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.

Claiming Our True Essence

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“The heroic quest is about saying yes to yourself and, in so doing, become more fully alive and more effective in the world. 

For the hero’s journey is first about taking a journey to find the treasure of your true self, and then about returning home to give your gift to help transform the kingdom – and in the process your own life.”
–Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within

 I’m back!

Dear Readers,
I have been sick for over two weeks. My life has been on bare minimum mode, thus no new articles.

alizee-omaly7Whenever I get sick, not only is my body miserable, but it feels like some part of my essential self has exited. Recovery for me signals not just the return of health, but the return of my true essence.

And what exactly is our true essence?

When we consider who we are we may think of the qualities and values we possess; our likes and dislikes; our gifts and liabilities; our odd little idiosyncrasies; all creating the specific fingerprint of our personality. The list is pregnant with possibility and worth consideration.

But what about who we are not?

Years ago, while raising our daughters, I had numerous opportunities to see the uniqueness of each of their essences find expression. I remember one spring break when I was so looking forward to a week’s worth of freedom from the morning routine. I relished the idea of being able to be the first one up and having quiet time to myself. But on their first morning off, within minutes of my awakening, Sarah Jean, age seven, padded into the kitchen.

“Sarah,” I asked, “What are you doing up so early honey? You don’t have school today, don’t you want to sleep in?”

She promptly and firmly replied, “I’m not that kind of girl mom!”

10155145_10152911583325746_1227613216150587144_nShe was also a daughter who from about age four on wouldn’t let me touch her hair. She insisted on doing it herself. (We often have a laugh at some of our early pictures of Sarah before she got the hang of doing hair!) She still is reticent to even let a hairdresser give her a cut, and usually isn’t satisfied with the outcome, going home to fine tune it herself.

Whether dealing with her hair or trusting her own circadian rhythms she had a sure sense of herself early on.

Even when we have claimed who we are and who we are not, we may still find ourselves traveling the troubled terrain of life with behavior that betrays our sense of selfhood. All of us, as we struggle to find our place in the world, at one time or another get caught in the tangle of inauthenticity.

I believe that there is part of us that has always existed and always will. Sometimes I catch an ‘other-worldly’ glance at that part of myself. It is accompanied by the feeling that ‘she’ knows things I don’t know about myself. I am offered a certain comfort by an inner compass of sorts, believing that eventually, despite my wanderings, she will lead me home to my true essence.

compassHaving a sense of who we truly are isn’t always accompanied by ease. It can require courage to live authentically. A deep part of my identity is my writing self. More than being just a role, it feels like an inherent part of myself that has always been.

And yet, it often takes enormous effort to engage that part of myself, as I face the boulders of perfectionism I climb to find my voice again.

As the famous poet Sylvia Plath once commented, “There is nothing like the horror of a blank piece of paper.”

This website has been important for me personally because it keeps me writing. It helps keep me true to an important part of myself. And it gives me a pathway for ongoing exploration of my own essential self.

Today as I am writing, I am sitting on a bench in the woods overlooking Salmon Creek. I am soothed into stillness by the soft gurgling of the water on its journey. Above me I hear the cooing of Mourning Doves in the trees.

Questions arise in my own inquiry. Questions I offer you.

  • beautiful-golden-river-creek-230454What do you know about who you are and just as importantly, who you are not?
  • What is needed to create safe haven and sacred space for all the parts of yourself?
  • How could you bring the parts of yourself that are in the shadows of your life, into the light?
  • How could you shed behaviors, ways of being, that don’t feel authentic to your true nature?

The quest to claim our true essence, to live authentically, requires courage and discipline. I have found I need some alone time daily for that quest. I have a set of practices that have been important tools to assist me. I call them the Divine Daily Disciplines. In offering them for your assistance I want to emphasize the importance of knowing even a small effort with these disciplines yields results.

Honor the needs of your true self in a way that these practices can be a blessing and not a burden. These can also be viewed on The Divine Daily Disciplines link on the menu of this sight.

Prayer

Prayer is not about Christmas list of requests, but of creating relationship with our creator. This doorway to the Divine offers inspiration, comfort, and wisdom.

