It’s a holiday! Happy New Year Plus 24!

The excitement of New Year’s day has long passed. We’ve started lying on our fitness apps because we can’t bear to face the number of calories we’ve ingested in the past couple of days or our lack of exercise. Doesn’t bowling burn off three beers and a plate of mozzarella sticks?  Let the lies stop.  Here’s what we know on the 24th of January.
  • Resolutions are waning
  • It’s dark here in the western hemisphere
  • Inspiration is welcome
If you need some encouragement, know that you are not alone. There’s a whole bunch of people who are feeling the same way you are. - They’ve gone days without engaging in whatever habit they resolved to let go.
Though recently, those habits gnawed harder than resolve.
-They’ve spent days getting up and going to the gym or using the latest home exercise contraption.
Yet lately, other obligations have stolen the time.
They’ve faithfully logged their food and calorie intake and exercise output on their fitbits or apps, but . . .
They are sick of it. 
We’ve all discovered - this is hard! Here are 4 points to inspiration for New Year Plus 24.
  • Proclaim
  • Forget about it
  • Remember
  • You can do hard
PROCLAIM - What’s the magic of New Year’s Day? Why can’t we claim a new holiday and call it New Year Plus 24? Repack Your Life just proclaimed it. So, it is true. You can do it too. Now, call a friend and and pass it on.

Say Happy NY+24!

Everyone needs good news. FORGET ABOUT IT! - Maybe you did have a few moments of poor judgment. So what? Are you going to let a couple of mozzarella sticks get in the way of your commitment? NO! Forget about it. You weren’t perfect. Who is? No one said this was going to be easy. Whatever you decided for yourself is worth the effort. NY+24 is when things get tough. You are stronger than you were when you started. You know what pushes you off the path. Good. Celebrate. REMEMBER - You made the decision 24 days ago and you had some very good days between now and then. There were days when you felt optimistic and closer to your goal. Remember how good it felt? What did you do on those days? Recreate it today. Use all the tools you need. Make your plan as if you are starting today. Include options for days when things don’t go as planned. They will happen again. This time you will be more prepared. YOU CAN DO HARD – This statement is from a great teacher Bo Lozoff. Step by step we are all walking with each other. At times we walk along kicking and screaming because it feels like life is pulling us. Maybe there were times when you thought, “I can’t do this!” But you did. You can do hard and you will do it again. If you want to recommit to yourself, the decision is yours. It’s New Year Plus 24, a holiday. It's the day when you can get it right all over again. And you will. Happy NY+24!

Happy New Year!-Your 10 Questions

Happy 2016! Almost half of us take time at the new year to assess our lives and make resolutions. If you like to dig deep, then I pose to you these ten questions from Judy Ditzler's book Your Best Year Yet. It will take about three hours. Her effective, practical and goal oriented process is flexible and can be used throughout the year - important criteria to approach -

If you prefer to create a theme for this year instead of using this longer process, check out's newsletter. Either process will keep you from holding onto the rearview mirror while trying to drive forward. Ditzler's approach - 1. Looking over the past year, what did you accomplish? 2. What were your biggest disappointments? 3. What did you learn? (List everything!) 4. How did you limit yourself and how can you stop? 5. What are your personal values? 6. What are 8 roles you play in your life? (ie. parent, business owner, son, volunteer positions . . .) 7. Which role is your major focus for the next year? 8. What are your goals for each role? (Be specific, measurable and start each with an action word.) 9. What are your top ten goals for the next year? (Prioritize them!) 10. How can you make sure you achieve your top ten goals? In the spirit of, to get the most out of this exercise, you need to revisit it weekly. Life changes and it requires us to change with it. Repacking is an ongoing process. Use a notebook or the computer – whatever works best for you. Final notes: 1. Open your suitcase of goals weekly. a. Keep the actions that move you toward your goals. b. Release the actions that keep you stagnant or move you backward. c. Make a record of both for the week. d. Repack for the next week by determining then recording the actions you will take. 2. At the end of each month do a total review of your suitcase. Consider where you are in regards to each of your roles. You may need to make adjustments. Remove a goal that is no longer relevant or looks unrealistic. Mark progress, repack with actions for the next month. A year from now you will wish you started today.!

The Bridge of Retirement

The Bridge of Retirement     Wild, happy and free! Retirement. Time to finally pursue my dreams! I couldn't wait to get out. I never thought I would be one of those people who sat at their desk calculating their retirement date, marking off the days off the calendar. But, my foot was definitely inching out the door during the final year. A year ago at age 55 I retired from 33 years in public education. Little did I know my foot was stepping out on a banana peel. There's work to be done if you are going to make a big change in your life. The work can be messy and uncomfortable and nobody wants to hear about that. I know I didn't. In the final year before I retired I worked with a business coach, travelled across country a couple of times for life-changing retreats, read countless books on change and secured a new position as a non-profit director upon retirement. Done. I was ready when the time came. Or so I thought. By the time I met with the human resources person to sign the final papers I didn't have any reservations. Why then did I break down in tears in front of her? Because this was scary and sad. I was leaving a little bit of my soul with an institution and people that in the end I felt had let me down. Why weren't they hanging onto my leg saying - "Don't go"? Hadn't I grown my division, forged new partnerships, hired amazing people, changed the lives of countless students with opportunities for a new life? Yep. I did that. But somewhere along the way I started to let go. The itch to try something new had been there for a long time. Still, I hung on even though I was miserable for a long time and played the blame game against the administration, fellow employees and basked in my self-righteousness. Looking back, I was like a teenager needing to create discord with her parents to make it easier to let go for adulthood. My breakdown in the human resources office surprised and embarrassed me. The person assisting me said she had seen it more than once. Well, I wasn't one of those other people! I had prepared. I was going on to bigger and better things and people who cared about me and were glad to have me. Also, I was younger than those "other retiring people".  I had read and wrote and worked with a coach - mentally preparing for the big day. At 55 there was a whole new life ahead of me and it was going to be bigger and better than the one I had before. So there! Yet, I was crying. Sure I had shed plenty of tears in the final year. In some of my coaching sessions, I was crying so hard the coach prompted me to get counseling since "maybe she wasn't the right person". In a way I did seek counsel, I spoke with my friends and trusted teachers. I wrote furiously in my journal about my fear of no one wanting me. At one time I desperately considered being a Walmart greeter. But, by the time I reached retirement I felt I had done all the work necessary for a smooth transition. But the transition was still happening after I ended my career and I was blindsided by my confusion. The problem is that I had mistaken transition with change. Change is situational, transition is psychological. Bridges says "without transition change is just a rearrangement of the furniture". There are plenty of books about change and I know why. In our culture of fast and now, that's what people seek. We want to lose weight with no effort and stop life-long habits in 21 days. Who wants to buy a book that says change is going to blindside you and cause you to doubt your sanity? And, that even though you've made the decision you may spend days and months in a fog, doubt yourself, and experience the soul shaking fear of the unknown? In William Bridges' book on transition, he speaks about a three-stage process to successful retirement.


