An Invitation

You can create a life you love… right here, right now.

You’re going to work with the raw material of your life… exactly as it is.

Start with a willingness to practice creating moments of
Peace, Joy, Empowerment, And love… in each day.

What would that look like?
What is peace? Joy? Empowerment? Love?
How does one live those qualities?

Peace is a deep inner quiet we each have within us, that can be accessed anywhere, any
time, by briefly pausing, breathing deeply and allowing one’s self to be still.

Joy is the exuberant feeling that comes from being aware and awake to the small miracles
and wonder of life in each moment.

Empowerment is recognizing one’s ability to take action, and taking action.

Love is making a choice in this moment to support one’s divine potential or that of
another with kindness and compassion. Love is not an adjective, it is a verb.

You can create a life you love by bringing these qualities to the circumstances of your life
as they are now. All you need is a sincere “yes” to yourself… and a daybook…

A daybook can be on your phone, I-pad, computer. It can be a big beautiful journal or a
little notepad that can be carried easily in a pocket or purse. It can be a graphic journal
where you draw instead of write.

Each day just take a moment to record:

When today did I create a moment of peace?
When today did I create a moment of joy?
When today did I create a moment of empowerment?
When today did I create a moment of love?

As you begin doing this right here, right now… your life will change and you will begin
creating a life you love.

Ever-Blossoming Potential

photo by Maria Allred

 “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin, writer

I awoke this morning to the sound of author Harriet Lerner’s voice in my head.

“Every woman needs a life plan,” her voice was reminding me.

$_35I met Harriet in 1985 when her first book, The Dance of Anger, came out. At that time I was raising five daughters (Rose hadn’t been born yet) and wrote a weekly column for women in This Week Magazine in Portland, Oregon.

I interviewed Harriet about her book for my column and a sweet and brief friendship developed. Besides being an author, Harriet was a staff psychologist at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas and a wife and mother.

An important influence in my life, she offered ongoing motivation to my personal development as a woman through her books, lectures, and some precious personal time we had in Portland and Topeka. Much of my life was focused on our five darling daughters. Harriet helped me see I could be a priority too and that my voice was important both privately and publicly.

Honoring my selfhood, while mothering my then five daughters, was always a creative challenge.x_aa48b716 I went running at sun up while they still slept. I wrote my columns while they watched Sesame Street.

Now, six weeks shy of 62, I am realizing the narrative I had about this stage of life is pure fiction in real time. I am as busy and engaged with life as I was then, just in different ways. And, my potential feels as vital as ever. I have a vision of writing more books, mentoring my daughters, nurturing grandchildren, exploring the world and my place in it. Life can be a continual unfolding and fulfilling for each of us.

spring-blossom-trees-alley_tn2In the beautiful words of poet Emma Lou Thayne, “my arrival is as ongoing as prayer.” There is no arrival; there is only more opportunity to blossom in an ever-unfolding possibility.

So you might be wondering as you read, “When? How? Has she lost her mind?”

I used to believe I needed hours of uninterrupted prime time to write. Actually on the rare occasions those hours miraculously appear, I may find myself immobilized. The task is to ‘just start.’ I can put any string of words together and after five minutes of just writing anything that pops onto the page, I catch the wave of my own creativity.

Our challenge is to pick 30 minutes and start. You fill in the blank. What are your dreams? Are
there visions of art, crafts, pottery, education, writing, starting a business, learning to ski, trying Yoga, serving in a soup kitchen, volunteering in the schools, running for office?

Daughter's Sarah and Suzette completing a marathon

Daughter’s Sarah and Suzette completing a marathon

A marathon is accomplished one step at a time, a degree is obtained one class at a time, political office is won one vote at a time.

And as my older sister Brenda has taught me, there are many lives in a life!

As the last of her children were leaving home to start life on their own, she had an impression she needed to go back to college and get a degree in teaching. She and her husband and last daughter moved to Hawaii for the first leg of her continued education. Not only was she learning, she explored the islands in her down time with her now small family.


Sister, Brenda and daughter, Annie

Sadly her husband passed away shortly before she completed her degree. And thankfully, she had a life plan and was prepared. Most importantly, she had listened to and trusted her inner knowing.

