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Happy New Year!

The Heart Connected highlights of 2016 include publishing my first book and the Heart Connected Retreat. I am so grateful to the courageous souls alongside me on this journey.

The Heart Connected highlights of 2016 include publishing my first book and the Heart Connected Retreat. I am so grateful to the courageous souls alongside me on this journey.

Hello! Happy New Year!

I hope you are finding peace and joy in this New Year. 2017 is bound to have some surprises in store for us (I think it's safe to say that is already the case).

I will be honest: the last two years have been tumultuous over here, so I am grateful for this new beginning and I welcome it with open arms. The extremes have been intense from both ends of the spectrum. I've experienced some of the lowest lows and the highest highs. Ever. In as much as trying to ride these waves has been challenging, I know the extremes are real and true to the nature of life. I am even grateful for them. 

What I didn't expect, is that all of it felt a lot like grief to me.

I have known that grief in and of itself is a universal experience. Every human will experience loss and grief as a result of that loss. Grief is so much bigger than that though. It is ongoing. There is always something calling to be grieved. At the same time, generally speaking, I've seen a lot of resistance to the word: grief. I understand it sounds daunting and is most often associated with death so not many of us welcome even the idea of grief at our doors. The word grief could be an onomatopoeia after all. It starts out strong with a fierce G in the same way grief can catch us off guard and then softens, potentially leaving a person in a puddle.

Contrary to what most would think, I continue to see how grief sets us free. Once one agrees to face the sadness, heartbreak, angst, and anger that comes with grief, and allows that grief to break her open, it is just a matter of time before spirits are lifted. Grieving is more like a release valve than it is an anchor.

With the release of my book My New Friend, Grief, I've had the extreme privilege of meeting and some awe-inspiring people. I've also connected with people I already knew in new and powerful ways. I wish I could transcribe each and every courageous conversation I've had with these lovely beings because there is so much to be gained from sharing our stories with one another. To me, the most important reminder I receive in each of these exchanges is that none of us is alone. We are in this together. There is some comfort in that.

At the same time, I am aware in every cell of my body of the emotional climate here in America. It is intense like the waves I, and many of my friends and family, experienced in 2016. Americans are on high alert and it doesn't even matter which "side of the aisle" we cast our vote upon anymore. What we're facing is not a matter of taking sides. What I see is a crisis situation where many of our citizens are feeling betrayed by the sides to which they have pledged allegiance. I have great compassion for that sense of betrayal and I cannot deny that in the midst of betrayal we will never know the true scale of the battles being fought by those on whom we depend. I do know there are some, really good people, fighting hard to defend basic human rights for all of us. Sometimes lately we cannot even seem to agree on what is basic though. 

My faith lies in the balance between what is known and unknown and I believe that despite what we hear on the news each day and despite what we've come to believe about our leaders and each other, more good than bad is available to us.

In the meantime, we must learn to cope with the extremes and maybe even feel peace as we experience them. I think much of our challenge lies in a culture that tells us to "get over it". The only way I know to get over it, is to first feel it. All of it. Sometimes I fear it will destroy me. But, guess what, I'm still here. Only after the emotions have moved through me, can I let anything go. Sometimes what I've released comes back to me and the process of feeling it begins again. I don't know how Americans will ever move beyond this discontent we are experiencing without first feeling the betrayal, the anger, the fear, the sadness, and even the jubilation that some want the freedom to feel. Denying these feelings exist is holding us back.

We are entitled to our feelings.

As hard as I've seen people trying, none of us can deny how another person feels. It isn't okay to say another person can't or shouldn't feel the way they feel. Let's not do that anymore. Let's let each other feel what we need to feel. Let's hold space for those feelings, even when they are uncomfortable, knowing they are only feelings.

I dare you.

Just try it. The next time someone you know or someone you barely know expresses a feeling and you don't think that feeling is justified, instead of denying the feeling out loud or even in your head, simply say I hear you. Maybe even say that sounds hard.

You might be amazed. The power of making space for feelings lies in the simple effect it has on our bodies. We relax. We soften. We open. We develop compassion for person to whom we are speaking and, ultimately, we have compassion for ourselves.

Let it be known that grief is normal, natural, safe, and it can set us free

Thank you for being here. Let's do this, 2017!


Be free...!

