Author Archives: Mary Skillings

About Mary Skillings

I am coming of age...a new age. It is my Autumn Season; the time for harvesting what I have sown and tended through the years. Having raised a family, earned my degrees and spent many years working in the field of Restorative Justice, I have retreated now into a quieter time. I have wisdom to share and stories to tell and my wise brother made me promise to make time to write them down. I make time too for my little grandsons who help me see the world through fresh eyes. I take long moodling walks and read a lot of books. I have a lot of projects piled up; I don't know if I'll finish them. This new age that I'm becoming feels strange and slightly uncomfortable, but I think I'm growing into it well.


March 14, 2018


My husband and I have begun reading The Four Agreements, a Toltec Wisdom book by don Miguel Ruiz about the power of our thoughts and words. I remember the first time I was introduced to these ideas. It was the late 1990’s and I was attending a Truthought Criminal Justice conference titled Mind over Matters — Corrective Thinking. It was there I first learned a formula that has stuck with me ever since:

  • Our repeated, ingrained thoughts become our deeply seated beliefs —
  • Our Beliefs become our individual and collective values —
  • Our Behavior is a result of these beliefs and values.  As are our words.
  • ThoughtsBeliefsValuesBehavior (actions and words).
  • Feelings? They are the messengers…but, like our behavior, they are a result of our thinking, our beliefs and our values.

Our words are the building blocks with which we construct our world. But it all begins in our mind, with our thinking. You want to change your behavior? You have to first change your mind.

When the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? hit the theaters in 2004, followed soon after by the movie The Secret, positive thinking and manifesting abundance became a hot new topic. But as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 of the Old Testament, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Books on the subject had been coming out way before the movies of the early 2000’s opened the floodgates. Napoleon Hill’s 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, and Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 release of The Power of Positive Thinking were two well known books from the early 20th century.  The behavioral sciences had been studying the power of our thoughts as the conference I attended attests. In the early beginnings of the field of quantum mechanics (physics) researchers stumbled upon the impact that the thoughts of the observer of an experiment had on the experiment’s results, which has led to greater research into consciousness. Scientists studying water and the effect that our thoughts and words have on the properties of water have been going on since the middle of the 20th century.

And yet, none of our “discoveries” are new.

There are numerous references in the texts of various religions and spiritual practices that describe the importance of “positive thinking”. In the New Testament we are counseled to “take every thought captive to Christ” (who embodied love, compassion, forgiveness) and to think on: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

The Buddha taught: “What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create.”  

Abu Amina Elias in his commentary about the teachings of the Quran wrote: “After understanding the effects of positive and negative thoughts, we then need to direct our thought processes towards positive trains of thought and learn to dismiss negative thoughts before they take us into a downward spiral. Many of the Prophet’s companions considered the skill to direct thought in a positive way as the enlightenment of true faith.” 

And then there are the Toltecs. The Toltecs lived thousands of years ago in southern Mexico. They were scientists and artists who formed a society to both explore and preserve the spiritual knowledge of the Ancient Ones. The Toltecs came together as Naguals (Masters) and students at Teotihuacan. But over time, due to European conquest and misuse of personal power by some of their apprentices, the Naguals were forced to conceal the ancestral wisdom. They embodied and passed it through the generations of different lineages of Naguals. Their ancient prophecies foretold the coming of an age when it would be necessary to return the wisdom to the people.

That “future age” has come. We are living in it. don Miguel Ruiz is a Nagual from the Eagle Knight lineage, and has come forward to share the powerful teachings of the Toltecs, one of which is, The Four Agreements. Ruiz says that if we were to take these to heart and live them, all conflict would be resolved. I believe him. Certainly all my conflicts would dissolve. These agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable (do no harm) with your word;
  2. Don’t take anything personally;
  3. Don’t make assumptions;
  4. Always do your best.

These agreements are where the rubber meets the road and expose how we really think. Being “into” positive thinking and intention and manifestation is a good thing to  be “into”. But, are we living it? How well are you able to live according to these Four Agreements?


Consider what behavioral values are really important to you in terms of how you show up in your relationships. Maybe honesty, or kindness, or with humor. Jot down a few.

