Archive for November, 2013

Holding Space

Today people are expressing all they are grateful for.  Whether it is early morning Facebook posts, words shared around the dinner table or thoughts they keep to themselves.  While there are many things I am extremely grateful for, today I share I am thankful for all those who trust me to hold space for them and for those who hold space for me in times of need.

I know some of you are thinking what in the world is she saying or even that is too new age for me.  “Holding Space” was a phrase I heard early in my yoga practice but never really understood until a few years ago.

In 2009 I attended Yoga Journal conference and spent three days with Nikki Myers in her intensive Y12SR workshop.  At the time my friend and I had just started our volunteer program teaching yoga to kids in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse.  We learned such a great deal from Nikki that we invited her back to Boston later that year.  Over that weekend, all of our participants were extremely honest and raw with their history, emotions, and struggles.  It was the first time I really understood what it meant to hold space.  Nikki and company would sit, breathe, listen and just be so others could share.  To me, this phrase, holding space, means having the ability to be in a space, free of judgement while those around you and including yourself take time to process life.  

Holding space is about allowing a situation to unfold without fueling the emotions that may be part of it.  Holding space is trusting that by allowing a person to express their emotions freely, their deeper healing is already at work.  Anything you say while holding space must be free from your judgements about them and their situation. You get to create a safe space for them to have their process.

The practice of holding space can be loving and comforting.  For example, a friend may lose a loved one.  You can sit and just be with them.  Other times, holding space can be down right scary.  Not all relationships are roses.  The key is to allow them to share their feelings without judgement.

What I understand about myself is that I have to work very hard on watching my emotions come and go.  If I let them get the best of me, it’s like a small ship lost in a storm at sea.  The wind and elements are outside myself.

Holding space means not reacting to haste or fear.  Rather it is responding  with love and awareness.

be well-




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Ground Yourself

This week begins the chaos of the holiday season.  With that, many emotions come to surface.  Some view this as their favorite time of year.  Others find ways to hibernate from the rest of the world.

Below are a few tips on “surviving” the holiday season:

  • Develop realistic expectations. Enjoy each holiday for what it is, not what you think it should be based on fairytales and movies. If your brother and sister have never gotten along, don’t expect them during a holiday celebration. If your children expect more than you can provide, teach them a lesson about the true meaning of the season. When you approach the holidays in a realistic fashion, you set the stage for enjoyment and success.
  • While it may be easy to drink and eat too much at parties and special dinners, we should try not to overindulge with food and/or alcohol. Remember, eating and drinking may feel like they temporarily “ease the pain” of the holidays blues, but they can also lead to feelings of guilt.
  • Create a budget and stick to it! No matter how much your children tell you what they want, money does not buy love or happiness. Set a monetary limit and get creative!
  • There’s something about being with family and old friends that makes us become who we were and not who we are. When you find yourself reverting to old childhood patterns when with family members, try to walk away for a minute and remember who you are now. Also remember that it’s not necessary to play the same role as you did when you were younger, even if others are encouraging you to do so by their behaviors.  If there is someone at the get-together who knows what you are like today, make sure to reach out to them and draw them into the interactions. That will help to ground you
  •  Learn to give and you will also receive. Take the time to reflect on all that you have been given and provide that opportunity to others during the holiday season. Giving feels good in any context. Do something for someone or make contact with someone who you’ve been thinking about for a while.
  • Holidays are often a time people attempt to take on too much, do too much on their own. It’s OK to ask for help from family and friends. Whether for decorating, shopping, cooking, or a shoulder to lean on, ASK.

I wish a safe and joyous holiday season to all of you.

be well-


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It’s finally that time of year…

Growing up, I never remember our parents having firewood delivered to the house.  My memories are of watching dad take the long, heavy axe and split a piece of wood in two.  Together we would then stack wood, piling up to make sure we had enough for the winter season.  Most of the wood came from old, dead trees that we had cleared from our land.

Fast forward twenty-five years and I am now living in the city.  Although I don’t have the “luxury” of splitting my own wood, I did have some delivered a few weeks back and spent a good chunk of time stacking it on our patio.  I’m hoping this supply will last us through the much anticipated cold winter season.

dropped on the sidewalk for us to carry

we both feel the stove is the best feature in the house

The following information is from the U.S. Fire Administration-

Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean

  • Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
  • Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
  • Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
  • Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
  • Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
  • Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
  • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.

Safely Burn Fuels

  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
  • Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
  • When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

Protect the Outside of Your Home

  • Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
  • Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
  • Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
  • Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.

Protect the Inside of Your Home

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.
  • Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
  • Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.

Here is a safe and enjoyable time of year.

be well-












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Can you Hear me now?

It is amazing to me how with a little nudge, the human body can heal itself.  This month marks seven years since I had an ear drum replacement.  Seven years without a single ear infection.

For some, seven years without an ear infection may seem like no big deal.  To me, it has changed my world.  At three years old, I had my adenoids removed and tubes put in my ears.  I was a rare case where the tubes never fell out on their own.  So at the age of six, the ENT doctor removed them (my mom still has them in a test tube as a souvenir).  Unfortunately when the doctor removed the tubes, he accidentally perforated the ear drums.

My parents shuffled me to countless doctor appointments.  Many where I would sit in a booth, raise my hand every time a tone would sound.  At some point, I would just raise my hand randomly, taking guesses.  At ages 8 and 9, I underwent more surgery.  I have large scars behind each ear from tempanoplasty surgery.  This was like putting a patch on the perforation.  One memory I have from a post-op appointment was the doctor pulling three feet of gauze from my ear, like he was a clown pulling a scarf from his front pocket.

