Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dark Confessions and Bright Miracles.



Dark Confessions first. Bright Miracles below the photos of me with Santa.

I was entranced by the spinning disco ball within the mirrored star on top of the magnificently ornate, 11 foot tall Christmas tree. I sat by the crackling fireplace watching this magical star scatter tiny rainbows over the vaulted ceiling of my grandparent’s darkened living room.

My enjoyment was enhanced by illicit inhalations from a small brass pipe. I surreptitiously blew the smoke up the chimney that I had once believed Santa slid down.

I have no clue what year it was. The memories of my teens are a bit fuzzy given that I started experimenting with drugs at age 11, but I do remember that it was Christmas Eve. My grandparents were either at the Good Shepherd Catholic church in St. Louis Park Minnesota or possibly St. Agnes in St. Paul. 

They had given up shepherding their decidedly un-saintly, smugly cynical, atheist granddaughter to midnight mass. In previous years I would huddle Grinch-like in the corner of the choir loft with a new Christmas toy or a book, rebelliously muttering the equivalent of “Bah humbug” under my breath and engaging in entertaining past times like attempting to drip candle wax down on the parishioners parading below.

It's not that I didn't like any aspects of Christmas, I loved the feasting and greedy frenzy of gift opening. The lion’s share of everything that was under that impressive giant Christmas tree was mine, ALL MINE!

That is until the arrival in rapid succession of the first 3 of my five cousins who were ever so much more adorable in their infantile innocence than the surly kid I had become by the time the first rival appeared on the scene.

Me at 24 in that same living room with my uncles, aunt, cousins and grandmother, still apparently attempting to steal the limelight.


I worshiped my Uncle Garry all through my childhood and loved him dearly until the day he departed this Earth so suddenly on St. Nicholas day, 12 years ago. I still miss him keenly.

So when he brought HER (the woman who was to bear all of those usurpers) to my grandparent’s home, I alternated between sulking under my grandmother's bed and skulking at the perimeter of the living room shooting poisonous looks at my adored uncle’s new fiancé.

I did, however, sweetly volunteer to bring her the Bloody Mary that my grandfather had mixed for her. I stopped off to add some pencil sharpener shavings and dust bunnies from the stairs to the cocktail and watched gleefully as she obliviously sipped my offering, not noticing the extra “spices” I had added that were slowly settling to mingle with the ice cubes at the bottom of the red drink.*

I share these confessions to show the juxtaposition between the skeptical, miserable and vindictive kid I once was, and the more open, optimistic and compassionate adult I have become.  My over-dependence upon my overly praised intelligence and my fear of trusting anything outside of myself, exacerbated my suffering enormously as well. It seems to me that our culture right now is a bit like I was as that child.

We are consumed with doubt that there is not enough of anything and that we ourselves are not enough. This fuels our contentiousness and consumption of material goods, drugs (legal and illegal), the equivalent of hiding under the bed with other escapist behaviors, and the desperate quest for love and approval.

I do not claim to be the pinnacle of enlightenment by any means. I find myself occasionally sucked into black holes and have plenty of fears about insufficiency. I still have tendencies to over consume - even if my current overindulgences are in social media and organic food vs my previous far more destructive vices.

But I have changed. And not just because of the passage of time. My ongoing transformation has occurred as a result of countless dark periods far worse than the addition of some new family members.  These dark passages helped me find love, faith and the gifts in the shadows. As a society we also have the capacity to change. The challenging times that we are going through right now as well as our past difficulties are part our collective evolution.



 I probably still believed in the first photo, but I think it was over by the second one.




Typically, children are the ones who are naïvely more likely to believe in miracles than their more rational, logical adult counterparts. But I have rarely ever been labeled typical. Although I must have believed in Santa Claus when I was little, I have no memory of that belief or when it ended. I did not believe in anything else that required faith until my late teens.That process of opening my mind and heart is still a work in progress. 
I have been inundated in recent years with persuasive evidence that there is a greater creative power that is far beyond what my intellect can perceive. Much of this confirmation is from direct experience, but I have also learned from a wealth of anecdotal and more “respected” forms of documentation. 

I still struggle with allowing myself to fully accept what I know to be true. A lifetime of thinking my small self needs to be “in control”, often supersedes even the most compelling substantiation. Partially because the implications of this vast mysterious power and my potential access to it are mind-boggling! 

Here are some theories I currently have about darkness and miracles that I hope you will consider the next time you find yourself experiencing a dark time in your life.


  • Miracles often come during the darkest of times. 
  • Dark times are when we most need help and thus are more willing to accept it. Desperation makes us have less to lose in hoping for and/or recognizing miracles.
  • When things are dark, and something bright appears it's more noticeable by contrast, so we are less likely to miss it. 
  • When life is at its darkest (especially when we experience sudden losses or betrayals) we are broken open. This allows for light and new beliefs to slip in through the cracks in our protective shell of rationality - if we let them. 
Sharing One of my favorite quotes again.

I also believe that dark times come to us for the purpose of evolution. We need these times just as much as we need night time, dark rainy days and the fallow darkness of winter months. They are part of a natural, beneficial cycle of life. 

The secret to getting the most from these difficult challenges is to be as fully, consciously present as possible with the pain and vulnerability that arise in the darkness. When we change the story of our pain from one of needing to protect ourselves, by resisting and controlling events, to one of willingness to explore the depths in search of the gifts, this is the portal to miracles.