Now think about what you believe about how life works that makes those values important to you.  Write down a few sentences about these beliefs.

For example, it is important to me that I show up with gentleness and grace. I believe that in doing so, the other person feels safe enough to be themselves.

Now, choose one of your values and think about the last time you violated that value. Lied, lost your temper, used humor to harm.

Now, here’s the tricky part. Figure out what belief was bigger in that situation than the one you just wrote down that made living that value important to you.

After you have identified this “other” belief, think about which belief more often runs your behavior. Many people doing this exercise, if they are really honest, find that their idealized values and their lived behavior are frequently not in sync. Rather takes the stuffing out of some of us.

I believe the verdict is in. Our words are raw, creative power. They do create our experience of life. It is our thinking, our beliefs, and our words that construct the world we live in. We are waking up to this powerful truth at a time when it is absolutely essential that we begin deconstructing the way we’ve been running the world, and build something better. We cannot do this with marches and posters and petitions and elections alone. We certainly cannot do it with violence — we’ve proven that over centuries of carnage! But maybe, just maybe, if each one of us begins to make serious changes in our own mental constructs of the world, if collectively we can imagine a thriving world, we will indeed heal our Earth, and build a world of peace, where all are allowed to thrive.

But even if I don’t live long enough to see such a world, I at least can heal my little corner of it. I can create my own wild, wonderful life, sending out vibrations of love and joy and peace. Who knows where the ripples will end — in what time, in what place?

Next:  The Power of Words — Part 3: The Ripple Effect 



March 11, 2018


The chaos and suffering in the world frightens me. It feels overwhelming, especially when I contemplate the fact that the power to change it not only lies within me, but the responsibility to do so is also mine, ours, all of us together. I echo what I hear others say, “What can I possibly do?”  The words are said with a sigh of defeat. I feel helpless. I want to turn away, go back to sleep. 

Waking up is hard to do, none-the-less living wide awake and taking responsibility for how I impact the world around me. Shifting deeply rooted paradigms and habits of being is no easy task, no matter how much I intellectually agree with the idea! But I see no other way. So I am choosing, day by day, to mindfully, intentionally co-create a thriving world beginning in my own small corner of it. Beginning with mySelf.


Words conjure images — paint pictures in our minds. Words generate feelings. Words create the structures of the stories we create and within which we live our lives.

Many years ago I read a number of books about intention and manifestation and how we create our reality with our thoughts. I was fascinated.  I dove right in. After awhile, the shine wore off. It wasn’t working for me. I saw it working in the lives of others, but I wasn’t manifesting what I wanted. I had a wish list. And I intensely wished for the things on it. Yet, my life continued much as it had been, and it wasn’t the life I wanted.

I’d get another book about positive thinking. I would try to shift my thoughts. But in too many of my real-time moments I didn’t have the energy to work through the negative thoughts inundating my brain. It felt more satisfying to wallow in the role of victim, to be angry, to hunker down in depression and despair, or to blame others for the lack of happiness and abundance in my life.

Then, eureka! One day it dawned on me that this power of thoughts and intentions thing was working! I was indeed creating the story I was living with my thoughts and words. I was creating the real experiences of my life with my beliefs about myself and others, with my assumptions, with the stories I made up in my head about situations and people. Yep, I had a wish list, but what I manifested was linked to what I actually thought, actually believed, actually felt, and from the words that I spoke, too many of them pessimistic and negative. I had a little tiny smear of positive thinking on top of a whole mass of negative thinking. Sweet frosting on top of a bitter, burned cake.

That was the turning point for me. What followed was a journey of exploration to search out old, gnarly and deeply rooted negative beliefs living in the shadows of my Self. Craggy giants, parasites quietly hogging all my energy.

I had to wake up. I had to face up. I had to ferret out the agreements I had made in my past as to what would keep me safe, or make me acceptable. I had to open my heart. I had to change my mind. The Old Guard had to go.

I often walk along the railroad tracks that run along a service road carved between the trees that climb the bluffs above my neighborhood. The tracks became a metaphor for the path to the life I wish to be living. The only way to manifest this life, is to keep my feet on the track, walking it every day, step by step. If I lose my balance and fall off, I must courageously step back up and keep on going. My life, at least the life that I wish to be living, depends upon my keeping my feet on this track: It is a path of Love and Joy.