When the last of my daughters were in high school, I felt an unexpected impression get graduate degree in counseling. My only experience with that field had been as a client! The idea was daunting financially, intellectually, and hardly seemed practical. There still was a lot to balance in life. But my husband and daughters encouraged me. And so I started with just one class. That class, taught by Professor Greg Crosby, changed my life. I knew I had found my next calling and threw myself with a passion into my preparation.


Daughter, Rose, selling goods at Pike Place Market

By the time my girls were starting college I was working and could assist them financially in carrying out their life plans—each plan unique. Some of the things they have done include helping run a farm-to-table restaurant (and working on the farm); teaching English in China; studying yoga in India; taking a road trip all around the United States; managing a quaint hotel on an island where whales could be seen from the porch; working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the shadow of the Grand Tetons; becoming a mother; becoming a therapist . . .

And, I just have to also give my husband a shout out; he bravely changed careers and got his graduate degree in his fifties. He brings not only his training to his new counseling career, but a life-time of experience including helping to raise six girls! (It’s no small task to be the only boy in the house!) He and I share a practice.

Just listen! Just notice! Let your inner-knowing tell you the story of your longings and desire. Then trust! Follow up with pen to paper or fingers on screen . . . Create your next life plan!

Reader Challenge: What dreams would you like to bring to life? What potential do you have that could be nurtured? What is a small and practical step to begin?

Come join me on the journey to continually nurturing our potential! Feel free to post about this on my FB page, Creating a Life You Love.


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Twenty Five Blessings



“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”
— Melody Beattie

Morning finds me in the woods, walking out my troubles.

It has been a year with many blessings, but also a flock of burdens. And that is the nature of life . . .

Somewhere in the swirl of it all, I started a new practice of naming 25 blessings as I walk. I don’t know why I picked 25. I do know that coming up with that many blessings caused me to dig a little deeper, to focus on the unrecognized and ignored.


My sister’s hands by Rute Pascoal

Take ‘fingers’ for example. How often do we consider our fingers – how they make it possible to touch, type, unbutton, stroke, undo, grasp, tie . . . .If my fingers were suddenly gone I would be saturated with sadness and loss, and yet . . . I hardly consider these true treasures.

I have discovered that while I exercise my body, I can exercise my outlook . Counting my blessings changes my focus from lack to abundance, from difficulty to possibility.

In her life-changing book, Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, written 20 years ago, Sarah Ban Breathnach challenged her millions of readers to start a gratitude journal that would be the blank canvas to capture five blessings a day. She promised that practice would be life changing.

She would know.

by antipodeuse on Flickr

By Antipodeuse on Flickr

Sitting in a restaurant many years ago, a heavy ceiling tile fell on her head causing serious injury. Her vision was affected and her eyes could not tolerate much light. She sat in her darkened bedroom in despair.

One day, she made a decision to go to her kitchen table and sit there until she had written 100 things for which she was grateful.

Not only did she eventually recover from her injury, but it lead to the writing her best-selling book which changed her life and the lives of her readers. In it she advocates creating a gratitude journal in which blessings are recorded daily.

I don’t know how many times I have read her book, but it is outlined in enough different colors of ink to remind me of the importance of adopting a daily spiritual practice of gratitude whether with pen in a journal, on our knees in prayer, or in the woods in contemplation.

autumn-beauty-river-imageThe title of a country song, Standing knee-Deep in a River, (Dying of Thirst), by Don Williams reminds me of the importance of becoming more conscious in life. I am surrounded by blessings I take for granted.

I am learning anew that gratitude is a well we can draw from when our emotional life is parched. As we drink from gratitude’s waters we begin to glimpse a bigger picture that holds the promise of possibility. What we focus on expands.

The conscious contemplation of what is working in life allows the fragmented activity of our mind to slow down, giving way to trust in the unseen. A glimpse of the light is caught despite the shadow.

This happens when we release resistance to our difficulties by accepting what is. We then come toAutomnRayoflight realize we have choices, even if it’s just the choice to do the best we can and let go of the rest . . .

Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More, learned for herself — in her difficult recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction — the importance of gratitude in healing.

“It turns what we have into enough . . . denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity,” she writes. “It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

As I consider all that I have, the natural inclination is to give thanks. As I do, my heart is filled again.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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The Quest for Answers


Photo by Maria Allred

Photo by Maria Allred

“This ‘you’ that sometimes feels inadequate, sometimes becomes afraid or angry or depressed, that searches on and on for fulfillment, contains within itself the very fulfillment it seeks, and to a supreme degree.”– Eknath Easwaran, Yoga Journal, Dec. 2008

It’s early October and Brian and I are embracing the unexpected good fortune of a day off from work. It’s sunny and our decision is immediate: we want 24 hours on the Oregon coast!

