A Paint and Sparkles Christmas

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IMG_20141225_105458The last week leading up to Christmas was a mad dash to the finish line and we crossed it exhausted and feeling a little overwhelmed by everything. The presents were wrapped but without the fancy dressings I usually enjoy adding. The tree was up but only barely decorated in time. I forgot to pick up cookies for Santa and ran out of time to make some from scratch so Santa found chocolate kisses when he came to our house. It’s what I had in the pantry! And money, or lack thereof, was a source of anxiety and the reason I was clamouring in the last 36 hours leading up to the big day to pick up gifts and even though it didn’t feel like we bought very much, our bank account still says it was too much.

With all these external stressors weighing heavily into our Christmas equation, at times it was hard to embrace the spirit of the season, to let go of any expectations and let the flow of love carry us through because whether the gifts got wrapped or the tree decorated Christmas morning would dawn with excited children jumping on our bed and waking us up from our slumber all too early.

IMG_20141224_183521On Christmas Eve day I spent the afternoon making two kinds of dough ornaments with my children, a salt dough and a cinnamon dough. I found myself a couple of times trying to control the look of the ornaments but once I reminded myself it wasn’t about the look of the end product but the memories I was making with my children as we mixed and rolled and cut out shapes, the building anxiety dissipated. Once the dough was dry came the really fun part and the part my 4 yo loved the most, making a huge mess with 3-D paints as we decorated them. His ornaments were very thick with paint and took a long time to dry but he didn’t really care if they even ended up on the tree.

IMG_20141224_194350We also made ornaments out of wet noodles, glue and sparkles. The kids loved the sparkles and I may never get rid of all the sparkles in my dining room but they will serve as a reminder to our day of tree decorating from scratch. And then there were the pipe cleaners. I have discovered if you want to keep a 4 yo busy for a period of time, give them a bag of pipe cleaners and watch what they invent. It’s pretty awesome! There were a few twisted candy cane shapes and some angels, but most of what my 4 yo crafted that went on the tree was strange and beautiful and wonderful and while he claimed one was a spider, most were just organic pipe cleaner sculptures.

I could have hauled the box of ornaments out of storage but I just had no desire to unpack or more importantly pack it back up. I was looking for simple, for fun, for some memories to make 2014 memorable for reasons other than the gifts and in the simple act of finding the time to make a big mess with my children and let their crafty sides flaunt themselves in all their glory, I created a beautiful Christmas memory for my children and I that will hopefully be remembered long after they’ve forgotten which gifts were from Santa.

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Christmas morning arrived and there were gifts for each child to open under a tree decorated with all homemade ornaments and stockings filled with treats to enjoy and share. All that my husband and I had managed to pull together was enough and everyone was happy. When the stressors were stripped away, nothing was lacking, not the Santa picture we never made it to the mall for, not the huge pile of gifts, not the homemade cookies for Santa, not even all our traditional ornaments. A reminder that there are far more important traditions than surrounding ourselves with want.

When I finally posted the picture of our tree, fully decorated, which actually didn’t happen until December 28th, one of my friends gave me the best compliment ever: “It is so perfectly you”, and she was right. IMG_20141228_205425

http://www.education.com/activity/article/spaghetti-ornament/

http://www.funezcrafts.com/Easy-Angel-Crafts-Wire-Cross-Angel-Ornament.html

http://creativemeinspiredyou.com/heavenly-scented-cinnamon-ornaments/  (this is where I got the idea to decorate with 3-D paint, not the recipe for the cinnamon dough)

http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/11/no-cook-cinnamon-ornaments.html

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Dough-Ornament-Recipe/

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Making Love

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IMG_20141206_154515“I love making love to you and how you make love to me.”

Society’s interpretation of this statement is usually sexual. If that was the case for you, I am inviting you to read the words again and re-think your first interpretation. While sexual love is amazing, it’s not the only way to love someone deeply, beautifully and with conviction. Those words can and should be defined differently for every couple, and the meaning can evolve and grow through the cycles of our lives. In a dynamic, healthy relationship those words are alive and I will share with you what they mean to me in my relationship at this moment in its growth cycle.