It has been absolutely necessary for me to fire the Judge who pompously struts about within my mind and  arrogantly assumes she is in charge. Unfortunately, she keeps showing back up for duty, and sometimes I forget that I fired her and before I know it, she’s taken charge again, and I have to rein her in and dismiss her from her post yet again.

I have to choose each day, sometimes hour by hour, what I will think about, how I will perceive others, how I will respond to the situations I am experiencing. Sometimes it is as easy as choosing to smile when otherwise I may have remained glum of face, and a bit rough in my thoughts. Sometimes it is as difficult as choosing to bless someone that I have perceived has wronged me. Sometimes it is as crazy as imagining the world differently — cleaner, safer, happier, more compassionate. It is as simple as looking for the beauty in the world and in the people I encounter. It is as unsettling as trusting that health and wealth are flowing to me effortlessly.

I am aware of the ugliness and the cruelty and the insanity happening in the world, yes, but as I respond in the “now” — offering compassion or comfort, signing a petition, contributing money, attending a meeting, voting, teaching, writing — I also choose to imagine it transformed. I look for what already may be wonderful that otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed or may have dismissed in the face of the overwhelming chaos that surrounds us daily.

As the sun quietly rises this morning with feathered scarves of orange and pink and purple, I am happy. Because I choose to be. I am grateful for the blessings that fill up my life. I open my heart to the flow of Love, my mind to the Wisdom of the Creator who dwells within. I choose to allow the Light that is within me to shine today.

Next:  The Power of Words — Part 2: Nothing New Under The Sun 



December 10, 2017


…She closed her letter with this wish for us. The words jumped off the screen and lodged themselves in my heart which for days had been stressed, angry, afraid, and lost. Really lost.

I have only written two or three blogs this year. A handful of journal entries. Maybe a writing exercise here and there. What writing I did was mostly focused on writing  curriculum, powerpoints and handouts for the classes and workshops I led, working with educators examining Restorative Justice in Education.

The nature of my work calls me to invite, encourage and sometimes challenge educators to engage in self-reflection and to embrace some deep changes of heart and mind. I cannot do this if I am not regularly looking at the issues in my own life that obstruct or waylay my ability to remain in a heart and mind-state of kindness,  compassion and peace. I have to live very present, releasing resistance and fear, and embrace the Courage to live honestly, and to engage in the change that our world so desperately needs.

As the months of 2017 rolled along, everything seemed to get harder. By August, I was dissolving into tears at the slightest provocation. It became more and more difficult to even read the headlines in the news, none the less the articles. Never-the-less I was scheduled to lead three significant workshops in August. One of them was for 40+ school administrators looking at the attitudes and practices of Restorative Justice in Education — why they make sense and have the ability to transform school climate.

But in September I had no contracts. No longer distracted, no longer having to put one foot in front of the other no matter what I felt like, I rapidly unraveled.

I was lost. Angry. So very, very angry. Some days I didn’t even know what I was angry about. I wanted to climb out of my own skin. I found myself envying my dear mother who just turned 90 and probably won’t have to endure this world too much longer. The darkness was so heavy, I could physically feel it squeezing my chest and churning in my stomach.

I said to my husband, “Imagine if someone was incessantly running their nails down a chalkboard and no matter what, the noise won’t stop…that is how I feel inside my skin.”

Some days were better than others.

One day I was driving my mother to her eye doctor appointment. All day I had felt like a hurricane was battering my insides. It was violent, unrelenting, loud and screaming. But on the outside, as always, I was trying to smile and be cordial and do all the right things. It was exhausting.

On my way to pick her up I’d thrown an SOS out to the Universe…and now, as we drove down the road, a Bald Eagle flew over, briefly following my car… then moving on. In the Indian world of Animal Medicine, this is significant. It indicates that our prayers are being carried to the Creator.

And nearly every day since, some help has come including the quiet kindnesses of my husband and a homeopathic remedy called Rescue Remedy for fear and anxiety! (btw, it works!)