Unfortunately, on the right side, the patch did not hold.  This led to many, many years of chronic ear infections.  As a result of so many ear infections, I would often ask people to repeat themselves, saying “What?”  My television volume was always high and I would speak very loudly while having conversations.  In addition, I had a difficult time understanding and distinguishing certain sounds.  My reading and writing skills were below par as a result of this.

And then I moved to the mecca of the medical world.  It was like roulette, choosing a doctor at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.  I lucked out, in a Big, Big way.  After the first visit with my new doc, it was decided I needed an ear drum replacement.  There was so much scar tissue and damage from 25 years worth of infections and surgeries.  Within weeks, the doctor was sitting in the recovery room with my mom, letting her know that surgery went well.  He had shaved part of my skull and a slice of skin to create a whole new structure.

Since that particular surgery, I have never had an ear infection, I often turn the volume down on the tv, have noticed I speak a little more softly in conversation and now have more enjoyment with reading and writing.

Getting to the root of the problem was a big deal.  Take control of your own health.  Sometimes we need more than just a patch to make things work.

be well-







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Huricanes, Snow Storms and More, oh My….

The tornado that people still talk about…it was 1984 and it ripped through south central Wisconsin.  Very  little warning and a whole lot of destruction.  It tore through homes and villages.  The path along the trees still carries a hint of its path on the outskirts of town leading to the house I grew up in.


Residents of New Orleans and the surrounding gulf had a few days warning.  Most left town but many did stay behind.  They sat on their rooftops for days as rescue help was needed from Hurricane Katrina.  That hurricane of 2005 certainly left her mark leaving homes and business leveled to the ground, standing water for days.  Just five months later I went to volunteer in the Lower Ninth Ward, St.Bernard Parish.

New Orleans 021

New Orleans 022

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New Orleans 020


Traveling between New England and the Midwest is extremely difficult between November and March.  Almost every time I get stuck in the airport on either end…




Sometimes we have just a few days, hours or minutes to prepare for mother nature’s next big surprise.  The typhoon that hit the Philippines over the weekend was the inspiration for today’s post.

The following is taken from the CDC

Prevent illness after a disaster has hit-

  • Clean up, disinfect, and practice good hygiene to avoid illness from bacteria, viruses, mold, and mildew.
  • Get medical care if you are injured, sick, or having trouble coping with stress.
  • To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, only use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices outside and away from open windows, doors, and air vents.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids to prevent heat-related illness.

Keep food and drinking water safe-

  • Food may not be safe to eat during and after an emergency. Water may not be safe for cooking.
  • Water may not be safe to drink, clean with, or bathe in after an emergency, such as a hurricane or flood. During and after a disaster, water can become contaminated with microorganisms (for example, bacteria), sewage, agricultural or industrial waste, chemicals, and other substances that can cause illness or death.
  • Listen to and follow public announcements. Local authorities will tell you if water is safe to drink or to use for cooking or bathing. Follow local instructions to use bottled water or to boil or disinfect water for cooking, cleaning, or bathing.

Protect mental health-

  • The days and weeks after an emergency are going to be rough. Some sleeplessness, anxiety, anger, hyperactivity, mild depression, or lethargy are normal and may go away with time. If you feel any of these symptoms acutely, seek counseling. Your state, local, tribal health departments will help you find local resources, including hospitals or health care providers that you may need.
  • Seek medical care if you are injured, feel sick, or have acute stress and anxiety.
  • Keep as many elements of your normal routine incorporated into the disaster plans as possible, including activities to calm children’s fears.
  • Be aware that you may have fewer resources to attend to your day-to-day conflicts, so it is best to resolve what you can ahead of time.
  • Turn to family, friends, and important social or religious contacts to set up support networks to deal with the potential stressors.
  • Let your child know that it is okay to feel upset when something bad or scary happens. Encourage your child to express feelings and thoughts, without making judgments.

Are you prepared?  More information on natural disasters is available at the CDC.

be well



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Shedding Skin

When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand what the sponge looking thing in the corner was for.  Now, that loofah scrub is one of my must do’s when taking a shower.

There are many health benefits to scrubbing with a loofah.

  • Exfoliation– Our epidermis, the outer most layer of skin sheds on a regular basis from simple friction such as clothes rubbing again our skin.  But sometimes not all of that is removed and it makes our skin look ashy.  By gently using the loofah, it helps to remove excess dead skin cells and also sweeps away places where bacteria and soil could collect.
  • Improved Circulation– Anytime you had friction to the skin, there is increased localized blood flow.  Capillaries, the tiny blood vessels closest to your skin, naturally expand when stimulated.  An example of this would be when rubbing your hands together to warm them up.
  • Prevents Body Odor– Loofah’s natural exfoliating ability helps to prevent folliculitis (a condition that causes facial and body hair to begin to grow beneath the skin).

How to use loofah sponge-

  • Use an up and down motion for legs and arms
  • Use a circular motion for the back and body
  • Avoid broken skin areas
  • Massage young skin very gently after scrubbing it with loofah.

Caring for your loofah-

Loofah sponge is a natural fiber and if not properly cared for, will attract the growth of mold and micro organisms that will cause skin problems. It is therefore important to keep loofah sponge clean and dry when not in use.

Please Note-

  • If you have dry skin, adding more avocado or almond oil offers more moisture.
  • Foot scrubs using loofah is very effective.

Caution! Do not use loofah sponge on your face, as the facial skin is very sensitive.

Next time you lather up, take time to use the loofah scrub to shed some skin.

be well-


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