There are little every day miracles such as the synchronicities that I have been sharing in my blogs. There are bigger miracles such as life changing transformations (for me it was my Phoenix rising from the ashes experience) and then there are the epic miracle legends like the birth of Jesus or the Hanukkah lights.

But the world is filled with miracles that we don't acknowledge or even recognize. Have you really thought about how and why your human body and the various parts of it work (just your eye alone is beyond miraculous!) or the amazing planet Earth upon which you stand and its place in the infinite cosmos? Talk about mind-boggling!

The words "miracle" and "mirror" both stem from words that mean “look”, "wonder" and "smile". I think that to help accept the possibility of miracles we need to look in the mirror, and smile with wonder at who we truly are. Not the surface details and perceived flaws, but the truth of our own miraculous power to love, evolve and create. 

I only get occasional glimpses, but it's enough to keep me showing up in the world with renewed delight even when there appears to be absolutely no reason for optimism.  This allows me to be more compassionate and even more productive in the world, so looking for brightness and miracles can actually be rather practical. 

December is the darkest time of the year, so it is not surprising that it is a time of myriad celebrations to help offset those long nights. The entire month is packed with holidays from around the world, but I'm just listing a few in chronological order, related to miracles and/or light. I am celebrating all of them and encourage you to pick a new one to add to your holiday season - just for the fun of it!

Hanukkah - A Jewish celebration of miraculous lights.
Bodhi Day - A celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment (some Buddhists put lights in trees in honor of the where the enlightenment took place - under the Bodhi tree).
Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day - A celebration originating in Mexico of a miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary.
St Lucy’s Day - A Swedish celebration of the sun goddess wearing a crown of candles.
Winter solstice - A Pagan celebration of the return of the sun's light.
Christmas - A celebration with lights, candles, a bright star and the miracle of Jesus’ birth.
Kwanzaa - An African American celebration with candles.

Whether you believe any of these ancient stories are based on verifiable facts does not matter. What is important is the firm belief in the possibility of miracles.There are millions of stories of astonishing, inexplicable wonders and probably millions more that are untold for fear of disbelief and derision. If even one is a true miracle, then that means miracles are possible for us all. 



Wishing you faith during long dark nights and joy in the bright miracles of the season.


*Against my will, I eventually fell head over heels in love with my aunt and my cousins and this love only grows stronger with the passage of time. My aunt not only forgave me for the Bloody Mary (and for obscuring her face with little drops of hand lotion on her wedding picture), but became like a second mother to me. I continued to find ways to be mischievous - ask my cousins about the misadventures with the Cabbage Patch dolls in the photo and the chocolate crickets I fed them on my most recent visit!






Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Want Everlasting Pleasure/ A Gift of Chocolate?

If you are only opening this to find out how to get Everlasting Pleasure Chocolate, feel free to skip this brutal story and go to the image of the chocolate bar below.


Not my photo, but I did see a Hawk earlier today on my hike!

It all happened so fast. The screech of the Red-tailed Hawk as it swooped down to snatch up it's unsuspecting prey. The sharp beak plunging into the soft, downy, still quivering, breast of the brown woodpecker, scattering small feathers and drops of blood on the trail - only a few feet in front of me.

I was on my way down from a giant spiral made of small rocks where I had done a ritual to honor my quiet and cautious, marshmallow-soft, launch of Sparks & Leaps

The spiral is on a hidden plateau high on a hill with a stunning view of San Francisco and Mount Tam and a place I love to go to honor holidays and significant days in my life. It is also one of my favorite outdoor dance floors. 

The date was February 1, 2014. It was Imbolc/Candlemas/the day before Groundhogs Day/ halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox it was also the day after the New Moon and the second day of Chinese New Year (Year of the Wood Horse) and seemed like a propitious time to make a symbolic gesture for a beginning.

Witnessing the carnage and last flickers of life of the Northern Flicker woodpecker did not initially appear to be a particularly favorable omen, but I decided to put a positive spin on it (it certainly was powerful!) and wait to see if any deeper meaning would be revealed.

In last month's New Moon blog about killers, I told the horrific story of three young predators who swooped down on an unsuspecting, innocent man and plucked his wallet and keys from his pocket and left him dead in a pool of blood. This occurred on a trail connected to the one where the hawk was (and also a few yards in either direction from the Gunshot Fire Road and a road named for the pirate - Sir Frances Drake).

I have not been able to stop thinking about him and all of those connected to this tragedy and holding all in my heart.

At the end of that post, I said I would recount a bizarre series of incidents relating to the theme of the predator on this trail. For those of you who want to read a couple more (fortunately no bloodshed), I will include them at the end of this one.

This is of one of the woodpecker's feathers and a rock with blood from the site of Steve Carter's murder - both of which I keep on my altar.
Ever since the event with the hawk occurred, I've been wondering what (if anything) it might mean. After all, if one is going to a sacred spot to do a ritual and something like this happens, in theory it should mean something, but I was baffled. Also, in addition to the stories at the bottom, there have been SO MANY other happenings with the same theme. 

I would gladly have given this troublesome theme of violence, predators and death a funeral. I tried many times to dismiss or reinterpret these frequent reminders from the underworld.

It was especially vexacious as I tried to understand how to interpret this theme in relation to the equally persistent, compelling and confounding themes of holidays (holy-days/ natural cycles/ celebrations/ ceremonies/ rituals) and  synchronicities (with all of their Magic - including both the derisive label of “magical thinking” and the mind blowing implications of immense power and Mystery), and the issue of “Magic” in relation to placebos or what I have privately referred to as “the snake oil and mummy paste issue”.

