Happy Birthday Aubrey

Today is Halloween…a big, festive holiday in the US, and in my family…and it is also the birthday of my youngest grandchild and only granddaughter. Aubrey arrived eight years ago today, and my son, her daddy, couldn’t have been more delighted that his daughter was a Halloween baby. 

I looked up Aubrey’s name: 

“Aubrey, you are a powerful person, with a strong connection to the spiritual world. You are intelligent, curious, bold, independent and interested in many things. You are very creative and like to have several projects going at once. You know what you know, even though you can’t always explain how you know, giving you confidence and an air of mystery. You have psychic abilities that help you see the world in fresh ways. 

You desire to inspire and lead others. You are giving, courageous, action oriented, energetic and strong willed. You want to make a difference in the world, and this attitude often attracts you to cultural interests, politics, social issues, and the cultivation of your creative talents. There are many paths through life that appeal to you. Whatever path you choose, others will follow. 

Those are powerful words for a child who has yet to fully realize their truth. However, true they are. I recognize these characteristics of Aubrey’s, whose name literally means “ruler of the elves”. With my love of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I have been enchanted by this elf princess since her birth. 

Aubrey does have a strong connection to the spiritual realm and she is, indeed, intuitive. Rather than being fearful, or trying to hide that side of her, as I did, she fully embraces who she is. To Aubrey, to know things beyond her five senses and act on them is natural. I continue to learn from Aubrey’s journey and the once fearful little girl who dwells within me has received much healing. 

This bright, energetic girl has shifted considerably in the last year. Always a great observer of people and life, she shares thought provoking insights. Our conversations have deepened while branching out at the same time. She expresses her creativity through drawing, coloring and story-telling. Just recently, she declared an interest in cooking and being a chef. 

Aubrey loves her big blended family and her extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Aubrey considers her second cousin London to be her sister/BFF. My sister Linda and I get these girls together as often as possible. The girls still love to play, and also chat, dance and go for walks. 

This inquisitive girl is in second grade this year. She does well in school, and received a SOAR award at the first assembly of the year along with a Talon award which was given to Aubrey by her classmates. She’s a friendly, outgoing child who watches out for other kids and converses easily with adults. 

Aubrey and I continue to share many interests. We love a good movie. A well done animated film can still entertain her, but Aubrey leans more toward live action films now. I enjoy watching movies with Aubrey, whose intuition and perceptions allow her to pick up deeper messages within the story, creating meaningful discussions after the credits roll. She became a Doctor Who fan during the last year and our conversations are peppered with fun Doctor Who references. 

She loves Scotland and wants to visit someday. She climbs trees and yet also likes wearing dresses. She prefers to wear her hair long and free and desires for her heart to be just as free to pursue her many interests. Bold and often unconventional, funny and wise, Aubrey has strong leadership abilities that she’s only just becoming aware of. 

Whatever path she chooses, whether a single path that she focuses all of her attention on, or multiple paths that allow her to explore her full range of creativity, I will be walking alongside, cheering her on, letting her set the pace and direction. 

Happy birthday Aubrey! Keep shining bright. I love you!

Sporting a birthday mustache. 

Tim Burton Halloween Party Part I

This year’s Halloween Party, sponsored by my sister Debbie, niece Ashley and her husband Jon, was so big and so spectacular, that I’m writing two blog posts about it. Part I focuses on the theme and decor, and Part II will focus on the attendees. 

The theme for 2016 was Tim Burton movies. Guests were asked to attend in costume, as a character from one of Burton’s many films. The house was transformed, amazingly, by the creative genius and talent of Debbie, Ashley and Jon. The dining room and hallway became part of Wonderland, a bedroom was the Gotham room and the breakfast nook assumed the form of Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pies Restaurant. Ordinary rooms disappeared and magical scenes and props carried the Tim Burton movie theme throughout the house. 

Here is a pictorial tour of the marvelous decor of the Tim Burton Halloween Party. 

Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter…morphing into Alice in Wonderland. 

