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.

Posts made in September, 2014

Finding Balance

“To be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel.  The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.”                                                                — Anne Morrow Lindberg, Gift of the Sea

It was not a good day.

feature1aI had awakened too late to shower before work and had six appointments scheduled nearly back to back looming before me.  A few pounds I had so conscientiously lost during summer had found their way home.  We needed groceries and my desk had become such a mess I couldn’t find the list.

I felt overwhelmed and discouraged by my many responsibilities in life as a wife, mother, (even though the children are all gone, in theory anyway) therapist, writer, and homemaker.

It seemed like my life perfectly fit Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s observation in her book Gift from the Sea, that our lives as women tend “more and more toward the state . . . described . . . in the German word, ‘zerrissenheit’ –torn-to-pieces-hood.”

Lindbergh was married to the famous pilot Charles Lindbergh and was in fact a pilot herself.  She was the mother of six children—her first kidnapped and killed when he was only 20 months old.  She ran a large household teeming with children and social events.  She survived political scandal during World War II.  During her life she lived in six states and three different countries. And despite serious difficulties in her marriage to Charles, it lasted 45 years.

GiftFromTheSeaCover Gift from the Sea, her inspirational book for women was published in 1955. The book has sold over three million copies and has been translated into 45 languages—with good reason.

I own two copies. One is underlined numerous times in different colors of ink because of the many times I have read it. Now, once again, dear Anne has rescued me.

As I write, it is my day off, which really means: the day I scramble to get ‘everything else’ done in my life that is ignored while I am working as a therapist.  My work is deeply meaningful to me, helps provide for our family, and honestly feels more like a ‘calling’ than a profession.

Nevertheless, it is demanding and like most women I struggle to juggle my different roles and many responsibilities.

nature-sand-shell-starfish-wallpaperToday though, I have spent most of the morning rereading Anne’s book yet again. And it has felt like I have been sitting on the beach next to her, looking at the elegant shells that provide the poignant metaphors in her book, and listening to a woman who is older and wiser than me.

This is what she has been reminding me in our conversation:

Simplify:  Have fewer clothes and possessions so life is easier to manage; make simple meals, (see my daughter Sarah’s recipe at the end of this article); let go of perfectionism with running our homes—not worrying what others think or minding a bit of a mess here and there. She instructs us that peace comes when we ask ourselves how little we can get along with and live the answer.

woman walking in natureSeek Solitude: “When one is a stranger to oneself,” she writes, “then one is estranged from others. . . .the most important times are when we are alone.” (I obeyed her immediately and went down to the trail close to our home and sat on a big rock in the middle of Cougar Creek and just listened to the sound of water rushing down the little green canyon. It truly helped.)

Say No: “With our pitchers, we attempt sometimes to water a field, not a garden,” Anne tells us. “We throw ourselves indiscriminately into committees and causes.” She reminds us we need to feed our spirit, and still our center.

img-thingStay Centered and Strong:  Anne’s metaphor of ‘the hub of the wheel’ in her book offers us a powerful metaphor regarding where our energy is best directed in order to sustain the myriad spokes of life. The hub is the element around which all the spokes (activities and responsibilities) revolve.  By staying balanced and strong, honoring our core, we are less likely to be pulled off course or to crack.

Even as I write, I myself feel the tuggings of skepticism.  I have been trying to get organized my whole life, and have in fact more times than I can tell you . . . the trouble is order’s natural inclination to return to chaos!  But today my eyes are opening to a new vision.  Anne is not talking about doing as much as she is talking about being.

And being is not something we add to our to-do list.  It is a way we inhabit our lives. It means noticing our own breath and practicing it mindfully.  It can be stepping away from our demands just for a few moments to walk around the block. It might mean expanding our inner narrative about what really matters and what is actually working for us. It can mean saying ‘no’ to what is a distraction from our true work and ‘yes’ to what really matters.

stock-footage-attractive-woman-in-tree-yoga-pose-on-pristine-beach-dolly-shotAs Anne puts it, “It is more basically, how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

paragraph-clipart-13309573511112670181decorative-lines-2_largeMy daughter Sarah has three children under six.  Her husband, Grant, is working on his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan.  This is an easy recipe that helps in her busy life as a mom and resident assistant in family housing.  This is shared — exactly as she wrote it– so you will see her humorous personality and her appreciation of not taking life too seriously unless need be! This is what we’re having for dinner tonight.