All I wanted to do was to create a service to help families in the middle of life transitions like divorces.

But every time I tried to jettison any of these pieces, more validation in the way of similar stories would occur. And whenever I tried to force myself to use conventional, practical, rational, logical methods like action plans and diligent effort (WORK HARDER/FASTER/MORE/ BETTER), to whip Sparks & Leaps into a clear concept that could be translated into a “moneymaking vehicle” and useful service or to even consider creating a different business or the option of paid employment elsewhere, I would hit a (metaphorical but still painful) brick wall.

And then I would be flooded with ridiculously clear indications that I needed to continue doing exactly what I was doing. Unfortunately this plan appeared on the outside (and to my own increasingly hostile inner critic, justifiably concerned about survival needs) to be engaging in frivolous activities and left me dreading the inevitable questions from everyone about what was happening with Sparks & Leaps.

Okay, here is where the FREE CHOCOLATE comes in!

My Friend Bethanne's guilt free, yummy chocolate


I am overjoyed and deeply relieved to announced that these themes are finally beginning to come together! I will be sharing more details soon, but in the meantime, I'm offering any of you who enjoy puzzles to play with the colorful pieces (see the words in color in the text above) and see what kind of picture you put together.

I would love to hear any of your perspectives before I reveal the next version of Sparks & Leaps. (Third times a charm - and I'll bet my clever loyal readers know what day that launch will occur - cue the Sonny and Cher song from the movie!) 

Anyone who creates a story of Sparks & Leaps (even if satirical) that includes all of these pieces will receive a gift of chocolate if you give me your address (which I promise not to use for anything else ever unless you are already in my address book and receiving greeting cards). 

You can send your entries to michelle@sparksandleaps.com or if you prefer anonymity and foregoing the candy, use the comment section of this blog. And, of course I always welcome any feedback, anonymous or otherwise, in the comment section.

I will also send chocolate to the first 7 people who help me with the following quest which I am also posting on various social media sites.

SURPRISE DIVORCE?!

I am looking to interview seven women (who are also mothers or stepmothers) between the ages of 40 to 60 whose marriages suddenly and unexpectedly ended. You could either be in the middle of divorce right now or could have navigated this experience in the past.

If this is you and you are willing to tell me your story, please send me a private message or email at michelle@sparksandleaps.com

I imagine the this conversation (which is, of course, totally confidential) will also be of great value to you.

Or if you know of anyone who fits this description and might be willing to talk with me about their experience, please share this invitation with them.

Thank you!

And if you read about this in my blog, claim your chocolate!



And now, just to lighten things up a bit after all of the recent heavy topics in my last newsletter and blog, I wish all of you a Happy Diwali - Hindu Festival of lights - and a day full of the delightful synchronicities that many associate with 11/11 (anyone reading this at 11:11 on 11/11?).

As for Armistice Day/ Veterans Day (how cool that WW1 ended on 11/11 at 11:11!) , I am planning on addressing a related topic connected to Pearl Harbor Day in the next New Moon Blog. But in the mean time, here is a respectful note of acknowledgement to honor those who have served and the hope that we can learn to resolve our conflicts without war. 

And now, here are the other two Spiral predator stories I promised earlier for those who are interested.

Photo of my shadow wearing a pirate hat that was in the center of the Spiral that day.
On the Autumnal Equinox 2014 (a few months after the Imbolc incident with the hawk), I decided I would do another ritual to address my reluctance to create a stronger presence with my new business. I had been working with a business coach and had joked with her that I was wearing a cloak of invisibility and was nervously considering taking it off. 

As I was walking up the trail to the spiral, I was on the phone talking to a friend whose brother had died. After my condolences, he asked me the dreaded question, inquiring how Sparks & Leaps was going. I told him about my cloak of invisibility and how my coach had advised that rather than ripping it off and feeling naked and vulnerable I should do a little striptease.

Just as I said this provocative phrase, and at approximately the same spot on the trail where the hawk had dined, a young guy (mid 20s?) rode by on his bike, and stared at me. 

When I got up to the Spiral, he was there. Watching me. I approached the spiral slowly and hoped he would ride his bike down the hill and go away. But he stayed. Watching me. I asked him if he wanted a turn, indicating  that was what I had come there for and hoping he would take the hint and go away. But he declined and stayed. Watching me.

It was approaching dusk so I couldn't leave and come back and I really wanted to leave some offerings in the center of the Spiral (including one of the feathers from that little woodpecker), so I walked in and out the Spiral fairly briskly, keeping an eye on the biker.

I walked back to the path I had taken up to the plateau and pretended I was leaving in the hopes that he would go so I could go back and have a little sunset dance.

As soon as I had disappeared behind the bushes, he got on his bike but instead of riding down the trail in front of him, he rode over the rocks to the center of the spiral and rode back and forth over the spot where I had left my tokens*.

Then he ducked behind a tree and got off his bike with his back to me.  I couldn't see exactly what he was doing but what I did see seriously creeped me out. I left immediately and high tailed it down the hill, while talking to a nearby friend on my cell phone, explaining exactly where I was and what had happened, just in case he might try to follow me.

After finding another place to dance and finish my ritual, I went home and drew a card from an oracle deck. I got The Hermit, who (among other intriguing details that were very helpful for me) “wears a grey cloak of invisibility”.


I kept my virtual cloak of invisibility on and I avoided the spiral for several weeks. But then I decided I wasn't going to let myself be scared away from one of my favorite places and went to reclaim it. 