Through the rabbit hole – Wonderland 

Absalom – Wonderland


Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – Wonderland

Dark Shadows Room

Dark Shadows

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Nightmare Before Christmas

Nightmare Before Christmas 

Mrs. Lovett’s – Sweeny Todd

Sweeny Todd

Sweeny Todd

Sweeny Todd

Joker Room – Batman


Beetlejuice Room



Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Front yard

Front yard

These pics reveal the scope of planning and decorating that goes into this yearly event. As always, I was beyond impressed with the creativity of Debbie, Ashley and Jon. There were other vignettes. Every table top, shelf and corner held tributes to the wild imagination of Tim Burton. Although this hard working trio purchased a few props, the majority of the decorations and room transformations were handmade, using a variety of clever materials and techniques. 

Come back for tomorrow’s blog post, and have a look at the characters who showed up tonight!

Breaking a 33 Year Record

I had a great day with grandsons Joey and Oliver, who were out of school today. We played games and talked and laughed together. I took the boys to lunch at IHOP, at their request, and there I messed up in my choice of a meal. 

The boys made their selections off of the menu, as did Greg, who had joined us for lunch. I had a difficult time finding anything suitable on the menu of a restaurant known for its pancakes. The waitress was patiently awaiting my order. I asked whether I could have an egg substitute veggie omelette. The answer was yes, and I could have a side of fresh fruit. 

That seemed perfect. 

It wasn’t. 

My grandchildren are very aware of my plant based diet and extremely encouraging. Joey and Oliver expressed concern that I was trying an unknown food product. When they asked if I’d be okay, Greg prophetically answered, “She will know in a couple of hours.” 

True words. As I was driving my grandsons home after a fun afternoon, I began to feel nauseated. The nausea increased and my stomach began to hurt. After dropping the boys off and chatting with my son, I headed home, in the grips of pain and fighting the urge to throw up. 

I don’t throw up, like I don’t cry. I am sure the two are connected. Its been 33 years since I last threw up, a single time during my pregnancy with daughter Adriel. Throwing up would make me feel better, in the same way that shedding tears would be a huge release. 

But I can’t. I fight it. I hurt because I can’t. 

Tonight I stayed on the mat. By the time I got home, I had made the decision to stop fighting my body, and to stop resisting. I’ll withhold the details, but it wasn’t easy, and it was physically painful. However, I broke my long standing record. I stayed present with myself and refused to try to control what was happening. And now, I am feeling better. 

Because I tried something that was more of a food like product, rather than wholesome food, I missed grandson’s Dayan halftime performance of Thriller and Time Warp with the Bulldog Marching Band tonight. It’s a play off game for Carl Junction and with Halloween approaching, Dayan and the band members were in zombie make-up. I’m grateful Elissa recorded the performance. 

And I will not be eating egg substitute ever again. To be fair, it might have been the way the omelette was prepared. Butter or margarine might have been the culprit. I won’t be finding out. 

Next time, I’ll simply have the bowl of fresh fruit. 

The Health Benefits of Oregano 

It’s been a long day. When I finally settled in at home, a cup of hot herbal tea appealed to me, as the perfect wind down drink before bed. I’ve been drinking elderberry and nettle tea, in part to help prevent seasonal allergies. That strategy has proved successful. It’s the end of October and I am still allergy free. 

Tonight I wanted to try something new. Remembering a post on Anthony’s Instagram page about the health benefits of oregano, I chose to sip on oregano tea for the first time this evening. Flashlight in hand, I strolled through my darkened garden, in search of oregano. My garden is thriving, due to unusually warm temperatures this month. I found tender young plants pushing through the mulch in the oregano patch. 

I reread Anthony’s article about the benefits of oregano while my tea steeped. 

Oregano is an ancient medical and culinary herb that is very high in antioxidants. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K and B-complex, along with potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium. Oregano is powerfully antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal, and it is highly beneficial in the treatment of colds, flu, viral infections, respiratory ailments, indigestion and digestive disorders. 

Oregano is known to remove poisons from the body and detox the entire lymphatic system. It also balances metabolism and strengthens the core organs of the body. This herb’s powerful antiviral abilities have been shown in the laboratory to produce a 99% kill rate of the streptococcus virus, which is the cause of many lung and throat infections. 