They mean a pilgrimage to Paris. They represent my husband’s willingness to get on an airplane, despite his fear of flying, and meet me in a very vulnerable place, with an openness to facing and working on our relationship with people he had never met.

My husband makes love to me through a willingness to sit and hear my words and be open to change, and to loving me in a different way going forward, even if it’s something outside his comfort zone and even if it means making difficult compromises.IMG_64244612633576

In Paris we rediscovered our love and passion for each other and we built the foundation on which the rest of our lives will be supported. My husband showed up to do the hard work, to name our sorrows, our frustrations and our pain and in naming them, we have taken their strength away. We have released them into the Universe to make more room for love.

Making love to my husband is about listening to him when he talks, really hearing his words. It’s about finding time for laughter and fun and kissing every day, and reminding him to let things go that are no longer serving him. It’s also about giving him space to heal his own wounds and find his own forgiveness, but reminding him that throughout his journey, he is loved deeply and unconditionally. My arms and my heart will be open and ready to love him wherever he is in his process.

Paris gave us the space and the time we needed to hear each others love languages and to work out better ways to make love to each other that will be heard and understood. The more we live our lives out as if everything we do for each other is an act of making love to one another, the more connection and beauty and happiness we will find in life, in our family and in each other.

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A Dozen Roses

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3293365635_689005da3f_oShe brought me roses again.

It was my Mother-in-law’s tradition. Every Mother’s Day weekend I would always find a white box tucked in our front door delivered by the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa.

I loved those roses. They were a thank you, a connection of love from one mother to another, a reminder I was good enough. Good enough as the wife of her oldest son, as the mother of her grandchildren and as the daughter she never had the opportunity to birth herself.

My Mother-in-law left us nearly ten years ago after a six-year victory run with end stage breast cancer. She lived with grace in pain and with love in life. Her strength of spirit was immense and it infected every part of her life and it conquered her cancer.  It wasn’t her cancer that killed her, at least not directly. After six years she was getting tired and it was time to move on. The Good Lord came for her and even to her last she didn’t go without a fight.

She fell trying to get out of bed. She got caught in the blankets and fell to the floor, the phone tumbling out of her reach, preventing her from calling for help. She lay there for a while until her husband came home from work and she was rushed to hospital where she went in for emergency surgery to repair her broken leg. Unfortunately a couple of days later she developed a blood clot in her lungs.

We stood around her bed, holding her, loving her and, albeit reluctantly, making space to let her go, making it okay for her to move on to her next phase. The emotions in the room were thick, pain, love, grief, loss, colliding in a kaleidoscope of intentions, each of us needing to be held in our own way. That is a moment etched in my heart and sealed with burning tears. I remember the closeness of the room, the people pressed in close, the desire to run away from the pain but not being able to let go. Our lives would never be the same again…

She passed just before Mother’s Day 2005. The first time the roses were not in the door was a shock to my system, it was the cosmos reminding me she was gone and I would never receive my roses again. Each year on Mother’s Day I think of my roses and there is an empty vase that will not get brought out to be filled with them.

Friday she brought me my roses again and she filled my vase with love and hope and affirmation.

I lay on the Reiki table, my friend passing her hands over me and she saw the image, it came to her as she was close to my heart and passing on my right side. A pious woman with a veil holding a bouquet of roses.

It was my Mother-in-law and it was her way of saying she is still with me, still loving me, and is still looking out for me and my family. She brought me the roses to remind me I am more than enough for all I need to be and do in this world, I just have to remember and own my inner strength and beauty.

I’m trying to. Every day I’m working on remembering the love she carried for us and still does. She is everywhere around us. My youngest has never known her alive and yet when he sees her picture he has told us he knows her, he’s seen her, at her house. I believe she has visited him during one of our visits to see Grandpa.

I’m opening myself up to the comfort of her embrace and accepting the gift of her roses into my life and sharing the gift with my family so that we all might heal from our grief. Next spring it will be ten years since she left us in body but her spirit has never left us. We must all open ourselves up to the gifts she continues to bring us whenever we need them most.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Remembering….

