Rambling Peace



For as much as people speak of peace, you would suppose we would have no trouble accepting varying thoughts on it. Given the popularity of quotes about peacefulness on everything from coffee cups to t-shirts to calendars to charming works of decorative art meant to uplift your spirits, and those of anyone visiting your space, it would stand to reason that we would readily speak together on what we seek.

The topic of peace however is like any other topic: it has its rules and restrictions pertaining to personal points of view. We are still just emotional beings with mental and physical habits related to our personal comforts. It’s not that we don’t want to understand each other, we just sometimes forget how.

We forget how when we begin applying unspoken but very effective rules onto each other. For example, if you say or write in quantity, that is fine if there is also quality. Quality is going to be based on whether your opinion is exactly like mine, mind you. We need to join the Same Opinion Club which means we are among the exclusive. If we have differences in our perspectives, then sorry, but you are just rambling, and most likely guilty of diatribe to boot.

So goes the first rule. The second rule is that after it is determined you are rambling, you must then accept that you are mean. Really mean. You’re not only a devil’s advocate, but quite possibly the devil himself. The third important rule in discussing topics, including that of peace, is that since you are an idiotic, devilish and rambling idiot, you are not allowed to participate anymore. You are the cheese. As in the cheese stands alone. As in the cheese taken away with a scampering rat; most likely because you were one of those cheeses most people don’t like, an acquired taste smelly cheese. Only fit for a rat.

These are not my rules, so I apologize if I’ve offended. I’m simply helping you get ready to take on a skeptical crowd, of which there are many. If you are easily offended, hurt, or silenced by others’ unbridled emotions, work on it. Think about an acronym for ego, one that has been a helpful reminder for many: edge God out. If you aren’t religious or otherwise in a position where you believe in God, you can think about it as edge good out. Think about how this phrase works both ways.

When you typically respond to the world through the ego’s characteristics of total definition of yourself and other by your superficial titles—be it race, religion, socioeconomic status, profession, beauty queen or Don Juannabe, anything that you’re proud of, anything you’re ashamed of—it can be easier to get into the habit of being less selfless and compassionate, therefore less likely to listen to and understand others. And just when you have figured out how to move past your needs to be right instead and into sharing truths, you realize that as efficient as you are, there are many others who aren’t, and who will sit patiently while you listen to and understand them but then assess you, stamp you with a bold wrong, and walk away whilst pretending you’ve never met.

When we don’t listen and understand, we help keep misinformation and misunderstandings going. We perpetuate conflicts, little and big ones. Everything from a minor rumbling and rambling riff with a friend to something the size of World War III. Regardless of size, these are always in opposition to peace; for ourselves and for others. These things take away that which is good for us, an aspirational goodness which some of us would define as Godly.

Work on it. Work first on yourself, and then work on sharing with others, whatever your message is but especially if it is a call to peace. People will say things that are mean sometimes, or silly, or both. They will tell you to stuff your peace in your shirt, call you a delusional hippie, and laughingly ask you if you believe an ideal world is one where everyone sits in a giant circle (worldwide one would imagine) singing Kumbaya. Some of these statements will be incredibly incongruent, as they are coming from people who say they are standing up for peace and equality in society, but cannot yet look into how everyone needing the same rights does mean everyone.

There are inequalities and there are injustices, and we must work to correct them. In doing so we must never forget that to correct something means to shift power into an equal distribution, not shift it over to one group and away from the other. That is more akin to revenge. That is a way to give raspberries and middle fingers instead of resolving issues and healing collectively. There really are two sides to every issue; this means two sets of truths, two sets of responsibility, and two perspectives that are both valid to honor. This applies to every social conflict as it applies to every conflict contained to our personal relationships. We are all human beings, all worthy and each with his and her own experiences and perspectives. Therefore these two sides of an issue both deserve attention and exploration and then, an act of merging. It’s really more than a simple Kumbaya recipe; this is peace and unity we’re seeking, not the eternal Paradise, folks. Peace doesn’t mean never getting angry, never swearing colorful and pretty-when-you’re-mad phrases, never being sarcastic (case in point, an open letter offering, but not requiring, a lesson in both peace and sarcasm), or otherwise never being the full range of human that we are. Peace means living equally within our societies and with respect, love and honor for each other in place of fear, hatred and control. It also takes work and the capability to be honest and humble with ourselves.

People often criticize and define comical the positive things that they fear are impossible, be it a soul, a God, or coexistence and world peace. So much easier to laugh someone off as idealistic or delusional or naïve than to work past your personal feelings ad perspectives to get into the art of listening and understanding from a place of genuineness. So much easier to cop out with anti-hippie phrases (but if you really must, at least offer a jolly green ju-ju in lieu of communal peace) like Go back to sixties if you think you’re a hippie! or Where are your love beads and peace sign emblems? So much easier to avoid working towards something difficult when you’re afraid to find out if it will really work: why get your hopes up all for nothing?

That’s only the ego edging the good out of your mind so that doubts may reside there; it’s untruth and unhealthy to buy into the idea that great big positive things are only meant for an otherworldy Paradise, or a fantasy book we can read but never be part of in reality.

Whatever it is you’re trying to help others understand, for the sake of them and all of us, not just because you’re for some reason personally invested to the point that you will judge and hate anyone who can’t see it your very same way, then don’t let others discourage you. Even if, and especially if, it’s a big, fluffy, rainbowy, unicorny concept like peace. With or without the Kumbaya.

Keep speaking, keep listening, keep understanding. Then keep speaking some more. It isn’t your job to make others agree with you; none of us have that power over others, and we must respect this. It is only your job to share something good in a good way, and to do so without shying away when others make you feel weird, stupid, naïve or whatever negative labels they directly or indirectly bestow upon you with their words. Give them compassion, it’s what they are seeking; don’t let defensiveness fool you. Don’t be angry with them because they too are imperfect, just as yourself. And they also will have things for you to listen to and understand.