Wow. And I thought oregano was simply a fragrant herb that seasoned Italian foods and sauces. When I planted my herb garden three years ago, I had no idea that I was growing such powerful health boosters. I even referred to that part of my yard as the Apothecary Garden, as a nod to the early use of herbs as medicine, but I didn’t realize how true that term was. As so often happens in my life, I am guided down a certain path and the reason why is revealed later. I am so grateful that I have all of these beneficial herbs growing right outside my back door. 

The tea was amazingly fragrant. I cupped the steaming mug and inhaled deeply before I took a sip. The tea was rich with flavor. Within moments my nasal passages and sinuses felt open and tingly, and I wasn’t even stuffy. 

As a child I had many bouts of strep throat and related ear infections. Anthony teaches that this virus is not easily eradicated from the body, even with the use of antibiotics. Symptoms such as infections clear up temporarily, but the virus continues to attack the body, burrowing deeply into organs and tissues. This virus, like shingles and Epstein Barr, wreaks havoc on the body causing inflammation and a host of health issues. 

I have taken charge of my health and well being. I am following Anthony’s protocols to rid my body of these viruses that I have carried since childhood. The plant based diet I consume, the supplements I take and the fresh herbal teas I sip at night are all helping me to become virus and symptom free. 

It is a journey I am willing to take. It is a battle I am willing to fight. And, I am winning. 

Staying on the Mat

I have been working through the online course, The Wisdom of Story, by authors Glennon Doyle Melton and Brené Brown. I appreciate the deep inner work that is creating shifts within and opening up space around my heart. Tonight feels like the right time to share some of my thoughts. 

In my life, I have more easily dealt with physical pain rather than emotional pain. In order to avoid pain, and the eruption of emotions that might accompany it, I have spent much time and energy trying to control life. That is an exhausting way to live. And the ultimate result was that my emotions became so deeply buried and protected that even when I wanted to express sorrow or anger, I was unable to. 

Glennon writes “The healthiest of us are physical beings, emotional beings and spiritual beings.” 

I’ve embraced my physical self and nurtured my spiritual side. However, I voted the emotional part of me off the island long ago. I broke up with that perplexing self and I have refused to be reconciled. 

Until recently. 

I recognized ten years ago how important it is to accept and hold sacred my emotional being. But allowing myself to feel pain when it threatens to engulf me has been difficult. I know from experience that out of grief and pain strength and change are born. I know that. In the midst of crises though, I fall into the default behavior of avoidance, withdrawal and closing down. 

My desire to grow into my emotional self signaled the Divine that I was open and willing to learn. I was drawn first to The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, which helped me to understand what happens on an energetic level when I close my heart down in an attempt to protect myself from pain.

And recently I was led to Glennon and her books Carry On, Warrior and Love Warrior. With transparency and candor and raw emotions, Glennon shares her own journey through a time of upheaval and great pain. Something shifted in my heart and cracked open, as I read her words, revealing a place long protected and then ignored. 

The Wisdom of Story course is allowing me to explore this tender new space within that had long been barricaded. Brené shares in Lesson Three “When you deny your pain, it owns you. When you own your pain, it sets you free.”  I am done with denying pain or difficult situations. I am finished with being owned, and held captive by pain and my refusal to feel my emotions. 

Glennon tells the story of accidently attending a hot yoga class, while working through a difficult season in her life. She wanted to leave the class, which has the participants move through yoga poses in a very warm room. When the instructor asked Glennon what her intention was for the class, the sweaty frustrated Glennon answered that she just wanted to “stay on this mat and make it through whatever is about to happen without running out of here. ” For 90 minutes she simply sat still and let everything in her life that she had been running from appear in her mind. She stayed on the mat, and did not run, and she did not die. 

I want to stay on the mat. When faced with pain or hard things, I want to stay present, stay aware, and let what’s going to happen, happen. The word crises comes from the Greek krinein, which means “decide”. Pain forces a decision. Will I close down and try not to feel? And in protecting myself actually lose a part of who I am? Or will I stay on the mat, and feel…feel the pain, feel loneliness, feel grief? Can I choose to be still and feel and let the pain pass through? 