 Sarah’s Fickle Chili

1 can diced tomatoes undrained
1 can corn (whether you drain it or not depends on how you feel that day.)
3 or 4 cans of any kind of beans (I use kidney, pinto, and black.)
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
½ packet of Chili Seasoning (But even this is optional)
Everything else is for sure optional, depends on what you have in the house.
Diced Onion
Diced green or red bell peppers
Cooked meat
Throw all of it in a crockpot. Stir. Cook on low for 8 hrs/ high 4 hrs.


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Choosing Happiness

Hello Dear Readers,
I am at Sea Breeze Farm with my daughter Rose. My daughter, Maria Allred, who posts and does the pictures for these posts is in the middle of filming and getting donors for her new film If.I Love You.  See her new update video for her project here and please donate if you can.  She is on the home stretch and almost to goal.  In the meantime, here is an article I wrote just a little over a year ago about a spontaneous happiness experience I had with Rose last autumn. I’ll be back next week with a new article.
Have a happy week!
“Man is fond of counting his trouble, but he does not count his joys.  If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky


We can choose happiness.

Seeing that statement in writing annoys me.  Shouldn’t happiness just happen?

How can we expect to wake up in a depressive state and just will ourselves to be happy in the same way we will ourselves to get out of bed and brush our teeth? It just doesn’t seem that simple.

But one of my grad school mentors was quick to remind me:

“The cure is maintenance.”

Greg Crosby taught that just as we need to have practices to maintain good health such as healthy eating, exercise, and getting enough sleep; there are also practices that help us maintain emotional health.

An important practice is challenging our brain’s natural predisposition to negative thinking.  In his new book, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, Rick Hanson Ph.D., Neuropsychologist, international speaker says it is possible to lower anxiety and stress, lift mood, grow confidence, calm, and contentment, and fundamentally, hardwire happiness into the brain.

girlBalloonThe brain has a negativity bias according to Dr. Hanson. “It’s like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones,” he writes. His research shows that by drawing on the positive experiences available in life we can “weave strength and happiness into the fabric of” both our brain and our lives.

“Because of your brain’s built-in negativity bias, it is SO IMPORTANT to consciously, deliberately help your brain register positive experiences.

You have to compensate for the hard-wired tendency of your brain to over-value negative experiences,” Dr. Hanson writes.

He recommends the following steps to help the brain “take in the good:”

  • Pay attention to the positive in your world.
  • Allow yourself to feel pleasure and experience positive activities, emotions and thoughts.
  • Deliberately create positive experiences.
  • Keep your attention focused on the positive.
  • Imagine your positive experiences soaking into your brain.
  • When you go to bed at night, recall the positive you experienced that day.


My daughter Rose is a hard worker.  She works on a farm where the meat and poultry is pasture fed, made into 377230_4681608803365_2020877214_na plethora of products, and then sold on the weekends at farmer’s markets.  In a day she might butcher a lamb, make homemade butter or cheese, bottle milk, and gather and package eggs.  Her work is fulfilling and her energy seems to be endless because if that isn’t enough she is ready to create adventures on a whim after work.

Last week she called me and begged me to take off work early and drive up to the Seattle area to see a Blondie concert!  I was feeling responsible and ended up giving her some resistance.  She was persistent.  She would not take no for an answer.  So there I was on a beautiful autumn night, the air crisp, the moon a magical golden orb hanging in a black velvet sky.  The concert was in a park – strings of lights hung everywhere, gourmet food carts offered succulent dishes like range fed beef hamburgers with blue cheese and bacon jam!

