Viewing entries tagged
retreat

Making Time for Connection + Creativity

This is something I have been meaning to share for a long time. I couldn't bring myself to share it though, and I now think it is because what I want to share is sacred. It is a story about me bearing witness to a dream unfolding into reality before my very eyes.

It all happened in a little cottage on an unspoiled beach on the shore of Lake Michigan.

I asked my mom, Kathleen, to describe this place. She said, "Imagine yourself being plucked out of your everyday life and immersed in a vintage cottage setting with nature - water, sand, trees, and lake breezes blowing against your skin. It is enchanting, and it allows one to be heart connected with self and nature."

Heaven on Earth

It was a dream come true to gather with a group of soulful women in this magical place, a place that is very dear to me and a place that somehow seems to capture the hearts of all who visit. For years and years I had dreamed of holding retreats for women, and one day I decided to go for it - to have a retreat in my family's cottage on the beach.

My mom went on to say, "We just don't give ourselves enough opportunities to step out of what we know into something new - to be nurtured in a safe environment where all our needs are met and we have the freedom to be creative and express ourselves." 

Stepping out of what I know...

The women who gathered with me last September will always hold a special place in my heart. This was my very first retreat in my family's cottage in Kewadin, Michigan. It is a great honor and privilege to be entrusted with another woman's time. Time is such a huge, incredible gift in this day and age. Time is precious. I did not want to take that gift of another's time for granted.

My intention was to make the most of that time - to take away the daily worries that can bog us down, like what to eat and how to prepare it. I wanted each woman to enjoy the freedom of owning her time - to spend it in the ways that work for her, rather than to spend it in ways that revolve around what works best for others. And also to hold space for thoughtful, deliberate experiences centered around art and opening our hearts to each other, our surroundings, and most importantly - to ourselves.

Beauties on the Beach

I asked my long time friend Andi, our personal chef for our time together, to create meals that she would eat if she was taking the absolute best care of herself. She walked in with the most colorful, nutritious, local, and organic fruits and vegetables I have ever seen. Her meals were feasts for our eyes and our stomachs. We were very well fed. And, the best part was, none of us even had to think about it!

Andi's delectable offerings

I asked my dear friend and yogini, Heather to lead us through some heart opening stretching and breathing exercises. Her first class, looking out on the Lake, was one of my favorite yoga classes ever.

Namaste

As I prepare for my next retreat in May, I wonder what it is that makes a retreat so appealing? For me, the retreat experience is about returning to what we, as women, were made to do - to connect and to create in community. This - connecting and creating - is something that comes so naturally to us, and yet very few of us are in the practice of  allowing ourselves to do it. Instead, we spend much of our time helping others to connect and create.

I believe we think we are doing what is best for ourselves, our families, and the people with whom we work. I believe we trust that our time to connect and create will come later. The truth is, with so much being asked of us, we are worn out. We are exhausted and depleted. We can't go on like this. We need to recharge, restore, and renew. We need to fill the well that provides so many in our lives with running water. When we allow ourselves this time for renewal, we come back FULL and we are way more effective at whatever it is we set out to do.

Group selfie!

Making art together

Whenever I find myself in the midst of women creating together, I look around me, and it is almost as if I can see our mothers, our grandmothers, and all the women who came before us, gathered around a fire making meals together or circled around a quilt sewing together. Together, women empower each other. We reflect each other's lights right back to each other. We lift and hold and support each other.

Because we are all connected, we gain so much from connecting with each other. And, feeling safe in the community of one another, with all our needs met and surrounded by the beauty of nature, we can connect to ourselves - to our own hearts and souls and all the wisdom and power that resides within.

Something powerful has occurred in each of my retreat experiences. I have made lifelong friends from complete strangers. I have created beautiful things and eaten delicious foods. I leave feeling blissful and inspired. In reflecting upon these life changing moments, what I appreciate most is that time I carved out for myself. It wasn't easy to do. It always requires a lot of coordinating. It can be a bit of a logistical nightmare.

I never regret it though. Attending a retreat is like opening the front door to my own heart and inviting myself in. Retreats provide time and space to reconnect to myself. That connection - between the me you see scrambling around town and who I am on the inside - that is what it means to be heart connected. Being heart connected means coming home to yourself and living from that sacred space.