The occasion I chose was all Saints Day/ Day of the Dead. I thought about Saints and sinners, good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, as well as vampires, pirates and other popular scary Halloween characters. In the spirit of Day the Dead which invites a playfulness to grim topics, I decided I would play with my own inner sinner/villain and use that energy to scare off any predators. I brought a little skull and cross bones button along with some other items to leave in the middle of the Spiral.

When I reached the middle, this little action figure was waiting for me.

Bizarro


I didn't have my iPhone yet to take a photo, and didn't want to remove him (bad Spiral/labyrinth etiquette to take anything out that someone else put there), but I looked up purple villain action figure when I got home and discovered Bizarro. He was a fairly sweet and pathetic villain who was just trying to be like superman but was inherently flawed. I was actually touched and illuminated by his story and delighted to have made his acquaintance.

Me at the center of the Spiral on 9/11. This year.


* This was not the first time that something I had left in the middle of the middle of a spiral or labyrinth had been vandalized with significance for me. Here is that tale from a previous blog

Monday, October 12, 2015

Killers

My photo of the memorial spot for Steve Carter

As the light faded to dusk on a chilly evening last week, I stood in the small circle of mourners and placed flowers by the side of the hiking trail for the man who had just been murdered there, 48 hours ago.

Steve Carter who devoted his life to teaching others how to love had been shot multiple times and left holding the leash attached to his wounded dog, Coco who had also been shot in the head and chest.

Apparently his life was taken so that the three young killers could sell his 2003 VW Jetta Station Wagon to get money for Meth. They also brutally murdered a 23-year-old young woman last weekend, either for the contents of her backpack or some other random reason.

Steve was temporarily staying in my town with friends while caring for his wife of 17 years during her treatment for an aggressive breast cancer. They were struggling to meet the medical bills and had also been affected by the recent fire that swept through Northern California and destroyed their former community.

Because he had helped so many people and had been so well loved by friends, family and a large community, Steve's loss was widely and deeply felt. Most of all by his wife, Lokita whose multiple losses right now are simply beyond my capacity to take in. Click here if you would like to donate to help her with all of the many monetary expenses that she has to deal with on top of everything else.

You may want to stop reading at this point. This post is by far the most challenging one I have ever written and it will probably be pretty challenging to read as well. I promise I won't hold it against you if you are not up for it. 

Still here? Well then, please take a moment to register what your strongest emotion is and thoughts that accompany this feeling when you look at the faces of those who are responsible for this devastation. Allow that to simmer in the background. We will get back to it in a moment. There's a reason I'm asking you to do this.

This blog I have been writing every month has been offered with the intention of assisting those in major life transitions. It definitely has a life and will of it's own! I have been telling the tale of my Surprise Divorce and subsequent rising from the ashes and also weaving in current life events, celebrations/ holidays (click link if you want to know why celebrations are relevant) and synchronicities that fit in with the general chronological timing.

I do my best to take the material that seems to want to emerge and put it together in a coherent way. But sometimes it can be rather daunting.

As a storyteller, I often ask children to give me a few themes. I love spontaneously spinning a story in which there is a child just like them who has an adventure involving their spaceship, pickle, frog, warthog and purple monster or whatever else they give me.

This month's post (and this past month in my life and the lives of many people I care about) has been a difficult one. I don't like the themes my muse has presented this month. I find them confusing, disturbing and distressing. But they also feel essential and vital. Not just as in the synonym of "important and necessary" but as in "filled with life energy"

I hope this will be useful to you in dealing with these troublesome themes that are in all of our lives at one time or another and seem particularly alive right now.

So let's dive back in if you are still game, starting with the New Moon for which this blog is named.

Today's New Moon is in the sign of Libra, symbolized by the scales of balance, justice and judgement. 




Prior to our local tragedies and also before the Oregon school shooting, I was considering using this New Moon's holiday of Columbus Day/ Indigenous People's Day to explore the archetypes of  Hero/Villain/Victim and how all of them live within each of us* <----- Synchronicity alert below!

While I was researching Christopher Columbus - both from the perspectives of courageous hero and pillaging pirate  (the historical documents in this link portray a man at least as vicious as the three lost souls pictured above), I remembered that my October New Moon blog one year ago was about a pirate.

In that post, I used Captain Hook to examine how I (and my loyal support network who were demanding justice!) villainized my former husband for his affair with another woman.

Please understand that I am not equating adultery with murder. The crucial underlying factor whenever we are harmed or witness others being harmed (whether emotionally or physically), is what we do with our feelings around the pain and how that manifests in our behavior towards ourselves and others.

Each of us has the capacity to be like Steve who lived his life devoted to doing kind deeds and teaching people how to love. Doubtless, since he was human there must have been unkind and unloving things that he did over the course of this life, but by all the reports that are pouring in from his friends family and students, he was a wise, generous, sweet, funny, humble and compassionate man. I wish I had met him.

Those qualities and those present in the homeless tweakers are also within each of us, even even if only tiny shriveled seeds that under the right (or wrong) conditions could have flourished.

I'm not suggesting you would or could take either of these paths at this point in your life circumstances. Furthermore, you probably aren't about to set off in a sailboat into uncharted waters with multiple hardships and dangers on a heroic journey or heartlessly exploit, enslave and murder innocent people when you get there.

I'm not even saying you would cheat on your partner or lie to them.

But look inside yourself and see if there was ever a time when you betrayed someone. Even if it was just betraying a small trust. Have you ever lied to anyone? Taken something that wasn't yours? Have you ever physically harmed another being directly or indirectly? (Oh yes you have!)

