Friday, November 20, 2009

Room for Yourself: Creating Traditions in Grief

Reflecting upon the traditions that may have pooled together in your childhood , how many have remained?

If you have melded families together then traditions have probably been remixed and sprinkled with others as children grow, as "artifacts" of past holidays are passed to the younger generation. Tradition may be what is celebrated, how it is celebrated and where it is celebrated is just as important.
Traditions may be not where you go, but what you prepare for food or make or what items you place seasonally in a place of recognition for significant remembrance or ritual.
Some families may not celebrate wedding anniversaries, some may always gather together for them. Some families may each and every year go to the Nutcracker to kick off the Christmas season even though not one of them can dance!

Grief in itself, can mark such a time , such a rememberance, counting the days or months from the event that changed our lives. It can resemble the young mother whom says her infant is 12 weeks old or envision its arrival as 3 months. Marking our grief may also begin a tradition for some. Is it a tradition that uplifts you or that holds you down? Looking at our progress rather than our past can prove empowering. Do you mark each day, each month with gray laden notches on a stick or place that stick, that you thought was dead into crystal clear water and watch the small thread like roots reach downward in the translucent vase and small sprouts of green rise upward. Your growth is always possible, each day, each moment. In grief, recognizing the growth in ourselves may seem impossible. Finding a way to celebrate our progress, creating a new tradition for ourselves can be fulfilling and as fun as the young child looking forward to the stockings being hung by the chimney with care.

What can you envision as a "reward" or festive tradition on this grief journey for you? A few suggestions follow that may buoy you up or add to ways you support yourself.

Get pampered. A manicure, pedicure, massage or a wonderful close shave and facial for the guys. TLC never hurt anyone

Go to a hotel. Rent a movie, get room service and buy yourself a new silk robe.

Picnic Hamper. Have a local deli create a surprise picnic for you. Let them know what kinds of things you like. Grab a old sheet or tablecloth and book, invite a young child to be your guest. Remember the bubbles .

Scent and Sentiment. Find a new small votive candle you enjoy and accompany it with a short poem or affirmation. Place them into a beautiful box or silky bag. Each month hunt for another candle or phrase to place in the container of your choice. This monthly scavenger hunt is fun. On your celebration day, you may again delight in your discovery. If you are like me, I often forget what I have bought!

Reach outward. There are many organizations where you can celebrate your progress by a monetary donation and help others progress as well in their dreams and independence. Two of my favorites are Heifer Project and Kiva. With your donations to The Heifer Project you can purchase baby chicks, goats, sheep and other livestock. The individual receiving such a animal agrees to nurture and raise more animals to donate to others. The circle widens in sharing and growth. The other organization called Kiva, allows you to select the individual or individuals you wish to support with a loan. Others will often join you to support such a loan. The individual receiving the loan has a certain time table in which to repay you. As you are repaid, you can elect to receive the money back or to reinvest it with someone else of your selection. It has been a rewarding experience for me.

Take away and add on. If a family tradition is daunting for you consider taking part of it away and adding on with something else. It may be that you do not "hold" New Year's Day dinner this year and celebrate at a restaurant. Maybe the giant Christmas tree is replaced with a minature one this year and you shop for new ornaments for it . Maybe this is the Easter that you go on the cruise you have dreamed about, with your choice to be involved in multiple activities or to be on deck with a book and blanket.

Expect the unexpected but expect that you deserve to celebrate your journey marker in grief in style and comfort. Forget about "surviving the holidays" and "surf the holidays" riding high on the waves of your journey!

Friday, November 6, 2009

On The Bolt, Fabric of Life

Fabric wrapped on the bolt
Exposing only part of the pattern or dream
An edge of finish and tightness
An edge of salvage, they say, from what?

A thread is sprouting from the salvage
It is frayed it is free

What to do?
Cut it off. Roll it over and seam it down or
Grasp another fine golden thread and silver needle

The thread, hanging from the needle, awakens me
I cannot proceed without glasses, my true vision of what
is really happening at this moment

I darn, I create in this moment
Not covering up what has sprung from the fabric
but weaving it with more beauty in this moment.

Unrolling the bolt we see the same patterns
Repeated over and over
Yet with our glasses, our purer vision, we see small perceived imperfections
to weave into another more delicate, more unique and intricate patterns.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Room for Change:Expressing Yourself

There is no formula for expressing yourself in grief just as there is no timetable or perfect way to transverse the process. The paramount theme is however expression.

Expression may be simply telling your family members you really want to be alone today or that their advise is welcome but only when you ask for it. Expression may be trying to understand why your late wife's sister demands that the closet be cleaned and finding the words to express your need to put things on hold for a while. Expressing your needs, in your surroundings, is crucial to a flowing grief process. You may have to negotiate with family members on how things are to be handled but allow your desires to be known.

Expression may take the form of artwork. It may be something you never did before. Losing oneself into a new activity is really not losing oneself, rather it is expanding oneself. Perhaps knitting, pottery or woodworking or jewerly making could stir an emotion. Creating something for someone else and then gifting it , is remarkably healing.

Expression through the written word is also helpful. Simply putting emotion or expression in a journal or on paper can release the words that may be flitting and bombarding your brain. No need to go back to them, just get them out. Poetry or even a list of feelings you are feeling can help you see what you are truly feeling and recognize that feelings do and can change.

I never wrote before my husband died. I was afraid to write in a journal because I was fearful of my own feelings being discovered by myself or someone else.. At the suggestion of a counselor I wrote before I went to bed during the first few months. It helped me to get some of the cobwebs out of my head in the often long nights. I have revisited the writings recently but only to observe the progress I have made in healing .In the grief process I have learned to express myself in another way, through writing. Without the loss I may have never discovered it.

Expression may take the form of dancing or singing in the local community choir. Expression may be creating a community garden. Expression may be talking to strangers in a bereavement group.