Transition, ... is a three-phase psychological reorientation process that people go through when they are coming to terms with change. ~William Bridges


Ending requires letting go. Recently I heard a crass quote that is apt for this phase: "you have to be willing to stop bull sh*tting yourself that things are the same". You have to let go of your old reality and identity. For a baby boomer like me, the ending phase also involved coming to terms with the realization that life's path is growing shorter, which imposes an ominous nature on an ending. "Who am I now?" is not a question I thought I'd be asking at this age.

Neutral Zone

The Neutral Zone at the middle of transition is the strangest part. It's the never land place between the old and the new. Many people feel pulled to go back and work part time in the same type of situation or find themselves maintaining the same limitations they had in the old reality. Recently I heard a woman's post-retirement transition story. Out of the window of her car in Rochester, NY where she lived, she saw a ferry going to Canada. She said to her husband; "I wish I could take that". She thought later "I could take it and no one would really care if I did". She said it took her five years to realize the new freedom she had. This second stage reminds me of Cheryl Strayed's vexing and healing journey that began at The Bridge of the Gods in her book Wild.  James Altucher describes her as his "go-to" author and you'll know why from this inspiring podcast.  It's not uncommon to experience depression and anxiety in the neutral zone of retirement. It has certainly been true for me. At times I've considered more uses for a bridge other than a way to cross! Keeping a daily schedule of writing, reflection, meditation, maintaining a spiritual practice and connecting with others have been powerful practices to help me through this disturbing time.


Once you have successfully made it through the first two phases, the third phase called, Beginning, starts. Through your search you will begin to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment in your activities. Ikigai is described in the Blue Zones study. It is a primary key to a long and healthy life. This "reason for being" makes all of the difficult work of the neutral zone worth it. I'd like to end this by telling you I have found my ikigai, but I can't. What I can say is that through my practices I have become comfortable with my search. The pull to give hope to people who are struggling a transition of retirement is definitely coming to the top. I have made countless discoveries and found peace through writing. Writing has been without question the most powerful tool for me. I encourage you to try it. Get some paper and a pen, put it by your bed and get up and write everyday for ten minutes. There's no need to spell correctly or use pretty words. Write whatever comes to your mind. If you'd like to start a blog, there's a fantastic and easy (really) guide for starting a blog here. Whatever your situation, may you find peace in all of your life transitions.

Holiday Expectations

When I looked for an inspirational quote about holiday expectations, a quote from AA seemed to stand out above all others – “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” Well, so much for inspiration! By the time you were at least age 20, some of you probably developed the notion of the “perfect holiday season”. And like most of us, you found disappointment or maybe even resentment when it didn’t turn out to be what you expected. As a child, I found great joy in the anticipation of holidays – Anticipation was part of the fun. Early childhood was a pre-expectation time. There was a sense of excitement about what could be. As a young child, I remember the feeling on the night before Christmas and waking up on Christmas day – there was a euphoria knowing that the day would stand out, it would be fun, and it was. The idea of the perfect experience, still unformed, made whatever happened – the perfect day. I’m not sure at what age the idea of the perfect gift emerged, but I know it did. It was the beginning of the expectation game. I am sure it had something to do with media messages. Gift anticipation is the first type of expectation that I remember about the holidays. You know - That one game that everybody wanted or the Barbie doll dream house. The whole joy of the event seemed to be contingent upon receiving it. As I got older, the expectations grew more elaborate – as other factors crept in – the right food, the right people and the right place. In my early childhood years, our family tradition was to spend Christmas Eve with extended family at my Aunt Caryol’s home. She had 6 children, Aunt Linda had 5, so when combined with extended family members, the occasion was filled with fun and laughter. Music, people and presents packed her small home, which brimmed over with love and plenty of food. I knew I count on my favorite holiday cookies – peanut butter with Hershey kisses. Even the ride to her home was part of the experience – snow on the ground, lights on the houses, checking the sky for Santa. It felt magical. This was the perfect holiday. When I became a teenager, my family moved to the South and the holidays were very different without the wrapping of relatives. For me, that’s when impossible expectations started shadowing the joy of the present– there was a longing for a past that could not be recreated. Eventually we formed new traditions with friends singing carols around our player piano. I made the favorite cookies and we rode around and looked at the lights. Before I knew it, this was the perfect holiday. As I grew older and my children came into the picture, holiday celebrations changed again dramatically. My fondest memory was the first Christmas after they were adopted. By then, my family was spending Christmas day at my brother’s home. When we arrived at his house on their first Christmas day, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers were singing “I’ll be Home With Bells On” from the stereo and we spontaneously joined hands and sang and danced in a circle. It remains one of my most cherished memories. For a woman who prefers Motown over country you know it’s memorable. You will still hear Dolly at my house if you visit during the holidays. Spending Christmas at my brother’s house became the new perfect holiday. Now the 3 and 4 year olds who danced around the kitchen are 23 and 24 and much has changed, people and places – many of my family members are gone and the holiday is now spent with my husband’s family. I can’t help but feel the pull of sadness as I look back with longing for the past perfect experiences. I try to not compare the present with the past. But . . . It’s hard. Many of us get very anxious during the holiday season as the messages of peace, goodwill and the dawn of more light mix with media noise and . . . Yes, our perfect memories and their unmet expectations. Yet, even with the noise and transitions created by time’s passing, there is one constant. The You in the Holiday. The You who has been at the center of all past holidays - good and bad. You hold memories and can choose to cherish or release them. You have the choice to turn off the external and internal. Through stillness, there is the power to appreciate the new now, the present. Here’s a practice for the season . . . I encourage you to take a few moments, find a quiet place and cross you arms over your heart.
  1. Listen to your breath for a few moments.
  2. Exhale. Then create inhale on the count of 4. Pause. Then exhale to the count of 6.
  3. If you have a joyous memory, breathe in, bless it and let it go with your exhale.
  4. If you have a painful memory, breathe in the quiet and with a long exhale, let your shoulders relax.
  5. Breathe in the present moment and exhale with the assurance that it’s a powerful moment.
  6. Say: Present moment, Powerful moment.
  7. If you would like, bring your hands together now at heart center.
  8. Honor your inner power and light and say, Namaste.
When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be. May you fully experience the joy that waits for each one of us this season and always. Namaste. (Photo courtesy of