I can. I can stay on the mat. I will stay on the mat. I am staying on the mat. 

I am willing to embrace my emotional self, and welcome her back after her long exile, and at last see what she has to teach me. I am ready to be set free. 

Check out The Wisdom of Story HERE 

Yoga for Beginners

As I have progressed in my healing journey, eliminating pain and a host of other health issues, shedding weight and the belief that I couldn’t heal, it feels like the right time to add another component to my regimen: movement. Oh, I am walking better and further than I’ve walked in a long time. However, I wanted to increase flexibity while building strength and stamina. 

Tonight I began practicing yoga again. 

Although I have taken a few yoga classes and move through poses at home occasionally, I am quite the novice. My schedule is unpredictable and varies day to day. Because of that, I’ve chosen to use Rodney Yee’s DVD at home in the evenings to guide me through a gentle 15 minute session. 

I lit candles throughout my bedroom, dimmed the lights and popped in the DVD. I am grateful for audio options that include Full Instructions, Poses Only,  and Spiritual Instructions. Until I get the poses down, I’ll stick with the full instructions. Rodney narrates while a woman demonstrates each pose. I found the session to be easy to follow and just the right length of time for me. 

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines which originated in ancient India. There is a broad variety of practices. I don’t know enough about yoga to share intelligently about it. However, I do know that breath and awareness are important, as is moving slowly into a pose and holding it, without using force. The mind, body, spirit connection is a crucial aspect of the practice. 

My yoga buddy tonight…Shy Boy. I think he fell asleep while holding a pose. 

It felt good to move through the poses. My flexibilty has been limited. Tonight I could feel just how tight my muscles are, especially in my legs. Stretching and holding a pose while breathing deeply and slowly helped to elongate and relax those muscles. Focused awareness of my body and how it was responding allowed me to release the tension in my legs, neck and shoulders. I was patient with myself and exceedingly kind. And my body responded positively, with surges of tingly energy coursing through my legs and feet.  

My intention is to make yoga a daily practice. I’m excited to experience the health benefits and deepen the connection with my body. Emily Lillian says, “Always be a work in progress.” This is the next right step in my healing journey, an addition that will increase my health and vitality and shine the light of awareness into my very core. 

A Chef in the Making

With my fascination for cooking creatively and my enjoyment of movies about that subject, one might think that I am the chef who is being made. Cooking does continue to draw me. 

However, I discovered last Friday that another family member is casting a vision forward that includes being a chef. 

Helping her stepmom cook and clean up in the kitchen. Megan enjoys cooking as well. 

My granddaughter Aubrey, who will be eight years old on Halloween day, is at that age where she asks adults what they wanted to be when they were children. She listens intently to the answer, comparing what she knows about the person to the dream that he or she shares, checking to see if the hope was realized. 

I was delighted when Aubrey shared that she would like to be a chef. This little girl has often reflected back to me aspects of my own personality and dreams. We have many interests and abilities in common. And while Aubrey is uniquely herself, with her own gifts to offer to the world, she often teaches me deep truths about who I am. 

We spent time together early this morning, before school, and I smiled, listening to her talk about the reality cooking shows that she watches on television. We discussed the importance of presentation when serving food and looked at Instagram pics of chefs’ creations.  Her dream is a big one that includes  being a chef in a famous restaurant that she owns. 

I love her heart and her vision and her willingness to explore this interest of hers. Next year she may decide that she wants to be a teacher or a writer or a biologist. I know how powerful a child’s dreams are though. And that an eight year old can choose a career path and never waver from it. Aubrey’s daddy, my son, made such a decision at that age. 

If she changes her mind and explores other possibilities, that is absolutely fine. What I can do now is be present with her as she dreams, listening to her ideas, asking questions, and encourage her to follow her heart, always. 