Expression is not good or bad. Expression just is. Allow new venues and activities to fill your space and support you on your journey in and through grief. Express your unique and growing self!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Room for Change:Supportive Spaces

Oh, the places you'll go, as Dr. Seuss exclaims! With the many new and awakening choices you are making in grief, some are demanded of you and some are chosen by you. One of the choices you have is to discover what kind of environment, besides your home, do you choose to surround you.

In your solitude, a local library , may be a public space that provides you with movement of people yet not forced interaction. It will have fresh new magazines and publications awaiting your perusal or travelogues or reviews to engage you. Remember that what you do today, you do not have to do tomorrow. Often simply trying something is enough to lead you somewhere else with better or more appropriate footing.

Look at the space you choose to go. If you have enjoyed community theatre in the past, maybe a subscription to the next season is in order. I have frequently bought two tickets and then invited different friends. If I did not feel like going I gave them away as a treat for someone else.

The classroom, whether it be local school evening sessions or investigative classes at the community college are possibilities for you. Your mind can be stimulated and the rhythm of a weekly class gives some semblance of order to your week.

Do not underestimate the power of volunteering when you are in grief. I volunteered at the local soup kitchen and smiled when I thought I could not. There is much to be said about appreciation of others, on both sides of the counter. I also volunteered with preschoolers during their " gym" session. How can one not see the grace and love in the little children? One particular 4 year old asked me," How old will you be on your birthday?" I replied , I am 49. She retorted back," That is not what I asked you." Hm mm, I learned a lesson in listening. She then told me that was a big number and that when my birthday came my head would hit the ceiling! Of course she was referencing the fact that I was already 6 feet and with every birthday came getting bigger and taller. Her precious words stuck and the smile did too.

Maybe you like to dance but without a partner are reluctant. Line dancing, ballroom dancing, contra and square dancing , all provide solo opportunities to step out in a safe and encouraging space. If art has been a passion for you and has been laid aside, maybe a pottery or photography course will fit the bill. There are many short term class schedules in most community arenas.

The quest is to place yourself in spaces that support your authentic self and the opportunity to use your talents or the opportunity to try on new activities. This is a time of self discovery and also a time to test the waters in your own boat. What floats your boat? It may be something different these days. Give it a try. The shoreline is not far away and the breeze is fine! Happy sailing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Courage to Change

Changing, the forces from behind and below,

Lifting to the surface the challenges that lie dormant

Changes coming from beneath or forming from resistance to see the Truth

Changes from fear or Changes from Truth

Look on the surface.

Striated and Smooth. Irritated and Peaceful.

Blending materials to create the perfection and courage to change.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wonderings and Ponderings

Pooling in the undermath of motion
Relating to the scenery and climate
Adapting yet not melding into the surrounding form

Uprooted and uplifted by change
On the surface soil

Being and existing, no clinging
Wanderings and ponderings

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Crevice

What slides along or beneath or between the cracks of our walk?

Dusty edges, crumbling foundation and sandy soil hint of what consequences our momentum creates within our lives

Providing foundation for growth for others. Slowing the progress of others or even creating a boundary of no crossing, a dead end.

Choices of ours affecting choices of others… the crevice, the circle, the circumstances, the Christ. Remembering us in others and upholding ourselves in Christ along the crevice.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Moat

Catapulting the moat without knowledge of what lies
beneath my returning feet.

Aggression with motion
an earnest feeling of passion
yet transcends not peace.

How is it that the drawbridge be lowered?
I seek, but with metal claws, not silent wisdom
of the sages.

Can wisdom be received in motion? Can motion disturb the
silence too much to hear the answer?

Grant me greater stillness Lord, to hear thy voice,
to let down the drawbridge of my heart and others to

May springing forward, the leaping through air be on
the wings of thy grace, not the aggression of fear.

Praise be.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009









Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Run Away Phoenix

Who are you rising up from the ashes?

The Phoenix?

The remnant of what was or what you imagine you can be?

Awake child to the uniqueness in you

The beauty in you

Without the value others place on your wings

Or the weight you place upon them

Let your light

Your lightness help sail you

Through the skies of love ,peace and enchantment.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Room for Change:Controlling Clutter, Opening Opportunites

My procrastination in the writing about clutter held me captive for days. As I reflected on this procrastination I considered several things and the greatest of these is that I have not been an expert in clutter control. My downsizing and purging of items in my life has not been easy. I must admit it is always easier for me to do clutter control for others and with others. With the death of my spouse, my daughters moving away and my own transition to a smaller abode, I am becoming more confident in my abilities, but even more confident in the profound effects that controlling clutter can create for those in grief.

In grief , de-cluttering offers room for growth in your physical setting and in your mind. Items attract our attention in ways both great and small. Too much clutter can make it difficult to bring something new into our environment or even too difficult to find something cherished already existing in it.

In grief our minds as well as our environments can be cluttered with things, with thoughts, with decisions to make that we may have not been prepared to make. In de-cluttering or redesigning our physical environment, one's goal is to put back items that support not hinder. Perhaps the mind cluttering and activities we perform could also use a bit of redesigning.

Clutter affects different people in different ways.

Clutter can

Keep you in the past
Confuse you
Be unhealthy physically and even a fire hazard
Decrease financial resources available to you: insurance, storage lockers, maintenance and cleaning
Keep you ashamed: limiting access to your home of friends and family
Keep you fatigued: just thinking about the clutter can "tire" you.
According to Karen Kingston, author of several books dealing with clutter and energy, clutter can be divided into four categories.

1. Things you do not use or love

2. Things that are untidy or disorganized

3. Too many things in too small a space

4. Anything unfinished

The time of transition in your life is also a great time to reap the benefits of purging or clearing house of the items above. This is also a task that friends or professionals can assist you with completing. There is no hurry to do it all at once but little tasks like cleaning out your "junk" drawer one day will offer you a sense of accomplishment and create some order in your life.

The first thing to do is to assess an area to tackle, be it the junk drawer, the front closet or even your coffee table or book shelf.