The story I came here to tell continues… I'm not done making dreams come true for myself, or helping other women to make their dreams come true. It has become a habit. We all deserve the gift of time and a beautiful place in which to spend it.

I have a few spots left in my upcoming retreat May 1-4...

Your Heart Connected Guides, Kathleen, Andi, Heather, and Anna

And I would love nothing more than for you to join us! Come on, get heart connected!

For more information, click here.
To register for May's retreat, click here.

xoxoxo

A Letter from Santa


Dear Sweet Sister, Mama, Wife, Daughter, Grandma, Auntie, Woman, Friend,

It was never true that I only watch the children.

I see you.

I see you working so hard.

I know you are staying up late to squeeze in as much as possible when the house finally falls silent after a long day.

I know you wake at night wondering how you will possibly accomplish all that the next day holds for you. I see you shaking your head at the tasks that got away. I see you wishing you could get back to sleep. I see you checking the time at 3:00 a.m. And again at 4:00 a.m. Then, I see you drift off to sleep in just enough time to wake again at the sound of your alarm.

I see your exasperation.

I see you use every last bit of your energy to get your children off to school, to walk the dog, feed the cats, and then pull from the reserves of I don't know where to get yourself out the door. I don't know how you do it.

I see you grocery shopping, gift shopping, meal planning, meal making, cookie baking, and house keeping. I see you pushing start on the dryer for the third time on the same load of clothes.

I see you volunteering your time to help others. I see you scrape a handful of change from the bottom of your purse so you won't arrive at the Salvation Army collection tin empty handed.

I see you wrapping gifts and sending cards. I see you wishing you had the resources to do these things when you cannot. I know you are working harder than ever before, trying to get everything done. I know you are making lists. I know you check them more than twice.

Homework with your children, homework for yourself, activities, dinner, and baths... I know bedtime is trying at your house. It all seems so impossible, and yet you do it.

I know you aren't sure what gifts to give your children's teachers this year. You wonder every year. I see you worrying, wondering how to make everyone else happy, and hoping you got it all right.

I see you planning... for work, school, church, village, town, city, state, and planet. From meals to parties. Trying not to exclude anyone. Trying to make sure everyone else's needs are met. Wondering what to wear. Hoping it will fit. Wondering how to squeeze in a trip to the mall in case it doesn't. Wondering if you can even afford that trip...

I see you rocking your baby to sleep in the middle of the night. Your eyes barely open. Wondering when you will sleep again... and yet, at the very same time, trying so hard to cherish this precious quiet you share with the tiny bundle in your arms. You know it will all be over in the blink of an eye.

I see you stumble to your child's bedside when she wakes and calls out for you. She is frightened, cold, thirsty... simply wanting to be near you. You want to hold her and make all her troubles disappear, and you want to go back to bed. You want your own space. All at once.

I see you do all of it - day after day.

I see you grieving the loss of a loved one. I know you are wondering what it will be like without him, or her. You know it won't be the same. It will never be the same.

I see you grieving the loss of a loved one's beloved. Her precious child. Her husband. I see your tears. Your heart feels her pain. I know your fears. I know you wonder what the future holds.

I see you putting off your next physical. And making trips to visit a loved one at the hospital. I see you receiving bad news on the phone, by e-mail, text, and on Facebook. I know you wonder whether it will ever end. I know your heart breaks a little with each blow.

I know that sometimes you feel so alone.

I see you caring for your sick child. And your aging parents. And your own beloved. I know you are "staying strong" and "holding it altogether" all the while feeling like you are falling apart. Bit by bit.

I know that sometimes you feel trapped.

I know that you aren't exchanging gifts with your partner this year... so you can give more to your children. Or your parents. Your siblings. Nieces and nephews. Friends. The community. Your favorite charity. You have everything you could possibly need. Right?

I see you struggling. I don't remember the last time you splurged on yourself. Without guilt.

I know you worry about the cost of everything. I know that sometimes you must make choices. Do you pay this bill or that one? What will that leave for groceries? I see you making it all work even when the odds are not in your favor.