Stillness

As we become still, we come home to ourselves. Silent pausing helps us hear our true voice.

Sacred Reading

Reading from a sacred text which speaks to our inner divinity
provides spiritual sustenance as we sup at the table of the Divine.

Study

The quest of the life-long learner offers growth, expansion, and a continual sense of aliveness as we read a page or two a day from a book on any topic that inspires us or perks our curiosity.

Journaling

A few moments with pen to paper, keeps us connected to our experience of life
helping us sort out feelings, and clearing our mind.

Exercise

A brisk walk, run, bike ride, or swim floods our body with life giving oxygen; rejuvenates every life-sustaining system in our body; and releases our brain’s chemical mood enhancers. It is also a way to receive inspiration

Wisdom Eating

We offer our wondrous body true nourishment when we partake of real, natural food – fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and range-fed poultry. Our health flourishes, and energy increases. Wisdom eating is also a practice that nurtures our soul.

Adornment

The concept of adornment moves us away from the dictates of fashion to a personal affirmation and celebration of our bodies. A simple ritual of cleansing, grooming, and adorning, honors ourselves as a precious and beautiful creation

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Compensatory Blessings

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“Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future.”

  ~Elizabeth Debold and Idelisse Malave

lilacsOn many Memorial Days, I have visited Rose Hill Cemetery, in my home town of Idaho Falls, Idaho, to decorate the graves of loved ones with purple lilacs.

That is where both of my parents, Norris and Roma Smith, were laid to rest – my mother when I was just 8-years-old, and my father, eight years later when I was 16. Cancer claimed my mother; a car accident my father.

Later, when I was an adult woman, my step-mother, Margaret Wilson, was also buried there next to her first husband, Charles, just a few graves down from my own parents’ graves.

Without a doubt, my early parental loss has been one of the great burdens of my life (at times greater than I felt I could bear). And, I have also been the recipient of profound compensatory blessings.

10584108_10204901771958405_996152146923195383_nMargaret, whom my father married 15 months after my mother died, was a no-nonsense woman who taught all of her children, including myself, how to work. She was incredibly frugal and thrift store clothes and hand-me-downs were the norm for us long before it was chic. Her priority was our future. Every month when our social security checks arrived, she deposited them all in the bank in our individual accounts for college.

Living in a small, conservative town during the sixties, she was ahead of her time. All of us, girls included, were expected to get an education in something that would lead to gainful employment. She knew from excruciating experience that every woman needs a life plan. When her first husband, Charles Wilson, died of a sudden heart attack, she was six months pregnant with her fourth child and had only a high school education.

482948_475564472491388_25718995_n4 (1)Margaret didn’t care where we went to college. What mattered was that our education would lead to employment. For me that meant a journalism major versus an English major. I did in fact get a job in my field before I had even graduated from college. She also encouraged us to travel and put off marriage until we had developed careers and had seen a bit of the world and of life.

When I graduated, thanks to Margaret’s thriftiness, my entire college education had been paid for and there was $1,000 left over.

I am profoundly grateful for what Margaret did for me, and at times it feels there is no possible compensation for my early parent-loss. As I write I am looking at the last picture ever taken of me and my mother. In the black and white Kodak photo I am eight-years-old. Though my mother looked sick, I did not know it would be our last picture together, our last trip to Yellowstone National Park.

She has taken the time to curl both of our hair. I am up on a log fence, pine trees in the background. She is standing and has pulled me in close to her with one arm. Our heads are touching tenderly. We are both smiling a similar smile. When I look at the picture, one word comes to mind: Beloved. I am reminded how much she loved me and how much I still love her and miss her.

1017364_10201040266280296_569399393_nAnd I wonder, is it possible, in one of life’s mysteries, that she had something to do with me giving birth to six daughters. Just as mysterious is the fact our youngest, Rose, was born on the same day as our oldest, Dec. 21, the winter solstice. I gave birth to her at home with two mid-wives and her five sisters, Annie, Maria, Amanda, Sarah, and Suzette, waiting to greet her. (I adored my Dad, but my mother-loss has been more difficult to endure.)