When the World Seems Unloveable

Artwork by Kathleen Hodges

Artwork by Kathleen Hodges

In the last few years or so, after a devastating event takes place in the world, I see a lot of calls to love. Love more. Love harder. Be love. Let love in. Love Wins! And as the news sinks in and I resolve to love more, within minutes my kids start arguing. I wonder how I could ever expect the world to be a more loving place when I can't even manage to make my own kitchen a more loving place?

I decided to research love. I've been on the hunt for insight and guidance on how to love more in a world that sometimes seems unloveable. There is unending evidence that points to love as the antidote to hate, to fear, and to misunderstanding. Beyond a doubt, love is our most potent medicine.

Today it occurred to me that it's not love that I need to better understand. We are made of love. We were made to love. Love is at the very center of our beings. It's who we are. We are born little baby bodies of solid love. Love comes easily until we are hardened by our surroundings, but no matter what happens, we can always return to love.

So, what is it that we need to make more space for if it isn't just love?

The answer may surprise you.

the answer is anger. The answer is sadness. The answer is grief.

This is more obvious than ever in my lifetime as I witness the aftermath of Tuesday's election. I have seen more expressions of fear, hate, anger, and sadness than I've ever really experienced all at once. I don't think I need to describe it. I think you know what I'm talking about. The one thing I've noticed across the board is that this election riled something up in just about everyone. It's not just the people who voted one way or another, EVERYONE is feeling SOMETHING.

Many people are expressing those feelings. It's making many more people uncomfortable. Some of us are telling others to get over it. To move on. To just love more. Some of us are saying "You can be mad or sad, but keep it to yourself". Some of us are suggesting that others' feelings aren't valid. Some of us are just fine, but mostly we are all over the place. We are in a raging storm of emotions.

So, yes, let's love more.

AND, let's make more space for our anger and our sadness. Let's make space for this grief.

I know, it's uncomfortable. I know it's hard. I know most of us weren't taught to do that.

Nobody enjoys seeing others in pain. In American culture especially, we don't like it and we don't want to see it.

In fact, the only place where it actually seems acceptable for people to fully express their emotions is at a sporting event. For the most part, it's okay to let it all out there. We rage, we yell, we scream, we clap and stomp, and cheer. Some of us even wet our pants. It's all good.

But after you leave the stadium or turn off the TV, you better pull yourself together. And if we're being honest, I think this one place where we get a free pass for expressing ourselves mostly benefits men. And even then, only men who watch sports. I love you men and I'm glad you have this place because God knows you receive very little support for expressing yourselves emotionally, and at the same time I envy you.

For lack of better space to express ourselves, we turn to social media. Witnessing the outpouring of emotions on Facebook this week, can take a girl down. It has made me want to crawl under my covers and stay in bed indefinitely. What is the world coming to when even the people suggesting love and prayer are even getting shushed? I get it though.

Each of us is processing what is happening in the world around us in our own unique ways. 

And like it or not, it is all okay.

It is in service to no one to try to suppress your anger or your sadness. Emotions left unexpressed fester inside us. These emotions can and do manifest in stress, anxiety, depression, illness, and disease. Quite frankly, they are deadly.

We need to let each other be fully expressed, no matter how hard it is to watch. Fortunately, nobody is forcing us to watch. If we don't like it, we can turn the other way. Yes, let's take responsibility for how our expressions may impact those who see them. But let's not censor each other. Especially not now.

To meet other people right where they're at and to allow them the space to say what they need to say, that is love. If we want to love more, let's start by doing that. Love doesn't make judgments or have expectations of others. Love can hold space for whatever comes up.

Love yourself and let yourself feel every last bit of it. Expect cycles, waves, and spirals of emotion. Scream, cry, and let it all out. There is no timeline. There is no right way to do this. The only way out is through. Know that love surrounds you.

Love others and let them do what they need to do. Have compassion for their feelings and their need to express them (even in your kitchen).

Trust that by making space for anger, sadness, and all that is grief, we are also making space for more love in our hearts.

And the best part? Transformation. True change can only come when we get it all out on the table. No holding back. When we've assembled piles of all the pieces, we can rebuild. We will rebuild.

