Category Archives: Nurturing the Soul

When you have a garden you have a Future and when you have a Future, you are Alive. ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

When you have a garden you have a Future and when you have a Future, you are Alive. ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

I’m caving.

I’ve been so very strong about selling my house, downsizing, entering a new chapter of my life, blah blah blah…

This morning I worked in my garden.  The wisteria and the jasmine are in full bloom.   There are birds hanging on to branches everywhere and Ethel is stalking a very naive squirrel.  I’m pulling weeds and pruning roses and raking the gravel in the paths.  There are pots of flowers and window boxes that need watering.  I give St. Francis a little cleansing shower as he stands at his post, keeping peace among the wildlife.

I know I should start dis-assembling things in my home.  I need to start packing and getting my head around it all.  But this morning in the garden I am mourning.  Everything is in utter bloom as if to say in the sweetest way they know- goodbye.  And thank you.

Thank you for releasing lady bugs and dousing us with homemade compost.  Thank you for knowing what is a weed and what is a wildflower lest we all get pulled in haste.  Thank you for the great music you play when you are here with us bending and lifting and pulling and gently watering.

And I want to say in return…  Thank you for being there for me when I was stressed or anxious and nothing would sooth me except being outside with you.  And thank you for the beautiful canvas you created for all the great parties we’ve had here.  For my sons’ graduations from high school.  For our annual birthday theme parties.  For engagement parties and wedding showers and the random get togethers with friends and family.  For quiet meditation when I couldn’t sleep at night.

You’ve brought me such peace and tranquility.

And hundreds of plums!  Oh Lordy!  Not to mention all the birds, squirrels, raccoons and random neighborhood cats who came to enjoy your beauty.

I will have another garden.  As much as I bitch and moan about dragging around 20 pound bags of mulch and throwing out my back hoeing stubborn weeds rather than spraying them with roundup, I would not be the woman I am today without you and your unconditional love, your fragrance and your dramatic seasonal whimsy.

You will be the last part of this house that I begin to pack.  Both literally and figuratively.

I will miss my home and its’ cheerful sunlit rooms.  But I will miss you more.

 

Street of Dreams

Street of Dreams

 

 

My neighbor around the corner used to walk her little boys by my house with their big wheels.  We would chat sometimes and she mostly complained about the people who lived behind her who were constantly annoyed by the noise wafting from her back yard when her family and friends were in the pool or just out BBQing.   And she always punctuate the conversation with “But I will never move!  This is my dream house!”

Imagine my surprise when a couple months ago, her sons now graduated from high school, I spotted a big fat For Sale sign on her property.  Now they are gone- to where I have no idea.  Since her sons were old enough to travel the neighborhood independently, our only communication was a wave as I drove by her house.  She was usually outside meticulously manicuring her yard and garden and/or washing down the entire street in front of her house in her bathrobe.

When doing therapy with children, a very common assessment tool is called “House, Tree, Person”.  The child is asked to draw all three on a blank piece of paper and the idea behind this is that they will “project” into the drawing aspects of their inner world.  I’ve always loved doing this with my little clients, allowing both of us to relax and get to know each other.  (And of course, I love any opportunity to color with my set of 64 Crayola Crayons-Burnt Umber and Brick Red being my favorites..)

In my quest to “let go” in 2015, I threw away all my notes and paraphenalia from graduate school, including my very first House, Tree, Person drawing.  But it doesn’t really matter.  Every one I’ve ever drawn looks just like this one.  I did this the other day sitting at my kitchen table.  You might ask if this is my “dream house”.   Not really.   I think I’m the only woman on earth who has never longed for her “dream house”.

Rather, I have many houses that I dream about.

Shortly after we moved from sunny California to Portland Oregon, my son Patrick, then 9 years old,  had a vivid dream about our family home we had sadly left behind.  He was outside playing with his brothers and the neighborhood kids with squirt guns.  Out of water, he attempted to charge into the kitchen for a refill but found the front door locked.  A stranger opened it and promptly announced “you don’t live here any more”.

Pausing here for a brief meltdown.