Resolutions Redefined

  ResolutionsIt's almost New Year's resolutions time. Ugh. Here they come, the weight loss and quit smoking commercials, combined with all of the holiday shopping ads. It's no wonder that by the end of December I have this feeling that I need to get a whole new life. The messages are not subliminal. They are "in your face". As if there's not already enough pressure to have the perfect holiday with the "just-right" presents, gatherings, decorations, etc. (Who could measure up?) You also are encouraged to simultaneneously concern yourself with the preparation for New Year's resolutions. Give me a break. I do love the idea of new beginnings. After all, I chose the name repack your life for my blog. But, the idea of resolving to fix everything at the beginning of the year creates too much pressure and sets us up for failure. Let's keep things simple. Within the heart of any successful resolution rests the most important ingredient, love. When you love yourself with generous acceptance of who you are and where you are on your journey, you will self-support your progress. How do you love yourself?
  1. You eat nutritious food and get exercise.
  2. You take take time to be with supportive friends.
  3. You carve out time for quiet.
  4. You spend your money wisely.
  5. You connect with your higher power.
Guess what happens when you do these things?
  1. Your focus increases.
  2. You make dates with yourself and keep them.
  3. You feel happier physically, mentally and spiritually.
Isn't that what we really want? All of these self love practices are made difficult by life's challenges. The struggling of repacking and starting again is one I know all too well. I have lost and gained at least a small person in my struggle with emotional eating. Yet each time I have repacked I've learned a little more about myself and the wisdom has guided my next steps. The statistics on New Years resolutions are abyssmal. Transformation is an ongoing process. So let's get a start on things, ignore the media messages and redefine our idea of resolutions. Make a resolution now to love yourself more. Treat yourself, get a journal. Write down your proud accomplishments and character traits that are uniquely you. Be gentle with your self talk and turn your wishes for any changes into positive affirmations.
  1. "When I eat healthy food I feel stronger."
  2. "When I exercise I feel more relaxed."
  3. "When I connect with my higher power I feel hopeful and peaceful."
The powerful act of reframing how you look at your challenges allows you to embrace the changes they bring. In the evening or morning take a few moments to note in your journal the ways you've shown self compassion. While you're at it, you can rant a little about the over-commercialized holiday messages and create a daily intention to enjoy the season in a way that feels true and right for you. It's another way to love yourself. May your journey be peaceful.

Half Bare for Saltines, Childhood Lessons

Half Bare Childhood Lessons

Beth Adkins was my nemesis, but I wanted to be like her. For her approval and a few saltines, I walked around outside half-bare one fateful summer day. It’s been awhile since we crawled over the backyard fences to each other’s houses. But, if Beth were here, I would tell her about the valuable childhood lessons she taught to me. Certainly she needs to know I now wear my own blue cat-eye glasses. The childhood lessons have been life-long. The glasses took me awhile. Beth had everything I thought I wanted – fame and fortune. She had cool older brothers, the highest backyard-climbing tree and better mayonnaise (not miracle whip) for bologna sandwiches. You could go to her refrigerator any day and it would be stocked with the perfect sandwich ingredients. Plus, you were always sure to find crispy saltines in the cupboard. Our saltines were stale. Since hunger always seemed to strike me when I went to other peoples’ houses, food played an important role in building our relationship.
Beth/Marilyn Monroe
Beth enters classroom looking like Marilyn Monroe.
There were other reasons for my love/hate relationship with Beth. She was the first in our elementary school to have a broken arm with a cast that everybody signed. Yes, that great climbing tree became the key to her stardom. Show-off. After the cast was gone and the applause died down, Beth came back for an encore. Looking like movie star, she shows up and bedazzles everyone in our third grade class by sporting new sparkling-diamond-encrusted- baby-blue cat-eye glasses, which framed her perfectly tanned face and long straight blond hair. Her matching plaid dress and shiny black patent leathers topped the ensemble. I was livid. Sitting there with my skin so pale you could see through it, bad perm, and perpetually cracked lips; I tried to hide my saddle oxfords from the special shoe store. How could I ever measure up to her? The opportunity to earn Beth’s approval and win my own fame came one hot summer day. Beth and I had spent countless hours doing summersaults, handstands and running in circles to make whirlpools in her above-ground swimming pool. (Yes, she had a pool too. (I know, unfair.) We became bored and she suggested we sneak into her brothers’ basement bedroom to find their naked magazine. Oh boy. I knew we were doing something very wrong, but it was Beth. Need I say more? After seeing the forbidden pictures, Beth issued a challenge. Knowing that I was motivated by saltine crackers, she said she’d give some to me if I would take off my swimming suit top like the girls in the magazine and walk around the pool in her backyard. I’d have done almost anything for saltines - and Beth’s approval. As if I didn’t already feel guilty enough for looking at the magazines, I disregarded my conscience, took off my orange bikini top, grabbed my towel and took a loop around the pool holding the towel around me when I was out of Beth’s sight. It was good enough for the saltines but horrible for the soul. Finally feeling on par with Beth, I left and climbed over the fence weighted down by shame so crushing it took me days to look at my mother and weeks to confess the dirty deed. After the naked episode it was clear to me that being Beth was not I. So, here I am, 48 years later and I still remember the childhood lessons that remain true.

Childhood Lessons for Adults

  1. Sport your hair-do like it’s the raging style
  2. Find your own climbing tree
  3. Sign your own arm
  4. And if you want to wear sparkly blue cat-eye glasses, do it!
blue cat eye 2

Some days you step in sh*t

#5. Sadie, the livliest! Some days you step in sh*t. That is exactly what happened, yes, literally. Five o’clock in the morning, while clomping through my quiet, unlit house toward the coffee pot in my orthopedic boot; I slipped and faltered then regained my footing, thankfully. The last misstep I took ended with a broken ankle and a trip to the ER. With five dogs living in my home, you probably think I should have recognized the culprit. But, fortunately inside jobs are a rare occurrence. My first thought was a dryer sheet. Those suckers are slippery and they appear out of nowhere. I took another step and I was still gliding so, whatever it was, had to be stuck to my boot. I stopped and peered back through the dark to see the offender, an indistinguishable dark glob on the floor. Sh*t! Yes, it was. My only recourse was to keep walking since I couldn’t make it without the boot. Plus, the sink was still too far for hopping on one foot. Step by step each smudge formed a disgusting trail. After I cleaned everything I couldn’t help but think about the figurative sense of stepping in sh*t. Out of the two, I’d take the literal any day. Sure, it’s disgusting; but with some soap, water and a couple shots of febreeze, it’s over. It’s not so easy when you say something hurtful or do something that causes shame and remorse. Those sickening trails grow longer as the feelings remain and begin to infect everything around it. How I know this too well. When it happens, I get up at 5:00 am for my daily practice, focus on compassion and resolve to be more mindful. Lately, I turn the lights on first. We can learn from our mistakes! Peace, Laurie