But most of all, this lovely closing wish in a brief note:  Wishing you a kind and quiet December.  In the moment that I read it, peace flowed over me, head to toes, and then began to fill me up on the inside.

It is the darkest month of the year. And given the state of the world, and the headlines in the news each day, it feels like the darkness is so deep that whatever light exists is obscured by deep fog. Even so, everywhere I go there are bells jangling and lights and sales and crowds… And I repeat to myself my new mantra:  a KIND and QUIET (i.e. PEACE-FILLED) December).

Slowly, I feel this heaviness lifting. I offer gratitude for the Light and goodness that is shining in the Darkness. I stood by the stream that tumbles down the bluff behind my neighborhood the other day, marveling at how during this monochrome time of year the water gets to do art. The ice forming along the edges and over the rocks; amazing, beautiful art that will be different tomorrow and the day after.  I released my heavy heart and all my worry and fear and rage into the stream and let it be carried away. And the water reminded me that “resistance is indeed, futile”. That the key is allowing the flow of my life, honoring my life.

I didn’t blog this year in part because I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be able to write what would bring joy, and courage, and strength to my readers. I wanted to write something funny.

I had so little of any of that to offer.

But now, in the darkest month of the year, during the deepest darkness we have known in this country in a very long time, I offer you this little sip of hope; this little sprinkle of joy; this small peace: please create a kind and quiet December. Do what you need to do to make it so. Maybe if we all would be kinder to ourselves, we could be kinder to our partners and to our neighbors and to the tired clerk at the store. Maybe if we took the time we need to just stand quietly under the trees, or next to the frozen stream, or looking out over the city from the hill — the screaming inside the cells of our skin would stop.

No matter what those who currently hold power do to this world, there are people to love. No one can prevent us from practicing kindness, or choosing gratitude and joy. No one except for ourselves. Myself.

Wishing you a kind and quiet December. Wishing you a year filled with kindness. And may Peace fill up the space inside your bones.





February 7, 2017

Dear Morgan,

I suppose your class is beginning to talk about Valentine’s Day. You’re probably seeing lots of heart decorations and valentine cards and candies in the stores. Some people think the whole idea of having a special day to celebrate love with flowers and cards and candy is ridiculous. Some people think its pretty cool. I always liked Valentine’s Day because my birthday is the day before so my birthday parties were always full of valentines.

But what the heck is this day really about?

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Emperor Claudius II ruled Rome. He was nicknamed Claudius the Cruel because of the cruel ways he abused his people and for the many wars that he started. Because of him, Rome was fighting so many wars that Emperor Claudius couldn’t find enough soldiers to fight for him. He blamed this on the idea that men were refusing to join his army because they did not want to leave their partners or families. So Claudius decided to make it illegal to get married and have a family. The people were afraid of Claudius, so no one stood up to him.

Except for a Christian priest named Valentine. Valentine was a kind man. He felt great compassion for people who were suffering because of the cruel Emperor. He helped them in any way that he could. One of the things that he did was to secretly perform weddings for people who wanted to be married. Eventually the Emperor found out and had Valentine arrested.

There are many legends about the things that happened while Valentine was in prison. One story says that he healed the blind daughter of the Prison Guard. Emperor Claudius had Valentine killed on February the 14th in the year 273. Because of the stories of how Valentine demonstrated love and compassion despite the cruelty of Claudius, the tradition of “Valentine’s Day” got started. It has evolved through the hundreds of years since he died to what we know today.

I like the story of Valentine. I like that this day is about Hearts. Morgan, did you know that every single person in the world has 2 hearts? There is the one we can see which is the heart that pumps the blood through our body. If that heart stops, our body dies.

But deep inside that heart is another heart–one that doctors cannoheart-of-lightt see with X-rays or surgery. It is made of pure Light–and inside this Heart is our True Self–some people call it our Soul, or our Spirit. It is the part of us that lives forever, even when our body can’t live anymore.

The love we feel and the love and kindness we share with others comes from our second heart, our Heart of Light that lives quietly inside the big one that is pumping our blood. When we talk about “opening our heart” to care about someone, or to forgive someone, or to be kind to someone–it is this Heart of Light inside us that we are opening.