Autumn-Leaves-Forest-Road-PictureA two-hour drive through Oregon’s fiery fall foliage, chatting and reading (he drives, I read out-loud) and we can see the brilliant blue vastness of the Pacific Ocean. We quickly find an ocean view motel, have a bowl of Clam Chowder at Mo’s, and head onto the beach.

Sea air filling our nostrils, a slight breeze blowing through our open jackets, we walk. The freedom from work and ‘the tyranny of the urgent’ allows suppressed feelings and thoughts to rise.

“I’ve come to realize that all my life I’ve been looking for an answer,” I say to my husband.

“An answer to what,” he asks curiosity in his voice.Cannon Beach Flames

“That’s what’s odd,” I reply, “I don’t know. But I think it’s one of the reasons I’m a voracious reader. I keep expecting to one day open a book and suddenly all of life will make sense, the missing puzzle pieces will be there and will fit together.”

Brian listens attentively, occasionally asking a question that prompts me to go a little deeper. The conversation is really just a reflection on the mysteries of life: why life’s current at times pulls us down paths that don’t make sense; why some years are smooth sailing and others a near constant challenge; why some people endure great tragedy or poverty while others enjoy privilege and have relatively trauma-free lives. . .

There is no big true answer, despite what some would argue.

Mesmerising-shoreAs the waves of the ocean rush in with loud shushing sounds, only to recede again, our conversation explores the ebb and flow of life, the sea of human suffering that covers the planet. This is a sea that wets our feet in our own journey in life occasionally. But we are also immersed in it in our work as mental health counselors. (Our daughter Sarah frequently encourages us to make sure we put on our life jackets before we start work.)

‘Life is difficult’ is the first sentence in M. Scott Peck’s multi-million-best-seller, The Road Less Traveled, A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth.

‘Life is desire,’ says Rod Stryker a pre-eminent yoga and meditation teacher and the author of The Four Desires, Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom.

And Stephen Covey, author of another international bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, taught that if we want to change any situation we have to change ourselves and our perceptions.

After a time, my conversation with Brian gives way to a game of kicking a ball back and forth between us as we quietly walk the beach.

Meditation by the Beach

But at 4 a.m. the next morning when I can sleep no longer, I turn to a magazine article from an old edition of Yoga Journal called Uncover Your True Self by Eknath Easwaran. In the pre-dawn darkness I feel like she is speaking to me. ‘I invite you to step back and look with your artist’s eye at your own life. Consider it amorphous material, not yet deliberately crafted. Reflect upon what it is, and what it could be. Imagine how you will feel, and what those around you will lose, if it does not become what it could be.’

She reminds the reader that our ‘higher-self’ does not need to be brought into existence, because it already exists within us. In other words, I don’t have to search so far. Any answer we need can be found by attending to that higher knowing within each of us.

I once asked Sue Bender, author of Everyday Sacred, A Woman’s Journey Home, how we find ‘the answer.’

Everyday-Sacred“You get quiet,” she said.

Perhaps my questioning nature is about my ongoing journey home to myself, the life I have been given, and my purpose.

As I write this morning, Sue’s book is open to the personal inscription she wrote to me after we had spent some time together many years ago: “Seeing you again, feeling your spirit – I am struck with . . . the complex purity of your search . . .”

A few tears form in my eyes. She saw me. She honored my need to look for an answer when I didn’t even know the question.

After all, a question wasn’t the purpose. The purpose was the quest itself –and ultimately a journey to the knowing within and the fulfillment that follows.    

Photo by Marcin Jagiellicz

Photo by Marcin Jagiellicz

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The School of Life


“My opportunity for growth and learning is always present.”
— Liz McNaughton, wife, mother, blogger, life-long student

A lazy last day of summer finds me wading in the shallow waters of the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with my daughter Sarah and her three children: Edwin, 7, Leland, 5, and Amelia, 2.

10612896_10152973072495746_7340654167737065132_nSarah, age 31, is our 4th daughter. She is married to Grant, who is working on a PhD at the University of Michigan. Sarah, who has finished her college education for now, is a committed student in the school of life!