Second is to set up a simple system. Four piles or boxes are a good start. One pile is for donation or recycling or selling. Selling could be done through garage sale, Ebay or Craig's List. This is a prime opportunity to enlist your friends help. The second pile is for trash. The third pile is to save. The fourth pile can be items that will be going back to the drawer, closet or shelving. If you do want to save it, label it with a listing of general contents and the date packed . My preference is a clear bin that can easily be accessed if I need something. If I do not go and seek something within a year in that bin, chances are that I do not need it. Of course important tax papers or receipts are an exception. If what you want to keep is a keepsake item, keep it or them to a minimum. Or if they are keepsakes for someone else, maybe you can box them up and give them to them now, freeing some space for you.

To reiterate, clutter tends to keep you in the past, keeps you tired, confuses you, makes you ashamed to have people to your home, keeps things on hold, entails extra time and energy to clean and is a health and fire hazard.

There is always the opportunity if you stow something away for a while you may not miss it. There is also the opportunity to bring it back out and stow something else in its place and really enjoy the novelty of this object in your surroundings again. Things are always changing and providing yourself with a change by de-cluttering creates such space. This space can create wealth and space for others.

Learn to lighten the load. Professional Organizers and Redesigners are excellent resources to help you jump start the process. Remember the task is done is small steps. One drawer at a time or one cupboard at a time is truly enough. What truly supports you? The things? The items? The stuff? Or is it the people around you that support you and what happens within your space? Open it up, lighten in up and ask for help if needed. You will be surprised what such a space will attract! A smile in the least.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Room for Change:On the Road Again

Change your outlook. Change your perspective. Change your location. All three can create unbridled opportunities for you.

During my first "solo" Christmas a friend presented me with an overnight bag decorated with dogs in bright red. Would I have picked that out myself? Probably not. Did I use it? Still do , but now it holds my hip scarves when I travel to dance class. ( Did I belly dance before my husband died? Not)

My friend suggested it as my new overnight bag and I am suggesting one for you. In addition a list of things to tuck into it is suggested. Let's call it the "Sunrise Satchel". This satchel and spontaneity will keep you afloat. Place it in your car ( or closet) and you will always be ready.

Suggested Contents for Your Satchel

Water bottle and tea bags... you can always get some hot water or put your tea bags in your water bottle and place it in the sun, for sun tea

A journal, magazine and local map

A change of clothes, PJ's, and toothbrush

A flashlight

A 20 dollar bill

A small directory of important phone numbers

A small appointment book

A small bag of nuts and/or dried fruit

This satchel is not only for overnights. This bag helps when you may just need a respite.It is also great for any road emergency or an impromptu afternoon in the park. With the basics wrapped in your satchel , you are on the road again.

Go pick out that sachel. The one that is out of the ordinary and extraordinary just like you! Have fun and safe travels.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Gaps in Grief

Last weekend I attended a gathering of about 200 widows in San Diego. Whew, that must have been exciting I hear being whispered. She really is reaching I hear in hushed voices. Well, reaching yes, but more than that, receiving.

In grief, there are voids, there are gaps there are wide pauses that appear endless. As I sat on the plane for the trip to San Diego I reviewed how far I had travelled in space and time since my husband's passing. More striking was in this stillness , the sitting beside a stranger over the past 5 years and what had happened. What had transpired in that gap or void in my existence?

1. A Friar who missioned with orphans in India, switched seats and prayed with me.
2. A newly divorced woman who cared for abused dogs gave me her number and sent me a note and a Christmas card.
3. A young mother from India, complemented me on the color I was wearing and we shared our common thread of moving and now a lunch last week.
4. A college girl gave me her mom's name and address and then her mom and I became friends.
5. A older woman, never married, showed me the courage to go out and do something for me on my own.
6. A young couple wished me well traveling to this conference and acknowleged my "strength" and believed in my unrealized succeess.

The people- all kinds- all walks- all visions.
The place- a seat next to me on an airplane.
Why? Because we all care and we all matter.





In this 5 year anniversary , HE says well done great and faithful servant. Thanks to all of you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Room for Change:Nourishment for Body and Mind

The kitchen, the room designated for food preparation and eating, is considered the heart of the home in many cultures. When people gather it creates a natural haven for conversation, fellowship and nourishment. Nurturing yourself with good food that supports you is important at all times, but especially during grief with the potential stressors of change.

Savor the Start. Start your day by honoring the progress you are making. Ideas might include a new mug filled with your favorite drink, the lighting of a new candle as you prepare breakfast or the reading a fresh quote from an inspiring book. Honoring yourself for your achievements with gratitude can be a great morning platform.

Support Yourself.With change arises opportunities to create new patterns to support yourself. It could be having dinner in a newly created space or simply adding a new routine. If you find that the television is your dinner partner, go with that. Set yourself a portable tray in the kitchen that can hold a plate, cup and condiments. Place a colorful washable place mat underneath it for quick clean ups and to prevent sliding. Consider buying yourself a new place setting to bring some newness to the dining experience. You can find inexpensive ones at a Dollar Store or even T.J. Maxx. It could have the colors you like, a motive or even a hobby. Little pleasures like these are non threatening and if you change your mind, the investment was not great. Using a nice piece of crystal stemware often reserved for special occasions or china plate is also pampering. Why wait? Celebrate the progress you have made as little as it may seem.

Consider Carryout. Getting Carryout and going to a local park to eat is another option for your solo dining experiences. You may be solo, but watching nature or a ball game or hearing children play can have a soothing effect and change your perspective if only for a short period of time. It may be a great spot to share with your dog as well.
Request the best. When friends do ask what they can do for you, maybe this is the time to ask for some mini meals that will freeze. You will benefit from the support of friends and sharing food that can nourish you both. Receiving is as important as giving , so look for opportunities to share this time. Maybe your friends could present you with a packet of "coupons" for a selected number of dinners at their home. Often it is easier to decide when you want to go out and when to stay home and this option can be helpful for both of you.