Before you go out with the famous “be the change” Gandhi quote in mind, consider what being the change means. It doesn’t mean telling people how to think or what to believe. It also doesn’t mean bullying others if they won’t listen to or agree with you (the change you’re likely to create in this case is a black eye or a bruised and therefore stronger ego, for either you, for them, or everyone involved). Consider that being the change means ridding yourself of your stubbornness and judgements before you try to create meaningful interactions with others in support of something good for everyone.

After that, quite simply, keep speaking and listening and understanding. Then speak some more. If you aren’t understood right away, if they say your words are confused and inconsequential,  that’s okay; rambling peace is better than none at all. No different than a jumble of clouds, visually rambling, yet appealing to our instinctive needs for true beauty.


Sunrises, Driving and Other Good Things


A message to myself this morning: watch more sunrises. Sunsets I’m good at. I’m already awake. Early mornings, I love them; but I’ve always been a late night soul who never turns down a good sleep that carries a little further into morning. My new job has required my presence during sunrises as I drive to work, and for the past three months I’ve been kindly reminded of how calming this simple act of the day beginning is. Today there is no work for me. It’s my husband who had to drive off at 5:00AM, down a Wichita road to get to the work that brought us here, and therefore I was tempted to go back to the cozy pile of blankets on the hotel bed and settle back into comfortable sleep. The cool morning air was too inviting though. The fact of my fourth decade on this planet having arrived (so suddenly it seems) brought up thoughts again of time, seasons, numbers on calendars—should I live even forty more years, that’s only forty more summers, forty more autumns and winters and springs. It’s quite a few sunrises and sunsets, rainstorms and snowy days, but still there’s an exact number, one that’s less than it was in 2000, in 1990, in 1975. If I live less than forty more years, fifty? Well, simply put, that’s quite a few less of everything.

Coffee pot on and brewing, I slipped my sandals back on, zipped up my jacket. Coffee creamer and sugar deployed into coffee, me and my Styrofoam cup headed outside to the hotel back parking lot and the staircase to the second floor balcony area.

All it takes to understand a sunrise is silence and stillness. Sit quietly, sit still. Watch how the sky changes color perceptibly as you rotate into another day. You’ll feel like you know a little more about beauty and existence. Wichita is a flat city with an expansive horizon; the hotel we’re in is next to a neighborhood and a shopping center, and there are no tall buildings crowded into the scenery to obscure the sky. The oranges and pinks beginning to poke through dark patches of sky spread gracefully along the horizon, overtaking the area the hotel is placed within. A rooster begins calling out somewhere in the neighborhood of brick houses and cared for lawns. Not being in the country and among farmhouses, I’m not expecting a rooster; he’s a bonus to an idyllic morning.

I walk in the parking lot, and along the street near homes that are mostly still dark inside. This is the third time in two years we’ve been in this city and at this hotel and I feel well enough at home. Later we will drive, moving onto another city before resting for the night and continuing again to Chicago come morning. It was just two months ago that we last drove to big and full and energetic Chicago. I know I’ll want to keep driving next week after we’ve pulled into our own sweet city, even though I know I’ll love being home in the city where we sleep and work and have family and take walks and drink coffee and pray and do all manner of things that make up our daily lives.

How many drives and other trips can I take while still here, hugging this globe as a living presence among all others? How much of everything can I see? From where else might I watch the sun’s setting and rising rituals take place? I don’t have an exact answer at this time, but I hope it’ll be many trips and places; so many that I could lose count, quantities harder to keep track of than seasons, than weeks and months and years on calendars. Tonight we’ll add to these numbers as we drive through Kansas and into Missouri. Tonight I will think about how the feeling of putting your bags into a car, or a bus or an airplane or a train, or fastening them to a motorcycle, is one that can be easily summed up as freedom. We’re no different than birds when we travel, we become loosened from one place as we’re given a big world with many corners and roads and climates to choose from. I’ll love being home, and I’ll appreciate every sunrise I watch from our own balcony. I’ll also be ready to pack the car again, watch through the windows while highways offer a little more of the world to us and all other travelers.

A message to myself and to you also: turn hope into an outcome by taking action, it’s as easy as starting with one foot and then the other as you walk further into your life, willing to act on the things that move you.



I am ready. Powerful words offering the driving force to keep moving—a simple phrase that becomes an impetus. You’re made of energy, so use it. Keep going. I am ready. Say this to yourself, in whatever situations whenever you think you should. As long as you’re ready, remind yourself; and then do whatever it is you’re ready for.

When explaining to a relative how I’m happy to be closer to certain plans I’ve been working on for a while now, finally able to see them coming into being, I mentioned that I really waited longer than I had expected and sometimes wish I’d gotten everything, all of the school and certifications and tiny details, into place sooner. “Maybe you weren’t ready,” she told me, matter-of-fact and insightful as always. And in many ways, I really hadn’t been.

It’s not that I would necessarily have been less competent as a mental health practitioner and spiritual and holistic guide ten years ago, seven, five, as opposed to now, but the skills and traits I’ll be bringing into these roles have only been strengthened over the last several years.

I’m not ready and I’m not sure what I’m doing are also powerful. You don’t usually have to focus on saying them, they’re simply on repeat and it’s easy to assume the role of these mantras when negative issues invade your space. It’s not a sign of weakness, but of the delicate state of being human; we’re sensitive beings and as such we sometimes need to renew our energies, strategies and emotions while making sense of this world. The good thing is, we can all do this. It doesn’t take special instructions. It doesn’t take a particular personality type or social or educational background. We’re all resilient. While resiliency might be harder for some to access than others, it’s still there, a universal aspect to our design. When it’s not strong it just needs some attention to be activated. And it will be, and it will grow and so will you.

Within the last several years, everything that had threatened to break me down—divorce, financial difficulties, professional instability as I tried various paths (I’ve had more jobs in a year than many will have in a lifetime), increasing anxiety and depression here and there—tested me to the point of breakdown, but then shifted and became transcendent experiences. This transformation began involuntarily and it gained strength once I committed to putting conscious, voluntary effort into it. This is resiliency, first a natural instinct that kicks in until we sense it and then that driving force we take charge of, begin directing our decisions by, owning it fully.