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SP 106 WMSitting in the tub, the water too warm, my skin perspiring from the steam that wisps across the surface. The music carries me, the words touching a place I’ve not taken the time to look into for a while. The candles flicker casting friendly shadows around me and the mix of salts and energies float in the water that holds me. Rose petals, shells, dried leaves, bits of US money, the scents of various essential oils, individually unrecognizable in their mixing but together they are the scent of my retreat in August.

The memories of new friends, of peace and quiet in a beautiful house, of sitting and listening to the world around me and connecting with myself again. There in that peaceful place I could hear the voice in my head that the world around me had drowned out for way too long.

Then I came home and I tried desperately to hold on to my intentions, the peace, the love, the connections but in the craziness of my real world, I was very overwhelmed and struggling to find my center within my own inner peace that for such a brief moment in August I had found.

It was really hard to come home, even as much as I had missed my family, I had missed me even longer and I was afraid of losing her again.

So here I sit in my bath surrounded by the energies of my friends’ intentions which they had cast into the salts and I let them embrace me with their strength. It reminded me of my own intentions cast that day as we sat in circle, holding space for each women to open their heart and fill the bowl with words and offerings of love and need and desire. Babies, new beginnings, strength to make difficult decisions, honouring new connections, finding space for our dreams in a chaotic world that tries to snuff them out, and for abundance in personal and business lives. The requests were as varied as the women and as universal as womanhood and motherhood.

The fundamental intention I brought away from the retreat with me was my need for change. Change in my relationship with my husband most of all but change in general too. I am tired of being sick, I am tired of being tired, I am tired of feeling like my life is out of control and I am powerless to change things. I have worked on making some of those changes but it’s a slow process and part of it is accepting that I can only control myself. Change starts with me.

Perhaps even more importantly though than recognizing my need for change because I’ve known for a long time that change was necessary, I had just been struggling with finding my way, was that I found the strength within myself to stand up and believe that I am worthy of the effort to make those changes. I had diluted and deluded myself into believing that I didn’t matter, that I wasn’t worth my effort or the effort of others and the needs of others were more important than my own but I was wrong.

I truly am worthy. Worthy of being loved and loving myself and everything else branches out from believing in my worth: respect, acceptance, self-care, etc… I am worthy of all of these gifts and they are worth fighting for.

Of course I have to get out of the tub first…..

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Taming the Beast

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10726509325_44e1195b13_oMy home is messy.

I used to keep an immaculate home. I washed the dishes every night or at least frequently enough the kitchen was usually pretty clean, and the rest of the house received regular scrubbings and cleanings too. I worked really hard to maintain the cleanliness and then my depression returned full force and just getting out of bed and into work every day was a huge effort and accomplishment. Then more children came along with more stuff to call their own and between my depression and our expanding family’s ever-expanding piles of stuff, I lost control and I have yet to get it back under control.

We live in a small three bedroom condominium and there’s very limited space for each person. It’s not impossible but it takes work and it takes compromise and it requires mutual respect of each others’ space. All of which we struggle with as each person has different needs and different ideas. My husband is a collector of super hero and sci-fi paraphernalia. He places a much higher value on his stuff than I do on my own so I sometimes don’t honour the value he places on things just because I don’t feel the same way about stuff in general. I’m trying, but it’s hard when I barely have a bookcase worth of space to call my own, while he has several bookcases and shelves. The children have no boundaries and their toys and book bags and whatnots and whathaveyous end up pretty much anywhere it’s convenient for them to drop them when they are finished with them. Yes, it’s part of the problem. My husband tries but there’s no consistent measures being employed to set these boundaries and maintain them. It’s on my to-do list…

To give a measuring stick of the mess we live in, we would not qualify for an episode of Hoarders but watching Hoarders makes me feel better about my mess. And it shouldn’t. Just because Hoarders is worse doesn’t make my situation less poisonous, suffocating or overwhelming. I hate living like this but I feel like I’ve surrendered to the beast simply for the sake of my sanity. Going to war every day with the beast and feeling like I was always on the losing end of the battles was and is emotionally exhausting, so I put up the white flag and surrendered. I let the mess envelop me and define me. I took on the mantra of this is me, this is my home and if you love me and want to spend time with me, you must accept my mess.