As I sit writing and pondering, I find myself reflecting on what it means to be the mother of adult daughters, not having had my mom past eight. Parenting profoundly changes when one’s children become adults. Instead of discipliners and teachers we are now consultants and even peers. All my daughters have transitioned into teachers for me as well.  

As I watch their continual evolution and unfolding, I too evolve and learn about unexplored parts of myself. When our last daughter left home, the house felt deafly silent. I mourned. I now rejoice with each homecoming – especially when more than one of them comes and the house is filled with loud laughter, constant conversation, and an ever- flowing ocean of emotion.

11071548_1575140202747691_2282661964437742215_nThey are bound by a shared childhood, yet each is a unique individual, mindful of her own purpose and path. Annie, our firstborn, has red hair like my mother. She lives in Oahu, Hawaii with her husband and two children. Her love of the island’s beauty was born when she and I took a mother/daughter trip there many years ago. Anyone who knows Annie loves her because of her kindness and hilarious sense of humor.

Maria is a filmmaker who lives in Portland, Oregon, and 538468_4237579502910_1642691890_nis working on her first feature-length film, The Texture of Falling. She is my editor and picks the pictures and posts all of my articles. As an adult, she has chosen to lovingly support my dreams and has been a huge part of this web-site development.

Amanda traveled the United States at 18, then got a job in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where she met her husband. 734573_10201075399032302_720774495_nShe is now a mother of two, has been continuing her education, and creating home and family in the Columbia River Gorge. She is known for her willingness to help others, her gentleness, and her commitment to the wellbeing not only of her family, but the earth.

Sarah lives in Ann Arbor Michigan, where her husband Grant is working on his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan. Sarah’s days are filled with 10612896_10152973072495746_7340654167737065132_nraising their three children, participating in book groups and women’s groups, and pondering what she wants to get her doctorate in and when. Already she is a community builder within the family housing where they live.

Suzette lives in Utah with her husband Mike. They are both mental health therapists and parents of their first daughter. At 10645277_10205162042279053_8736870650041956112_n-1the baby shower for Suzette, I was showered with numerous accounts of her quiet and positive support of so many people. It has been so endearing to witness her as a mother.

Our last daughter Rose spends her days working at Sea Breeze Farms on Vashon, Island, WA, where she makes artisan cheese and 254962_10200168641603933_1267083190_nhosts farm-to-table dinners at the Sea Breeze Farms’ restaurant, La Boucherie . It is not unusual for her to take off her apron at the dinners and break out into a jazz song with her beautiful, sultry voice.

I won’t be able to make it to Rose Hill Cemetery today. It is many years behind me and over 600 miles away from where I now live. And my daughters – though spread across the country — are very much alive. They keep love alive for me. Along with their father, my husband Brian, they are my treasure, my great compensatory blessings, my purpose, my meaning, my life.

On this Memorial Day, I invite you, as you honor your losses in life, to also consider your compensatory blessings.

 

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Suzette’s Socks

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Mother and Child in a Boat, Edmund Charles Tarbell

 

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
— Diane Loomans, “If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again”

PART_1431410746158_20150502_131859Recently I was in Salt Lake City, shoe shopping with my daughter, Suzette. We literally spent two hours in the downtown Nordstrom’s store. The patient sales associate had brought out at least a dozen boxes of shoes, if not more. Suzette tried on one pair after another while I had the fun of playing with her 7- month old- baby Adelaide.

Suzette was in a struggle over which shoes she wanted. It reminded me of a time when she was 4- years-old and having a major issue with socks. She absolutely hated her socks because they had a seam at the toe that she said, “bodder’s me.”

In the summer she just didn’t wear socks, but then school would roll around and again, we would be caught in the sock battle. Very carefully she would try to pull them on her little feet until they felt right. Soon she would stock-footage-close-up-of-little-girl-s-bare-feet-her-big-toe-has-a-smiley-face-drawn-on-it-she-wiggles-her-toesbe fussing, wanting help. Very carefully Brian or I would pull them on, trying to line the seam up at the toes just right. It always ended the same way. The socks would feel uncomfortable and she would get a few more pairs and we would try again.