Could you move the rainbow?

rainbowYou see this beautiful rainbow and its your favorite color, right next to the color of sunset. Arching through the sky it catches specs of sunshine and magically transforms them into never ending beauty. Do you say, "If it could it move just a little to the left?" Many of us spend our time thinking things would be perfect when _________. Fill in the blank. I'm sure you can think of something. I know I can. Let's see, here's my quick list,
  1. I lose weight.
  2. I get better organized.
  3. My friend gets well.
Often we fill the blank with things that are completely out of our control. In his "must watch" TED talk Srikumar Rao says we need to plug into our hard wired happiness. "Happiness is your innate nature and you have spent your entire life learning to be unhappy." How do we learn unhappiness? We buy into media messages that tell us we need to have more and to look different. We listen to negative people and disparaging self-talk. How do we learn happiness? We spend time recognizing what is right. We control what we can; our own actions, thoughts and words. We focus on the process not the outcome. We learn to repack and refocus when circumstances change. We get up and try again and again. I love the example in the TED talk of a child learning to walk. "Imagine: what if each time the child failed, she gave up?"; a few shaky steps, a fall and that's it. But, that's not what happens. Children have hard wired passion for a process that requires persistance and eventually ends with running. Our lives hold beauty. Their color is a perfect hue like the rainbow and they are always poised for change. There's no need to move the rainbow a little to the left. If we focus on what's right and invest in a process that adds value to our days; we will soon learn how to run again. Peace to you, Laurie  

In Case of Tragedy

eiffel I’m reaching for that book again. It’s the one entitled In Case of Tragedy . . . Right Responses for Survivors. It’s the same one I reached for on 9/11, again when my brother shot and killed himself, again when 26 innocent children and adults were killed at an elementary school, and again . . . Anne LaMott says lots of tense religious people insist they have the right book. I don’t think they do. This is not because I disagree with all religious texts. It’s that I think the right responses aren’t found in one book. They’re found in many books, examples from great teachers and the most difficult – in quiet self-search and thoughtful, loving action. When the most personal tragedy occurred, I received the call 20 minutes before giving a going away party for my German exchange student. What did I do? I had the party anyway and didn’t tell the guests of the student. I didn’t want to take away the thoughtful good-bye to their friend. Afterwards, I crumbled. But the next day I had to go on – through grief I made difficult decisions. I searched for truths in poetry, religious texts and my soul to write the most difficult eulogy I’ve ever delivered. I moved on vowing to love more, to listen more, to help others more and to cherish this one life. I understood this was my responsibility as a survivor. We are all survivors. We’ve lived through countless tragedies and the time between them has become shorter. I’ve named some major tragedies but we can’t forget the global events that do not capture Americans’ attention; Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, the U.S. and too many more. There is suffering and killing everywhere. Yet everywhere tragedy exists, survivors live. And, each time it strikes we all need to move a little closer to one another and form a circle of love and hope. Our work is to hold the suffering. That’s all of us. The time is now. It’s the only response I know. I haven’t found that book.

The First Time – Thanks Ann

umbrellas My mom’s friend, Ann Ryan, died and I refuse to fall into my pattern of railing against the unfairness. Instead I choose to celebrate her life. Ann lived knowing her purpose, moved with courage through difficult choices and was fiercely committed to her family and friends. She was a fighter, surviving a breast cancer diagnosis more than twenty years ago. In the book of life she is one of the champions. We could all learn how to live with courage from Ann's example. I have her to thank for many "first times" in my life. The first time I . . .
  1. Appeared in a McDonald’s commercial.
  2. Knew that parents could love kids that weren’t “theirs”
  3. Saw a penis other than my baby brother’s.
  4. Saved a life.
  5. Understood the power of change.
  6. Flew in an airplane.
  7. Faced death.
  8. Saw my mom drunk.
  9. Went to a foreign country.
  10. Knew cancer was not always the end of a story.
250px-Blue_Star_in_window_June_2012While I was growing up in a west Toledo, Ohio neighborhood, the Ryan’s moved into a house down the street from us. When just a few feet separate houses, things can go either way. Fortunately, the mood of our neighborhood was mostly congenial, save for a few crabby neighbors. It was the late 60’s, Saigon had not yet fallen, and several windows displayed stars representing family members who were serving in the war. We all knew the faces behind the stars. Ann and Mom had sons the same age, so their friendship started through their children’s connection. Tom, Ann’s husband, worked for a promotions agency that had an account with McDonalds. Ann thought I’d be good on TV. She gave me my first shot at stardom, acting in commercial for McDonald’s sippy dipper, a straw in the shape of McDonald’s arches. In addition to winning local fame, I made $25 dollars, more than any kool-aid stand I had ever run.
mcds sippy dipper
Sippy Dipper
Not long after we met the Ryan’s, they adopted a beautiful baby girl. I was her devoted babysitter and on sunny days I spent countless hours strolling her down the sidewalks of our street with my friend Terry. He and I, both around age 8, would pretend we were married and the proud parents of a baby girl. What a sight we must have been – me – hands tightly controlling the stroller - him - parading beside me twirling an umbrella in the sunshine. Terry and I bonded during our short marriage. We decided to watch each other pee because that’s what married people do. It was a symbolic act of our commitment to each other. Terry was more feminine and flamboyant than me, hence the umbrella without the rain. He was my first gay friend. He died during the AIDS epidemic. Sometimes I'd babysit while Ann did house chores. Like a mother hen, I'd sit loyally beside her baby girl on the couch. On one occasion, the baby decided she would practice rolling over. My hands caught her before she hit the floor. Ann said I probably saved her life. I believed it. A couple years passed and my resume grew with adventures of baby-sitting that included more heroic acts and even another McDonalds commercial; this time for a “double-cheese please”. Then one day I learned the shocking news that the Ryans were moving to Arizona to seek out better job opportunities. Nobody I knew did that. They stayed put and complained. My heart broke when they left. I can’t count the tears that were shed to Elton John’s song Daniel. But, under that grief something happened; I began to understand how change can hold hope and possibility. A year later I found myself on my first plane trip because of Ann. After a short flight to the Chicago airport, our family switched planes for a fateful flight to Phoenix, Arizona. We were in the air thirty minutes when the pilot announced that our main engine was out. He quickly came back on to apologize for the inadvertent announcement. I guess he didn’t know the intercom was live. Too late! The passengers were in an uproar. The woman next to me got out her rosary and started her “Holy Mary’s” only to pause intermittently to bemoan our sure demise and her decision to fly again after the last flight she had taken twenty years ago had an emergency landing. Drinks started flowing to appease the adults. Us kids were left to figure out things for ourselves. By the time we were landing, my mother, who I’d never seen drinking, was the only person allowed out of her seat. She was in the bathroom throwing up. My brother kept shouting “Ma’s drunk!”, an unnecessary proclamation. Besides, she probably wasn’t the only one.
Dancers in Nogales, Mexico
On solid ground, life was sweeter after our harrowing in-air calamity. During the vacation we travelled to Mexico for a day trip to Nogales. I’d been to Canada before, but I considered this trip to be my real first foreign country experience since they spoke a different language. Following our vacation, I didn’t see Ann until more than twenty years later when I finally made it back to Arizona. Her wide smile and good humor were well intact. She had been a cancer survivor for many years and she looked great. After that, I never saw her again. Yet, I will always remember her; this one person was behind many "firsts" and an inspiration for the single best decision I have ever made, to adopt my two beloved children. How can I be an inspiration to others? I ask this question every day. Today it feels more pressing. In making life choices how do you keep your passion and purpose on pace with your feet? I do know that making the choice to write today and unpack how Ann lived, not how she died, is a good step. Take time to write. Maybe you want to forget something, write it down then destroy it, Maybe you want to remember something, like your first times. What will be your story?        