Music filled the air and my daughter and I danced under the moon to this glad celebration of yet another rock Moon over Seattle - David VanKeurenrevival.  How inspiring it was when I am on the cusp of age 60 to see another woman on the cusp of age 70 still able to belt out her hits while swinging her hips on stage. The concert was just ending when Rose grabbed my hand and pulled me across the grass.  “Hurry,” she said, “We can beat the traffic and make it in time to see the new Woody Allen movie!”  Twenty-five minutes later we were in a historic movie theater eating popcorn and watching the movie.

I slept in my clothes in the farmhouse when we finally got back to her home. The next morning I got up early, caught the ferry, and drove two and half hours straight back to work.  Part of me questioned my sanity.  But that didn’t last for long. I’m still humming along to that concert . . .remembering the night, my daughter, the bliss of it all.

Taking in positive experiences can be subtle as well.  Walking outside first thing in the morning to smell the 657647newness of the day and revel in the hot pink of a sunrise.  Calling a friend we haven’t talked to in a long time.  Indulging in reading a favorite book again.

Choosing happiness requires deliberately using our ability to make choices, to create positive thoughts and experiences.  Practicing this over and over again creates new neural pathways in our brain and can hardwire us for happiness.


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Living Consciously

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
Aldous Huxley, complete Essays 2


Often we move through our waking lives partially asleep. Our unconscious mind has hidden motives, influencing sleep-walking1-300x225our choices and actions without our knowing.  Examples range from the simple to the complex—eating when we’re not hungry because we long for something else in life; or having an affair in a misguided attempt to find the fathering or mothering that was missing in our youth.

A number of years ago I worked with a woman who had been plagued by reoccurring dreams and feelings about a long lost love despite her marriage to someone else she loved.  She couldn’t understand why she was still haunted by a ghost from romance past.

She contacted this man in an attempt to understand and see what she had been blind to.  As soon as he was back in her orb she was immediately back in a trance and rather than waking up was falling asleep again!

amazedWhen we are in a trance—which most of us are in one way or another, at one time or another—our awareness and attention become very narrow.  We sift what we don’t want to see and focus on what we are drawn to. We ignore truths and cling to illusions. This happens in an unconscious attempt to recover from life’s losses and to protect us from life’s difficulties.

Because my client made a conscious choice to challenge her own ‘sight’, over time, she did awaken to what was true.  She saw this person she had idolized in a more whole way, finally recognizing his weaknesses as well as his strengths. She also realized the nature of life and love is that there will always be ‘something missing’ because life is imperfect.  Therein is our chance to discover the perfection of imperfection.


She also came to see and value the true traits in her spouse that had become overlooked.  Here was another way she wasn’t completely seeing. She found wisdom in understanding that no other person could completely give her what she needed. She learned that she was in charge of her own needs and that life offers a smorgasbord of ways to meet our needs once we open our eyes and let go of our fantasies. Becoming more conscious was helping her deepen and expand her life in rich and rewarding ways.

244-1This happened as she widened her attention, expanded her awareness, and allowed herself to notice not just light, but shadow, not just what is conscious, but what is unconscious and at first hidden to us.

A relative of mine who was raised with a disapproving father recently rushed to him in a gush of excitement over a new job he had found, expecting to be congratulated.  To his disappointment his father pointed out all the problems with the new position.

“Why did you go to your father looking for validation when he has never given you validation before?” I asked.

“I thought this time would be different,” he said.

“And why would he suddenly have become the man you would like him to be instead of the man he is?” I asked.

old-couple-holding-hands-newPart of conscious living is accepting people for who they are despite how badly we might want them to be different. Then we can honestly see where the limitations are, but also the ways in which we can connect.  Being more conscious can help us have realistic expectations about relationships, releasing disappointment and resentment.

The oldest definition of ‘conscious’ dates back to the Latin words for  ‘together’- ‘con’ and scio – ‘Know.’  When we live with more awareness and attention the conscious and unconscious parts of our minds begin to correspond in creative ways.  Our unconscious offers many gifts sleepora-iceberg-unconscious-mind-1from the subterranean.  And our conscious mind can take those gifts and bring them to life in our conscious world.