I wonder how you do it all and I wonder how you keep going? You never cease to amaze me with your tireless effort. On top of it all, you are simply radiant. You keep smiling. I know you are grateful for all of it - all that depletes you.

I see you Dear One.

And, I wonder what you really want? In your wildest dreams. Do you know? Have you thought about it? Do you have the space or time to listen to the whispers of your heart and soul?

Dear Sweet Body of Love, I know that no matter how hard you are working, you will never accomplish all that you've set out to do if you keep trying to run on empty.

Sweet Woman, you. Must. Fill. Yourself. Up.

You can be your own Santa Claus. Gift yourself. Make your own magic. Just for you.

Please.

Please make sure to include yourself on your list this year. You'll be amazed at what you can do when you take care of yourself. First.

Love,
Santa

p.s. if you think a Springtime art and heart retreat on the shores of Lake Michigan might fill you up, consider the Heart Connected Retreat: In Honor of the Journey May 1-4, 2014. Anna and her co-conspirators take pure delight in making magic for you. After all, we all need a little help sometimes.


Desperately Seeking Clarity


Mmmm.... I am taking in so many different kinds of information these days. Everything from newsletters sent home from my children's teachers to rich course content in an online course I am taking. It's a lot and it is all part of my effort to get clear on a few things.

September is my January. It feels more like a New Year to me than the one that officially starts January 1 and so that is probably why I've been doing a lot of soul searching. Last year I felt like a complete failure on the mom front. It was a rough school year and I played a huge part in how rough it was for all of us. I will give you an example... Last year I drove my two younger children to school every day. Of the three of us, the youngest --who was 4 years-old for the first half of the year -- is the most motivated in the morning, AND this is a little girl who would sleep until 10:00 a.m. every day if she could. Our mornings were tough on all of us and I just wasn't very good at handling it.

This year, they ride the bus to school. The other day they missed the bus. When I told them they missed the bus and I would be driving them to school my son burst into tears and screamed, "I'M HAVING FLASHBACKS TO WHEN YOU TOOK US TO SCHOOL LAST YEAR!!!"

Hmmmm...

Now, I can't take full credit for the flashbacks. I think some of his horror was due in part to the teacher who greeted him in a not so friendly way each day. The ramifications of running a little late are intensified when the person to whom you are running isn't very welcoming. But still. I knew I had work to do to help rewrite my son's school story.

My work is around figuring out what I am capable of in the realm of being the primary caregiver for my family and starting a creative business at the same time. I am finding that it is necessary for me to be okay with baby steps in the business area. Last year I said yes to everything and tried to get myself "out there" as much as possible. I stayed up late working on multiple projects and had a hard time waking up most mornings. I taught a few classes after school and had to arrange for childcare for my children. This year I want to make sure I am home when my kids get off the bus each day. I need to be more selective when it comes to deciding how to put myself "out there." I am okay with that. I am clear on that.

What I just realized that I wasn't clear on was exactly what my intentions are in being home for my children or facilitating a retreat for a group of women. I thought I wanted to help people. You know? Because I am a helper. After last weekend's retreat (which was AWESOME by the way...more on that another time), I realized that YES, I definitely do what I do because I want to help people.

BUT, what I really want is to...

...help people help themselves. There is a HUGE difference.

I want to help people.
I want to help people help themselves.

This is as true for my kids as it is for anyone I work with. I am not here solely to whisk in and chase all my children's problems away. I would LOVE to be able to do that! But I am not their fairy godmother, I am their MOTHER. My job is to give them everything I can to help them help themselves. Because I'm not going to be around forever.

I thought I set out to do the work I do because I want to help people. I was getting a little caught up in that idea - maybe even anticipating that I am way more powerful than I truly am - that I have some kind of magical helping wand and when I wave it all your problems will vanish (I wish I could do that, but it's just not real). With the work that I do there is really only so much I can do to help anyone. The rest is on them. I think what I want to do is inspire people, to empower people, and to share what I know in case it might help them to feel less alone or to solve a problem or to create something beautiful.

Now that I think about it, I think it is one of the most loving things you can do - to help someone help themselves. I like that.