Yes, I have good days where I get up and say, today is the day I tame the beast and I’ll pick up my bucket and scrub brushes and go to war against the disorganization and dirt, but it’s always short-lived because as one place is improving another is falling apart or while I move on to tackle the next area, the first place falls apart all over again, and so I surrender yet again and the beast is victorious.

It’s not one battle that will win this fight, it’s a systemic planned attack with everyone working together and the adults setting good examples for the children. I can’t get mad at my daughter for not cleaning up her room when I haven’t seen the floor beside my bed in weeks. I have to take the lead, show her (and my other children) how it’s done and encourage them to work with me, but I feel so overwhelmed and I figured out why this week. I went to an Angel Healing session and I asked a question and as part of her answer she said, I sense your house is very oppressive.

It was like a light went on. That is the exact word to describe our home. Oppressive: weighing heavily on the mind or spirits; causing depression or discomfort.

At first glance it doesn’t seem so bad but it’s the emotional stuff people don’t see that really makes my home feel oppressive. The gunk, the unresolved anger, the frustrations, the unspoken emotions, and the soul grinding pain that lives just below the surface and robs us of our ability to live happily. It affects all of us to some degree or another and it won’t stop until we face the mounting pile of repressed emotions.

We’re very good at throwing things in boxes and sticking them in corners and pretending they don’t exist because taking the time to open them up and go through each piece of paper and item to decide what to do with it all feels overwhelming and impossible. There are probably more invisible boxes of emotional detritus that need clearing than there are boxes of stuff we need to go through but we are even better at ignoring the invisible stuff.

We’ve all found ways to cope with the invisible piles of emotional gunk that oppresses our living space. We’ve pushed it down and hidden it away, pretending it’s okay when it’s not. We’ve put up barriers between each other to keep a safe distance so we don’t accidentally trigger one another. If someone is accidentally triggered it rarely ends well. We have all developed defensive mechanisms and they are very quick to kick in.

I’m passive aggressive, I use guilt trips and am quick to assume the martyr role. My husband runs away, pushes away or lashes out if you insist on getting too close, mostly with painful words. My 18 year-old fumes, swears and hits things. My 10 year-old whines, throws temper tantrums and she’s learned a few techniques from me as she resorts to guilt trips and “feel sorry for me” lines. The four year-old is still working on finding his place in this little game we play.

My husband and I have set a horrible example for dealing with conflict and difficult emotions. Until he and I can sit down and put all the detritus and craziness on the table and face our parts in this game nothing will change.

I believe in living by example and it extends to everything not just cleanliness skills. If children see you model good conflict resolution skills they will learn them too. If children see you lovingly deal with difficult emotions and honouring the individual’s trials with help and on-going support, they will mirror that back into the world. If children see you own up to your mistakes and apologize they will learn that too and if children see you trying to work on your weak points, they will know it’s okay to have weaknesses but that you need to always strive to do better. Having a weakness is not a valid reason to hurt others, and the excuse “that’s just who I am” is a very poor excuse to hurt the ones you love.

We must all strive to do better by each other. That is the true gift of loving someone, and it starts with a willingness to unpack and sort through the gunk that’s holding us hostage in our home. We really want to move, but I’d rather not take all this craziness with us. It’s time to purge, it’s time to clean it out, it’s time to tame the beast!

Love is Not a Mistake

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wpid-wp-1413783567264.jpegI have made many mistakes. Many of those mistakes have in return fundamentally changed who I am.

Motherhood started out as a mistake, a responsibility thrust into my young arms that felt too weak to bear the weight. I made so many mistakes but my son was not one of them. He was a gift. A gift I just wasn’t quite ready to receive or fully appreciate. As a result I fumbled around the world of motherhood very lost and distrustful of my instincts. How could I know anything? How could I possibly get anything right?

But I did get one thing right.

Love.

I just forgot sometimes….

Even early on in my pregnancy when my son’s biological father was encouraging me to “get an abortion”, I chose life for my unborn child. I walked out into the world and looked into the eyes of the people around me and wondered why they had any more right to life than my child did?

In that moment I chose love.