This Heart of Light cannot die, but its light can grow dim. Think about when your Daddy builds a fire in the backyard. If he puts a lot of wood on the fire, the fire gets big and bright, right? If he stops putting wood on the fire, gradually the fire gets smaller and smaller until there are just some glowing coals of burnt wood left.  This is what can happen to our loving Heart of Light. When someone is kind to us, it is like putting a log on the fire. We feel loved and we feel warm inside. The light in our special heart burns brighter.

But, when someone isn’t loved very well the light in their heart can get very small. If someone is bullied and hurt, they might close off this special heart. They are trying to protect themselves from feeling the hurt. If they do this, their special heart can grow hard, like a lump of charcoal. They might become mean and angry, or very depressed and lonely. The love in their Heart of Light will become just a faint glow among the coals.

So what does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? I like to think about all the little valentines we give our friends and family and the special people we love as a way to say, “Hey, I know that you are special! I see the Heart of Light inside you. You are important and valuable. You are loved.” And our message is like a little stick placed in the fire to make it burn a little bigger. Our message makes their Heart of Light shine a little brighter.

This day is a reminder to us to keep our Heart of Light open so that kindness and love can come into us. When our Heart of Light is full of love, we can be kind and loving to others. This special day reminds us to keep filling up each other’s hearts with love. Just like putting wood on the fire. Valentine’s Day reminds us of a man who was willing to be compassionate and kind and to help people, even when a cruel Emperor tried to make it illegal to love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweet boy.




January 19, 2017


You know the song…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do
They’re really saying, I love you.
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll never know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

…Actually though, the music that surrounded me was the whisper of my skis, the happy songs of some little birds flitting about in the sunshine, and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing softly through my ear buds as I glided through the woods…

I keep stopping, just to absorb the beauty surrounding me. Perfectly pristine white snow sprinkled with sparkly glitter stretches smoothly out before me. It is marred only by the ski tracks. Sparkling and blue shadowed, it covers the floor of the woods like a frosted cake–one can only guess what lies beneath the smoothly sculpted mounds and gullies. Here and there I spot the tracks of deer and tinier creatures. A rabbit. A squirrel? Some sort of tiny mouse, his long tail marking where he scrambled.

It is quiet here. The loudest sounds are my skis and the crow singing some happy crow song. Vivaldi is light in my ears, and I glide on. I top a small hill, and as my skis carry me down, my eyes rest on the trees. The white birch, touched by the sun, are like white neon poles standing among the rest of the undressed forest of dignified charcoal greys and browns and black. Here and there small groups of green-needled pine keep watch while the others sleep. As I glide by, I breathe in their breath and I am grateful for them.

The sun and the sky are a watercolor wash of blue and buttercream. A few clouds, thinly transparent stretch across the expanse. They look like they are melting into the icy blue water of the sky.

At the overlook, I lean on my ski poles and look down on the harbor of my city and beyond to the Great Lake of Gitchi Gummi. Such a busy busy world down there with its ships and train yards, tall stacks spewing white steam marking the  industrial plants, business buildings clustered at the center of the long narrow stretch between these bluffs and the water, and houses and highways and bridges spanning the harbor–little tiny cars zipping back and forth. The sun gilds the water golden. It is another water color painting.

“Remember this,” I whisper. “What a wonderful world! It’s so beautiful–so breathtakingly, achingly beautiful! Whatever comes, remember this. Show up seeing beauty no matter where you find yourself. Make it. Create it. Show up with Love. It is all around you, all the time, just looking for a way to flow into the world. Remember this.”



January 7, 2017

“Life is fragile.” “Life is precious.” “Don’t take life (or your relationships) for granted.” Common, rather overused cliches, even if true.

And then suddenly one afternoon you stand up from placing a plant on the floor, step back, are in the middle of a sentence asking your husband something, and you can’t finish the sentence. And then you realize you can’t move. You can’t talk, you can’t move.