We are talking about staying connected to reality; telling ourselves the truth; becoming aware of what is happening for us on a deeper level; questioning our own motives; asking what hidden agendas show up in our seen actions; and seeking a broader perspective of the people and the painful realities in our lives.

Living consciously requires us to be aware of our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. It invites us to curiosity.  It requires a willingness to challenge ourselves.

As we become more aware, we are more aligned with reality, with truth. Sometimes this temporarily makes our lives more difficult, but ultimately it sets us free.  When we are unconscious we live in bondage to false ideas and old injuries and end up creating difficulties for ourselves that could be avoided if we were willing to see what really is. When we are conscious, we respect reality.

It was a year ago this week that I had the most important dream of my life, and the only dream I have had of my mother since she died 51 years ago when I was just shy of 9-years-old.  In the dream I went from a dark room—where I had compassionately held the dying—into a brilliantly lit white room where my mother, very much alive, still beautiful, and now younger, was waiting for me.

We were overcome with joy at the sight of each other and rushed into each other’s arms.  I was flooded not only with light, but with more love than I have ever experienced in my lifetime.

I have analyzed the dream endlessly in the past year, seeking to understand what the dream was telling me. (Dreams in fact, are a way our unconscious contacts us with insight cloaked in symbols.)

light-in-the-doorwayAs the first anniversary of the dream approached I had a deep longing for another dream, one that would perhaps offer a little more insight.  The night came and went with nothing other than the silly comings and goings of dreams, insignificant shards, which held no value and were lost to my recall upon waking.

But to my surprise, as I left my bed, left sleep, I was suddenly awakened to a fuller understanding of myself and my life.  I was flooded with flashes of insight about my shadow side. Parts of myself that have been veiled were revealed. It was truly as if I was awakening in my own dream of life itself.

I knew now that the dream was an invitation to move through the shadows to light.  It was a call to let old dysfunctional parts of myself die that held me back from love and a more enlightened life. As I passed into the room filled with love and light I was shown what is possible when we do the work of becoming aware of our unconscious, of making a choice to truly awaken.

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The Season of Soul

“We get out of bed in the morning and begin again where we left off yesterday, attacking life as if we were waging a campaign of control and survival.  All the while, deep within us, flows an endless river of pure energy. It sings a low and rich song that hints of joy and liberation and peace.” – Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open

autumn_love_by_zanasoul-d2ytnckAs summer gives way to fall, the air is cooler; night pulls its dark cover over the day earlier; and trees are gradually dawning new coats of red and orange.

Despite its beauty, I have felt melancholy.  A slight heaviness in me has let out a long sigh. Summer was fun! But it left me exhausted and feeling a bit daunted by some of the responsibilities now pressing in my life.

A dream awakened me to a sense of wonder again. In the dream I was driving to a Christmas tree farm in the dark of night.  As my headlights flashed into the woods I saw a tall slim man cloaked from shoulder to shoes in a flowing red velvet robe.  His head was adorned with a tall red velvet hat. As I watched him moving swiftly through the trees my heart lept and I said to myself, “There is magic!”

As I’m writing, I’m laughing. The concoctions of our brains crack me up!  But that very morning I caught just a flash of two unfamiliar words on the spine of a book on my book shelf –Broken Open–How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser.  I reached for it with curiosity, not sure what it was about or where it had come from.  Thumbing through it I remembered grabbing it from the give-away pile during my daughter Annie’s move.

I read the first line, “How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change.”

The book continued, “…maybe you have become aware…of the obvious yet startling fact that nothing stays the same for long; the things like the body, relationships, children, work, towns, nations, and even the very earth that sustains us, are fluid and fleeting—dynamic systems fueled by the breath of change.”

neiman39colwebblog1How timely!  There were parts of my summer I didn’t want to be over. And there had been difficult changes that signaled a different season in my life—my daughter and her family moving across an ocean; the daily evidence of my own aging and the accompanying loss that occurs as the body yields to the hand of time; a new opportunity in my life that is indeed a blessing, but has left me feeling burdened.