Break a Bone (optional)- Change Life

Books about lifeDo you find yourself wishing for some time to restart, get away from everything? You know, sort of a long time-out to rethink or redo life like Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond, only shorter because really, who has time for that? I executed the perfect plan. Here it is:
  1. save your money
  2. register for an event featuring the most inspirational teachers you know,
  3. put your activities and responsibilities on hold
  4. fly to another coast
  5. stay in a beautiful historic estate surrounded by a vineyard in southern California
  6. break your ankle when you get there
  7. come back home before the event starts.
Now, this worked for me but the magic started when I got back home. So let me help you save some time, pain and money. Why did it work? Warning. I’m about to use the “g” word. I know you’re sick of it. So am I. Gratitude. Gratitude journals, quotes about gratefulness – it’s all so trite and overplayed. I’m sick of hearing it, so this is the last thing I thought I would write about this incident. It’s hard to feel grateful when your world seems to be falling apart or is at least unsteady. These are the situations that come to mind every time the word gratitude is used: today in my community I heard a women's teenage daughter recently committed suicide and a friend's partner lost a long battle with cancer. How can these people feel grateful? Also, I’m tired of hearing how people have epiphanies due to dramatic events and find their world is suddenly changed. Am I one of those people? I wouldn’t consider breaking my ankle a death-defying event. On the Richter scale of tragedies it rates very low. I’ve had those events: suicide of my brother, my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and a couple more. Also, I consider myself to be a pretty good grateful practitioner, if there is such a thing. Not that I keep a journal filled with gratitude, but I do spend time writing every day and most days I spend time to think about my life and I feel something very close to gratitude. A look at the news is all you need to know that if you feel safe and have shelter you are fortunate. But this time - I felt full-on gratitude. What was different? Everything at home was the same, but it looked so much better. It was the same family, same house, same responsibilities and issues that I left; but I felt like Dorothy coming back from Oz; "hello Aunt Em, Uncle Henry!". These were my people, my issues, which involved a wicked witch or two along with a couple of flying monkeys, and they never looked better. Here’s the difference. Breaking your ankle puts a serious dent in your independence/courage. You feel vulnerable and have to rely on others. I was scared to fly home. In pain and struggling just to move from one room to another on crutches; the thought of making through an airport with luggage terrified me. I couldn’t even carry anything.The act of coming back home from the other coast was harrowing. It wasn’t exactly tornadic proportions but it involved depending on a whirlwind of people I did not know. At each step someone could have left me stranded. But they did not. From finding a way to get to the airport, getting into a shuttle van then into the airport with a driver who helped me out of the van, found a wheelchair, called an attendant and didn’t leave me until he saw I was taken care of (I asked him to marry me, but he was taken); to the women who worked the ticket machine, the man who wheeled me through the airport, bought my water and continually checked on me until he wheeled me into the plane; the gentle woman in security who didn’t make me stand, the guy sitting next to me who put my luggage in the overhead and got it out; the flight attendant who helped me get into the bathroom and the man who wheeled me out of the plane; the woman who drove the cart through the airport; to the man who wheeled me to baggage, got my luggage off the rack, waited for me while my ride came – whew and wow. More than ten people did the work I normally could have done for myself. There’s a joke in here somewhere! I didn’t want any of the help, but I needed it and I was so grateful. So here’s the revised list for a life redo:
  1. Stay home
  2. Spend no money
  3. Take time to notice all of the good around you.
The types of good people who helped me are out there every day doing their work, helping others. Add to them the many inspirational teachers I’ve met while I’ve been elevating my ankle. There’s a whole inspiration revolution about which I was only subconsciously aware. There's an abundance of shared ideas. James Altucher calls ideas the new currency of this century.  This idea sharing is like an “all boats rise in a tide" thing. His book Choose Yourself is extraordinary. He’s given many copies away for free because he wants to change lives – not just the ones of people who can afford a book. There are other teachers out there - some I knew and some I didn’t - Leo Babauta, Brene Brown, Daniel Gilbert, Pema Chodron, Austin Kleon, Cheryl Strayed, Seth Godin, Amy Cuddy and more. They are writing books, making TED talks, podcasts and blog posts all in the name of inspiring others. You don’t need to go somewhere and break your ankle to realize there is always someone or something to lean into. And, because of that, life can be what you make of it. You don’t need to travel or break your ankle. Reach out when you need help and take heart, dear ones.

Anger – The Right Side

embrace the adventure2 Anger is respected in our culture. “I told them off.” “I let them have it.” People shout yes, good for you! There are those us who spend a lot of time wishing we could be one of those people who have the quick cutting comeback and possess an ease with words that can slice like a knife. And then there is the other side, those who can effortlessly wield their words. Now, in the spirit of fairness and full disclosure, I belong on the side of the first group. Countless nights of ruminating over what could have been said have kept me awake. On those nights the only possible sleep medicine are words finally formed into the perfect comeback. This practice has been life long. In third grade, the kid who threw an icy rock-filled snowball at me really got what he had coming - by midnight. Too bad he never heard my words. Maybe. Last night I crossed to the other side. Oh, I was angry and I let someone have it and more. I yelled and cursed and long after the point was made I kept going, adding in a few “and another things”. Did I sleep better? No. I still stayed awake, this time from fuming from anger. How do I feel this morning? Worse. I want a redo. Not so easy. Once you have said things you can’t take them back and the cycle of the argument continues to roll around in your mind blocking concentration and focus on anything else. So, what’s the solution? There’s no right side. Both sides have destructive consequences. In the middle is the hard work of thought and balance. But, if I had to choose, today I’d stay on my side.