I grew up on Halo Drive in Compton, California.  I had my babies on Tedemory Drive in Whittier.  I sent my first son to high school from SE 31st Street in Portland, Oregon.  And I launched all three of them into adulthood from my current home on Del Monte Avenue.   Each house was a “dream house” to me because the people I loved the most made it just that.  And in each house, a part of me was projected on to the walls and floors and empty spaces as my own personality and inner being grew and developed, magically displayed like a crayon drawing on a clean white piece of linen paper.

I’m moving, downsizing, cleaning, sorting and putting up for sale once again a house I will someday dream about.  I’m feeling both excited and sad and several other emotions in between. But I am holding the tension of the opposites deep within as I go through this process.   It’s time to make a change, to grow in a new direction, to take a chance, to redirect the energy in my life.   It will be a bittersweet journey.

I will take this home with me.  Every house I’ve ever lived in has taken up permanent residence in my heart and soul, carefully placed on my own personal Street of Dreams.

And I can revisit them any time I like.

 

New Year, New Intentions

New Year, New Intentions

Many years ago, I attended a funeral with my then husband, for one of his co-workers.  The gregarious and well respected engineer died relatively young leaving a wife and two small children.  I don’t remember how he died but I do recall how sad the service was and how irritated I was as the priest continued to encourage the congregation to “Let Go and Let God”!

I didn’t think for one minute that this man’s wife and family were ready to swallow that message.  Their grief was palpable and there would be difficult days and nights to get through before they could possibly “let go” and find peace with their loved one’s death.  I cried the entire way home from that funeral feeling that life was so unfair and random and unpredictable.  Vestiges of my own personal losses came up out of nowhere.  Letting go was the last thing I wanted to do.

I found this card in a box with other momentoes that I have saved through the years.  It was given to me after the death of my father more than 20 years ago with a heartfelt message from two dear friends from church, Mark and Margaret.   So timely that the message should find its way into my hands, asking to be reconsidered.

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.  I’m ready to hear this message.    This is my intention for 2015.

I am a saver of old cards, of my parents things, of photographs, of memories.  I have trouble opening my hands and letting things sift through, only keeping what is most important.  I cling to old ideas and patterns and struggle with transition and change.  But some old ways do not serve me anymore.  I am choosing to change the energy in my life and counting on God to help me take the leap to the new and unexpected.

Last night I had a dream about seeing our old next door neighbors from our first home in Whittier. (Previous neighbors!   Kenn and Lynda- you guys aren’t old yet!)  I felt that tinge of sadness and nostalgia that one feels when they revisit the past and remember good times and feel a sense of loss.

I am girding myself for said emotions.

Here’s to a new year.  A year of exciting discovery and potential nostalgia and sadness.

The student is ready.

 

 

 

 

The Plight of the Green Thumb

The Plight of the Green Thumb

Last Sunday as I opened the window over my kitchen sink to let in the warm spring air I turned around and noticed this beautiful healthy poinsettia sitting quite proudly on the island,  definitely out of place. Who keeps a $7 poinsettia alive not only through the Christmas season but way into March??  Ah.. the challenges of having a green thumb.

My home is beginning to look like a nursery.  Give me a plant?  You can bet it will be twice the size next time you come over.  My indoor plants take all the love and attention I can muster.  I often give them baths in my bathtub or kitchen sink so that they can luxuriate in a cocktail of plentiful filtered water and the morning’s left over coffee.  I swear they are smiling as they absorb the nutrients and attention!  (Maybe it’s the cocktail I’m drinking.. ?)

Most people worry about having boomerang children in midlife.  I’m happy to say that my three sons are living on their own and thriving.  No, rather, I have boomerang houseplants.  Let me explain…

My two oldest sons lived together during and after college for several years.  When Patrick left for Denver to attend graduate school, he divided his house plants between Rob and me for safe keeping.  I was happy to house and nurture almost 10 plants for Patrick during the three years he was gone.  In the meantime, Rob moved home for a short time, bringing all of his plants plus Patrick’s. I worked overtime to absorb the extra greenery.  Eight months later, Rob moved out, taking only his favorite plant- a remnant of a long lost lover- and leaving the rest with me.

Do the math!  My plants plus Patrick’s plants plus Robert’s plants and Patrick’s plants minus one plant.  Yikes!  My photosynthesis runneth over!