Open up to Opportunities. The first time my mother and I went out to dinner, I cried at the bar as we waited for our table. She inquired what was so amiss. I spilled forth, " I don't want to be a barfly." She chuckled lovingly and hugged me. Expressing yourself is great. New experiences can be trying but can be rewarding as well. She found " barfly" napkins at a novelty store and now we had a standing joke. Shortly after my husband died, my father did as well .We laughed with our new roles but could cry with our common stories.

Nourishing your entire body to support your new activities is of utmost importance in moving through grief. If your eating spot has changed, make certain it is comfortable,bright and colorful in flavor. You deserve the best!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Room for Change:Consider Color

As we tread our way through grief with newly emerging thought patterns, we frequently return to past memories and our heads are focused downward. Our hearts can feel heavy, not light, and our trodden path rather gray and dull. Little seems to spark our interest.

Consider color

Last week I moved to a new town. Everything I viewed was new, nothing appeared in focus. One new corner looked like the next. Everything seemed gray, nothing sparked my interest, except I knew this was the place I had landed and it was up to me to find my way. Similar disorientation accompanied me with the death of my husband but on an even larger scale, but in that transition I was in the same city I have lived in for years. Little came to life or made sense even in its familiarity.

Color sparked my interest yesterday in this new town as I researched a new exercise routine to get me out of my new home on a daily basis. Color also moved me forward. It was a colored cloth attached with coins that sat on a table in a store window in a nondescript strip shopping mall. The owner sold bellydance items and taught dance lessons in Latin and Middle Eastern dance. I called the owner and was encouraged by her to come try a lesson that evening. That color sparked my interest and moved me forward, making a positive change happen to me in a nondescript colorless day. It happened to be the first day the owner had placed the glitzy laden accessories in the window.

Often without thinking, we gravitate towards certain colors, whether is be in the clothing we wear, the wall colors we choose to surround us or the bedding and towels we use on a daily basis.. What colors do you gravitate towards these days? What colors soothe you? What colors make you happy? What colors surround you? You may have found that your favorite colors have changed.

Color therapy, used in complementary and alternative medicine,uses colors for their proposed healing abilities in treating emotional and physical condtions. It's premise is that certain colors cause a set response in an individual. There is however a lack of scientific evidence supporting color therapy. It's effectiveness and safety have not been studied completely.

Color may not help us heal,but it could help bring of spark of light in a day that feels dreary.
In grief one can feel lifeless, gray and dormant. Pick your favorite color and splash it somewhere. You can change it and yourself each day.

Blessings of the rainbow.

Room for Change:The Nose Knows

Just as visual memories in grief continue to reflect onto our present daily lives, the sense of smell permeates our home and memories too. We can become so familiar with the aroma of our soap in the shower stall or the fragrance of our loved one's cologne that we no longer smell it. How often have you remembered a smell from your grandmother's house when you were little that wafted past you unexpectedly years later, only to be taken back there within seconds?

Aromas are powerful triggers for memories as well as helpful "friends". Aromatherapy in the home may be a welcome addition to your home during this transition through grief. Aromatherapy may be as simple as burning a scented candle or plugging in a diffuser into your electrical wall socket or even adding cinnamon to the top of coffee in the morning. It may be opening the windows to the scent of the afternoon breeze and the smell of freshly cut grass or even your sheets out drying on a sunny day.
Aromatherapy could be placing cedar chips in your closet of winter clothes or placing a pine needle sachet in your sweater drawer. All of these may evoke subtle cognitive changes , mostly pleasurable, yet unique to each of us. There is no exact formula in what is pleasurable from one person to another.

Some people believe that certain aromas trigger specific physical responses or mental responses. There are few studies to support such claims. One,however,in the International Journal of Neuroscience, compared use of aromatherapy in assessing EEG activity, alertness and mood. Two groups were given three minutes of aromatherapy. The lavender group showed increased beta power, suggesting increased drowsiness and less depressed mode, while reporting feeling more relaxed.The rosemary group, showed decreased alpha and beta power, suggesting more alertness. They were also faster, but not more accurate at completing math computations after the aromatherapy session.

What does that mean for you? Probably not much unless you want to reap the benefits of better calculation time! It may however help you to reflect upon what aromas make you feel more enlivened. What aromas seems to stimulate your desire to eat? What aromas remind you of a peaceful place where your mind may want to wander? What aromas just smell good to you?

Adding new fragrances to our favorite ones will not help us to forget our well forged memories but they can help us to form new pleasant ones to add to our collection. Memories of our loved ones are packaged with care. Adding additional pleasant aromas is the perfect topping in helping us move forward through grief. What scents bring you pleasure?

International Journal of Neuroscience,Volume 96, Issue 3&4 December 1998,pages 217-224
Authors affiliations: University of Miami School of Medicine, Duke University Medical School and Aroma Therapy Associates

Friday, June 12, 2009

Room for Change:Help with Hangers, The Closet

One of the most difficult spaces in the home to address after the death of our loved one is the closet.

The clothes, being the closest physically to our loved plus the memories associated with certain clothes with certain times can create an overload on our senses and keep this spot a place most difficult to address.  I have found that this space often requires the help of family, including the children and outside assistance, whether it be professionals or volunteer organizations.

If you are "stuck" or lost on what to do some suggestions follow.  Again, as in all grief work, there is no timetable. Change will come, but often change can come sooner if there is physical room to grow. The closet is often one of the first big steps in this change. This is one place where removing an item may feel like we are dishonoring the memory of the person. It need not be true. Their memory will survive and flourish. 

Consider the following:

If you are not going to be using it , make it purposeful and donate it to someone who can use it or to an organization that will.  Consider this recycling for the planet and a gift to others.  Many churches or social organizations will gladly pick up clothes.  After the death of my husband a local missionary and his wife came and collected my late husband clothes and they were sent to Africa.  My daughters and I discussed a few items to keep and put them into a large clear storage bin that we would review later in time. When asked if family members wanted items some were afraid to say no. Remember their desire to have items owned by the deceased does not necessarily mean they do not care to carry on the memory. Some of us are more visual or tactile than others and some of us carry our memories without many objects near to us.