Do you have any addictions? And keep in mind that over indulgences in food, shopping, TV, work, social media, etc. can be addictions if they harm you and/or others, directly or indirectly - even if it's not to the extreme of shooting or snorting Meth.

I think part of the reason we are fascinated by villains, and why some of us are quick to demonize criminals and so ready to demand the harshest possible punishments for their crimes is because we do not want to feel the grief that hearing other's tragedies awakens in us.  We also recognize and are repelled by those scary "bad" traits within ourselves that we have disowned and do NOT want anyone else to see.

Perhaps at this point you are highly defensive and blustery about how this is not the same thing AT ALL! Or maybe you immediately began to judge yourself harshly and devise some new form of punishment or new program to "fix" your "wrong and bad" behavior.

Please put all that aside for a moment. Now look within yourself to remember those times in your life where you were harmed by someone else. Perhaps when you were a small, innocent and trusting child.

Me - not loving my photo session!

Chances are you don't really want to go there. You may like telling the story where you get to blame somebody or receive attention and pity, but truly going down to the root of that heartache is probably tied with getting a root canal on your list of fun things to do this weekend.

Most of us (even those of us who absolutely know that this is futile!), will do anything to avoid feeling what Francis Weller calls "The Wild Edge Of Sorrow".  And by the way, Weller strongly advocates for the need to connect with community when accessing this kind of pain, so if you do decide to take that dive, it is best done with the support of friends, community and or professionals if you are accessing big stuff.

Anger, blame and harsh judgment are ways to safeguard that soft, vulnerable feeling.

When something painful happens to us, our instinct is to protect ourselves from feeling the hurt and to prevent that ever happening again and/or to punish the perpetrator. Or we may punish ourselves for being so"stupid" as to have put ourselves in harms way. Either way, punishment is not an effective strategy.

Obviously we should not allow anyone who is hurting us physically or emotionally to continue doing so. We absolutely need to take reasonable safety precautions. But sometimes there's absolutely nothing we can do.

Staying in our homes with the doors locked all the time, keeping our hearts locked up tight against possible hurt or walking around with guns on our belts ready to shoot the first thing that scares us, will not lead to happy lives.



No matter how we try to protect ourselves or our loved ones, something will eventually happen to harm us anyway.  Life is messy and death is inevitable. We simply can't avoid these truths.

There's no way Steve Carter could have prevented what happened to him. He was not the kind of man to carry a gun and would not have wanted to live in a world where everyone was armed and ready to shoot. He didn't have a fancy car or Rolex watch. He was a man with a Doberman pinscher in broad daylight on a popular trail just off a busy street in a totally safe love bubble of a community.

I am profoundly grateful that I never encountered Morrison Haze Lampley, Lila Scott Allgood and Sean Michael Angold, although it could very easily been me on that familiar trail at that time of day when I normally hike.

I am extremely relieved that they're incarcerated. It would be insane to give them the equivalent of an understanding hug to make up for all of the horrible things they probably endured that contributed to turning them into murderers and send them back on the streets to kill again.  (Although with a nod to Indigenous People's Day and Libra's scale of Justice, I would love to live in a world that incorporated some of these ideas!)

I wish I had the power to go back in time to connect Steve Carter or someone like him with each of those young ones when they were still innocent and capable of taking a different path.

This New Moon/October 12 is also the birthday of a boy in my life who has an incredible overabundance of risk factors and is already exhibiting violent behavior.  Due to logistics that I won't go in to, my ability to connect with him is limited. But I invested a lot of love, thought, money and time into taking actions to convey to him that he matters and that I am here for him. Maybe it'll make a difference. Maybe it won't.

It is too late for Steve and probably too late for Morrison, Lila and Sean. But it is not too late for each of us to take a different attitude towards those in our lives who have harmed us or  to offer some extra love to troubled young people in our lives, - especially those most reviled aspects of ourselves - our inner "bad kids".

Go back to how you felt when you looked at pictures of the killers or how you feel about the person who has caused you the most pain in your life. If you are filled with vengeful thoughts about inflicting the perpetrators with equal if not more pain then they caused, consider the courageous and difficult act of tapping into the grief that is under the anger and letting yourself feel it. All way to whatever depths that takes you.

See if you can find even a tiny morsel of compassion or a kernel of forgiveness (NOT in any way condoning the harmful actions they took). Compare how you feel when you are filled with vindictiveness and how you feel when that softens. You're not doing this for them, you're doing it for you.

This is way more courageous than sailing on uncharted waters. The New World that awaits you is well worth the journey. Be kind to whoever you find there!

Replica of the Santa Maria
And just to end on a lighter note (tipping that scale at least a little bit from it's heaviness!) this ship was named after the Blessed Mother in the Catholic religion and tomorrow begins a festival of nine nights called Navaratri devoted to the Mother Goddess in the Hindu religion. The last night of the festival is all about good triumphing over evil. May it be so, and may the love of the Divine Mother in whatever form you might recognize her, bless us all. I think we could all use some Mother Love right about now!

It is also Canadian Thanksgiving. I am reflecting on how grateful I am for my life.  I am also 
really thankful I am finally done writing this and if there are any of you that made it all the way through this, I am grateful for YOU!!!



*This theme has been insistently presenting itself since a bizarre series of incidents that happened to me regarding predators and villains - on a trail connected to the one where Steve Carter's life ended. That story will have to wait until another post.