I didn’t even recognize it as love until I looked into my son’s eyes and finally met him in the quiet of the hospital room after everyone had gone home. When the nurse came to get him after his feed and I asked her to leave him with me for a while so I could really meet him, fall in love with him, just hold him and smell his beautiful smell. I didn’t want to send him back to the nursery. He was mine and I loved him.

Love didn’t pave our path with bricks of gold or lay pillows on the ground to cushion us when we stumbled and many times we lost the path completely. Loving someone is hard and it is work and it is staying when you want to run and learning from and apologizing for mistakes and most of all its forgiveness when forgiveness seems impossible.

I wear layers upon layers of bruises from all the mistakes I’ve made in the last eighteen years of motherhood. I don’t doubt my son has his own layers of bruising. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that my introduction to motherhood and his introduction to the world had to come with such painful lessons. The effects of those lessons still ripple through our lives and we’re trying to find forgiveness in a chaos that seems unyielding to any efforts at finding peace. Even in the good moments anger breaks through and smashes the fragility of the bubble that is encapsulating the laughter and connecting fibers being forged by our moment of happiness. As the bubble disperses it is like our world is exploding and though I try to keep it together as with the thin film of a bubble when it pops, it disappears like it was never there and we find ourselves yet again staring across a painful abyss filled with blame, repercussions, anger and resentments.

Many tell me they would have given up on my son by now, that it’s time for some tough love, “let him learn his lessons the hard way” they say. It feels like he’s learned too many lessons the hard way. Moments where I ignored my instincts, made uneducated choices, gave into pressure to follow society’s ideas and notions, or failed to ask for or find help or apologize when I should have or hold my temper when my depression was raging out of control and the pressures of meeting the outside world’s demands trumped meeting my son’s need for love, like the day I lost my cool because he was struggling to practice French dictation words and I screamed out in frustration and smashed my head into the wall leaving a hole in the drywall. Then there were tears and broken spirits and emotional bruises as we tried to pick up the pieces.

I had no idea what I was doing. What I should have done was let the dictation go and pull him into my arms and hold him and tell him it was okay, the dictation didn’t matter, I loved him and would help him. The pressures of meeting the demands of the teacher, the school system, the expectations of society in general that were labeling him a problem child overwhelmed me. I just wanted to prove them all wrong.

They were wrong. They are wrong. I never had to prove them wrong because there was nothing to prove. Love was more important than all that, but I didn’t understand that then.

I do now.

And I’m sorry.

Sorry doesn’t fix the broken walls or broken spirits. That takes work, a lot of painful, slogging through mud and emotional trenches work, not to mention the willingness to dive head first into the trenches and face the demons of the past, the demons of our emotions and behaviours that created the abyss I find myself staring across into the blue eyes of a soul so broken he hides from me in his video games where he finds an outlet for his pain and anger by blowing things and other characters/people up. His video game world is safer than the real world and it was my mistakes that drove him into that world because I forgot that love is more important than anything, than video games, or toys, or money, or meeting society’s expectations, or getting our way and insisting on showing him who’s in charge and that we can make him do what we want him to do regardless of his own will and desires – an illusion of power at best.

After eighteen years I’m trying to hold the memory of looking into the trusting eyes of the seven and a half pound child laid in my arms by a twist of fate he had no control over, and remember the overwhelming waves of love I felt and my need to hold him close and protect him. If only I had spent more time listening to that instinct like when he had night terrors and I sat next to him singing “Jesus Loves You” over and over, drawing him out of the terror with my soothing voice that had rocked him to sleep so many times.

Now my soul is doing the singing, calling to my son to remember the moments in the chaos where love conquered the fear and anger, to remember the love that holds him and surrounds him no matter what because society is wrong and I was wrong. He is amazing and wonderful and talented. He may not fit into the mold society wants him to but it just means he thinks different, he sees the world around him in a different light and somehow he will make it work for him, despite society trying very hard to stuff him in a box and get him to “get in line”.

It will take time, patience, healing and most of all it will take love. That’s my commitment going forward, I will radiate, enclose him and even smother him in love, until the raw wounds become aching scabs, then itchy scars and with some luck at some point even the scars will fade to a barely visible lightness, and we will find our peace, rebuilt upon a solid foundation of love. The scars may never disappear but some day I want the memories to be faint whispers of by-gone stories instead of festering wounds filling an abyss that separates us.