Low and behold, Patrick finished graduate school and moved back to San Jose.  When I asked him about reclaiming his plants, he said “Don’t worry Mom! I’ll just buy some new ones!”  Oh Lordy!  However, once settled in his new digs, he came over to collect his bounty.  Among them the beautiful Japanese Maple I gave him for his college graduation, a prolific rose colored geranium, and, to my dismay, a delicate fern that I had repotted in a lovely french blue pot that went perfectly with the decor in my guest room.  ( …most likely payback for me letting his homegrown-from-a-pit avocado tree freeze to death in my back yard winter of 2013.)

However, Patrick was generous enough to leave me a cactus that had grown arms, boobs and hair since he left  (“she clearly loves it here, Mom!”) and a stately coffee tree that adorns the landing of my staircase.  I am also housing a fugitive ficus tree stolen in a drunken dare by both sons and their friends off a porch in Berkeley a la college years.  Believe me, if I knew whose it was I would return it!  But until then it will grace the corner of my living room reaching almost to the ceiling.

I repotted several plants last weekend, among them a Bleeding Heart that I actually purchased myself several years ago.

That’s me.. a bleeding heart.  A hostel for a feral cat and closets full of men’s suits and baseball cards.  My home is a revolving door to children, friends, and homeless plants.  I am honored.

Be green, dear thumb.  Be green.

 

 

A Plethora of Women

A Plethora of Women

This last weekend I had the opportunity to facilitate a Day of Reflection for AMEN- The Alumni Mothers Extended Network for Bellarmine College Prep, the high school where my three sons attended and thrived.  I was sort of a replacement gig.  Sister Rebecca Shinas, better known as “the rockin’ nun of MySpace”, had some urgent family business to attend to.  So, my friend, Rosemary, had the thought to ask me.

Well of course!  What are the degrees of separation between Sister Rebecca and me?  I do have a Facebook…

Wondering if I was equipped to replace a sister who has devoted her entire life to spirituality and celibacy,  I was hesitant to accept.

I remember when Rosemary called me to ask.  I was standing in my kitchen and as she set up the invitation my head was telling me NO and my heart and intuition were screaming YES!  YOU CAN DO THIS!  BE BRAVE!

After a month of pulling books off my bookshelf and pouring over underlined and highlighted paragraphs, searching through my journals for significant dreams, scanning TED talks for presentations on life after raising a family, and searching the web for 10 ways to find your passion, I had my script and I was armed and ready.. perhaps dangerous.

I met some incredible women and of course the better part of the day was spent with their personal sharing.  One thing I’ve learned from being  Catholic and having to listen to priests talk from the pulpit every week and not being able to raise my hand and add my two cents is that women want to talk!  They want to share, to ask, to unfold their insecurities in a safe place and gain wisdom and strength from other women.  I was fortunate to be the facilitator for this day.  But truly the best material came from the gaggle of courageous and forthright women who attended.

So Amen to all of us!  We are brave.  We are courageous.  We are seeking answers.  We are finding our path.

What fruit will come from this day together is yet to be determined.

In the meantime, I promised to post the resources I referenced for my talk.  Some of them are pretty dated but really.. how much does this wisdom change over the years?

Ban Breathnach, Sarah. Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1995.  Something More. Excavating Your Authentic Self. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1998.

Bolen, Jean Shinoda, M.D.Crossing to Avalon. A Woman’s Midlife Pilgrimage. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994

Bridges, William. The Way of Transition. Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments. New York: Perseus Publishing, 2001.

Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way. A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992.  The Vein of Gold. A Journey to Your Creative Heart. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc, 1996.

McCauley, Lucy; Carlson, Amy G.; and Leo, Jennifer.  A Woman’s Path. Women’s Best Spiritual Travel Writing. San Francisco: Publishers Group West, 2003.

Carter, Cherie-Scott, PhD. If Life is a Game, These are the Rules.  Ten Rules for Being Human. New York: Broadway Books, 1998.

Hendricks, Gay, PhD. A Year of Living Consciously. 365 Daily Inspirations for Creating a Life of Passion and Purpose. San Francisco: Harper/Collins Publishers, 1998.