This transformation allowed me to restructure myself from physical body to emotional mind to freeflowing spirit. I went through an important holometaboly, as in complete metamorphosis, just like the transformation the caterpillar goes through when it disintegrates inside of the chrysalis, becoming a mixture of old and new cells before taking on its notably different form of butterfly.

For the human, a soulful kind of holometaboly. Certain negative energies and thinking patterns are ready to be outgrown. Instead of staying encased in the negative energy and thinking that hard–obstructive and difficult–chrysalis cracks so you’ll emerge, sturdy and balanced, into a colorfully transmuted form of yourself ready to lift off like some willful winged thing.

Miraculous things happen when we’re feeling ready.

It’s taken awhile to get to these things I’d like to add into my life. It took time and some metaphorical bumps and falls and resulting metaphorical bruises, and resulting hesitancies to leave my physical and emotional comfort zones, but I’m now less than two years away from being licensed independently as a mental health counselor and I’ll be a formal Meditation Instructor sooner, something I’ve long wanted to pair with other spiritual practices and trainings. I’ll have my own lovely physical and emotional space where I can put certain skills, practices and ideas to use in ways meaningful to me and positive for others. A few years back all of this seemed too hazy still, potentially only a dream that would prove itself impossible. When I joined the American Counseling Association as a student this summer, I realized how far I’ve come along this path, now moving into something I have true passion for and know I can fulfill. I know this even during those still existent moments of wondering even though I can do this and I’ll be good, will I be good enough? I’m going to shrug at that. Whatever the answer is, I am ready.

Readiness is an experience of transformation, a chance to understand what it is to move from density to lightness, the feeling of floating freely on almost insubstantial yet simultaneously sturdy wings.

Get ready, get set, and now go. ✿

Into the World

observation car

How far have you set out into the world? How far have you gone into the lives of others?

I’ve traveled only within my nation’s borders so far, but I’ve met, crossed paths with, drank coffee and tea with, laughed with, sat with, cried with many, many people of all types from all places in this dreamy, lovely world that deserves so much more stability than we, as a human race, sometimes offer to it.

I’ve chanted and breathed in Zen Centers and in Hindu Temples. I’ve prayed within Synagogues, Christian churches and Mosques. I’ve walked city streets with Hare Krishnas and danced along at PowWows. I’ve learned Kundalini meditation and awakening from a Guruji, and shamanic spiritual healing from medicine men and women. I’ve originated from a diverse family, was raised Catholic, am now a practicing Muslim who still believes in the Buddhist saying “religions are fingers of the same hand, all pointing to the same moon.” I support interfaith and intercultural efforts, I support same sex marriage and stopping bullying. I support what encourages coexistence between each of us beautiful people.

What is my wish?

To see more of everywhere and everyone, and do whatever tiny or larger thing I can to share the sense of connectedness with others. Also to listen to what everyone else has to say, to hear about others’ experiences, to understand the stories everyone of us has to share.

So many people, all moving around this world. Walking, driving, riding in airplanes and trains, riding bicycles. You’re among everyone, you’re a part of it all, element of the whole. Wherever you go, whether far or close, ask yourself one question–how will you see the world, the people of it? Will you see the mystery and beauty of it all, all of that magic that deserves to be protected and respected? Will you be willing to keep, and make, the peace?

What is your wish?

There are two simple instructions to creating a good life for yourself and those you share the world with:

1) Make your wish

2) Walk out into the world with a plan and every intention to make that wish come into being. 🌸

Pointing to the Same Moon



Something I learned the first time I walked into a Zen Center in my city fifteen years ago: meditation techniques may be central to Buddhism, but those who practice and teach its techniques don’t ask that you officially call yourself Buddhist to join in. You can, but you can also be Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, a theist, deist, an atheist, agnostic, a witch, a clown, have a fancy for hobbits, elves, unicorns, and dragons, or do Parkour or be a hardcore surfer or rock and mineral collector. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe, disbelieve, or spend your time doing; meditation is an exercise of mind and body designed to bring peace into the lives of all.

“Religions are the fingers of one hand pointing to the same moon.” This is how Nonin Chowaney, Abbot of the Nebraska Zen Center Heartland Temple, explained the Buddhist perspective on religious practices as I stood among a small group of people—some Buddhists, others not—in the sunlit kitchen of the center after an hour of the morning spent in sitting and walking meditation. Drinking the tea offered and looking from face to disparate face, I considered how nice it would be if everyone could so easily see the simple relationship that exists between all of us as we find ourselves facets of this world.

Whatever you practice, we have only one source from which we were derived from and which we will, however that works, slip back into. A single source that creates and receives our energies and, being from the same source whatever that may be, we are all unified to each other in the very simple way of existing together in this reality, on this planet, as members of the same intellectual and emotional species. Together.

My mom and aunts went out to look at arts and crafts one weekend when they came across a small statue of a Buddhist monk in meditation, legs crossed in Lotus position, palms in the upward mudra position that allows for the free flow of energy through the body—the give and take of positive energy during meditation. My aunt commented that it looked like something I would appreciate, and so the little monk was brought to me as an unexpected gift. For me, having a family that understands and accepts diversity adds to my passion to help others find our connections more readily despite how different we seem in look, behavior, or belief. Coming from a predominantly Catholic family, having been baptized and raised in Christianity, and now fitting comfortably into the Muslim faith, no one in my circle of loved ones fears, judges, or denigrates the journey I’ve been on and where I’ve settled in. And no one worries about why a Buddhist monk statue sits on our balcony.

Sitting with the little, peaceful monk on warm early mornings to catch the remainder quiet before peoples’ daily routines make their ways into the neighborhood, his contemplation undisturbed by the world around him, I think of the many ways we pray or otherwise think spiritually; the natural flow of methods within us as naturally embedded as melody is within the bird’s psyche. A look to the sky, and I see the big sun blinking down, knowing that between sun and earth is the one, single moon that centers itself in our nighttime vision of the sky.