But I do need to share with you NOW, that when I reached the point of feeling totally stuck and wanting to give up on this theme after many hours of writing and deleting and writing more, (if you think this blog is long, you should see the outtakes!) I decided to ask for a little guidance. I closed my eyes, reached into my bookcase, let my finger land on a book (my books are constantly shifting positions since I reference them often, so I have no idea where on the shelves they live) pulled it out, and with my eyes still closed, opened it to a random page. 

This is what I got : "The devil symbolizes the dark force of the psyche, the predator, who in this tale not recognized for what he is. This devil is an archetypal bandit who needs, wants, sucks light. Theoretically, if he were given light– that is, a life with the possibility of love and creativity– than the Devil would no longer be the Devil...The Devil is present because the... sweet light has attracted him...such a light ... always attracts the predator."

Women Who Run With the Wolves (#397). I'm pretty sure this is the only book in my collection that deals with topic of the predator and there was a lot of other stuff on that page and the next one that was astonishingly relevant to me right now. So you can blame Clarissa Pinkola Estes that I did not scrap this heavy blog for something lighter and more fun.

And one more synchronicity! As I was writing about the boy whose birthday it is today, I received a message from his mother at that very moment thanking me for his gift.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Life Implosions and Celebrations


This is my photo of Garuda (a Hindu and Buddhist version of the Phoenix) and a couple of dragons at the Open Secret Temple 

I had been trying to decide what to do to on the one year anniversary of my life implosion on 9/11/10. The symbol I associate with The Day My Life Changed Forever is the Phoenix, because of the way I rose from the ashes to create a new life and because much of that healing took place in…Phoenix! So I was delighted to discover that The Fourth Annual Phoenix Rising was happening that night. 
The only thing I knew about it aside from the perfect title and timing was that there were famous musicians and sound healing (which sounded good) and that it was happening five minutes from my current home.  
Here the story  that opened the event:
In a land far away there lived a King who had a wise and loyal advisor, who, according to the King, had the most annoying habit of responding to every occur­rence, no matter what it was, by simply saying, “That’s good!”
One day, the King loses a finger in a hunting acci­dent, and when he returns to the palace, his advisor says, “That’s good!” The enraged King dismisses him and has him removed from the palace. On his way out the door the advisor turns and says, “That’s good!”
Several months later the King, out hunting once again, is captured by a group of barbarian tribesmen who plan to use him in a sacri­fi­cial cere­mony. While preparing the king for sacri­fice, the tribe’s shaman discovers that the king’s finger is missing, and declares him “imper­fect” and there­fore unfit to be sacri­ficed. The tribesmen let the king go.
Once safely back in the palace, the King orders that his former advisor be found, brought before him and imme­di­ately rein­stated to his former posi­tion. “You were right,” the King said, “It was good that I lost my finger, for it saved my life today. But why did you say it was good when I fired you from your job?” The advisor answered, “Your High­ness, I cannot see the future, but I have learned to trust that some good always comes from each event. Today I see what that was for me. For as you know, I am loyal to you, and had you not fired me, I would have remained with you when you were captured by the tribesmen. And because I have all my fingers and all my toes, I would have been next in line to be sacri­ficed. So, that’s good!”

The storyteller ended his talk following the story with: "From the ashes comes rebirth. The end is the begin­ning. Yes, some­thing we know will be gone, but some­thing new and inde­scrib­ably deli­cious will take its place. And that’s goooood!" 

Which was pretty much how I felt about the past year and my current life.

It turned out to be an amazing event with several fun synchronicities, including discovering that the star of the show had been my upstairs neighbor’s spiritual teacher.  But the best part for me was all of  the reminders of how we can rewrite our stories and create new lives. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to commemorate the occasion. 

And now, on to the present day with a special New Moon and an incredible couple of weeks...

This is the photo the science teacher with the special camera standing next to me on Mount Shasta took of the Solar Eclipse in 2012

This month's New Moon features features a solar eclipse.  New moons are considered to be good times for starting something new and eclipse’s turbocharge the power! Whether or not you can see the eclipse (and I doubt any of the readers of this blog will be able to) and whether or not you believe the moon has power, why not use the occasion to begin moving in a new direction anyway?
This next two weeks, until the Full Moon lunar eclipse is jam packed with holidays. 
9/13 in addition to being the New Moon and Solar eclipse is the Egyptian Ceremony for Lighting the Fire and Grandparents Day. Both of the latter two include honoring ancestors. So this day is a good balance of new and old as well as dark and light - perfect for this time so close to the Equinox.
9/14 is Rosh Hashanna - A New Year for more “new” energy and some sweetness at the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays.
9/16 is Mexican Independence Day.
9/17 is Ganesh Chaturthi. A Hindu holiday celebrating the Elephant God. ⬇️

Me, a bride to be and our friend at The Open Secret Temple. We co-created a pre-wedding ritual and Ganesha graciously agreed to pose with us.

9/20 is The International Day of Peace - something for everyone to celebrate.
9/22 is the eve of Yom Kippur.  
9/23 is The Autumnal Equinox (otherwise known as Mabon by the Pagans/Wiccans) and the beginning of the eight day Ancient Greek celebration of The Eleusian Mysteries.
9/24 is the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha (not to be confused with did Al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan).
9/25 is a Full Moon (the second of three Super Moons) and should make for a spectacular Lunar Eclipse that most of us will be able to see.  It is also The Asian Moon Festival as well as the eve of Sukkot. 
So that covers quite a few ethnicities and religions in a short time. Asian, Mexican, Greek, Egyptian and International secular holidays, as well as Pagan/Wiccan, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish religious holidays. 
Nothing specifically Christian (unless you count the fundamentalist group that calls this lunar eclipse the Blood Moon and is celebrating Armageddon), but Michaelmas is on 9/29, shortly after this busy 2 weeks. 
As a celebration geek, I am “over the moon" excited!!!