It only lasted a minute, less probably. But when I finally could move again and talk, I felt strange, almost like I wasn’t fully in my body. Husband’s eyes are huge and he is insisting on calling 911, or at least taking me to the ER. I said, “I’m still in my pajamas! I’m not going anywhere without taking my shower and getting dressed! And besides, I’m fine now.”

But I knew what had just happened wasn’t okay. Then, I started doubting exactly what had just happened. I seemed fine now. But during my shower I realized I again felt “off”–like my body was a stranger. I started to cry and didn’t know why. I was trembling, and didn’t know why. I reached up for my shampoo and my right hand suddenly decided it wanted a vacation. It obeyed, but rebelliously, like a child dragging it’s feet and trying to go somewhere you’re not, and only because it could hear the wrath of God rising inside me and got scared.

Me and my hand argued for the next 10 minutes as I finished my shower and dried my hair. By the time I tearfully headed for the closet it had given in and decided to act normal again. As my husband drove me to the ER, I sat on my side of the car shaking violently–from cold or fear, or maybe just cold fear. This fast, I thought, this fast I could end up being unable to write, or maybe speak, or walk.

More morbid thoughts rushed in on the heels of those. This fast I could have to leave this life I know in this body. Inside I started screaming–“I’m not done! My kids still need me. My grandbabies still need me. My husband still needs me. I’m not done with the work I came here to do. I can’t leave; I WON’T leave…and I need my body whole and functional!”

When we got there, I marched into that ER shaking like a dry leaf in a strong Autumn wind–but on my own two feet. By sheer force of will I passed every damn test they gave me. As the afternoon wore on, with CT scans and blood work and a hundred questions to answer, as mad and determined as I was, I couldn’t stop shaking. I also felt embarrassed. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” I thought, “and here I am in this hospital, having all these tests and upsetting my kids.” Per my request my husband had notified them since I didn’t know what was happening to me, and unbeknownst to me, news of the event was hitting Facebook scaring the bejeebers out of my friends.

As I lay in the ER for the afternoon, I thought about my family–I thought about the petty things I can get my undies in a bunch over. I thought about the relationships in my life that are wounded. I’ve heard it said, and I’ve agreed–none of that matters! But now that truth had taken a deep dive to somewhere inside me that suddenly made it imperative. Really, all that matters is love. Is connection. We are connected whether we want to be or not because everything that exists is interconnected. Kinking the flow of love, tying knots in the cords that connect us heart to heart–why? Why do I judge? Why do I defend? Why do I need anyone to be other than they choose to be? Why can’t I be content with who I am in this moment of my life experience? Peace does not elude me–it is I who bar the door.

Tests were inconclusive since I no longer had any symptoms other than a headache. The ER doctor figured it was probably a Transient Ischemic Attack–a mini-stroke that’s not really a stroke. If I understand correctly it mimics a stroke but resolves quickly leaving no damage. They said that the CT scan showed an area in my brain’s right frontal lobe that was damaged–“missing” as the doctor put it–which my husband said might explain a few things–that indicated a minor stroke in my past that I have no memory of, probably because that part of my brain is missing. They let me go home because there seemed no reason to keep me. I had to promise that I’d reduce my stress and come back for more tests.

Once home, I found myself immersed in a rushing tide of love and concern and prayers from family, friends, and even strangers via the FB posting my daughter had done. I sat and cried from the humbling truth of how much I am loved by so many. It was a deeply personal realization of how much love and goodness and caring there is in the world–perfectly imperfect people caring about other imperfect people, stepping out to offer support and sending healing energy through their thoughts by just being willing to care about someone they may not even know.

My mother taught me that love is about showing up. When you love someone, you show up. Practicing love, means you show up. I suppose that means that to love even ourselves means showing up for ourselves. Certainly, a whole lot of people showed up for me in my tiny little crisis. At first I felt ashamed and embarrassed, as if I didn’t deserve it since really, I was okay and nothing terrible had happened. I had to let that go, and just allow myself to be filled up with gratitude–for my life, for my health, for my body that allows me to experience life in this world on this planet in this time…and for all those people, these many many people in my life who love me. I don’t think I realized even how many!