It just didn’t work though, in her mind the seams just didn’t line up right, which sent her into tears and frustration despairing over her dilemma. Our patience was growing thin. “All socks have seams Suzette,” I would say, “You just have to wear them and get used to it.”

Logic is lost on toddlers. Finally I came up with the idea to take Suzette on a sock date. I told her is she would try to hang in there with those miserable seams, on Saturday I would take her shopping for new socks.

She did. She had been heard and had some hope offered to her.

Haight_980x515_slideshow_2On Saturday we went to the store. I showed her all the socks, told her she could pick the ones she wanted and we would try them on right in the store. She was intrigued by the possibilities – rows of socks in all kinds of colors and patterns that she could pick from herself. “Ooooh,” she said perusing bows and ruffles and lace. “Ooh la la!”

Her little sounds continued as she deliberated over her choice. “Neeeeat! Neatoooo!” Finally she chose and we sat on the floor and tried them on her little feet. “Oh, this is so soft,” she said, “You should feel it mommy.”

db7612f67d2d3fe5e5e97fb81dd2228aAfter trying on a few pairs she proclaimed, “These socks don’t bodder me, Mommy.” Honestly, I could see no difference in the feel or the seam placement of the socks she had chosen versus her socks at home. At this point, it didn’t matter. We bought a bunch.

On the way home in the car, just the two of us wrapping up the sock date, Suzette was singing. “So,” I asked, “did you have a good time?”

Her response was immediate. “I sure did, my sweet little Mommy, I love you so much, I love you as sweet as I can!”

I was laughing quietly to myself, but my eyes were watering. Oh how I had lost sight of her perspective in a world that gets so busy that sock seams are insignificant.

“I realized this wasn’t a battle about socks. This was about being heard and validated. This was about saying, “Your concerns are important.”

Here was a little child growing up in a large family. Maybe it was about socks, maybe it wasn’t. Who knows. Maybe it was about finding a way to be singled out and loved individually.

Circle Of LoveI realized that when you are 4 years old and somewhat powerless in a very big world, socks seams lining up could be a big deal. As Publius Syrus said, “You cannot put the same shoe on every foot.”

Nor the same sock!

Suzette’s struggle with her socks taught me the importance of taking seriously my children’s concerns. I realized in the tender moment in the car on the way home that giving her needs individual attention was a very important way to help her feel loved.

On Mother’s Day this last Sunday I received a lovely letter from my, now 29-year-old, Suzette, who now has the perspective of a mother. She told me that over the past seven months that she has been mothering Adelaide, she has just begun to understand all that is required to be parent. It has given her deeper appreciation for the sacrifices required.

Sometimes the emotional reactions our little ones have to their ‘problems’ in life can seem insignificant. I learned from Suzette, that in a 4-year-old world, it matters a lot how your sock seams line up. It matter’s even more that you are heard and taken seriously.

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Me and My Shadow

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“You have to decide if you want to continue to walk around with stored pain blocking your heart and limiting your life. The alternative is to be willing to let it go when its gets stimulated. So you have a choice: Do you want to try to change the world so it doesn’t disturb you or are you willing to go through this process of purification?” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul

1910279_1189224859173_3889139_nLooking back at some of the articles I’ve written about my family, I wonder if some people think we have this big, joyful, perfect family . . . that we are part of the lucky ones who don’t know how hard families and life can be.

The truth is our family has had struggles over the years that have cast shadows over our shared history.

“Everyone carries a shadow,” Carl Jung, the father of Jungian psychology wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”*

Shadow Art by Diet Wiegman

Shadow Art by Diet Wiegman

Basically, our shadow is anything in our personality which remains outside of our consciousness. One way this shows up is when we project a disowned trait of ourselves onto someone else. If we encounter someone who triggers us, insight comes by looking in the mirror!

Healing requires curiosity about our shadow – learning what it has to teach us. What pain does the shadow hold that is waiting for release? Does it compensate for past injury? Is it a protection or place to hide? If so, how has that hiding place ceased serving us, and can we be honest about that? Often the mechanisms of the shadow feel secure and familiar to us and we can be strongly attached to them.