If you are inclined to create a ritual or need an excuse for a celebration, you couldn’t pick a better time. Cook up some, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Asian, or Indian food - or plan a fast on Yom Kippur (excellent time to begin an Autumnal cleanse). Get outside and look at the night sky - whatever you do, enjoy this powerful time! 

If you or anyone in your family is experiencing abandonment due to a loss, here is everything you need to plan an Eclipse Party  - complete with a template for an invitation.  I put this together for a previous eclipse and am offering it as a free gift.

Or if you would like me to customize a ritual for any other transition in your life, you can schedule a session  and take advantage of The Labor Day Special that is still running.

Another view of the Garuda and Dragon statue. The Sparks & Leaps Dragon and Phoenix logo is much friendlier!

I once took a 4 year old boy there and he ran right up to this fearsome creature and excitedly exclaimed "That's Garuda - he lives at Grandma's house too!" He wanted to hug it. Obviously a Marin child.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Invitation to the Party (please read all or scroll to the very last word)


In the story of Sleeping Beauty, the 13th fairy (Maleficent in the Disney versions) was not invited to the christening party. Obviously this was poor planning on the part of the baby’s parents!

Maleficent is much like the goddess Chaos who was not invited to the wedding of the future parents of Achilles - also poor planning in that this omission set off a chain of events that lead to the Trojan war.

Not inviting Chaos (by whatever name you want to call her, including Eris, Discordia or Tiamat the Ancient Dragon Goddess of Creative Chaos), to your party or current Life Transition is also a bad idea. She will show up anyway, and she will cause much more trouble if she is snubbed.

In the month of August 2009, shortly before The Day My Life Changed Forever, I kept myself very busy with several parties to celebrate my 50th birthday and my 10 year wedding anniversary. I was desperately trying to bluff my way through these events and pretend all was well while ignoring Chaos who was tapping insistently at my door. 

Until there was a literal knocking at my door by my former husband’s then mistress, and now wife.

In retrospect I would not change a thing about how this transformational transition transpired.  A more gradual and gentle alteration of my life would not have served me anywhere near as well as the 9/11 implosion that Chaos provided for me. 

I now realize that I had been taking many actions to subconsciously invite Chaos and was on some level of aware of her presence for a while (see Revenge of the Bee Goddess post). She was just waiting for the perfect time to step out of the shadows and work her magic. 

After the initial shock wore off, I realized I needed to embrace her gifts; and this was my saving grace.

Chaos by her very nature cannot be controlled, but when we show her respect and consciously (albeit cautiously) invite her in, she will ultimately be more of an ally than an adversary. Resisting change (and the painful aspects that are represented by Chaos) never works for long and will make things much worse. 

This is not to say that we should be courting her to run rampant in our lives. Obviously we need harmony (the goddess Harmonia is the opposite of Discordia), but when we can dance with both of them at the proper times, our evolution is less likely to be a violent revolution - unless we really need one!

The Three Graces - Botticelli
This August, I have invited Chaos and Harmonia to a very exclusive party in which I am gathering all of my inner council members and guides. We will feast on the overflowing abundance of goodies (a truly chaotic assortment) from my years of non-stop research. We will open presents (my inner gifts and authentic presence) and play with them. We will create an altar to honor that which is altering. We will design rituals and play games. And we will dance.

My intention in throwing this little metaphysical bash/business retreat is to do some networking and strategizing with my inner team (Chaos included) so that we can review our available resources and decide what is next. 

With this actually means is that I am taking a month to avoid outer distractions and devote myself to focusing on the continuing evolution of Sparks & Leaps as well as starting to write a book.

If you are in the midst of a life transition, you might want to throw a little party of your own.

You could even invite real people such as friends, family, colleagues, community members and other allies to assist you in whatever change or project you most want to create. If you want ideas on how to do this in a powerful way to gracefully and playfully navigate a challenging circumstance, please contact me or go to the activities section of www.sparksandleaps.com.

Just don't forget to invite Chaos to the party! Write her a special invitation and set a place at the table. She can be an invaluable guest or a total buzz kill, depending on whether or not she's invited. And if she is already there, for Heaven's sake, get her a drink and something to eat!

Sleeping Beauty


Before I sign off, I want to return to the theme of Sleeping Beauty for a moment. The word “chaos” comes from “the gaping void at the beginning of creation… to yawn”. I love this definition, because there needs to be that yawning gap or time of inactivity (referred to as the Neutral Zone in the fabulous book - Transitions by William Bridges) between our old life and creating our new one. 

August 15th marks the Greek Orthodox holiday of another sleeping beauty (The Dormition of the Theotokos), only 
The Virgin Mary is taking an even longer nap than Aurora.

If there is something within you that is slumbering and needs to be awakened, or something that needs to take The Big Nap in order for a glorious rebirth, feel free to use this day as an excuse to play, feast or nap. Sometimes taking a little rest (preferably under 100 years!) is the best possible strategy. 

Oh and one last thing, August is a slow and sleepy month for holidays, but I just have to point out that it is my birthday on August 20th! Although I love cards and any other form of well wishes (including swift, silent blessings!) , I am asking that nobody buy me any gifts this year. If you are curious to see what I am doing instead, click here.











Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Big Scary Kitty of Doom

Photo from http://www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/cats-for-kids/about-cats/body-language



Five years ago on Bastille day, I crept quietly past the doors of my sleeping housemates in my temporary home and out into the foggy early-morning to take refuge in the private sanctuary of my beloved car.

I did not want any sobbing and wailing that might occur to awaken those people I barely knew and then have to endure their awkward sympathy.

The call from my very-soon-to-be-ex-husband from outside the judges chambers in Milwaukee came right on time at 7 AM, but only to tell me that he would call back because the judge had not yet arrived.

I sat waiting for this second call feeling a mix of pretty much every uncomfortable emotion you can name. As these feelings cycled through me in waves, I noticed a large gray cat sitting right in the middle of the empty street.

She was clearly enjoying the morning, sniffing the breeze appreciatively.

As a woman professionally dressed for work, with a small white poodle on a leash briskly approached, the cat began to grow larger.  She rose to her tip-toes, arched her back, raised the fur on the ridge of her back, bristled her tail, glued to her ears flat back onto her head, and opened her mouth in a hostile hiss that showed her sharp little white teeth. Although I couldn't hear it I am reasonably sure there was a menacing growl emanating from her furry throat.

The fluffy poodle went ballistic, bouncing and barking furiously, and straining at the leash in a vain attempt to attack the insulting feline, but was dragged away by the annoyed business woman.

The sounds of the angry yipping (which continued as they went around the corner) faded, and the cat melted back to her former size. She settled happily into her same spot. 

She did not have long to wait.

Another woman in yoga togs with a large chocolate lab appeared. Once again the cat transformed into a big scary kitty of doom.

Perhaps the lab had previously felt the swipe of those claws on his tender nose or maybe he had simply never encountered anything quite so eerie, because his tail went instantly between his legs and he shrank in horror behind the black leggings of his owner. 

As they too, went around the corner (with the dog’s eyes rolling nervously behind him), the cat smugly resumed her perch - presumably to await her next victim.

Whether this was a new game for the cat or a favorite morning ritual, it was the perfect gift for me. The building tension was diffused with delighted laughter as I watched this other little drama unfold.

The call came and the divorce procedure was a mercifully dry and brief formality. Of course there were still tears of grief afterwards as I drove to the Muir Woods to seek solace from the redwoods, but the dogs had taken my fear and anger with them around that corner.  Well, not ALL of it but enough to make my divorce-by-phone-in-a-car easier to bear.

My photo of Muir Woods

The following day I drove to Harbin Hot Springs for the first time as a post divorce gift to myself. After my Watsu session (a delicious experience of bodywork in which I was cradled and swirled through the water in a lovely private outdoor pool), the practitioner asked if I had done anything to process my anger. I had told him at the beginning of the session that I had gotten a divorce the day before, so it was a reasonable question.

I've beamed blissfully up at him (I was still floating in the pool), and told him that I had no anger. I was filled with love and light and had totally forgiven both of my former husband and his new sweetie.

He looked skeptical and suggested I explore a little deeper as he detected that there was a fair amount of anger stored in my body.

I promised that I would, and more to prove to myself he was wrong than anything else, I decided I would fulfill my assignment on the long drive home. Probably not the best idea!

I dug out a CD and played a song* that I thought might help me find any teeny-weeny bits of residual anger - if there were any.

After roaring through it for maybe the 10th time while screaming, sobbing and shaking with rage until I lost my voice, I acknowledged that the Watsu guy had a point.

I wanted with all of my heart to handle my transition from my old life to my new one with grace and kindness for all.

I really and truly DID (and do) forgive and love both my former husband and the woman who is now his new wife. And given the circumstances, I was reasonably graceful.

All of this is well and good. AND there was some dark stuff that could not and should not have been bypassed.

Not that I advocate Carrie Underwood's Louisville-Slugger-to-the-pick-up-truck solution or taking ANY destructive action, but I now know that feeling the entire range of emotions from the rage and despair to the bliss and love and everything in between is essential. Vital. Necessary for life.

Transitions that involve betrayal and loss or other painful circumstances are actually gifts that help us experience the fullness of life and help us to become more fully realized beings. 

When the next big scary kitty of life appears unexpectedly in your path, if instead of fighting fleeing or hiding, consider this stance adopted by my sister Hilary's puppy, Irving

Photo credit: Lisa Asp, Tangerine House of Design

- which translates to “Woof woof, want to play?”

Inviting those we might consider to be adversaries to play is not usually a first response - especially when the other party caused pain.

And playing that game is not always just wagging tails. There may be growling and howling and even some snapping.

However when our intention is to bring in the element of willing engagement and seek resolution rather than retribution  healing occurs so much faster and easier.

If the goal is to feel better, learn from our experiences and make our transition easier for ourselves and those we love, a little play goes along way. (No, baseball bats don't count as play except on the baseball diamond!).

Carrie Underwood from "Before He Cheats"

* shortly after leaving my former husband, while at a car wash in Arizona, I heard a song that was not my usual flavor of music, but it struck a chord so strongly that I went out immediately to get the CD. I just watched the video for the first time and the scene (starting at minute 2:25 - worth a watch!) where she is powerfully striding down the street with a trail of explosive destruction in her wake, is like the goddess Kali incarnate! This, in combination with her impressive voice belting out those triumphant lyrics is the perfect antidote to the powerless feeling of betrayal. I'm guessing it was/is popular with a lot of women - even those who are playful and compassionate!