The random reach I had made weeks ago for that book on the give-away pile was feeling a bit ‘magical’ too!  I was glad for my own sleight of hand because now it was exactly what I needed.

Elizabeth Lesser is the co-founder and senior adviser of the famous Omega Institute in New York.  It is recognized internationally for its workshops in holistic health, psychology, cross-cultural arts, and spirituality.  She is also a wife, a mother, a former mid-wife and childbirth educator and a woman on her own journey of discovery and transformation.  She shares the shadows of her life unabashedly, shedding any shroud of shame and in so doing inviting us to the freedom from pretense that comes when we own our humanity and more fully access our soul.

Autumn colours surround the Tu Hwnt i'r Bont tearooms on the banks of the River ConwyQuoting the poet Rumi, she writes, “When you do something from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy . . . .”

Lesser writes with honesty and passion about the potential of pain to further our growth. Our part is crucial, however. While making our way through life’s challenges it is vital that we stay connected to our souls.

“Your soul is always sending messages,” she writes.  “If you regularly paint or sing or write poetry or listen to uplifting music; or if you meditate and pray; or if you walk in nature, or move your body in dance, you know what it feels like when you and your soul are in contact.”

tight-red-rose-bud-spring-rain-14853371She shares a personal experience she had while in Jerusalem.  She was going through a difficult trial and quite by accident wandered in a shop selling Persian Rugs. The shop owner greeted her directed her to look at a small painting hanging on the wall.   It was a picture of a rose bud, its petals tightly shut.  Under the bud was an inscription that read, “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful that the risk it took to blossom.”

Her eyes brimmed with tears.  The shop owner approached her and as they talked he intuited that she was afraid, facing decisions that involved risk and uncertainty.  “You are afraid,” he told her placing his hand on his heart and patting it.  “You are afraid to feel your real feelings.  You are afraid to want what you really want… your heart is like the flower.  Let it break open.”

As she left the shop she knew her life was calling for change and change meant some pain.  But a stranger she would never see again had offered soulful insight that encouraged her in her quest to listen to her own soul, to tap the river within, so she could find her way through the difficulties in front of her.

41E8SDZR9HLAnd in one of the soulful miracles of life her story showed up on my book shelf and offered me the words of encouragement and inspiration that I was needed.  I remembered that autumn is a time of death…the leaves turn into a flame of color, then dry up falling from the tree to their death.  Autumn was the last time I remember my mother being up and around, before she was overtaken by her illness and was bedfast until her death.

I am reminded that our many little deaths in life also hold the promise of new life as we release what needs to be released and embrace the true nature of peace and joy than resides deep within us.  I am contemplating what needs to die in my life, in myself, so I can honor where my soul is leading.

There are so many beautiful ways, that autumn is a soulful season.


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Love’s Possibilities

“I love you means . . . that I surround you with the feeling that allows you . . . to be everything you really are as a human being at that moment.  When my love is fullest, you are most fully you . . . which is the very most I could ever ask or expect.” – Thomas Patrick Malone M.D. The Art of Intimacy

10352993_689970051070040_7606807958400999804_nThe last summer gathering I attended was a celebration of love and possibility at the Muse Mansion in Portland, OR. The event was a launch party to raise money for a new film in the making: If.I Love You, by my daughter Maria Allred.

A golden crescent moon slid through the deep blue sky, like a button passing through a button hole. Three-story trees, their lower branches dripping in twinkle lights, encircled a huge lawn laden with tables of food and beverage. A screen was set up for the showing of the film proposal on KICKSTARTER.

Guests from all age groups and many walks of life mingled in conversation, danced, played chess, and 40557_1564786644759_7193830_ncontributed to the film at donation stations. After the film proposal was shown, Maria fire-danced—an amazing talent she learned when she was a yoga student at an ashram in India.  As she spun her fire balls in the dark night, a sense of wonder and awe passed through the crowd and was met with ooohhs and ahhhhs.