Several suggestions for using the clothing that may be in the closet or dresser drawers is to make a quilt out of different pieces of clothing to give to needy children or donate to an organization.  One person I knew opened up the old ties and sewed them together to create a table runner. My church has a quilting circle that will gladly accept materials and fabric to repurpose into a quilt or blanket for those in need. Another person took her mother's old costume jewelry from dresser drawer and glued the random pieces onto Styrofoam balls tethered with ribbon. These created Christmas ornaments for the family members.  Would you consider gluing such items onto a box or even glass vase to hold flowers and catch the dancing light? This may be the time to enlist the services of a friend that sews to create something for you. 

This is also a time when the services of a professional organizer or interior redesigner may be of benefit. Professional organizers can work with you side by side to evaluate what you have and what you need and what can be donated or sold.  It is a way to incorporate a more neutral decision maker into the path of change.  Many redesigners also do "clutter control" and have an eye for repurposing items and how to transform any existing space into either a more efficient,practical or beautiful setting for you without purchasing items. An example of this may be using a closet, that is not holding clothes now, to be used as a study or office area. Closet doors may be removed and the cubicle now created can house a desk or shelves to provide that niche to work, write or for computer use.  A mirror placed inside the "closet " can open up the room thereby bringing in more light and creating a more spacious feeling.  I used a small walk in closet and by placing a free floating desk top, made it into my office cubicle. When my "work day" is finished I simply close the door. It is painted a bright tropical turquoise, while everything else in the house remains a cool neutral. It provides me a fun working space unique to me.

Closets that are cleaned out can also house a dresser, thereby freeing floor space in the room. The newly discovered space could perhaps to accommodate a chair to create a reading nook, or another place to call your own.  Closets are a great place to experiment with fragrances you might enjoy within their confined space. Diffusers or air fresheners are economical. Find one that is pleasant to you. Using extra closet shelves to house a collection or even a few photos is also a possibility.  I always find a place to prop a childhood doll of mine.  The whimsy of spotting her from time to time helps to keep me lightened up!

Remember there are people and organizations willing to help you move forward when you are ready. Enlist whatever support you need. Others can benefit in what you can offer to donate or sell.

Resources for closet revamping include:

Salvation Army                                         
Association of Design Education                 
National Association of Professional Organizers
Interior Redesign Industry Specialist           

Listing your items on can help you sell items locally with no advertising cost. Most individuals will pick them up from you directly.

Lighten your space and enlighten your heart!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Room for Change: In Me

 At the prodding of my meditation teacher that became my mentor and friend, I wrote a small piece about a photo of a horse in skeletal form.  I came upon it today and as writer's block whisked upon me ( think it should be called thinker's block instead) I decided to rewrite the horse's story in this blog hoping to conjure up other insights that may be dormant awaiting to   explode or at least seep forth!   This is for Marcie.

     Austin's Story

It was a surprise to happen upon Austin.  I could not tell if he was ready to be released from where he came or if his emergence from the soil still stunned him.  He pranced and danced  in the sunshine with no knowledge that I looked on. His transparency was like a dream, yet he was solid and firm- as if nothing could push him over or wear him down.  I was afraid to whisper, afraid to let him know of his presence. There remained an innocence in his stance and being. 

Gathering the nerve to let his dream stance and solitude be disturbed I reached into my pocket for the red apple left over from lunch.  The wispy threads of the lining of the pocket whirled off of it on the wind. Stepping towards his left flank I lightly tossed the apple and it rolled in a squiggly line , lodging in a worn patch of grass. My silent prayers went out for Austin to discover what and who he was and if he chose to be amongst us, know that we acknowledge him and will care for him.

What did I learn? Perhaps we are not as transparent as we seem to be. Perhaps others try to create our reality, but only we can come to life and participate in it, when we are ready. 

So he then donned his finest saddle and nodded his head and asked. "Are you ready to ride?"
I nodded back silently and said it would be my honor.  I hadn't thought about it before, but being a Sagittarius, I am portrayed as half horse, half person and in that instant,  upon the weathered saddle and his sun drenched legs I became one with him.  What a moment!

Thank you Marcie, my friend, my teacher.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Room for Change:No More Casseroles, Please?

As we grief in our loss,many friends,relatives and neighbors want to help but do not know how. Too often the help is within the first month when you may not be ready to receive or even know what to suggest to them that may truly help you.

Below are some suggestions, other than casseroles, for you to suggest to them. If you are that friend, consider asking the griever if your outreach would feel "right" to them. If you are that friend, honor the griever and do ask permission. Asking them, empowers them and rewards you in knowing that a need is truly met. Casseroles are still great, but....
  • Leave a new magazine or short note on the doorstep for 8 consecutive weeks without speaking. Just ring the doorbell.
  • Deliver food in one serving containers that can be frozen. Light meals,like soup,chili,pot pies, where multiple ingredients are mingled. This means good taste,good nutrition and ease of preparation.
  • Give your friend a grocery list and have them deliver the items to you.
  • If you are not a cook and have kitchen items, swap the items with the friend in exchange for one meal a week for 6 months. Maybe make it a Tuesday tradition for each of you.
  • If you have tools or equipment in the garage you are not using, donate the tools to the friend and ask to exchange for "X" numbers of handyman service hours in the next year!  

As a friend consider 
  • Placing an affirmation into an inexpensive frame or send a new one each week. We all love to get surprise packages.
  • Offering to have your lawn service cut their grass or shovel the snow for 3 months.
  • Give a flower a week for 52 weeks. Place the flower in recycled jar and leave on the doorstep. Kindness abounds.
  • Give your friend a comfort box to open when they are ready. Place inside: new slippers,Twizzler's,candle,book of short stories, an Etchasketch,glass ornament for window, a fuzzy blanket,a stuffed animal with name tag to fill out for it. Allow fun!
These ideas are steppingstones for your creativity. The only rule is " No Rules Allowed".