It rather undoes a person. It reduces you to your own “bottom line”… What is my life going to be about? What do I want my legacy to be when that day comes when my body decides it’s done and isn’t persuaded to continue? The ultimate result, or outcome of my life, what do I choose to make that to be?

A long time ago I decided that the specifics of the story of this planet and the Universe and who is the Creator of it all and how will it end and by what means, though interesting since there are nearly as many stories and myths and opinions with proof to back them as there are people, was far far less important than whether and how I lived in accordance with the essence of all those teachings and beliefs. Whether it is the admonition in sacred texts of numerous religions and spiritual practices to Love, or the call by those awakening to the Light to raise our vibrational frequency to Love so we can evolve, it is still about Love. Every belief system, at its core, is about love as far as I’ve been able to ascertain.

So what does it mean to love? To love your enemies as yourself? To love your neighbor as yourself? To love yourSelf? To love the Earth? To love the Creator?

To love even if you expect to be saved from a dying earth by the Rapture or E.T.s?

To be imperfect human beings, bombarded by so much…confused, wounded, stressed, afraid for our safety or that of others, grieved by the harm being done to the Earth and to people all around us…yet still, called to Love. What does that look like when someone tromples on my dignity? What does that mean at home in my kitchen? What does that feel like when I have to take in the news of great harm being done by powerful people?

For one day I felt that. The undeserved outpouring of love and grace and concern upon my small, imperfect Self.

I owe it to all those who poured their love on me to make good use of this life I was given. To exercise the discipline needed to create beauty and peace with sometimes just the power of my thoughts–directing them in a positive and loving way. And to utilize the gifts I have been given, honoring the sacred trust given to me to share. Shining my small light bravely into the world–not hiding it away in a closet, or under a blanket.

Love is my “bottom line”.


December 6, 2016


The storm that snowed-in North Dakota has now blown across Minnesota, spilling into Wisconsin. All night the wind battered at the trees and leafless shrubberies; its howls given eerie voice across chimney tops and rain gutters. I got up this morning expecting to see deep snow piled up in drifts. But the storm split at the point of Lake Superior, just miles from my home. The snow went north and south–we caught only the ragged edges.

As I move through my morning, I am thinking about a quote I wrote down the other day  from the book, The Song Poet. Author, Kao Kalia Yang wrote: “…the price for the future is the present.”

When the week began I continued to carry a heaviness that had begun slowly over the past few weeks, a heaviness that was draining my store of energy. Each morning I stretched my will long…longer, on mental tip-toes, trying to snag the edges of happiness and joy so that I might wrap my arms about them and press them into my body. But I could only brush the edges as they sat shiny on the shelf high above my head. I was weary of the effort.

But Kalia’s words keep repeating themselves in my mind–“the price for the future is the present.”

I cannot retreat. I cannot hide. If I am creating in this present what will be in the future, I cannot stop planting seeds of hope, seeds of wisdom, seeds of truth, seeds of beauty. I must water these seeds–or there will be no harvest. No hope, no beauty, no wisdom born of truth honestly faced to guide us tomorrow. I cannot shut my eyes, but must keep them wide open, searching for even the tiniest gifts of loveliness and laughter that bestow  upon us a little sip of joy. I cannot close my heart, but must keep it wide open so that the flow of love can fill depleted tanks of any who may have need among those with whom I live and move and share my being.

I stretch my will again–no halfhearted effort this time–I snag the edge of Gratitude and hold it close…for the small comforts and privileges I mostly take for granted…for the big things that I oughtn’t ever take for granted. I take myself out for a walk in the grey light of a new winter. I stand by the waterfall where the creek tumbles down the bluffs a few blocks away from where I live. I throw my arms wide and release my little prayers of gratitude, a kaleidoscope of butterflies spiraling up into the heavens.

I smile at the water. I smile at the sky. I smile at the trees. I lean lightly against a cedar. I watch a little squirrel looking for where he buried his morning snack. I listen to the birds gossip. I watch what I think is a Raven playing in the wind. I think of my grandsons. I feel my belly waking up wondering what’s for lunch and remember I have leftover soup in the refrigerator.

Holding grief and rage in equal balance with love and joy is a high wire act worthy of Cirque du Soleil.