Damn You David Foster Wallace

water This morning I listened to a commencement address given by David Foster Wallace to Kenyon College's graduating class entitled "This Is Water".  It starts with a story. "There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?" David's speech was mentioned during a morning news segment  about an upcoming movie called End of Tour. I had jotted the title  of the speech in my journal, along with the myriad of items on my "get back to list" - books I want to read, artists to pay attention to, movies worth watching, etc. and seeking some inspiration this morning, I decided to check it out. I knew nothing about David Foster Wallace.  Searching on google, I found the 22 minute speech and clicked go. I listened entralled, awestruck and started wondering: How I had missed David Foster? He is my brother, my spiritual soul mate. David! Where have you been? You get the big "It" and your explanation is exquisite. It's the something that is screaming inside me - "This is your life. Miraculous or meaningless - the focus is yours. What you pay attention to will shape your existence." This is water. Yes, the point is that "the important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about". After falling in love,  I had to know more about David. I found interviews with Charlie Rose, his books, and of course, the upcoming movie. Then I saw a date that had to be a mistake. 1962-2008, Wikipedia- David Foster Wallace. He committed suicide seven years ago at age 46.
The capital "T" Truth is about life before death. It is about . . . awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:  "This is water." ~David Foster Wallace
Damn you David Foster Wallace! You gave up. You forgot the capital T truth. Damn you. As I currently watch a friend in a life and death struggle with cancer, I am once again struck by life's ironies. Mostly I am pissed off. I feel cheated, yet I feel determined. My own brother committed suicide the year after David died. He was 47.  Depression also stole his ability to remember that we have water, the essential everything for survival, all around us. For me the most resonant part of the speech is found in this quote.
Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles .... is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
I choose to believe in the inherent light that shines in every living being. This capacity for good is real and ever present.  I choose to see it over and over. It's in the beauty of a smile, the miracle of breathing in and breathing out. It's in compassion. Paying attention is my practice. Some days it's harder than others.   I too struggle with bouts of depression. There are days I want to rail against hatred and scream about disease, and injustice. On those days my practice is simply a prayer for the ease of suffering. David, thank you for your  inspirational brilliance, your clarity about "what is". I heard you and it was absolutely beautiful. You left a mark and I noticed.  I'm not the only one. I wanted you to know that your light shines on. It's beauty never dies.
And those who love you will behold you across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying. ~from Recommendation, Thich Nhat Hanh
May all beings know peace. May I continue to pass it on. Love, Laurie

Play Us a Song You’re a Piano Woman

My Mom had high expectations of me. She didn't exert the typical pressure to become the middle class parents' dream of a doctor or lawyer . . .  she always wanted me to be a piano player in a bar. One who could play all of the old bar favorites so people could sing along with their arms around each other, smiling to "Irish Eyes" or crying to songs like "Oh Danny Boy" and putting tips in my jar. I am a disappontment to her. I can play the piano but I'm terrified to play in front of others. That pretty much rules out the whole piano bar thing. I'm no Billy Joel.
laure recital backyard
Yikes! Before the recital, age 11.
Those horrifying piano recitals of my youth were the early death of my career as a piano woman. All dressed up with my family and some additional relatives in tow, we'd take pictures and off to my piano teacher's home we'd go for a recital. Them, with highest anticipation of my new found stardom, me, having difficulty swallowing because my mouth was so dry. My piano teacher was a concert pianist. She was somewhat famous in the Toledo, Ohio area among those who knew about such things. Her standards were high for concerts and that involved memorizing the songs I played. I still remember waiting for my turn on the hot seat, the pre-concert refreshments bubbling inside my stomach. Just writing this has my heart beating faster and scares the shit out of me. God knows what I eventually played when it was finally my turn.
laurie recital at piano
Before the recital in the "hot seat".
The sad thing is that I was pretty good. Also, I loved playing the piano, alone, in my own world imagining I was entertaining a crowd.  Being able to play the piano made me feel special and important. I was the only one I knew besides my piano teacher who played. When my cousins came over I'd teach them "Heart and Soul" or the "Birthday Song" but when they would want to hear "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" or "Scarborough Fair", I'd clench up. If they got distracted and went to play in the other room, I was fine. I did my best work then. When I went to college I got up the nerve to take an elective piano course. The teacher even encouraged me to become a music major. The thought of endless pre-performance sleepless nights and palm sweating recitals with hands full of gibberish were too much to bear.
laurie standing piano
Me and me Knabe.
It doesn't surprise me that I have several friends who could have fulfilled my mother's dream. I am drawn to musicians, still play, for myself, and love to sing which I am not afraid to do for others. I have been in love with a music man or two and my son is one of those people who can play in front of anyone. We have two pianos in our home. One is a player piano that you pump with your feet and it spins out music from old piano rolls. The other is a beautiful Knabe with a sweet strong sound. What if I had no fear? I ask myself this question about so many things lately. I am surprising myself and doing things I never thought I would when I put fear aside. Who knows? Come on over. I'll play a song for you - I'll try not to use my feet! Repack your life with me today. Let's toss out fear!

Wear Your Skull Dress, 5 Tips

Some days you gotta put on your skull dress, super man cape; that one thing that makes you feel powerful. I have had more than my share of those days lately. Too bad I only have one skull dress. You might find yourself giving an explanation depending on what you are wearing. For me it came from my co-worker; "Can you please explain?" Me - "I'm wearing the power of the skull." Her: "Oh." That's all. No need for details when you have super powers. I'm telling you, that skull dress turned my day around. This is not a unique phenomenon. In fact it's one of five tips to spiritual self care, and I have put them all to the test. A couple of weeks ago I offered to give a talk on spiritual self care.  At the time I was feeling pretty confident. Life - as it will - goes up and down and at the time it was up for me. By the time I was preparing my talk; life, as life will, took a dip for me. I felt like a fool writing about self care as if I were an expert when I seemed to be failing so miserably at it. My tips were put to the test.  Tip Number One:  Reach out to others. I resisted. It seems that I am great at reaching out to others under the context that I am overwhelmed with helping other people. On the flip side, I feel out of control and embarrassed to ask for help when it's just for me. I want to seem like the capable one, the one to whom other people go to for advice. The person who can say; "been there, done that and here is what you need to do". In the end, I reached out. I cried, I apologized for burdening, and I cried some more. I felt weak, stupid, bothersome and extremely vulnerable but I did it anyway. I'm glad I did. Ultimately, I have many self care techniques and they are all important but if I'm not willing to be vulnerable and ask for help when I need it, the whole thing collapses. It took life coming up and biting me in the ass, one more time to make me remember the most important thing - self compassion. Everyone needs self care, even me. By listening to myself and others and doing what I know has worked for me, I began to feel better. On went the light bulb. "This stuff really works!" Here's the final list: 1. Ask for help, no really, ask for help from as many people as you think you need. 2. Do something nice for somebody else. The giving feels good and it creates a boomerang effect.  3. Veg out. Find some alone time to write, pray, meditate, or go for a stroll, walk the dog, clean a closet, scrub the floor, mow the lawn or whatever clears your mind. 4. Wear a skull dress. Dress in something that you makes you feel confident - your favorite color, that special piece of jewelry, some kicking boots or heels and your smile  - that's it, get up, take a shower, slap on some after shave or perfume and whatever you own that makes you feel good. 5. Listen to your favorite song, the one that makes you want to lift your hands up and sing or maybe dance. Repeat as many times as necessary. This is my latest favorite song, one of many! Life requires repacking - as many times as necessary. Do you need a powerful repack?        