Maria’s first ‘practice’ film effort was launched when she was age nine, and was cleaning the bathroom on roller skates.  As she cleaned she narrated the process to her audience via the bathroom mirror, welcoming them in a serious voice to the ‘Cleaning with Maria Show.’  Now she is receiving backing and support for her film work from a well-known New York producer, and an international entrepreneur.

Her exploration of love is of deep interest to me and has led to thoughtful and poignant reflection about her life so far and what she is now creating.

10259937_10203961568824743_6486042531559165496_nShe was a shy and sweet child in her earliest years, her thumb often in her mouth. She was willing to help, and was careful about being a burden in our big family. But her spunk and drive emerged with force and intensity in grade school when dreams of the film industry first began to grow as she envisioned a future career as an actress. And dramatic she was!

She was also the girl who befriended the child who was alone or different; a popular babysitter who did activities with the children and made memories that some of them as young adults still remember and cherish.  Wherever she was she helped make life bigger and better!

During her teen years she moved into a fierce rebellion, angrily pushing against us as parents and turning her back on convention. She was 14 and I was 40 and our clash was ferocious. We lived our own version of ‘If.I Love You.’ She taught me volumes about the over-controlling parts of my nature.  Her free spirit and desire to explore beyond the confines of our own home and culture showed me how infinite the world is and how valuable her curiosity was in discovering herself according to her own dictates.

Despite our difficulties, I adored her and was learning how complicated love can be. More than one night I went to sleep questioning myself, her, and life as a mother.

Off she went, at an early age, to the San Juan Islands where she lived in a cabin in the woods alone while Doe-Bay-Washington-1_642working as a housekeeper at The Doe Bay Resort.  It was at a Rainbow Gathering in Missouri that she began to learn yoga, met her first love, and saw her first fireflies.  Eventually her quest took her to India where she lived in an Ashram and became a certified yoga instructor. That is also where she learned how to fire dance.  . . . As I watched her dance at The Muse Mansion party I was reminded that it was on this daughter’s wings that I was borne to places of mystery and wonder.  I am still mesmerized by her relationship with fire and the sound of her fireballs spinning around her body.  To see a video she shot and fire-danced in, featuring extreme urban firedancing go here:

College came later for her, but none too early.  She embraced her art and her passion, got ‘A’s’ in all of her classes, and caught the eye of a producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting who mentored her.  She has since had her work shown on OPB shows: Oregon Lens and Oregon Art Beat, as well as screened at a number of local Portland festivals.

still from If. I Love YouIf.I love You, of course is exploratory.  Through a collection of interwoven short vignettes and a multiplicity of diverse perspectives, it illustrates not just the romance of love, but the complication and complexity of love.  It examines “love” from an investigative stance and is rooted in the notion that all relationships reflect the quality of our relationship with self.

As I watched all the people at the party who love Maria and whose lives she has touched, I was thankful for love’s elasticity—how it can stretch and grow and take on new form.  I realized a long time ago, to my surprise, that Maria, and her five sisters, have been my teachers!

Sending-LoveAs Thomas Merton wrote, “Love affects more than our thinking and our behavior towards those we love.  It transforms our entire life. Genuine love is a personal revolution.”

Mother love has been revolutionary for me. One of the most important things I have learned from my daughters is the ability to love people for who they are, right where they are at. It took a long time and grew out of the way they each challenged me as individuals and personalities in their own right.

“When we commit to true love,” as Bell Hooks writes in All About Love, “we are committed to being changed, to being acted upon by the beloved(s) in a way that enables us to be more fully self-actualized.” This is the journey we have been on in our family and its realization has been born in a cocoon of both love and conflict, problems and possibility.

Maria is now in her process of having a dream she has nurtured for a long time become actualized. And has her mother I can say, “There are no ‘ifs’ about it, Maria, I love you!”

To learn more and donate go here:


Photo by Carlo Failla

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