May those in grief find comfort in the small changes you make in your life. You are a champion and deserve the honor bestowed upon you. Abundant blessings await you!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Room for Change: Living in the Nest

As we find ourselves walking through grief we may also find ourselves sitting still in grief. The living room that might have held the family activities of time past may seem like an underused and over sized cavern of memories.  Many newer homes have replaced the conventional living room with the "great room" making the delegated space for a smaller family feel daunting.

Your living room or your nesting spot, may be ready for some transition. Some suggestions follow.
  • Capture the view.  Reposition the sofa to catch a better view of the outside or move a rocking chair next to a window with a small reading table beside it.  Nothing but nature provides unsolicited entertainment.  
  • Take a leap. Move the sofa away from the wall. It will not necessarily make the room look smaller and may provide a coziness that is most welcome. Covering the sofa with a slipcover in a soft chenille or ultrasuede fabric may be comforting in your reclining times of repose.
  • Punch it up.  This is the time when some vibrant or new color pillows can dazzle you with little expense. You may want to add a burst of color with a small area rug to anchor your sitting area and thereby making it feel more intimate.
  • Light it up.  Remember besides opening the drapes for natural light, up lights behind plants, floor or table lamps and full spectrum lighting for the "blues" are all comforting.  
  • Swap meet.  Swap out a sofa for two over sized chairs.  The chairs need not match, only have a similar proportion to each other.  You can be cradled more in such a chair and when company visits the conversation may be more comfortable than on a big solo piece of furniture. If the loved one you lost has a favorite chair sitting vacant sliding it into another room may be helpful in your transition through grief.  If it fits you and its presence harbors no terrible memories let it be. Give yourself permission to change things and change them back again.  Nothing is static. 
  • Nesting notes.  If during times of this transition through grief you truly "nest" and have a difficult time moving around the house, set up your nesting spot, wherever it might be with some of the following: phone, notepad and pencil, tissues, pleasant scented candle or diffuser with essential oils.  If in the past you always burned a vanilla scented candle perhaps a peppermint or citrus would be suggested to assist with concentration or a lavender for re"nester", but rather a "roamer", having difficulty in sitting down for a few minutes. All of the above may still assist you, along with some freshly brewed chamomile tea  or a decaffeinated warm drink or soup.  Taking time to rest is a gift you give yourself.

My daughter reminded me during my time in grief of RINAWOT.  What is that, I asked. RINAWOT she told me stands for Resting Is Not a Waste of Time!  Be kind to yourself. Naps are refueling.

Changing position of items in your nest can help you to relax and to refuel in a time of changes.
Changing your routine can help as well.  Consider using a different door to enter the house or walking the opposite way in your neighborhood on your daily walk.  Maybe getting the mail at a different time of day or even adding a simple task like taking your morning coffee in a different chair may open your eyes to new possibilities or simply change perspective a bit.
Wherever you may land these days, look for a way to maximize your comfort and bring some new insight to all that surrounds you.  Make it your way and make it comforting.  You deserve it!


Friday, April 24, 2009

Room for Change: Lighting The Way

Walking a new path may bring with it hesitation and trepidation of the unknown or excitement and illumination in the possibilities on the horizon. Grief often presents us with both , forming a path that appears to widen and be bright then narrow and dim with possibilities.

Darkness cannot exist in the presence of  light.  Physical light can "lighten" our spirits and energy. In grief there may be even more reasons to consider the sources of light you have surrounding you.

How can you let the light shine in your space to help you
move forward?

  • Slide aside.  Is it possible for you to change out the heavy drapes or curtains on your windows and replace them with sheers or an airy pleated shade that can still provide insulation for your windows?  Would you consider moving the sheers to the side in the morning to let more sunlight shine through and bring more sights of nature in?  Simply removing the screens from windows where they are not needed can brighten your room.   
  • Reflecting beauty.  Nothing is easier than a mirror to double the pleasure of something beautiful or bright.  Mirrors are inexpensive items to enhance the feeling of space as well as the feeling of lightness.  Use mirrors to reflect something beautiful like the outdoors , a chandelier or your face upon entry into the home. Mirrors are effective in moving energy as well according to the study of feng shui.  Moreover, mirrors just feel good. Just keep them clean!                                                                                                                                                   
  • Shine on through. Glass table tops on coffee tables or side tables will also reflect interior lighting  that you may have close by or light from outside. Glass also creates a feeling of greater space .  Add to a tabletop serving dishes of crystal or colored glass.  Grab a recycled jar and fill it with marbles, stones or sand.  Add a votive candle to it and another source of brightness can fill your room.  Using the same idea with coffee beans in the kitchen is practical and easy as well.  When the candle warms up , so do the beans!                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Triangle pose.  The tripod is a steady and firm foundation.  When lighting your room think of the triangle as well.  Try to incorporate at least three sources of light in your room.  These sources could be floor lamps, table top lamps, overhead lighting, accent lamps or low voltage ambient lighting.  Using a floor lamp with a full spectrum bulb is an extra bonus as you can get the health benefits of  sunshine while indoors. Placing the sources into a "triangle" in the room helps to eliminate unwanted dark areas of the room.                                                                                                                                                                    
  • Great timing.  Consider timers for many of the lights you use regularly.  In the winter it is especially comforting to have the way lit ahead of time. Using energy saving bulbs is helpful as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Bright ideas.  If others are asking how they may help consider the following.  Ask them to wash a few of your windows inside and out, especially the ones you use the most.  Suggest to them some of your favorite scented candles and maybe they could purchase you one or two. The newer soy candles on the market are a healthy alternative to your space.  If you like the idea of candles but are concerned with the flame, suggest to them the battery powered candles that flicker and cast a warm glow.
Let that light shine!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Room for Change: One Step at a Time Through Grief

Often in daily life we tend to get ahead of ourselves with the "to do" list or "should" list or "what if" list that may accompany our decisions. In and through grief these lists often magnify and may appear never to shrink. Remember your uniqueness , your innate creativity and your ultimate need to traverse this new uncharted time the way it feels best for you.
I started writing with inspiration from a group of unique and beautiful people attending a bereavement group sponsored by High Peaks Hospice. They inspired me with their stories of perseverance. In my exuberance to share "Room for Change" ideas with others, I neglected to preface this blog's intention: Creating change in your home by re-arranging items and thereby changing outlook.