I’m ready  to let love build us a bridge over the abyss. I am ready to heal. I’m ready to do the hard work. I’m ready to forgive myself and let my mistakes go and I am hoping that my son can eventually forgive me too, and help me build that bridge. Surrender the future to love and we will find our way, the path will meet us where we are and if we stay true to love, it’ll show us the way forward.

To my son: you are the child that made me a mother and I will always love you and that isn’t and never was a mistake.

 

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The Gratitude Challenge

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231625731_32865d1061_oThere has been a trend going around Facebook where people nominate each other to do the Gratitude Challenge. It was very popular a month or so ago but at the moment it is pretty quiet. There were some variations on the challenge but the basic premise was for five days to post three items that you are grateful for and then to nominate three more people each day.

I only nominated one person each day as my friends list isn’t huge and I don’t like nominating people for the sake of filling a quota so I adapted the Gratitude Challenge to my own needs and comfort level. I also didn’t limit myself to three items per day. If some days I felt like adding more I did.

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It was a challenge I very much enjoyed as it didn’t involve calling anyone out to do something crazy or to shame anyone or to give money, and the idea didn’t get so diluted from being passed around that the original intent was lost. A gratitude challenge is exactly what it sounds like, a challenge that gets you to look at your life and see everything you have to be grateful for. In a society that never seems happy with what they have it’s good to challenge ourselves to see past our complaints and our often long lists of wants and acknowledge all the good stuff already in our lives, as well as to thank the people we often forget to thank in our fast paced lives.

As North Americans and other advanced societies in general we’ve come to see the state of wanting as normal. No matter how much we have, how big our houses are, how much stuff we cram in them, how new or advanced our technology is, we always want more. Even more mentally debilitating we refer to our wants as needs so they become something we must have instead of something we would like to have but could live without. As a result we base our merit as human beings on our ability to obtain these “needed” items.

The dilemma that arises is we never have enough and when we tie our worth to wants and needs that can never be fulfilled we as individuals also become never enough. The truth is we are all enough. The price tags society affixes to our worth are illusions. If money ceased to have any value, we’d all still be of value to the universe. The currency of the universe is energy.

How often do we say, if only we had more money…. But would more money make any real difference? What if we said instead, if only we had more energy? Many of us do say that but I’m not talking about more energy to get through a grinding work week or force ourselves out of bed to fit into a mold society prepares for us just so we can pay the bills and buy more of our wants which in turn keeps the grinding wheels of our society turning. The energy of the universe is innately empowering and a first step to claiming that energy is accepting we are enough and we have inside of us everything we need to be what we feel called to be.

The next step to claiming that energy and owning ourselves is gratitude. Don’t wait to be nominated for a Gratitude Challenge, take the time to be grateful every day. Breathe in love, exhale gratitude. Exhale love, breathe in gratitude. That’s the real cycle of living that matters.

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I am challenging all my readers, friends, family who read my work to start your own Gratitude Challenge. Make up whatever rules work for you, challenge others to do the same and let go of the needs that are only wants and see how blessed and beautiful and wonderful life is. Even on the darkest day there are rays of gratitude to be found and when you find your center and realize you have all you need, that will radiate out into the world and infect others.

This is the revolution the world needs and it starts with each and every one of us.

Here’s my Gratitude Challenge for today.

1) I am grateful for my mother. She is my rock and my foundation. She is there when I need her, even when I don’t feel deserving of her care.

2) I am grateful for my husband who is willing to get on an airplane and fly across the Atlantic Ocean for the purpose of working on our relationship.

3) I am grateful to the energy workers I have met and am meeting in my life who are showing me new ways to find peace and healing energy and who are encouraging me as I start my path towards being an energy worker as well.

4) I am grateful for having found the Sacred Living movement and being able to integrate it into my life’s work.

5) I am grateful for all those who read and share my blog. I write for me but I also write to connect with you.

If you follow my Facebook page or my twitter account, I will start randomly posting Gratitude Challenge updates and you are welcome to share them and carry them into your own lives and use them to find your own center of gratitude.