“I Respect” and Other Affirmations



Affirmation: 1) the assertion that something exists or is true. 2) emotional support or encouragement.

Life is beautiful. Courage is easy to find. Peace is possible. I trust life’s process. I will accomplish. Each of these statements is an example of an affirmation. My husband and I often fall asleep to wisps of moonlight and affirmations sifting through the darkened room. The affirmations of motivational author Louise Hays—who also authored the Power Thought cards I’ve kept here or there for years in whatever home I’ve been in—have been regulars for the week.

Affirmations are something I have been using throughout my life, intuitively, before I was ever able to give it such a definition; more than likely, everyone has been. The orderly, optimistic patterns of praying or affirming seem a natural function of the human mind, an inherent action driven by that sweetly mysterious place of us that many refer to as soul. Soul or spirit, immaterial yet fully operable essence of us consistently seeking meaning, purpose, and connection to some source greater than ourselves, greater than all of this big, glittery, growing, blinking, complex universe holding us.

What is the power of an affirmation? Simply, the power is within the positive emotions and motivation evoked by the repetition of sayings that remind you to do, think, and believe good things.

If you don’t believe in God or soul, believe in this one thing, at least: energy. Energy (elusive itself because it has no one specific form, but rather converts to different types and inhabits various forms) is what we run on, our thoughts and bodies bundles of energy. Energy is needed in all of our physiological processes, including neurogenesis. Previous thought in the biological sciences was that we are born with a finite number of neural cells, and once they’re gone, they’re gone, leaving us in the state of development they left us at. We were a species that peak and then plateau in emotion, ability, or behavior by the age of 40. The ability of brain neurons to reorganize throughout the human lifespan, now known as neuroplasticity, was first suggested 120 years ago by an American psychologist and philosopher named William James. Since the time of publication of James’ book, Principle of Psychology, studies into neuroplasticity have shown that new neurons can absolutely be generated—neurogenesis—and new neural pathways created that allow us to adapt ourselves to new skills at any age, including into advanced age.

Believe in energy. By using the energy it takes to think and take care of how our thoughts are physically affecting us, we have the opportunity to clear stress from ourselves, physically and emotionally, and recharge so we’re able to jump out into the world with renewed interest and motivation.

What do you have to say to have an effective affirmation? The beauty of positive thought is that it just has to be positive, it should lead you into positive visualizations and goals and it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. There is no one formula. The universe is a vast place of creation, and therefore creative energy. You use your creativity to fit your beliefs and needs.

You can say your affirmations aloud or let them resound in your mind, quietly away from the external world. You can take a break from background music and select audio affirmations on CDs or from Youtube to fill your aural space. You can also bring your attention to them more regularly by making them visual. Try carrying them written in a journal or on notecards you can bring out and use the extra concentration necessary for reading to keep you focused. I once met a woman who wrote out affirmations on brightly colored sticky notes that she placed along her dashboard to read at red lights or while sitting in her car on break at school or work. Some people tape them to their refrigerators; inside of folders or binders that hold their work or school assignments; onto walls next to a table, desk, or couch they frequently sit at. Others tape them or simply write them on the mirrors they stop in front of most.

I’m a fan of the mirror affirmations; the bathroom mirror is one of the first places that sees the start of my days as I splash water on my face to refresh, brush teeth and hair to feel ordered. A look up, and there are the words chosen for the day, the week, maybe the month. However long they need to stay. Lipstick is easy enough to write with and to clean; window markers are wonderful inventions and just right for mirrors also.

Affirmations are natural for us as seeking, thinking and orderly beings. Positive thinking is a must for us if we are to stay motivated and hopeful and good. Whatever it is you need to put into your collection of thoughts is what is right for you to use as your affirmation, whether thought up on your own or learned from someone else, or a combination thereof.

The mirror in our home for now greets us with a collection of “I respect” statements, some repeated from the affirmations of Ms. Hay and some inspired by the way we’ve learned to give blessings after Kundalini meditation. Whatever “I” does can be positive and healthy and good, all it takes is commitment, and a reminder that “I” is part of a greater whole. You can write these particular statements into your own life word for word, or with any revisions and additions that fit you. Like air or sunlight or compassion, positive words are infused into the world as elements meant to touch all of creation.

I respect myself.

I respect other people.

I respect animals.

I respect plants.

I respect all creation.

I respect this community.

I respect this country.

I respect all countries.

I respect this world.

I respect this universe.

I respect Source.


What do you need or want to think about each day to be and feel your best?

Happy affirming and positive energy to all. ✿


Official Website for Louise Hay



Poetry With Neil


If you need me, me and Neil will be

Hanging out with the Dream King

–Tori Amos “Tear in my Hand”

(Name changed for privacy. Neil jumped to mind, as in the skilled story-weaver Neil Gaiman of the Sandman series. Neil Gaiman of Stardust, Neverwhere, American Gods, and Coraline. Neil could represent the poetry instructor, but also the realm of poetry itself.)

It has been a long time—seven years, almost a decade—since I’ve sat in a classroom among other writers, alternating between reading and listening, accepting and assigning critiques. Almost a decade, but I still remember the comfort of walking into that classroom with an unmistakable feeling of passing through some protective membrane and drifting into a warm place of palpable, nourishing energy. It has also been almost a decade since I’ve seen my poems make their way into the lives of others from their place within a journal or a newspaper, connected to the world by typeface on a page. Admittedly, I stopped making the effort to share during a period when many things in my life changed and everything was left to be redefined within the new parameters, including writing. It seemed I had walked out of one world and I wasn’t sure how to begin again in a new one: What were the rules? Since when had I even cared so much about rules, or what might be considered typical or acceptable on societal terms?