So, this is what I am clear on now, thanks to all that soul searching... I show up here to share my stories and some tools that help me stay present in the moment and accomplish the things I need to do - for myself and for others. I hope that by sharing what works for me you may find a thing or two that works for you. That's all. I think sharing is so powerful. It has the potential to unlock doors and create flow where one is stuck. When I had this moment of clarity I knew I had to share it. Think about it - where could you use some clarity in your life?

When I show up here, I am committed to sharing - open, honest, from the heart sharing... the rest is up to you.

xoxoxo

Why Retreat?

As I dream about and make preparations for my upcoming Heart Connected retreat, In Honor of the Journey, I am thinking a lot about what it means to "retreat." 

For absolute certainty, I googled the definition. Merriam-Webster.com says the following:

re·treat
 noun \ri-ˈtrēt\

1
(1) : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable(2) : the process of receding from a position or state attained <the retreat of a glacier>
(1) : the usually forced withdrawal of troops from an enemy or from an advanced position (2) : a signal forretreating
(1) : a signal given by bugle at the beginning of a military flag-lowering ceremony (2) : a military flag-lowering ceremony
2
: a place of privacy or safety : refuge
3
: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director


Mmm... how lovely - a place of privacy or safety, a refuge, and a period of group withdrawal... those words make way for the most peaceful images in my mind. I can picture myself on the shore of Lake Michigan at my magical little cottage nestled in the woods. I am with a group of soulful women and we are sharing stories, enjoying delicious food that none of us had to plan for, shop for or cook, making art, and, well, retreating.






Since I announced that I would be hosting this retreat, I am noticing some people aren't real sure what to make of a retreat. No matter how appealing the concept of going on  a retreat may sound, a lot of us dismiss the possibility of actually doing it. We think things like: "I could never do that...it's too expensive...I won't know anybody...I won't fit in...I need to be home for my family...My colleagues would be lost without me...I'm not sure what else will be happening at that time...How could I ever leave BY MYSELF for a few days?" Things like that.


I'm sure we can all think of a dozen or so reasons why it's not the right time to take a retreat. We might decide to wait for the stars to be in perfect alignment...

I get that. The truth is though, the stars may never perfectly align. Some things require us to decide that we are going for it. I think because there are so many obvious reasons NOT to leave our families, our work, and our lives for a few days, it is easier to never go for it. 

Of course, I would love for any lovely soul who reads this post to join me in September (sorry boys, this one is for girls only), and I also know that my retreat isn't going to work for everyone. For those of you who are looking for a reason to take a retreat, mine or another one, I came up with a few for you. These are the reasons I have come to appreciate the opportunity to go on retreats, and to carve out the time, space, money, and energy to make it happen when I hear the call.

ALL THE TEDIOUS DECISIONS THAT BOG ME DOWN EACH DAY ARE MADE FOR ME


I live in a house with my husband, our three children, and our family dog. I am mostly responsible for meal planning, grocery shopping, making meals, and cleaning up afterward. Sure, I have help, but for the most part it's on me. I actually enjoy doing all of these things, and it also makes me crazy. 


At a retreat someone else is responsible for planning my meals and buying the ingredients to cook them. Someone else cooks. Someone else cleans up afterward. Words cannot express my gratitude for these people. It is a GIFT to take a break from the decision making process and all that follows when I go on a retreat. When our retreat chef Andi asked what kind of menu I wanted, I said "I want you to prepare the kind of food you would eat if you were taking the absolute best care of yourself." Most retreat planners insist on the most wholesome, delicious, and nutritious food for their guests - made from the freshest ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible. It is worth every penny and logistical nightmare I face when planning to leave my family for a few days to enjoy a meal prepared with love by someone whose charge is to take the best possible care of me.

RETREATS ARE JUST PLAIN OLD FUN!



I'm going out on a limb here and making a huge generalization: American adults don't allow enough time in their lives to play. We work long hours, and sometimes in multiple jobs. We volunteer in the community and in our children's schools. We are constantly plugged in. We carry smart phones and check the Internet. We are non-stop. If we have children, we are likely to be running them around all night to various events and activities. We are tired. We are depleted. We are stressed out. We are often depressed.

We need time to play. It is really that simple. Nobody is going to grant you that time to play because most everyone in your life is in the same boat. Most everyone in your life will ask you for more because they are giving all they can and they need your help.