Change in grief may be the last thing you want to do. Perhaps you did not want it and you may have not asked for it, but it is here. Your home with all its memories, its textures, its quirkiness and its aromas may seem like the only essence you have left of your loved one. Navigating through your home may feel daunting. Ask yourself the following questions.
  • What is the hardest part of being in the house?
  • When is the hardest time?
  • What brings you comfort? Anything at all?
  • Where do you tend to spend most of your time when you are home?
  • Why there? Does it feel secure? Feel warm? Is it place you always land?
  • Is this comfortable place a new place recently created or a place you have always retreated to bring solace?
Previous blogs on "Room for Change" have addressed the bedroom, the bathroom and the front door and ways in which small changes to the above can assist moving through grief. I will be exploring other areas of the home . What areas of your home can use a "tweaking" to help you take an additional step in moving forward and in healing? Please let me know so we can address them. Inspire yourself and replace the "have to " lists with the "want to " lists.
Blessings to you in each unique step.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Room For Change: Meditative Motion In Grief

Some people transition through the changes that grief presents them with daily routine.  
The rhythm of the routine helps to keep their momentum moving forward in this time of adaptation to many different events and activities in their lives.
Some people take greater moments in this time of grief to be quiet, still and reflective.  They may find personal introspection the insight they need to move forward.  
In our individual manners of traversing this new road, all ways and rhythms are good, fine and timely.
In our home environment simple additions to rooms or windows can assist participating in the rhythm of life, either passively, actively or both.
  • Get closer to nature.   Set a comfortable chair next to the window and watch the birds' flight to an outside bird feeder or birdbath.  The sweeping flights and their effortless dance can be soothing.    
  • Let the windows sparkle.  A crystal , separating morning sun into rainbows, will be an easy way to cast color and movement on your walls.  Other sun catchers of an object or inspiration are also beautiful and require no maintenance! 
  • Wind at work.  I have placed a group of butterflies dangling on a fishing line in front of my window and above the heat or cooling duct.  When the air starts to move, so do they in small rhythmic patterns of their own.  When the windows are open they twist and turn to nature's own pattern. 
  • Water within.  Fish tanks or water fountains in the home are always ways to bring movement and a rhythmic sense to the moment.   Fish have been considered lucky to many cultures and their movement meditative. They can require little care and bring a feeling of contentment and peace in watching.  The water fountain, placed either inside or outside the home, creates a soothing sound without a continual drone.  Each splish and splash is unique unto the other.  
  • Warm the hearth and heart.  A fire , whether "faux" or wood burning, can be mesmerizing and soothing as well.  There are some very inexpensive freestanding fireplaces or wood stoves that provide the aesthetics of a real fire and also cast heat to the room on demand. The flames with their unique patterns and lightness can also quiet our thoughts for a few seconds or minutes, bringing comfort visually or physically.
  • Your soothing touch.  You may have other ways to bring meditative motion into your home or outside of it. It may be seasonal or may be daily.  My hammock in the backyard, which may cradle me for only minutes on an occasional afternoon is meditative in its movement and requires nothing of me, but to rest.      What is yours?      


fish in tank                        
crystals in windows           
bird feeders
wind chimes

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Room For Change: Your Grand Entrance Through Grief

In grief sometimes people go into hiding and avoid social contact, while others have family and friends through the threshold constantly. Sprucing up the front door can say " yes world, come on in" or it can say " I'm needing private time now."

Your grand entrance into your home, may be the front door, may be the the side garage door or may be the hallway from the main foyer. In all circumstances your entry into it sets the stage for you and speaks to others whom may visit. This is spot where your individual creativity and special uniqueness may abound.

What small changes can you make to your front door to bring pleasure to you and give a hint to others of what you love?

  • Hang and herald a statement. This can be as simple as a welcome sign or a plaque with your name or nickname on it. It may be a wreath adorned with flowers or birds expressing your love of nature. Two years ago a mother bird found my wreath on the front door and made her nest. She also made her mess, but the cleanup was well worth it! If you do woodworking or have fabric art skills perhaps a piece of your artwork may be hung upon the door or adjacent to it. These items are easily changed from season to season and can cost very little.

  • Light the way. In the evening it is comforting to know upon your arrival home that a light is already on outside and inside your entrance. A motion sensor exterior light can provide exterior light as well as safety. A small lamp in your entry on a timer can bring a welcoming evening warmth. Exterior lights that flush the yard with ambient light are comforting as well. Inexpensive solar light styles abound and often require no wiring to cast that evening glow outside your door or pathway.

  • Make it noteworthy. There may be unexpected deliveries or visitors to your doorstep. Friends may send flowers or want to leave you a meal. Others may want to see you and know how they can help. You may be away or perhaps unable to talk at that moment. Leaving a notepad and pencil undercover by the door can facilitate logistics for you and others. It also provides another welcome form of communication other than phone or email.

  • Make your grand entrance with pride. Show them "your stuff ". Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Room for Change: Sleep or Slumber?

While traveling the walk of grief, the days and nights frequently meld into one.
At night it is hard to sleep, during the day it is hard to focus.  A good night's sleep is at a premium.  Allowing small changes to occur in your bedroom may help you to achieve the slumber that is paramount to your health.  Refreshing your physical space can help to transition your sleep time to restorative slumber.

