myself singing along to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…”O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O, tidings of comfort and joy.”

This opening quote may hold the key as it speaks to the holidays as NOT being a time of newness, but rather a time to practice those rituals which bring us reassurance.  And isn’t being reassured a path to comfort?  And if we are comforted, might we be closer to feeling joy?

With flurries of hurried people pouring out of every store corner and lining up  freeway onramps, or when someone heists the parking spot you had set sights on as you are running late for a holiday gathering topped with a dose of prolonged pandemic worry, well it is easy to feel more stress and frustration rather than comfort and joy!

Many clients lament change. Lots of changes are hoisted on our emotions without our permission, which makes resistance a natural response. Rituals are the opposite of change. They are repeated events, activities and symbolic routines and during this holiday season, they come alive. Finding the frayed and grease stained cookie recipe your grandmother used for sugar cookies, lighting candles and singing “Silent Night” while leaving midnight mass, waiting for the adult “kids” to come home and complete tree decorating, making hot cocoa and late night driving around local neighborhoods to see houses dancing with lights, or reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” when everyone is in their new pajamas. It is true, comfort greets us when we experience the soothing “ahh” in the predictability of our traditions.

Opening up the dancing hippo ornament you received from a childhood friend brings a chuckle, or the cardboard snowman with your then kindergartener’s beaming face brings a return smile from you, it can also trigger melancholy, as many of the memories we hold dear are associated with the past. We are challenged to go beyond the “what was” and absorb the comfort these loving artifacts represent. Even if your sweet baby boy is now a baritone, deodorant wielding “dude”, or your precious princess is now a moody, mascara wearing teen, as the parent you may question if you should continue to carry the torch for rituals. If you did not put out the traditional colorful ribbon sweets, believe it or not, your offspring WILL look up from their cell phone long enough to ask “Hey, where are those swirly candy things?” Rituals bring reassurance, comfort and yes, joy.

During the last nearly two years, grief and limitations have shadowed much of the joy in our lives and brought unwanted changes. But guess what? Rituals can be your timeless superpower, impervious to Covid. The ultimate antibody to ward off  loss are the traditions stored within our hearts and memories. Open them up, dust them off and embrace their COMFORT and JOY during this cherished season!



6 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Extra Special

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
Thornton Wilder

At this Thanksgiving, there are so many pieces of the giving pie to sample! Here are just a few ideas to bake up and top with plenty of gratitude to make for a delightful and heartwarming Thanksgiving!

  1. On the day before Thanksgiving, consider making surprise gratitude calls. As you run around doing last minute chores, baking or traveling, select friends and family members and call them…no texts! What a lovely treat to leave a voicemail or speak directly to another for the express purpose of telling them how special they are, and your well wishes for them. The act of living in “gratitude” can improve your overall mood and happiness.
  2. Thanksgiving brings favorite recipes to life, with plenty of full stomachs and promises to not eat again for a week. If you are making an extra special dish, consider printing up the recipe and bringing it to the gathering. The gift that keeps giving are happy taste buds long after we leave the Thanksgiving feast.
  3. Prepare three (3) note cards with the words “Person” “Place” and “Thing.”  Place them face down the center of the table.  Each guest is invited to take a turn by selecting one of the three cards.  Depending on which card they pick, they will describe the person, place or thing they are grateful for.
  4. Get moving!  After a lovely meal, and before dessert arrives on the table, rally everyone to go for a walk in the neighborhood. This allows for digestion, chatting, laughter and fresh air before returning for round 2! 
  5.  Invite everyone at the table to share a memory from a prior Thanksgiving, especially if there are grandparents assembled.  Directly asking for them to share can reveal hidden treasures and honor their history and experience.
  6. Consider the “Collage” entertainment experience can be fun and memorable. Ask your guests to come prepared to share a favorite inspirational verse, poem, short story or musical selection. This brings an added dimension to the festivities and makes for a shared experience of laughter, thoughtful reflection and memory making.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with treasures and blessings!


Daylight Awakens

There is an abundance of repeated messaging from clients as to how they WANT to resume the pace they kept BC (Before Covid) yet the “get up and go” muscle has atrophied during the pandemic. Like many, I reduced my hustle bustle believing I would wait it out, you know, like Elvis has left the building…when Covid has left the planet…then, I would resume my go, go, go schedule. 🙂

For over these 20 months, we adapted to reducing the multiplicity of our lives. Our “Yes” responses were slim and our “No’s” were plentiful stemming from health safety concerns, “too much of a hassle” sentiments, or a comfortable complacency of “maybe tomorrow.”  As the world is waking up, we not only have to exercise a flabby “social” muscle, we also need enhancements of patience, optimism and tolerance due to resuming sitting in traffic, short staffing and long waits at restaurants, airport delays and engaging with humans who are coming out of hibernation more like growling hungry bears rather than smiling butterflies. With daylight savings and the first week of November already gobbled up, what a perfect “wake up” call to consider ways to exercise the personal interaction and outreach muscle.

Select one person you have seen little or not at all during Covid. Reach out to this person and ask them to join you in a place you would like to visit;  a favorite shopping area, lunch spot, hiking trail, beach lookout, etc. Set a date and time to meet at this location and relish a wakening!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, poetry is a way of freeing my mind and weaving ideas with words, here is another sampling of what poetry can capture.

A Wakening 

It rolls in, a velvet dew curtain during
early morning stirrings,
eclipsing the night, a stealth invader.
It alters the climate of familiarity;
a chill to be denied, dismissed.
It stirs, an irritating nudge to complacency.

“Wake up” it whispers.
Fear makes heavy the eyelids.
Pull the covers up, hit the snooze button,
lay still, play dead and make its recurrence, illicit, unwanted.

Silence instinct and there will be no bumping into walls,
or tumbling into pits.
Only inevitable wrinkles of blame and what if’s.

We papermache with history and habits;
lumpy layers of loyalty to others, flammable glue.
“Damaged” becomes the label, emotionally inked.

“Wake up” the tone demanding.
Yanking off the covers, painfully exposed, the place from which disappointment breeds.
“WAKE UP” the relentless messenger, the soul’s drill sergeant losing patience!
To linger is to submit to terminal regret.
To sit up, swing legs over the edge, reach into the thick unknown…tapping toes forward, seeking a surface to trust, to grope, breathe, and proceed into the abyss of change…this is to be alive.

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