Hendricks, Gay, PhD. & Hendricks, Kathlyn, PhD. Conscious Loving. The Journey to Co-Commitment. A Way to Be Fully Together Without Giving Up Yourself. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.

Livingston, Gordon, M.D. Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.  Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now. New York: Marlowe & Company, 2004.

Martz, Sandra. The Tie That Binds. A Collection of Writings about Fathers & Daughters, Mothers & Sons. Watsonville, California: Paper-Mache Press, 1992.

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Gift from the Sea. New York: Random House, 1955 (the original printing)

Rupp, Joyce, OSM.  Praying Our Goodbyes. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1993.

Viorst, Judith. Necessary Losses. The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow. New York: Ballantine Books, 1986.

That wonderful 80 year old therapist who has her office on the Alameda?  Email me and I’ll send you her information.

Sparkly pens- from Target :)

Thank you, ladies, for being such attentive and engaged participants!  Until we meet again..

Amen!

 

One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

At the end of the last school year as we scurried about preparing for graduation I found this lovely Buddha in the highly polished North Hall, dangerously close to a large trash can.  I took a photo with my phone and promptly sent it to our resident art teacher to see if she knew whose it was.  “Yes of course.  That’s Sophie’s Buddha!”

The email exchange went something like this…

Subject: your Buddha

Hi Sophie, I’m not sure if you intended to throw your Buddha away but I found him near the trash cans in the North Hall.  If you don’t want him, I will buy him from you! That will make you a professional sculptress!!

Subject: RE: your Buddha

Hi Mrs. Healy!  I think my Buddha would love to live with you!  Happy summer!  :)  Sophie

I was secretly delighted! He’s mine now!  I loved the beautiful open and upturned hands and the amethest stone in his forehead.  Why didn’t she want him, I wondered?   Maybe her mom wanted him.  Should I have suggested that?

I took him home and found a place for him under my blossoming Santa Rosa plum tree.  Narcissus grew around him.  Plums dumped their juicy essence on his head.  Yet, every time I ventured out to my garden he was there in all his peace and tranquility.  I continued to ask myself.. why didn’t she want this masterpiece?

Months later, still pondering…  I asked the art teacher, Mrs. Ford: “Did she get a bad grade on it?  Is that why she didn’t want it?”  Her response… “I don’t remember!!”  Note to self.. never ask an art teacher for facts and data.

I’m left to speculate.  Did someone tell her it wasn’t a good project?  Did she get a poor grade on it?  Who grades what we produce out of our souls and our essence?  What talents have we abandoned because someone said “not good enough”?

Sophie’s trash..

My treasure.

 

 

 

Answered Prayer

Answered Prayer


I’m sorta kinda glad that God doesn’t work like a gum ball machine.  Prayer in, answer out.  Automatic and immediate.  Feeding the Silicon Valley habit of getting things instantaneously.  Google this.  Twitter that.  Instagram it!  Now you see it, now you don’t on Snapchat.

I assume that God is more tech savvy than we are.  Yet counterculture in the most innovative manner.  God absolutely answers our prayers but not before we have wiggled and squirmed and hit road blocks and narrow openings of escape and experienced anxiety and fear and dread and hope and love and amazement.

Life giving clues come out of nowhere in places we are not looking. Yet the door we stare at remains closed.
There is the yin and yang of angst and yearnings and decisions wrought with uncertainty.  There are lessons to learn and wisdom to gain.  There are weeks and months of industrious and productive activity followed by feelings of abandonment.   There are moments of sweet victory as well as dead ends- each teaching patience and courage and fortitude.  Creating something anew in us.   A transformed man.  A renewed woman.

And then the answer comes…

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Thank you, God, for answered prayer.

 

 

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

When I lived in Portland, Oregon one of my favorite things to do in the evening with my neighbor Clara was walk around the neighborhood and just catch up on the day, build our friendship, and look into peoples’ windows.

From the sidewalk of course!

Homes at night, illuminated from within, reveal so much more than the typical daytime drive-by viewing.  There’s often an interesting lamp or a curious seating arrangement. There is the lighting and the color and the architecture and the moisture on the windows that speaks of warmth and conversations and relationships within.

Clara and I would muse about the decorating but also about the family dwelling inside.  What were they like?  Most houses kept their draperies open in the evening as if to invite such speculation.