I work in a setting that offers substance abuse services to youth through the 12-Step philosophy. Each day I work with teenagers from various backgrounds who are being supported through various crises. Each teenager I work with is a unique soul, and each one is a good soul. Each one also has his or her own style of creativity, and writing is included among their education repertoire for allowing their creative energy to make its way into the world as they journey along the healing process.

Recently, I checked the clipboard at work and noticed “Poetry with Neil” on the day’s schedule. The poetry session would be held in the classroom, where the kids spend weekday mornings and afternoons working on school credits. Although I was excited when the volunteer poetry instructor showed up and the kids circled around to read poems they’d written during the week, I wasn’t expecting the same sense of comfort and being within the right realm that I’d experienced during my time in the Writer’s Workshop for a BFA program. It was a replicated experience though, from the sense of enveloped comfort right down to the additional bliss (and, let’s be honest, writing staple) of a mug of coffee in my hands.

It was a rush—rush of emotions and adrenaline, rush of love and passion and peacefulness. I felt somewhere inside of me an extra push at my conscious mind from some more subconscious place of dream and driving-force telling me that it’s time I stop inhibiting myself from the  realm I used to be so devoted to, that poetic realm of magic and reality coexisting. Now, inhabit. Stop inhibiting and start to inhabit that realm once again.

Many things have changed. One aspect of my difficulties with writing was something as small as a name. Written down, a name is relatively small in regards to the amount of space it occupies on a paper, in a room, in the world. A name as applicable to defining something—an object, a person, place or thing—becomes a larger implication. My publications were under the name I’d had when married; this name no longer linked to my identity. Not only had my name changed an aspect of how I’m defined, but I wasn’t certain how much of my identity was being reshaped and redefined as a single mother, as a woman who had just left the house she’d been spending her adult life in as mother and wife, as a person who would forevermore be judged by the word divorce according to different peoples’ different perceptions. Writing, which I had since childhood claimed as a basic fact of my identity, was suddenly as surreal as everything else.

Almost a decade later, I’ve been resettled. I’ve acclimated. It took time. It took good experiences and bad, it took warmth and light and health and using my voice when needed. As I sat in the classroom and listened to the kids I work with—each one within somewhat damaged circumstances for the moment, but ultimately more strongly resilient, and good and creative, and bright and full of possibilities— as they read and analyzed each others’ poetry, I considered more closely than I had in years the importance of the voice that poetry carries. It is important to those of us writing through that voice, and important to those who are listening. We all take different routes to understanding and healing, and for those of us who connect with the creative forces channeled through artistic expression, poetry is a world that is safe to us, where we can both rest and recharge. It is also an abundant place of magic, with its language of metaphor able to express truth in lyrical dreamscape—simply another form of reality translated through altered language.

In the field of psychology, there is Art Therapy, recognized for its calming, expressive, and healing elements. In the belief system and field of lightworking, poets are considered lightworkers, bringing light into the world through their form of artistic expression. However you choose to define creativity, whatever concepts you believe in, art has its healing properties. When we are involved in the creative process of art we are involved in a form of improving wellbeing for ourselves and others.

In that classroom, with time for the time existing somewhere else while we collected thoughts and energy within the poetic realm, I made myself a promise. I will visit this realm more often once again, I will listen to its voice, translate. I won’t lose contact or lose sight of its purpose in my life. I will continue to be inspired, inspired by the others I’m seeing let their own poetry step out into the world (including my daughter, including other beautiful writers I’ve come across on writing blogs and at poetry readings for authors’ tours), and inspired by the constant nudging at my psyche by both the richly sensual world and the richly mysterious ethereal planes, each insisting they be further explored.

It will be a slow start, most likely, but I’m fine with that. Quite simply, I don’t want to continue looking back at the progress, past progress, I’d made in writing and wistfully wonder to myself how much more I could have done—most often, there’s no reason not to find out how much more we can do.

Oily with a Chance of Pleasant: Aromatic Science


Before you insist you know little to nothing about aromatherapy, and certainly don’t practice this holistic art, stop and take inventory of your home. Do you own scented candles, carefully chosen according to the spice, flower, rain, marshmallows, tropical beach, or winter lodge it was named after? Do you have a stash of incense waiting on a nightstand or in a drawer, any little cones or sticks of sandalwood, frankincense, jasmine, or maybe a temple blend? Do you sometimes stop before sprinkling the nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, cardamom, anise, or other spices into your recipe, just to stand still and breathe in the scent once the cap is open? When you buy cut or potted flowers, don’t you sit near enough to them, or bury your face in them in passing, to get the full effect of their olfactory characteristics? Is it difficult to resist shoving your face inside the opening of the coffee canister to get the biggest whiff possible of all those natural, aromatic grounds?

You’re using your natural inclinations for aromatic science, even if you wouldn’t call it that. The sense of smell offers a particularly powerful connection between our emotions and the world.

A brief description of the process of smelling: The nasal cavities are lined by the respiratory epithelium, a protective surface for the nasal passages, and also the olfactory epithelium, a membranous lining of neurons and supporting cells that catches odor molecules and triggers the brain’s olfactory response. Once the olfactory bulb is activated, the impulses are transmitted to the gustatory center, where taste is perceived; to the amygdale, where our emotional memories are stored; and throughout others areas of the limbic system. The limbic system affects heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress production, and hormonal balance, and interacts with emotions, memory, and arousal. The olfactory sense is considered to be the more evolved of the five physical senses because olfaction skips routing through the thalamus to be processed by the olfactory bulb directly.

This highly evolved sense of smell is strongly connected to nostalgic and chemical reactions when we encounter various odors. Not only can odors elicit feelings like joy, fear, disgust, anger, serenity, sadness, love, or optimism, they also stimulate the release of hormones which affect physiological activities like the fight or flight response, digestion, respiration and heart rate.