The bedroom, often have served as a full service care center for many days, may linger with memories that keep one from moving forward.

What changes can you make to your bedroom to keep you moving forward?

  • Take a look at your bed. Is it possible to place it in a different position within your bedroom? Can you put it on an angle? Can you change out the headboard to another one in your home? Could you imagine downsizing your bed from a King to a Queen? Maybe the mattress is ready for an upgrade. Remember your mattress is one of those items you use every day. Make certain it gives you the support you need for the rest you need. This may be the perfect time to sleep on something new.
  • Buy yourself a new set of sheets. You may want to switch to some flannel sheets to keep you warmer. You may consider a bright pattern or your favorite color on a new set. Try switching out the bedspread to a comforter. If you have lost weight and are feeling colder at night a down comforter cuddles and cradles you may be in order. A silly stuffed animal or your own pet may be another welcome addition to the bed.
  • Set the stage for sleep. A simple vase or glass jar with a single fresh flower and a battery operated candle next to your bed along with an inspirational book can be helpful to settle in. It is comforting to gaze at something beautiful and awake to the same
  • Let the light in. Heavy curtains do not let the light in. Maybe sheers could replace them. Seeing nature and light is powerful in healing your body and mind. A birdfeeder placed outside your window allows one to glimpse the simplest of pleasures and motion.
  • Follow the fragrance. Lavender essential oil in a diffuser , lavender scented candles or dried lavender bedside can sweetly assists slumber.
  • Put your worries down. Place a notepad and pencil bedside for those nightime inspirations or worries and cast them aside while you sleep.
  • Sweet Dreams!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Room for Change:Reflections on the Bathroom Mirror

Having experienced grief with the loss of my spouse at age 49 years old, I happened upon small changes that moved me forward.  Not knowing what changes were worth the effort was exhausting, all I knew was that change was here .  Pursuing redesign  as a career, which involved relocation of objects, furniture and  color consulting, helped me to change my outlook and find hope in change.

Each day we rise, often before the sun itself, and the first place we frequent is the bathroom. It is surely one of the most personal and private spaces in our home. We look at ourselves in the mirror, reflecting upon our physical image as well as our reflections for the upcoming day. If we have cared for our loved one at home, the bathroom may house remnants of caretaking along with  many personal items of our loved one.
What changes might one do to brighten this room?
  • Remove the toiletries, medical supplies and/or assistive devices of your loved one. 
  • Donate any unused medication to an organization such as "Doctors Without Borders" or a local hospice organization.  Pharmacies will readily dispose of medication for you  and it is safer for the environment than putting it down the drain .
  • Many churches or charities are grateful for donations of assistive devices and will come to collect them.  If it is difficult for you to do, ask a friend. Friends are always looking for a "job" that is truly needed and appreciated.
  • Bandages, IV supplies, etc. placed into ziplock bags can also be dropped off to nursing homes, or community action organizations.  It can be comforting to know someone else is going to benefit from your donation.
  • Place a small flower or plant by your sink and mirror.  Seeing their growth and natural beauty is uplifting as you pass by or brush your teeth. 
  • Add a new and comforting fragrance to your bathroom to pleasantly greet you. 
  • A silly picture of you and your loved one taped to the mirror may help you find a smile and bring gratitude for all that was and is!
  • A new set of towels in your favorite color is a great morning greeting or splurge on a new soft luxurious towel.  It need to be only one.  
  • Last but not least, shine the mirror to see the beauty in you! 

Friday, April 3, 2009


There have been many promises I have made to myself and to others that I have not fulfilled.
It is with great regret that I often look back and criticize myself or try to make others the scapegoat of my unwillingness to fulfill those promises.  The sadness lingers and self doubt abounds.
God's promise for us is that He will always be with us. HIs promise for a life of eternal beauty and forgiveness rests in His gift of His son in our lives.  When we cannot believe in ourselves and blame each other for promises broken, it is comforting to remember how God in his goodness and forgiveness believes in us and receives us again and again when we fail and fall.
May we grant ourselves this comfort and be kind to ourselves and others. Promises made with love are the best we can do.
Love to you.  S

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Rhythms are everywhere..
 from the bass speakers of the young guy next to you in the jacked up car
 to the dishwasher humming away in the kitchen,
 from the fish tank gurgling in the corner of the room
 to your  own heartbeat  when you are silent.
I become frazzled with an out of sync rhythm when I do not listen to my body  for the  balance in my life that creates such a comforting feeling and ease.
When you feel yourself pushing too hard forward, pause a minute, see where the rhythm takes you, and get into step again. It may place you in that sweet spot. Remind yourself that there is a push and a pull and it all makes up the rhythm. We need not stay out of step for long.
Blessings to you 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Scraping Away...

The last day of encaustic art class arrives.

What technique have I learned?
The process involves painting quickly with hot beewax pigmented and a tree resin added to help with the hardening. Many beautiful abstract paintings arise as so do textures that rise up almost unexpectably.

The most challenging is when one places the pigment down with intent, only to find out it is not pleasing or doing what you wanted it to do.
The next step is burnish it, scrap it away and see what presents itself.

If one looks at the technique, its metaphor in life prevails.

Cleansing with Spirit
Accepting what Is

As you take time to play, whether art, dance, music or sports, feel no guilt of the time taken away from daily activites. You are polishing your canvas and building its surface and creating a masterpiece for others to see their own beauty in themselves.

Thank you for those whom teach!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Underfoot: Growth in Unexpected Places

Often we are too busy looking ahead to see what is beneath our feet. We trample what is awaiting to sprout, whether new ideas or relationships or even the chance to feel an emotion that has been dormant and is awaiting its time of renewal.

It is the beginning of spring today and I am thankful for friends that listen, dogs that bark, tears that cleanse, hands that heal and words of wisdom that teach. One unknown solitary person answered the phone today and gifted me with inspiration and faith and excitement of new prospects in my life.

Look down, look up, look around. It is amazing what may sprout in unexpected places.