She is the resident assistant in family housing – a large sprawling community of families from all over the world who have given her a more global perspective. She is part of a book group. She is reading her way through all the pre-school children’s books from the library with her children.

Sarah, a few of her friends, and I had a girl’s-night-out while I was in 535f03e851ab7f636de0506d2c61ff05Ann Arbor. We ate rosemary infused strawberry ice cream under an orange moon in a periwinkle sky. Mostly we feasted on the conversation.

These were women who have degrees of their own. But, by choice have put their careers and continued academic education on hold as they take their posts on the home-front launching their young children into life in a deliberate and focused way. And, as they do, their own growth process continues. They have become students in the school of life.

Liz McNaughton, a mother of three, has a master’s degree in women’s studies. “The theme of the university I attended, was ‘Learning Lives Forever,’” she told me. “They frequently talked about continually nurturing the life of your mind. One visiting lecturer told a story (probably apocryphal) of Socrates and Plato, when Plato first asked Socrates to mentor him. Socrates took Plato to a river and held his head under water. Plato, obviously needing to breathe, started struggling, eventually breaking free from Socrates’ grip. Plato was obviously curious why Socrates had taken such a severe action with him. Socrates told him that when he wanted to learn as much as he wanted to breathe, he wouldn’t need a mentor.

quote-Albert-Einstein-learning-is-experience-everything-else-is-just-254510_2“That principle stuck with me,” she told me. “I remember thinking that I never wanted to stop learning, and would never use lack of access to a formal education as an excuse to stop. What I’m most learning now is how realistic that goal turned out to be. I have continued a rigorous exploration of women’s studies since graduation. In fact, I’m embarrassed to read my thesis now, because the understanding I demonstrated of feminist theory was so shallow compared to what I know now.”

Her hunger for knowledge has also led to an exploration of politics, parenting, and social issues. “I continue to search out ways to challenge my knowledge and help it grow.”  

Liz shares some of the spiritual lessons she is learning in her blog, Remembering Women, at 

1280px-Karuzi_Burundi_goatsKate, the mother of two sons, was asked to help get a school up and running in her native Burundi, Africa. When the invitation came she said to herself, “OK, I’ve got some learning to do!”

As part of a grassroots effort, a school serving 34 children has been started in a home in Burundi. Her learning has come through community activism.

Zusana, a mother of two, left behind her career as an inspector in a large oil company in Slovakia. “I am learning so much being a mother to my two children Lea, 7, and Viliam, 15 months,” she told me. “I also read, and I learn so much just from listening to people.”

Woman-in-LibrarySpending time with my daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren, and these fascinating women was inspiring and revitalizing. I knew I was ready to write again. A desire to write a memoir arose. I began taking steps to learn all I can about memoir writing.

Those of you who have been following Creating a Life You Love may have wondered where I disappeared to since my last article, “Claiming Our True Essence,” posted June 9th. 


During that time I was struggling with a health issue, which lasted a few months. I was able to function in my work as a mental health therapist, in fact, work helped take my mind off my own challenges. But I had to let go of some things – sadly, other than my journal, I stopped writing.

At times life has plans for us that are different than the plans we have. It took time, but I gave way to life’s tutoring. Acceptance helped me replace struggle with surrender. As I did, I found the hallowed ground where I could discover the lessons life was trying to teach me:

  • 1246770-1440x900-[]Though we have a voice and a choice in life, there is wisdom in trusting the unexpected detours our path takes.
  • Times of illness, low energy, and depression can be a slowing down of the body and mind as they recalibrate.
  • What we resist persists.
  • There is always a greater ‘knowing’ within us, which has much to reveal if we are willing to surrender.

The past months have been an important reminder that we always have the opportunity to be students. There is more than one way to get an advanced degree!

I am happy to be back to Creating A Life You Love. I will be posting regularly again, but I can’t guarantee that it will be weekly since I am also writing my memoir. If you sign up to be a registered user, which is free, you will be notified every time I post. You can also follow me on my Face Book page, Creating a Life You Love, for daily quotes, inspiration, and the articles posted.

Here’s hoping that with the start of school for our children and grandchildren, you will join me in learning from the school of life!  

FOGGY AUTUMN —  By Leonid Afremov

FOGGY AUTUMN — By Leonid Afremov


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