Balls to Speak about Boobs

Last night I received the balls to speak about my boobs. This gift of courage was delivered in a Facebook post - made by an erstwhile high school friend who has come to be a facebook friend. More precisely, he was a "crush" for a minute when I was 15. Our present relationship consists of viewing the posts and pictures of his cute little girl on facebook. Like me, he is an adoptive parent and I feel a common bond with him. I also keep up with him because he has a certain "je ne sais quois" - Balls. As a successful entrepreneur, he is not afraid to take on challenges and speak his mind. I like that. I know it's not appropriate to say balls but I don't care because it gets the message across in this culture and many others. Most of us know the spanish word "cojones". Well, that too. We will all agree on the word courage. In his post, my friend let the world know he had gotten laser treatments with results similar to plastic surgery. Now, alone I'd call sharing that information "gutsy" yet, it wouldn't have gotten my attention and I wouldn't be writing about it. Talk about elective plastic surgery is not that big of a deal nowadays but, it sort of is for men. My worklife over the past fifteen years has mainly consisted of working with and managing men. This is not shop talk.  Gutsy kicked up to the level of balls and squashed any illusion of vanity talk when his writing revealed: a former struggle with addiction, how it manifests in his post-addiction life and the real underlying decision for the procedure - his recently adopted young daughter. At age 55, he is concerned about what people will say about an older father to his 4 year old daughter. He wants to feel and look his best for her. After long term exercise and healthy eating he still felt like he looked old; so, he made his decision. As an adoptive mother, I totally get his inspiration. When my children came into my life at ages 3 and 4, I wanted to be perfect for them. Now at ages 21 and 23 they get that I am nowhere near perfect. I love that my friend's post closed with a Bang!, derailing any detractors, by noting that gift certificates in the amount of $250 each were waiting at the desk of the center's office for anyone else who might benefit from the same procedure. BAM! He left nothing left to question.  His brave personal story was a gift for me. It gave me the balls to speak about my boobs. The past couple of months I have been working up the courage to reveal something personal to give a type of gift to others. Recently I had breast reduction surgery. Twenty years of yoga, massage and visits to the chiropractor still weren't helping the pain in my neck and shoulders. Even though I qualified for medical insurance coverage, I still struggled with the decision to have surgery. Probably the biggest reason for my resistance was guilt. I have so many women friends who have struggled with breast cancer and have not had a choice in the decision about their own bodies. They have had necessary but unwanted mastectomies and double mastectomies and my surgery seemed so, well, vain. In addition to the guilt, fear stood in my way. Any change in your physical appearance can be unsettling. It's not that I really liked having large breasts, but they were part of my body and I accepted them. I got used to looking at myself with them. Familiar is comfortable but not always easy. Having large breasts has its benefits and disadvantages. In our culture they are revered by many - those who don't have them. In fifth grade jealous girls accused me of "stuffing", putting toilet paper in your bra, to look bigger - unnecessary for me. The whole routine of "I must, I must, I must develp my bust!", popular when I was going up - also unnecessary. When I was the new girl in a small town at age 14, my girlfriend tells me that everyone at school was talking about the girl with the big boobs and long blonde hair.  We were young and stupid. In middle school it's nice to be noticed. As I got older, the boob talk turned into insensitive comments: "Don't you get your eyes knocked out when you run?".  When deemphasizing, squishing sports bras hit the racks, I signed up immediately. I became extremely sensitive to the gawks and attention drawn to me for something for which I had no control. My determination to take attention away from that part of my body dominated my clothing choices and I developed a keen awareness of where people's eyes fell when they looked at me. First, working as a high school teacher and eventually, in a male dominated industry; I wanted to be seen for something more than body parts. As I got even older the physical pain kicked in. The pain started my process of consideration for breast reduction surgery. I rationalized; "I'll look thinner" and "I can finally wear button-up shirts without safety pins". These reasons were so shallow and I kept thinking I was just not doing enough. More massage and yoga - yet, the pain was still there. My final decision came with help and advice from two convincing friends, both breast cancer survivors. One had a double mastectomy and the other a single mastectomy. Both women were encouraging. They said; "You need to what is best for your health and well being". Also that; "Each person must make decisions about his/her own unique body that are right for him/her". They reminded me that the situation will get worse with age. I may be faced with serious back problems among other issues. That was it. I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon. Soon after, I got a call from the office saying that insurance would pay for the procedure. I did it! I did it because I wanted to feel better. Carrying around extra weight that yoga and massage cannot erase made me feel heavy in every sense of the word. I did it for my children. I wanted them to have a mom who is healthy and happy; able to exercise and stay physically active and independent for a long time to come. I did it for my yoga students.  I wanted them to have a teacher who feels lighter in spirit. I did it to be true to myself as a teacher, friend, and parent who believes every individual walks his/her own path and must decide each unique step.  Whatever decision you make is personal. No one should decide for you. Only you know every reason, consideration, or available resources for your decisions. In the end you live with the results - powerful and scary. There will always be detractors and you may even have personal doubts, but BAM! Do what's right for you and those you love. That's the gift I leave on the counter.  

Repack – 5 Steps for Change; At Ease and Disordered

I am a warrior. I got this!
I am a warrior. I got this!

Anytime you repack and make a change you may feel at once paradoxically at ease and disordered. Even healthy changes can impose stress because they cause you to leave your comfort zone.  A struggle with food choices brings up a perfect example.

Imagine the sense of "ahhh" when dive into a plate of your favorite comfort food. Then, consider how it feels to replace that plate with a dish that holds food filled with healthier choices. Logically you understand all the reasons why you should eat the healthy food. You may feel a sense of satisfaction that comes from making a better choice.  Yet, the smell is unusual and the taste is unfamiliar to your palette.  