Until then, peace. xo


100 Days of Light

There are two things that make me feel uneasy when I see them on Social Media (aside from hatred, violence, abuse, intolerance, and things that would rightfully make one feel uneasy). The first is 100 day challenges. 30 day challenges. One day challenges. Any challenge whatsoever. The second is posts about how people try to make everything look picture perfect on Social Media.

Challenges make me squirm. I don't like being told what to do and I don't like recurring commitments. Admittedly, not my best qualities. If I were my therapist, I would guess that taking on challenges translates as yet another way to let myself (or others) down and I hate letting people down, so no challenges. Easy peasy.

I hold authenticity with such high esteem that it sometimes gets me in trouble. Sometimes, a girl doesn't need to say what's on her mind, you know? Sometimes she does. Sometimes it's a fine line. When I see a post about how "we" try so hard to show our best angles on Facebook or Instagram, I feel prickly. I consciously try to be real with what I share (I even wrote a rather raw book about GRIEF, of all things!), and choosing to acknowledge and celebrate the brighter moments in my life doesn't feel like curating to me, but I get it.

I know posts about trying to make things look perfect make me uneasy because they cause me to wonder about the stories I'm telling about my life on Social Media. And, I get that when I'm having a bad day or just a day, and I see all the "life is perfect" posts on Facebook, I can feel like a complete loser because my life is not perfect. I love my life. It has taken me a long time to feel safe admitting that. It is a lovely life and it is far from perfect. I know nobody's life is truly perfect, but there is this sense that maybe somebody has it all figured out when she posts a photo of all her people smiling like angels at the camera and my people scowl at me when I ask them to smile.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."

He is right and most of us are quick to compare, especially when someone else appears to have the answers we are seeking.

With that, I give you 100 Days of Light.

Yep, I am taking on a 100 day challenge. And the intention behind it is to share the story behind the story. The real story, not just the one you see in the picture.

Choosing the light - the sunshine, the rainbows, the smiles, or the celebrations - doesn't always come easy to me. When I was a little girl I read a lot. I had an active imagination. I more or less lived with one foot in reality and the rest of me in a daydream. I preferred the daydreams - the Secret Gardens and the doors to Narnia. I'd take fairies and angels and portals to other lands over my everyday reality any chance I had. I was shy, but mostly smiley and happy as a kid. Around the end of eighth grade the portals closed. People had become accustomed to me being happy so I kept wearing that smile. It was more of a mask though. I was often dying on the inside. Navigating life was hard for me. My feelers are hardwired for maximum feeling capacity. I was born to feel the feels and that's cool, except I didn't know how to feel them when I was younger. I did know how to smile and to pretend that everything was okay.

Much later, in the last several years or so, I found that everything could only be okay for me, if I stopped pretending. I learned to feel. It's still not easy! I am committed to being true to myself though and to do that I must feel. Sometimes it's a struggle, like a wrestling match kind of struggle, and sometimes it's not. It varies. It can be SCARY! But when the feelings have bubbled up and out of me, I can make a choice about where to go from there.

I try to choose the light. 

Since I've begun to feel, I can honestly say that I appreciate the sunshine and rainbow moments in a much different way. I find them in places that were previously hidden. Since I am being honest though, I will share that lately the sunshine and rainbow moments have been less clear to me. The air is heavy with election drama and trauma, with hate, with fear, and dread. I can feel it all around me and my kids are feeling it too. Even if you don't watch the news and do unfollow unsavory posts on Facebook, the reality that we are living in trying times is hard to avoid. It's challenging for a big feeler girl like me. I want to choose the light and yet the space between feels is getting smaller. So, this is my challenge: to find the light. To share the light. Ultimately, to be the light I want to see in the world.

Be the change you want to see in the world - Mahatma Gandhi 

Will you join me? Again, I'm not advocating for avoiding the darkness altogether. I'm saying: GO THERE. But let's not stay there. Let's not stew there. Let's feel all of it, hold it, wrestle it, and turn it around and around, and THEN make a choice about what to do next. Maybe sit with it a little longer? Maybe integrate it into action? Maybe let that shit go.

I'll be posting on Instagram for 100 days (seriously? holy crap!). I may use filters because they are so fun. Actually, I'm not going to make a lot of rules because rules...make me squirm. My practice will be to share a moment in my day that feels like light to me and in the caption I will talk about why. Almost as simple as avoiding a challenge altogether.