At one time during my work as a therapist I had a male client who had been sexually abused as a child by one of his parents. Part of his shadow work was to examine the shame he carried, very literally. He was obese.

140742624Over-eating was both his salve and punishment. If offered him comfort. But it also re-enforced the deeply held belief that he was stained. He always was swallowed by shame after an eating binge.

As we attended to this issue he was adamant that he had no interest in ceasing his 2 a.m. visits to fast-food drive-thrus to load up on warm, fat-laden food that felt ever so soothing. “I just want to rebel against that idea!” he told me emphatically.

I invited him to pretend like he was his own therapist. “What would you say to your rebel?” I asked.

His voice immediately softened. “What memories to you have about food from your childhood?” he asked himself.

And then he answered. “I remember how I loved to pull carrots right out of the ground from our garden and just eat them right there!”

54ebc407b8ef3_-_02-carrot-bunch-xl“Whatever happened to carrots that still have the green leafy stems at the top?” he asked.” You never see those anymore!”

His question was deeply intriguing to me. I knew it carried an answer to part of his shadow. An untraditional idea popped into my head. “How would you like to go on a quick field trip?” I asked.

He lit up. I asked him if he had been to the new natural foods store just down the street from my office. He hadn’t. I suggested we each get in our cars and drive there. We did.

When we arrived, I headed straight to the produce aisle to a stack of leaf-laden carrot bunches. I pointed with a ‘Vanna White’ gesture as if it was a new car on Wheel of Fortune.  He picked up a bunch of leafy carrots as tenderly as if it was a baby. And as he looked at it tears rolled down his cheeks.

photos.demandstudios.com-getty-article-181-109-166621761_XS“My mom would get so mad at me when I picked the carrots right out of the ground and ate them on the spot,” he said sadly.

“Why?” I asked.

“She said we needed to save them for canning and freezing.”

She had shamed him in a moment when he was intuitively connected to eating healthy food.

“Hmmm, looks like we have a clue to your aversion to change.” I commented. It was a sad and sobering moment. But as often happens in the complex world of emotions, we both suddenly noticed a store employee just feet away from us and starting laughing at the unusual circumstance we were in.

“I wonder how many customers cry over the carrots?” I quipped.

In some ways the laughter celebrated the illumination of his shadow and the hidden truths it held. He began to viscerally see how his eating compulsion protected him from his shame. It made sense that he sought nourishment in the middle of the night, when it could be hidden and that is was drawn to less healthy food.

On an unconscious level he had an entitlement to eat as much as he “darn-well-pleased” (as he said) because of his suffering. Ironically, his shadow was causing self-imposed suffering. In fact, it had reached a form of self-abuse because of its extremes and severity.

ways-to-eat-healthierBy becoming conscious of what he was doing, he was claiming more power to overcome it, one loving choice at a time.

So back to the personal shadows in my life and family. . . honestly, there have been struggles some of my posterity have or are suffering that are heart-breaking to me. I would rather it were happening to me than them. I have wished I could take their pain and difficulty away. But that would be like thinking it helps a young chick to break its protective egg open, when in fact, it needs to peck its way out to strengthen its beak for future food gathering.

Butterflies-in-cocoons-emergingThe same is true for a butterfly in its cocoon. It has to emerge by itself to in order to develop the enough strength in its wings to fly.

In light of recent troubles in our family, I had to tend to my own sad heart. I wanted to see my own shadow more clearly and how it’s cool, grey image had been cast forward generationally.

I wanted to wallow, but decided to walk instead. Nature has a way of offering me clarity versus self-pity (part of my own shadow.) As I headed out the door, the sun was just beginning its startling rise north of the snow-capped peak of Mt. Hood. My shadow stretched out before me, elongated, an exaggerated image of my own form.

I smiled to myself at the site of the powerful metaphor, remembering that as I continued to do my own work with my shadow and pain, my own enlightenment would also reflect onto my offspring.

*Jung, C.G. (1938). “Psychology and Religion.” In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131

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