This sensitivity can be a disadvantage, such as when we encounter anxiety. Our senses become more acute during states of anxiety, and research has shown that when we are more anxious even a neutral smell can be perceived as bothersome. But sensitive olfaction can also work to our advantage when we learn how and when to place certain scents into our environments, and let them linger as our hormonal balances and subconscious thoughts begin the process of transforming the chosen scents into positive associations we can return to as needed. I can say I really do know; I have found comfort in aromatherapy in times of stress, during migraines, in childbirth, and when calming ambiguous thoughts following an anxiety attack. Combined with routines of regular exercise, yoga, prayer and meditation, breathing exercises, and time spent with music and the visual arts, I find that infusing my environment from time to time, and even myself, with a little aromatherapy keeps my senses and my soul vibrant, appreciative, focused.

We are such complex and delicate structures, composed of the observable physical, and the more evasive spiritual, emotional and mindful immaterial; and we are always in need of balancing both components. Each is affected by the other, and every bit of our physical and emotional health relies on finding some amount of equilibrium.

Why do you like your candles, your incense, your garden or pot or vase of flowers? One of the main reasons, most likely, whether you have consciously defined it or not, is because of the feeling of calm, energy, happiness, or other pleasant effect that settles into your body and thoughts. It keeps you relaxed and positive. This is the main function of aromatherapy: relaxation and positive thoughts for less anxiety and stress.

With aromatherapy, we have an opportunity to use our evolved, sensitive perception of odor to our advantage, whether we are in need of combating some serious anxiety, or in want of creating a space of relaxation where we can briefly pause and gather our thoughts before moving on with the day. And we can benefit whether we’re into holistic techniques for practical purposes (appreciating the resulting physiological improvements) or spiritual purposes (appreciating an improved awareness of your soul and your understanding of the spiritual realm), or both.

Listed below are three blends of essential oils, what they address, and how to use them for a simple introduction to trying out oil aromatherapy techniques. Think also of your favorite scents; pick some up and experiment with your own combinations for a fusion that suits your mind and body. Check local businesses to begin building your supply of essentials—aromatherapy supplies and various oils are typically available everywhere from Walgreens to Target to holistic clinics and shops. Numerous reputable sites are also available online. There are various ways to infuse your sense of smell with the oils when you are ready: applying a few drops of the oils to your wrists or neck, applying to a damp washcloth and holding it against your forehead, soaking a cotton ball and wafting it under your nose, filling a spray bottle and spritzing your surroundings, wearing pendant diffuser jewelry, and using a diffuser or nasal inhaler. The nasal inhaler is not a method I have tried, but many find it a comfortable and convenient method, especially since you can carry with you for a sniff when you’re fairly sure it’s just going to be one of those days. Always test a small amount of the oils with a dab or a subtle sniff—some people experience irritation of the skin, lungs, nose, or eyes from oils.

And don’t forget, while aromatherapy can alleviate symptoms and contribute to beneficial physiological changes, it generally isn’t a cure that addresses a root cause; if you are using aromatherapy for relaxation and healing in conjunction with physician prescribed medications or other treatments, never replace your treatment of any condition without speaking to your physician first. Always seek medical attention immediately if you believe you are having a health emergency.

Happy concocting!

*NOTE* Oils are not to be taken orally; they can be poisonous if ingested. For another inhalation method, which can be more subtle to the respiratory tract, add the blends to 2 or 3 cups of water and boil, wafting the steam. The blends can be adjusted to your liking, increasing or decreasing the amounts suggested. If you plan to use the cotton ball or nasal inhaler method, start with smaller amounts, 1 to 3 drops of oil in each blend. If applying directly to skin, you can use a base such as 1 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil if you find the aromatic oils harsh. Any pleasant fragrance can positively affect us, and while the oils here are matched to issues they are commonly used to address, they are versatile and can be interchangeable for issues and conditions. How you relate to the scents is based upon your personality, history, and personal chemistry. Find what works for you!

Energy Corrector The main scent in this blend is citrus; citrus scents help alleviate headaches and nausea, and offer a perk to the fatigued. Breathing in the scent of lemon, orange or grapefruit is known to sharpen concentration and improve energy. Add in a few other energy essential oils for a pleasant aroma and a second wind.

7 drops Lemon

3 drops Orange

3 drops Cypress

2 drops Ginger

1 drop Peppermint


Anxiety Reduction Everyone feels anxious at times, and if you live in a developed nation you may be more likely to encounter chronic anxiety: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developed countries generally have higher prevalence estimates of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, than developing countries. Regardless of where we live, what we have, or what we do, we all need to allow time to connect with others and with ourselves or risk stress, negative thoughts, bad memories, or personal crises occupying us until we are stifled by anxiety. Prolonged anxiety can lead to, or make worse, sleeping troubles, high blood pressure, mood changes including depression, gastrointestinal disorders, and heart disease. Usually there are many areas of an individual’s life and lifestyle that need to be addressed to improve or stop anxiety, and seeking medical advice is often the best starting point.

Throughout history, lavender has been renowned worldwide for its medicinal and calming properties; it is a fundamental in anxiety reduction and relaxation aromatherapy. Among studies done to test the use of lavender as anxiolytic, in a trial by Kritsidima & Asimakopoulou assessing anxiety in dental patients prior to an appointment anxiety levels were lower for the patients exposed to lavender scent than those in the control group. Other scents noted for effectiveness in reducing anxiety are sandalwood, vanilla, Clary sage, juniper, and orange.

10 drops Sandalwood

8 drops Clary Sage

5 drops Vanilla

2 drops Juniper


Calming (Soothing for insomnia and restlessness) Once again, lavender is an optimal choice when you need to calm the mind and body, throughout the day or for sleep. Spraying a light amount of straight lavender oil, or among a blend of calming oils, directly onto sheets, comforter or pajamas can soothe insomnia, helping you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. Ylang ylang, with its sweetly flowery fragrance, is also noted for calming the mind, and is associated with helping let go of angry feelings. Add lavender  and ylang ylang to the mix when you’re feeling restless, tense, or grumpy, and begin deep breathing until you feel relaxation drifting in and unnecessary physical and mental kinks evening out.