I think I'm going to appreciate the breath of fresh air in all this heaviness I've been feeling. Please jump in if you feel called.

OH! Also, this idea was inspired by the fabulous Christianne Squires at Bookwifery  She has been celebrating her launch with 100 Days of Love Notes for Writers! She sheds such beautiful light on the process of writing. I love her words and her work. Check her out.

With loving kindness, xo

#100daysoflight #gowherethelightis #bethechange #bethelight

Three Gifts Grief Gave Me

On the first anniversary of my dad's death we celebrated him

Six years ago today, at this time, I was running errands around town. I had cramps. That evening my dad came to take my son James to his guitar lesson, and when he brought him home again, I probably said, "Bye Dad! Love you!" A few hours after that, I stood in my dad's shed with my mom, a couple police officers, and an EMS guy or two. My dad sat there too, hunched over his work bench. He had slipped away. That is what the police officer in my parents' driveway told me when I arrived. Lights flashing on the ambulance in the road. Me hoping the quiet that greeted me meant everything was okay - no rushing, no emergency here.

How can it be that something that has been true for six years still seems like such a shock sometimes? So unreal. So NOT true?

Grief is full of surprises. It hasn't been shy about sharing its tricks with me. It also brought many gifts.

First, grief doesn't go away. There is no "getting over it". Grief beats in my chest like my heart. It is always there, even when I'm not aware of it. Sometimes, I am tuned in to my grief. On days like today, I deliberately, mindfully tap into it. I take its pulse. I listen in, wondering how powerful it is now - is it moving forcefully? Gently? Most of the time, I'm not thinking about it. I'm so used to my grief at this point that it is like any other part of me. My eyes, my nose, my grief. The truth is - it has always been there. I've been losing and grieving those losses since I first claimed anything as mine. My dad's death forced me to feel grief in ways I had never let myself feel before. And now, I cannot unknow my grief. I am grateful for its presence and the way it has allowed me to feel deeply, intensely, without censorship, judgment, or expectations that it will go away some day. It's so much less intimidating now. We work together.

Second, "until death do us part" is mere poetry. Love lives on, way past the time the body holding it expires. And the Spirit was never really contained to begin with. My dad's love is a constant, like grief, moving in me, around me, and through all the people and places my dad touched. And, also, through the people and places that touched my dad. It is in my children even if their Papaw is but a faint memory. It gives me so much comfort to know in every morsel of my being that even in the absence of his body, my dad's Spirit lives on. Eternally. Not that doesn't keep me from wanting one last hug. I'd still love to see his face. Hear his voice. And, at the same time, I feel his Spirit. I relish in the cardinals he sends to check in, the guitar picks he leaves in random places, and the pennies he sends us from heaven. He is all around.

And finally, I was wrong in the hours, days, months, and years I spent feeling all alone in the world. Feeling damaged and broken, unworthy. I was always wondering, waiting, needing, and wanting confirmation that I was being held in some way, by some one. I didn't know it but, I was (good) enough all along. I was wise. I was whole. I was loved from the moment I became but a twinkle in my mother's eye. I have never been alone. Nope. By virtue of my humanity, I am deeply rooted in Creation. Connected to the Source - our Creator - and all living things. I am of the dirt, the sun, the stars, the moon, the lakes, and the seas. I am in the wind and the rain. My ancestors who came before me hold me still. We are all part of a Collective. We are one. And as the Earth spins on its axis, so do I, a magnificent microcosm of all that is, was, or ever will be. What a relief. I am not alone. I am whole. I carry all I need to know within me. I always have. I always will. And, the same is true for you.

There's more. Grief gives its gifts freely. It has taught me at least 100 other lessons in these six years. And, there's still more to learn. There always will be. In all ways. On all levels. The learning never ends.

And so, I thank Grief for what it came to teach me. I still wish it had been another way, and I know that was never a possibility. My dad's death was an important part of his journey, his contract. I am forever grateful for his legacy and for his love, which remains in our midst.

Peace to all the grieving hearts, aware of the losses, that devastate and leave us wondering why. Peace to the grief that lives within us, teaching us what it means to feel. Peace to all. xo

My dad, my sister Sarah, and me

My parents and their grandchildren, except little Aedan who arrived later

One of my favorite photos of my dad

My dad's work boots, bandana, and gloves

You Are Held. For real.