Satisfaction without comfort - that's what it feels like when you make most changes. So how do you move past the discomfort? You have to envision a powerful motivation for the positive change.  The image has to contain a greater feeling of "Ahh" than the experience of staying in the old pattern holds.  Once you've found that motivation, the struggle lies in using it as catalyst for change.  The practice begins.
  1. Create an affirming mantra for your motivation.
  2. Write it where you will be constantly reminded, bathroom mirrors work great!
  3. Repeat it to yourself when your strength fades.
  4. Find favorable ways to fill the space freed by the time spent in the old behavior.
  5. Seek support from others with wisdom from similar experiences.
I have an ongoing battle with food. Lately it is more like a war. The battle is always worse when other changes swirl around me and take my attention away from my practices. It's time to refocus, repack. I am a warrior who knows how to win this battle. Feeling at once both at ease with my renewed commitment and disordered by the lack of comfort; I raise my arms in surrender, inhale, then make fists, pull them down and with a loud exhale I shout "Yes. I got this!" It's never too late to repack.  

American Dream – Guest Post from Jean Berg

American Dream     Repack Your Life is honored to share the following post by Jean Berg . . .   I was listening to BBC radio one morning this week sometime between 1-2 a.m. and heard a remarkable interview.  The interviewee was Diamond (I don't remember last name) who recorded the entire tragedy of her fiance stopped, questioned and shot to death as she sat in the front seat of their car, her four-year-old daughter in the back.  She was so articulate, so confident, so truth-telling and so heart-broken it was riveting.  How she spoke of the plans they had as a family left me close to broken-hearted as well.   They were an urban African-American couple trying to live the "American Dream". Now there are phrases I've known since language, I suppose, but never unpacked them and considered their meaning.  Another is "middle class"  These two came together for me as I listened to this woman talk about loss and lost hope.   In my small life I do not consciously remember thinking about the American Dream.  I never dreamed it.  I just expected it.  Doesn't everyone?  No, not even close.   She talked about her American Dream. First, to move out of the "hood" to a house.  A house with a yard.  Another child; maybe two.  Going to the park for a picnic.  Getting a dog.  Grocery-shopping together.  Was that too much to dream for?  I think not.  Yet for people in numbers beyond imagining, it's a dream never realized.  This was the first time I ever began to understand what those two words meant.   She wanted to live the Middle Class life.  What does that mean?  As a sociology student I studied social stratification; you know, lower class lower middle class, middle middle class, upper middle class, lower upper class, upper class (sociologists love this stuff).  Yet most studies today tell us our self-identification is generally "middle class".  The poor don't know they're poor and the rich don't know they're rich.  Or don't acknowledge it.  We know we are white or brown or black or "none of the above" but classification is subjective and slippery.   It would be my hope to open my head and my heart to the yearnings of Diamond, who has so much to teach.  And I have so much to learn.   Jean Berg, July 2016

Orlando, My Hands Are Not Tied

  Orlando, I am still numb with shock, but  My hands are not tied. They are firmly pressed at the intersection of my breath and my heart for direction.  Orlando, I could not be the one who drove the ambulance or the pickup truck to rush the injured to the able hands of nurses and doctors, but My hands are not tied. They work to untie myself from electronics and media so I can make a space to honor those who died or were injured.  In this time and space I can discern my next right action and though I feel helpless, I know from this quiet space, My hands are not tied. They can reach out to hug one more person, share a message of hope and hold the hands of others in remembrance. I can return to this space, hands pressed together at my heart again and again to remember the power of understanding, kindness and love because, My hands are not tied. And if you are feeling helpless I hope I'll help you to remember, that Your hands are not tied. Then you can reach one hand out to grasp mine and with our free hands we will reach to others because, Our hands are not tied. Orlando, may we remember with love in action.        

The Day After My Near Death-This Thing called Life

I'll try not to be morbid but when you have proof that you were almost dead, it's hard not to be talking about life and death. Maybe not so coincidentally, about the same time Prince's death was announced, my death announcement might have followed. It may seem crazy, but I see this as something good, because death has been on my mind. Too much. After a woman in my small town was killed walking dogs across Main Street two weeks ago, just down the road from my near death, I have been overcome with fear of the unknown, vowing to be hyper-vigilant, five notches above my usual awareness motto. What happened yesterday knocked me out of my fear coma and the illusion that I am in control. I was sitting here five minutes before this happened. 20160421_135449 Yes, the table under the car was mine. So, this brings me back to Prince and awareness. The world seems extra crazy in my corner of the globe and beyond. With the idyllic bubble burst in my small town, the suicide and near suicide of two young people I know, the inhumane NC House Bill, a hate filled presidential election (the likes I've not witnessed in my lifetime) the catastrophic earthquake in Equador that hit close to friends and so much other sadness: I come back to what I know is true and what I believe Prince conveyed. Prince had this aura - it was neither male nor female - it was sensual and vulnerable, fun loving and curious. He attracted all of us to his human purple light with a message that defied labels. Prince taught us through his art that what matters most defies labels. We saw it in his struggle for a name. He was neither. He was both. As much as we try to separate into categories he kept reminding us that separateness is a lie. We are all human. Our purpose is to keep reaching to see the face of god in every human being. Dearly beloved that is the only thing that will get us through this thing called life and make our time on this side worth living.    

Off Centered and OK-Yet “Try, We Must”


"Centered and Complete" is the name of Seth Godin's recent blog post. The first line got to me.

"These are not the conditions for creativity."
Being centered is this yogi's holy grail. But Seth is right. If we reach what we think is centered, we stop working. Walking the journey is right where we should be. That doesn't mean it doesn't piss me off. When do you get to rest, sit on that rocking chair and ponder life? It's funny to me that every once in a while one of my yoga students will tell me that they wish they could be calm like me. Yes, my yoga practice has certainly evened out the extremes lows I can experience and the breathing practices won the battle over my crippling anxiety attacks years ago; but it does not stop this crazy world from spinning me out of balance, leaving me feeling off - centered. Bliss is not my home state. Yet, I do feel okay. Seth ends with this statement that I have altered.
"We get creative when things are not ok perfect and they're not ok perfect yet".
Okay is a place where you can breathe and focus and discern. For me it's is a place where I don't feel stuck and can practice writing, singing, gardening and connecting with people. Okay is not a place of centered perfection or total bliss. It leaves room for work. Al Anon has an saying "OK is all right." Often I get a glimpses of perfect, looking for them is part of my practice . . .  in a child's smile, the smell of a rose, an act of kindness. In these moments I experience pure bliss. Then I come back to OK because there is work to be done. It's ironic that in search of an image for this post, I found one from Coke. They released OK soda in 1993 hoping to capture the Generation X market with their pithy statements and counter cultural images. OK soda was anything but OK in the end. By 1995 it was out of production. They choose the name because OK is the number one globally recognized word. Number two? You guessed it, Coke. In itself this flop has a message. The work we do on our journey is messy. Sometimes we fail, yet in the words of the great Yoda; "Try, we must".