9 drops Lavender

6 drops Ylang Ylang

5 drops Geranium

3 drops Jasmine

1 drop Marjoram


Study Cited:

Kritsidima M, Newton T, Asimakopoulou K. The effects of lavender scent on dental patient anxiety levels: a cluster randomised-controlled trial. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2010;38(1):83-87.

Diffusers/Inhalers and Oils:








Happiness Through the Nose

It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are. –Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


Never would I have thought a puncture wound in my nostril could make me feel so good or inspire further life reflection. It all started during summer. My daughter decided to pierce her nose after a long process of considering the pros and cons of a facial piercing, including how it might affect her job; what meaning it had for her; and whether she might lose interest in it or not. She also factored in an upcoming surgery to remove an ovarian cyst—an office nurse advised the piercing itself isn’t a problem, but the jewelry would need to be removed prior should the “worst case scenario” of resuscitation become necessary. What with this new concern and its accompanying horrifying images of my daughter in distress in an operating room filling my mind, the worries I’d had about a nose infection making me hesitant to agree with the piercing were no longer so terribly looming. If you’re going to be responsible and care for it, I told her, you have my blessing.

The decision to pierce finalized, we journeyed one summer night to a reputable (always research the safety of the establishment that will be responsible for inserting sharp objects into any area of your body) tattoo and piercing shop, my daughter’s stepsister from her father’s relationship along for moral support. The woman who walked us to the room and arranged the necessary tools for the piercing ritual to commence was professional and precise, and I admired the way my daughter not only didn’t blink, but continued to sit with her elegant posture and a smile while a three inch needle popped through and then dangled briefly from her nose. The jewelry inserted, a quick dab with a napkin to remove a small droplet of blood, and we were on our way back out the door. The tiny diamond looked lovely.

My daughter had asked me to pierce my nose with her as a symbol of our bond; it would be a shared physical trait, like our body types and smiles. I’ll think about it, I had said. Nose piercings are a form of fashion/cultural/artistic expression I have long appreciated. Dainty, ornamental, and not too dissimilar to a freckle or a mole, they appear feminine and inoffensive twinkling from the face. In many belief systems throughout Indian culture, both Hindu and non-Hindu, the nose piercing is a common symbol related to marriage, in reference to the goddess of marriage, Parvati. It is worn to show a young woman is ready for marriage or worn to show a woman is married. The piercing is also considered health-related in various regions of India: piercing the nostril on a specific area is thought to alleviate pain during menstruation and childbirth according to traditions of Ayurvedic medicine. The pierced nose continues to be seen as a mark of beauty in Indian, Nepali, and African regions. Nose piercing was also widely practiced throughout Aborigine Australian, Mayan, Aztec, and New Guinea tribes, a symbol of beauty, social status and, in the males with pierced nostrils or septums, virility.

As humans, we’re into symbols. We are interested in explaining and understanding ourselves and our world in as many ways as possible, and symbols become a way to do this while offering the added advantage of unifying ourselves with others.

Although I like the nose piercing fundamentally for its artistic flair, I also began to think of it as a personal symbol. As someone who has a fair amount of anxiety related to health, due to anxiety related to the fairly common human fear of mortality, and an increasing avoidance of anything that might cause pain or illness, I decided facing the needle was a way to open myself up to a selected experience of pain to work through—a small situation of allowing a painful moment and then attending to the healing process afterwards. It also turned into a symbol of growth through taking on new situations in life. Almost forty-years-old and aware of how many people greet this middle age phase with hesitancy and even depression, I made a decision on my recent thirty-ninth birthday that each birthday should be acknowledged with a plan for trying something new, no matter how small or complex that something is. When forty is here, so long as I am fortunate enough to see it, I want to see it as arriving at a transformative place in life where I’m a little older and have opportunity to turn this newest phase into whatever important adventure I want it to be.

Instead of dwelling on the aging process that inevitably takes us down at some point the further we go in it, I want to gather up my years of collected experiences and wisdom, mistakes and pains, and shape a new creation out of it all.

A nose piercing has turned out to be a simple and perfect way to start. With my husband and my daughter, and her stepsister along again four months later for moral support, I sat in the same chair at the same tattoo and piercing shop as my daughter (and her stepsister, who had pierced her nose within a week of our first visit), and greeted the same woman with her familiar latex gloves and three inch needles. Ready I was to let her push one of those needles through the soft tissues of my left nostril. My daughter held out her hand for me to hold and encouragingly reminded me, “You’ve given birth before!” True, but the medical staff had to sedate me during the birthing process when I started panicking due to the labor slowing down and a nurse informing me that I might need C-section. “I just want to go home, okay?” I had replied, while trying to sit up and leave the hospital bed. It wasn’t the pain I was reacting against, but the fear of the unknown. Pain I can deal with; uncertainty, I’m sometimes sensitive to that.

“You can close your eyes,” my piercing mistress said. “Close your eyes, Mom,” my daughter ordered, her usual big, free, life-loving (and somewhat roguish) smile on her face. I closed my eyes. The needle went through. It felt the way one would imagine a needle going in one side and out the other of a bodily region might: it hurt. My eyes watered and the delicate metal settling into my flesh felt as unnatural as it is. It also felt good. With my eyes open, I smiled. I felt an encouraging sense of accomplishment and was pleased that I hadn’t walked away from this experience. The strange excitement for seeing me pierced that my daughter and her stepsister had, along with the funny look of curiosity mixed with a mild alarm from my husband as the needle was poised made the experience all the more worthwhile.

Each day I clean the diamond three times with antibacterial soap, as instructed. I check for signs of infection. So far, it’s healing well. My anxiety attacks from observing the minor and expected redness have diminished along with the redness of newly punctured skin. Not only do I like how the jewelry sparkles and satisfies my tastes for artistry, I also smile to think of having tried something new that has some meaning in my life, in my personal collection of symbols and knowledge. By the time I’m forty, such a short time from now, I plan to welcome in the new phase of aging by putting to use my years of meditation and yoga practice with a teaching certificate for meditation instruction. I will also be midway through a clinical counseling degree for licensure; moving closer to a new way to connect with and support the healing of others, and learn about healing and living from others in the process. I hope to have gone back to the Capoeira classes I started four years ago but left for other obligations in my days. Maybe I’ll be close to giving birth again, for only the second time in my life—both a fear and a dream of mine. I plan, also, to blow out forty candles and make an oath to not let age and aging be the determining factors of how I feel physically or emotionally.