Some Thoughts on Pain and Suffering (with love)

There are many stories I want to share about the surgery I had on July 27, but they aren't ready to be told. Among them though is this new, unexpected, sister story that I really do want to share. Now. Even though it may not be ready either.

It started a couple weeks after my surgery. Everything went well with the surgery and initially I felt great. Then my body (specifically my skin) moved ahead with its own agenda. 

I quickly developed wounds where my skin refused to cooperate. Two weeks ago I had a second procedure. My skin is stubborn. So now, this is how it goes once, usually twice each day: I work up the courage to change my dressings. I peel back the existing dressing on one side of my body. I peel back the existing dressing on the other side. I apply ointment to non-adhering transparent gauze and then place that gauze, ever so tenderly, over my wounds. I cover that with regular white gauze and adhere it to my body with surgical tape. Finally, I adhere a surgical pad over the gauze with more tape. I am very well padded.

There is wincing. And often tears. There is curiosity, wonder, doubt, fear, and occasionally regret.

I have restrictions. I cannot do the things I want or need to do and I've grown weary from asking other people to do them for me. I am walking a fine line between sustaining the strength I know I need to sustain to properly care for myself and withdrawing into my warm, cozy bed. Indefinitely. I cry a lot lately.

I miss the things I can't do now. The things that normally bring me comfort and joy. Bear hugs, bubble baths, and yoga to name a few. Believe it or not, I even miss my ability to do laundry - to carry heavy things.

And every single day I think about the other people. The people who have been doing something just like this for weeks, months or even years. For themselves or for someone they love dearly. I think about how those daily rituals affect these other people. I wonder how they keep going? If they keep going?

I often think about what goes on under our cleverly cloaked faces and bodies. The pain that resides beneath the surface is no stranger to me. I carry it frequently. I know anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and grief from all of it. It creeps up when I am not expecting it. I wonder who is in it with me - at the grocery store, at my son's soccer game, on Facebook. I know there are others. I feel for them.

And now I have a new understanding of another kind of pain that nobody can see. Wounds that are dressed and then dressed again for protection - and hiding. The wounds we don't discuss when we see friends around town. The wounds we carry all by ourselves. 

In these moments I think about the way we treat each other on this planet. I think about the ways we can be so quick to criticize one another. I think about the ways we so carelessly inflict pain on each other - with words, with our bodies, and with weapons. In our own homes, on the playground, in the board room, on the field, and all around town, we hurt each other. Often. It is usually on the defense. We want to protect ourselves from each other's choices, actions, and beliefs. We hope none of it is contagious. We don't want our kids to catch it. We lash out. And we have no clue about how the other person came to these choices, these actions, or these beliefs. And we don't even care. We lash out anyway.

These thoughts have been lurking in my head for days. I write to process things. These thoughts and this experience are things that need to be processed. I kinda don't want to process them though. They aren't easy for me to face. They are heavy. So why would I share them? Why today? Because this morning I woke up to learn that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. And I thought about all those people I know are out there suffering in silence and I wanted to tell them (you... us...) something...

You are not your experience. I am not mine. I am not my wounds, my pain, or my suffering and either are you. I don't care who you vote for or whether you vote at all. I don't care who you pray to or whether you pray at all. I don't care if you kneel before altars in churches or build your own altars on the beach or at home. I don't care if you use your when you mean you're. I don't care where you went to school, where you work, or where you live. I don't care what kind of car you drive or if you even drive at all. I don't care if you swear like a sailor or speak with the eloquence of the Dali Lama. I don't care if your body is covered in tattoos or moisturizer. None of that matters to me (although some of it is really interesting to me and I might want to talk more about it later... Without judgment.). The only thing I do care about is that you don't hurt yourself because of the stories - the lies - you've come to believe about your situation. And, I ask, please do not hurt others.

Ask for help, even if it is hard and you think you might have worn out your welcome.

I will too.

Sit with what you need to for as long as you need to, but please don't suffer alone in silence. It's not necessary.

I love you. God loves you. The Universe loves you. Mama Earth loves you. You are lovable and worthy of all the love you can imagine. It's true.

Heading to the doctor now... letting the tears flow. I'll be the one with the runny mascara. 


Be gentle with yourself. 
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. 
In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. 
- Max Ehrmann

an old favorite