As if to say “see me”.

See what I’m like inside.  I may be awkward and not good at conversation.  I may be boorish or abrupt or seemingly uncaring or selfish or grouchy or cross.  I might appear unkempt and desperately in need of a hot meal and some sound sleep!   But look inside me.  See the me illuminated from within. See my intentions and my efforts. See my brokenness and my longings, my fears and insecurities.

In this season of light as we are hurrying to make some magic for our families, as we cook and bake in between 9-5 jobs,  as we volunteer at soup kitchens or church pantries or reach to give a dollar or two to a person with a sign on the corner outside the Safeway (after purchasing $200 worth of groceries how can you not?)…

Stop for a minute and look inside where the lights illuminate who we truly are.  Who the stranger is.  Who my neighbor is.  Who the homeless woman is.  Who I am.

Can you see me now?

My Second Act

My Second Act

I just celebrated another birthday.  They seem to be coming faster and faster and as Joni Mitchell says in her song “Circle Game” I want to drag my feet just to slow the circle down.  I’m really not that old.  Just old enough to live in the new “senior” housing in Morgan Hill (if I wanted to).  Just old enough to get a discounted ticket at the movie theater.   Just old enough to be courted and and pursued by AARP.  Just old enough to know better most times…

At least I don’t feel old.

In honor of my recent birthday I’d like to give myself a big round of applause for Act One of my life!  It has not been without struggle and I want to take a bow and acknowledge all the varied and sundry experiences, the provocative and stimulating people, the gut-wrenching turmoil, the unexpected deliriously joyful surprises, the down and dirty hard work and the yin and yang of it all.

I want to shine the spot light on it, acknowledge it, nod respectfully to it and have it exit stage left with its playbill for safe keeping in an archive of sorts.  Curtain closed.  Fade to the second act.

Act Two..

Whereas Act One was filled with calculated planning and career climbing and husband finding and child raising and house cleaning and penny pinching and weed pulling-  it seems only right that Act Two should be something different and unexpected!  The plot should thicken and the tables should turn!  There should be adrenaline pumping suspense and goose bump anticipation!  Why not take risks and do something mischievous and spend so much money on cowboy boots that I’m forced to sell my unnecessarily large house and rent an energy efficient cottage and be able to walk away from it for weeks at a time in order to go on a writers’ retreat or babysit my grandchildren or fly out to spend time with one of my siblings or go to Peet’s and pen that Act Two book?  Maybe I’ll  get a humongous dog and wear tie dye, let my hair go grey and move to Santa Cruz.

I think it’s time to start that girl band.

Sigh…

Did I hear someone yell Bravo?

 

 

All Is Calm.. All Is Bright

All Is Calm.. All Is Bright

This is my next door neighbor’s house.  They are the first house on our street to have their lights up and their tree decorated.  I noticed this Sunday evening as I was walking to my mail box across the street. (I hadn’t had time to get my mail for a few days.)

I said to myself  Jeez!  A bit anxious aren’t we?  I then heard a voice in my ear saying “bah humbug..”.

I looked a little closer and noticed through the window people eating and laughing.  My neighbors were having a holiday party and the guests looked cozy and warm inside- the windows somewhat fogged from the heavy breathing, fun laughter, and everyone talking at the same time.

I was transfixed.

It was a rainy night yet I felt compelled to walk by their house again later that evening just to take it all in.  It was like a Norman Rockwell painting and it stirred within me a nostalgia for days less busy, less hurried and less hectic.  Days filled with the care and feeding of three little boys, putting together puzzles with them, dancing to wild music on the turntable and baking Christmas cookies.  Days when the mail man at the door was one of the most exciting events of the afternoon!

I have to admit, I’ve been a little bit of a Scrooge lately.  With a full time job, preparing for Christmas often feels like taking on an additional part time job!  It always has a lovely ending though the beginning can be rough, plagued by my bad attitude and feelings of impending doom.

Sunday night changed all that.  Something wrenched itself loose in me and I wanted what I saw inside my neighbor’s cheery and festive home.  Love and Joy.  Friendship and laughter.

All things calm and bright…

Let the wild rumpus begin!