And I can join her in an activity that we both feel drawn to. Aubrey helped me make fruit smoothies this morning. And we discussed attending a kid friendly cooking class together. She loved that suggestion and chatted excitedly about such an opportunity, all the way to school. 

Before I walked her to class she asked a question…

“Yaya, what do you think they would teach us to cook first? Ramen noodles?”  

I assured this sweet and sincere child that whatever we learned, it would be fun. I didn’t laugh with delight until I was driving home, alone. 

Ramen noodles or vegan dishes or a sumptious multi course feast, I’ll walk alongside Aubrey as she learns to cook, and savor every delicious moment. 

Fall Vignettes

Unusually warm temperatures this month have prolonged summertime. I have enjoyed the gift of an extended season and the reduced heating and cooling costs. I don’t know if I’ve ever slept with my windows raised this late in the year, and my garden is a beautiful, wild paradise. However, in response to the second summer, I’ve been exceedingly slow to finish decorating for fall. 

This afternoon I realized that if I didn’t complete my last couple of projects, I’d be decorating those areas for the holidays instead. I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon engaging in one of my favorite creative activities…creating vignettes. 

I began with the vintage suitcase in the bedroom. Following my desires to mix it up and to incorporate items I brought home from the house of Greg’s parents, I started with an empty suitcase and without a preconceived idea of how this vignette was going to turn out. 

The wooden tray that once hung in Leta Moore’s dining room came to mind, to serve as the focal point. When I popped the tray into the suitcase, it settled in so securely that I knew it was meant to be there. The beautiful shaw, in black and oranges and greens, forms the perfect foundation. I added metal accents. The candlesticks are heavy, and engraved with sheaves of wheat. And the unique metal and enamel footed bowl was a treasure I discovered tucked away in a cupboard in the Arkansas house. 

The black candle topper with leaf punch outs balances the metal pieces on the right side. And the red porcelain birds add a bold splash of color and a touch of whimsy. I love the way this fall vignette came together in a fresh, new way. 

I moved on to the front porch. I undecorated this space a couple of weeks ago. Today it only took a few minutes to bring autumn to the porch. I kept the décor simple…candles, a wreath, a favorite throw rug in warm colors and ceramic pumpkins. The freestanding word “Thanks” reminds me that we are headed into the holidays and a time for expressing deep gratitude. 

The little side table next to the porch swing got a makeover as well. Another woven rug covers the top and forms the base for the candles and the empty birdcage and a pair of ceramic birds. 

I normally change out Annie’s red box for fall. But the begonias and coleus are still thriving and the colors work well for this season. I pinched off straggly growth and allowed those plants to remain. The rust-colored mason jars add just the right look to complete that bench, and the porch. 

The warm southern winds may continue to create balmy temperatures, but fall has arrived at last my house. 

40 Year High School Reunion

I am incredulous, as I type that title. Tonight was my 40 year high school reunion. Forty years since we all graduated from high school and launched into our adult lives. How could that be possible? 

Classmate Annette Meador organized this event, reserving space at The River Ranch Resort in Noel, MO, for us to gather. The event room was set up with tables and chairs, a buffet-style dinner, and a cash bar. Huge windows overlooked Elk River as it rolled by. 

I was a bit uncertain about attending the reunion. It’s been 20 years since my graduating class last met. What if I didn’t recognize someone? I’m friends on Facebook with quite a few former classmates, but would the social media connections extend to real life? 

I am so grateful that I pushed beyond the hesitancy and attended the reunion. 

As I chatted with classmates, I discovered others had similar feelings of apprehension or anxiety. Afterall, 40 years is a long time. The kids who tossed their caps into the air at graduation have journeyed far and wide in life. The seasoned adults who laughed and talked and reminisced tonight have seen their share of joys and triumphs, challenges and hardships. None of us are the same people that we were in 1976. 

We’ve grown and shifted and adapted and loved and lost. We’ve had partners and lovers and children and grandchildren and businesses that thrived and failed. A few of us have broken new ground by becoming great-grandparents. 