I feel no different saying I’m thirty-nine than I did ten years ago saying I was twenty-nine. Back then I didn’t believe that aging means depression and losing the ability to conquer new things; why start now?

Wonderful In Wichita: A Few Highlights from a Kansan City


Aida's in Wichita, KS
Aida’s in Wichita, KS

Almost one year after the first time my husband and I drove to Wichita, Kansas, we were back again. What brought us is business, same as last year, specifically my husband’s duties for the Halal preparation—and by preparation I do mean slaughter—of cattle. The Halal process involves precise steps as meat is prepared for human consumption, especially for those humans who follow Islamic tradition. Halal means permissible in the Arabic language, similar to the Jewish term kosher (meaning fit; foods fit for consumption by a Jewish person), and refers to foods, objects, or activities permissible to use or engage in by Islamic standards.

In the halal method of preparing animal goods, a prayer, Bismillahi Allahu Akbar (In the name of God, God is the Greatest), is recited before the slaughter of each animal to express gratitude for sustenance and to offer a blessing upon the animal. The animal must be alive and healthy, the throat must be cut through with the single swipe of a blade, and the blood must be drained from the carcass. It is a strictly ritualistic process, and one I give my husband credit for taking on the responsibility of considering the sense of sadness he feels for the cows–and which I would imagine every farmer or slaughterer feels to some extent. Even though I admit to being omnivorous, and I grew up in the Midwest near a slaughterhouse and in the vicinity of farms raising everything from swine to bovine to fowl to meet their fates (unbeknownst to their innocent little souls) as providers of sustenance to the human race, animal slaughter isn’t something I would have the capacity for. All a cow would have to do is slip me a sideways glance and I’d happily return it to an open field, tearing up as it ran, or ambled as cows so often do, free.

Though I found myself once again starting my morning at 5AM in a hotel room in Kansas by saying my own prayer for the sweet-eyed cows I could imagine being marched one by one into the factory, I was at least fortunate enough to spend the work days away from this aspect of the journey. On the brighter side, this year we found time to take a couple of afternoons to explore Wichita in more detail. We were happy we did.

Wichita, the 49th largest city in the United States, is scenic, clean, calm, and provides comfortable spots to spend evenings and afternoons. If we could have seen more, I don’t think we would have been disappointed; as it is, the university grounds, botanical gardens and the Old Town district we visited were more than enough to go back home with a satisfied feeling of having gotten to know a new space in the world a little more, and appreciating its beauty. While people often think of the bigger, coastal hotspot U.S. cities when considering vacation adventures, the Midwestern region has an appeal of its own; the charming ambience of slower-paced living mixed with the same modern culture and glamour traditionally associated with New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, or Chicago. Wichita might not be a place you have considered for your list of must-sees, but give it a chance and it might end up on your would-love-to-see-it-again list.


Botanica, 701 Amidon St., Wichita’s botanical gardens. There are paths to take you through a peaceful realm of various flowers species; fountains; ponds of koi and miniature, melodic waterfalls; sitting areas perfect for a picnic (outside food allowed); the music of an occasional flutist drifting with the butterflies; squirrels, birds, and insects going about their business; a butterfly house; a working train model; and a children’s garden offering plenty of color and (climbable) sculptures.They also offer reservations for candlelight dinners on the main patio. A Fall Festival and Halloween activities are coming up.


IMG_20141006_135953910  IMG_20141006_134345183 IMG_20141006_141705872

Shakespearean quotes on metal sculpture, lit with sunlight.
Shakespearean quotes on metal sculpture, lit with sunlight.

In the children’s garden:

botanica2 IMG_20141006_161944348

Climb up a fort, cross a suspension bridge, climb down until you find yourself inside of the smile.
Climb up a fort, cross a suspension bridge, climb down until you find yourself inside of the smile.

botanica6                                botanica5

A mama spider crossing the path. How could we tell she was a mother? By the babies she was backpacking along for the stroll.


After the gardens, a trip over to Seneca Street, recommended by an employee in the Botanica gift shop after we inquired about finding lunch. There we found Wichita Fish Company, 1601 W Douglas, “Wichita’s best kept secret” according to its website. Casual, friendly, with fun sea décor inside, and a patio to make the most of a sunlit October afternoon.

IMG_20141006_152428804 IMG_20141006_152413722

The Lotus Leaf Café, 251 North Washington Ave. We didn’t actually purchase anything, we stopped in during a search through the Old Town District to satisfy my craving for iced coffee, but an employee informed us that Lotus Leaf isn’t a coffee café and pointed us in the direction of nearby coffee shops. The interior of Lotus Leaf Café was lively–bright colors that infuse you with energy–and the menu looked worth a visit for next time.


Aida’s Silver Jewelry 920 E 1st St N was the shop we found around a corner. It’s a sweet combination of a jewelry and accessories shop, with a café upstairs. We had an opportunity to talk with Aida, who started her business about twenty-five years ago after moving from Mexico City. Aida makes an awesome iced latte and superb raspberry tea, and she and family are super friendly. You’ll feel at home.

IMG_20141006_155519197 IMG_20141006_155154152

The Ulrich Museum of Art 1845 Fairmount St., on the campus of Wichita State University. Admission is free, making it great for a family outing, and the campus is a  pleasant mix of bucolic and urban with its away-from-the-city-feel nature scenery and art sculptures dotted along the landscape. Like Botanica, it’s worth an afternoon of your days.


A game of king, or queen, of the millipede awaits. Amazing sculptures.
A game of king, or queen, of the millipede awaits. Amazing sculptures.