I learned not long ago that the only way I will ever get time for myself, to do the things I want to do, is to make that time. Sometimes I treat it like an appointment and schedule it in my calendar. Retreats provide endless opportunities to play. I need that. We all need that.

BEAUTY ABOUNDS



I think these pictures speak for themselves. Retreats occur in the most beautiful places around the world. Taking a retreat means getting away from it all.  Sometimes all you can hear are the waves crossing against the shore and the seagulls flying overhead. The hustle and bustle of our every day lives is far behind. We can move slowly if we want to, and speed things up when we're ready. It is quiet. I can hear myself think. I can actually stop thinking and be present in the beauty that surrounds me. It is heaven on earth.

SISTERS



I am one of those lucky women who has a real, live sister. She is one of my favorite people on this planet. We fought when we were kids so we didn't always adore each other, but I absolutely adore her now. One of the neatest things about having a sister is not having to explain myself to her. She knows me. She loves me exactly as I am. We have differences, and we can talk about them most of the time, and so far we have left each conversation still loving each other.

At the retreats I have attended, I sit in awe of the women gathered around me. There are these amazing little retreat fairies and angels who oversee the gathering process. They make sure that every woman who is meant to be present at any particular retreat is there. So when we arrive, even if we are complete strangers, we know each other. We love each other exactly as we are.

You might think that people who are alike are drawn together, and I am sure in many cases that is true. Retreats, however, often draw people together who might appear to have nothing in common. At the retreats I've attended, when we first meet we don't know a lot about each other. We don't know who voted for who in the last election. We don't know what kind of sexual partners everybody else prefers. We don't know who has been abused. We don't know each other's salaries. These qualifiers, the stats we use to judge people from time to time, we don't know any of them. In the absence of qualifiers, there is nothing but love. We may have nothing in common but the love in our hearts, and magically, mysteriously, and actually quite logically - that love in our hearts is enough. It is enough to carry us through our time together and to etch a new place in our hearts where we will hold each other forever and ever and ever.

I love, love, LOVE meeting new sisters.

GOING HOME



With all that in mind, you must know the truth. My favorite thing about attending a retreat is going home. The four people pictured above are my everything. They are my world, my heart, and my soul. I will do anything I can to be a better person for them - a better wife, and a better mom. I am moody and absent-minded, and I leave my shoes all over the house. I am often running late and if I am early it is usually because I forgot something. I yell and I am sarcastic. When I come back from a retreat, I am fresh. Being fresh and new - rejuvenated, replenished, and relaxed - is the greatest gift I could ever give my husband and my children.

That's where I think a lot of women make a huge mistake. I used to think that taking time for myself made me a bad mom. I felt guilty about it. I made stories up about myself and other women who made time in their lives for things they enjoyed. What I have found to be truer than true is that it is actually a very good thing for me to go away, for me to do things I enjoy, for me to connect with other women, and to miss my husband and children. It is okay. They are fine without me. They have fun and they don't trip over my shoes. Sometimes they don't eat very well, but hey, that's the "Dad Way" in our house. When I come back they get the very best of me. I can't wait to see them, to hug them and kiss their cheeks, and to hear all about the things they did while I was gone. I love coming home, and being able to fully appreciate the sweet beings I have to which to return.

If a retreat calls to you, definitely entertain the voices in your head that follow. And when they are finished and it is quiet again, know this: you are worth the cost of the retreat and the time away from your job and your family. Everyone and everything you leave behind will be just fine without you. Make a commitment to figure out a way to to attend the retreat of your choice. Upon your arrival, all your needs will be met and you won't even have to think about it. You will have fun and you will make new friends. Then, at the end of it all, you get to go home. It is one of the very best gifts you can give to yourself and to the people you care about most in this world.

We don't expect our cars to run without gas so how can we expect ourselves to run without it? We need fuel - good food, rest, and practices to feed our souls. We need to fill ourselves up with all of this delicious goodness because when we get back, we've got work to do Sisters! Give yourself the gift of a retreat. You won't regret it.

If you are interested in learning more about MY retreat, please click here. I would LOVE to welcome you to my magical little slice of heaven on earth.

Take care Sweet One. xo