As people flowed around the room, reforming into new groups, smiling in recognition and hugging to re-establish connection, we told our stories and listened intently to each other. All apprehension melted away. There was an easy camaraderie in the room, and acceptance of who we have become, and certainly, nostalgia. I heard many conversations begin with the equivalent of “Do you remember when…”. 

In that joyful atmosphere, I could sense the shadows tonight of classmates whose journeys were cut short. As memories were shared, their stories were told too, honoring those bright lights that dimmed too soon. 

The reunion was a success, thanks to dedicated classmates who worked hard to bring us together. I enjoyed speaking to everyone and deepening friendships. We all agreed, we must do this again soon, and reach out to those who could not attend tonight, encouraging them to join us. 

“The days are long, but the years are short” said Gretchen Rubin. 

True words. I want to see my Mac County Class of 1976 again very soon, and learn more about who they are now, before all hope of doing so is gone. 

Happy Birthday Ashley

Today is the birthday of my niece Ashley, daughter of my sister Debbie. This beautiful young woman lives in Oklahoma, sharing a spacious home with her doting husband, Jon, her two sons, Ethan and Kaleb, and her mom. My sister has her own suite on the top floor of the house. She and Ashley are more than mother and daughter. They are best friends and co-creators of amazing parties and projects. 

It’s not a surprise that the only recent photo that I have of Ashley and her family is a Halloween pic. 

I looked up Ashley’s name:

“Ashley, you are powerful, creative and fulfilled in life. You are intelligent and require multiple outlets for your creative energies. You are more a planner, rather than a builder, and you want others to carry out your detailed plans. You are bold, independent, and curious about many things. You know what you want and how to make it happen. 

You are very intuitive. You have a reservoir of inspired wisdom which could be best expressed through spiritual leadership, business analysis, marketing, artistic endeavors or research. Operating out of your intuition can bring you great insights. You are always looking for opportunities to investigate the unknown, to use your mental abilities, to create, to find the purpose and meaning of your life. You want to understand the mysteries of the world. Although you enjoy people and activities, you require solitude to replenish your energy. You have a unique way of thinking that is intuitive, reflective, and absorbing.

Those words are an accurate portrayal of my bright and creative niece. Although she is one of the most creative people that I know, Ashley is also curious, following her inquisitiveness down unknown paths, to see where they lead. She is extremely intuitive, passing that gift on to her two sons. 

Ashley is clever, intelligent, and compassionate, opening her home to a multitude of animals that includes dogs, cats, birds, rats and guinea pigs. Many of these pets were rescue animals, in need of a loving forever home. 

This past summer Ashley’s wonderful husband surprised her with a trip to Scotland for their anniversary. Like me, she had long dreamed of visiting the country of our ancestors. Jon made that dream a reality. I loved following their journey as they posted pics each day. Next year, I will have the pleasure of returning to Scotland, and seeing England and Ireland for the first time, with Ashley, my two sisters and our mother. 

Beyond being a fun mom and devoted wife, the area that allows Ashley to shine the most is her creativity. This girl is the ultimate party planner. She has hosted baby showers, dinners and birthday parties that astound and delight due to her exquisite attention to details. 

Her yearly Halloween parties are extraordinary. Ashley and her mom pick a theme and literally transform their house and yard to bring that theme to life. Last year her house became a haunted hotel, with details such as a derelict elevator, a skeleton manning the front desk, and a false wall with framed cut outs that allowed party goers to become part of a haunted gallery. 

Ashley hosts these amazing events because she enjoys doing so. It is one of the ways that she can not only create, but share her creativity with others. The Halloween Party becomes bigger every year, and as stories about the event goes out, more and more people want to experience it for themselves. Ashley could easily charge admission for entry into her themed party. That’s how remarkable it is. 
I wished my niece happy birthday on Facebook and told her to have a fun day. However, one week and a day before the big party, I know what she is doing today and all weekend. She and her husband and my sister are all pouring their time and energy toward completing this huge undertaking. The theme this year is Tim Burton Movies. Movie vignettes and props are being created all over the house and yard. Guests are required to arrive dressed as a Tim Burton character. It’s going to be incredibly fun!

Happy birthday Ashley. See you next Saturday. I love you!