It has been awhile since I have made an entry here. As with most of us, I seemed to have allowed myself to become bogged down with so many of life’s happenings. AND, as the holiday season is upon us, I am also reminded this is an ideal time to remember and celebrate one another.

What a perfect time to create a Celebration Circle for our loved ones as we are more likely to be gathered as family and friends. Most of the examples that I have shared on creating a circle are more formalized, with the honoree being the center of attention.

But, what if the honoree is uncomfortable being in that kind of role? How can we still let him/ her know that their presence in our lives made an impact? How do we let them know their life has mattered?

How about this as a possibility? Let’s say there is a gathering of family and friends. Without an official “announcement” to the honoree, all others present can have an agreement to create a one-on-one opportunity to share stories of meaning with their loved one. There can be a casual “rotation,” interspersed with times of eating, games and/or group sharing. The honoree does not have the discomfort of being the “center of attention,” yet still has the opportunity to hear ways that her life has touched others.

Another idea was shared during a recent presentation on the message of Celebration Circles. (One of the reasons I love sharing this message to groups is I learn so much!) The grandmother was given the gift of a beautiful box. Inside the box were letters, stories, and pictures all about her life and what she meant to those who loved her. Each day she could pick a new note and be reminded that her life mattered and that she was not alone. What a memorable Christmas gift!

I repeat my message of remembering there is no one “right way” to celebrate one another. Just do it….now, now, now!

I love it when others are inspired and make things happen!  Barb Cordell shared this beautiful story. It is such a reminder that there is no one right way to have a Celebration Circle and to just make it happen now for someone you love.

After attending a Circle of Celebration, facilitated by Liza, for a dear friend of mine, I decided to do something for/with my 93 year old father. A long time ago, my father heard my sister and me sing “How Great Thou Art” as I played the guitar. So for the last forty years off and on, he has said he wants us to sing that song at his funeral (actually memorial service because he wants to be cremated). Anyway, last weekend, I drove to Houston, got my guitar and my sister and told her, “I want to sing this song for Daddy while he’s still alive – I don’t want to wait until he’s gone and can’t hear it with his ears!”

We drove to his house – and miraculously (smile) had him all to ourselves (quite unusual). I told him the same thing, “Daddy we want you to hear this now”. I can’t tell you how precious it was to see him cup his ears (he’s hard of hearing) and close his eyes to concentrate fully on our singing. By the end of the song, he had tears streaming down his face. The three of us hugged and said how much we love each other. Thank you Liza for teaching us this gift!  Barb

Thank you, Barb, for stepping up for your dad and for sharing with the rest of us!

Are you, like me, frustrated by the bullying and lack of respect and effective action that seems to be taking place in our current political climate? That said, I am intolerant of whining from others so will not allow myself to indulge either. That means I need to do something about my concerns.

Many of you have heard me talk about the Drama Triangle. I have witnessed firsthand how the understanding of this powerful “tool” has transformed lives and families. I have been looking at how to encourage this understanding for those leading our country. How fortunate to have learned that I am not alone! When I heard of the bipartisan social movement No Labels, I was encouraged and heartened!

I just returned from the first No Labels Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. I have been a part of many organizations throughout my professional life and have never been as inspired by the intelligence, commitment, and integrity as I am with the leadership and membership of this group. This is not a centrist, conservative, or liberal movement. It is not about ideology or issues. It is about an attitude and a new and healthy approach to solving problems. It is asking for bipartisan cooperation. The problems facing our country and our world today are immense and urgent and require the best of ourselves and others to come up with effective solutions.

If you want to be part of solutions, I invite you to check out and add your voice to positive solutions.

A few months ago, I met the most remarkable woman at a conference. I was in awe as I listened to her courage and commitment to live the legacy of her daughter, Jonnae. When I was telling her about Celebration Circles, she told me about the one she created for her Jonnae. I am blessed to be able to share Denise Taylor’s words and the video of Jonnae’s Celebration Circle:
Jonnae had suffered a seizure after a second relapse of leukemia and a high dose of steroids to buy her a little more time. The prognosis was that we had come to the end of the road. She awoke one morning frustrated at how she had “thought she was a star” in a dream.

Through Jonnae’s three year battle with leukemia, I had been guided by a voice within that gave me wisdom, strength, and direction that was divine. Something more than me on my own. That inner voice instructed me to make her a star. Not to wait until after she had passed to have friends and family come from out of town to mourn her, but to have them come celebrate her and show their love while she was still with us. We had been given the news her “Heavenly Birth” was near. Why not make her dream of being a star come true? So we did.

It was a bitter sweet day of love and celebration shared with 1000 attendees, half of them dressed in Wacky Wednesday attire. (Wacky Wednesday is another piece of Jonnae’s legacy. A program we are initiating into childrens hospitals to replace the seriousness and sickness with silliness one day a week, giving the patients something to look forward to) This video shows us administering the best medicine, laughter and love. Be inspired by Jonnae’s sweet spirit and embrace the gift of every day!

Celebration of Life for Jonnae

Last week I talked about the power of gratitude. I believe that living in gratitude changes everything in our world and in our experience. It is a way to direct our brain power.

Let’s talk about the brain for a moment. We all have a Reticular Activating System (RAS) that does powerful work for us. There is way too much stimulus out there for us to possibly take all of it in.

It screens information, it is our filtering system.

I call it our Google Search.

If you go to your computer and put a request in your search box, your screen will immediately fill up with information. The amount of information seems infinite, page after page of options! The same is true with the amount of data around each of us at all times.

How is it determined what data we see and experience? Our RAS screens for us. Here is the huge good news. We tell it what to screen for us! This is often done unconsciously and passively. AND, once we know we have this personal power, we can tell it with great intention and alertness.

Just like we are in control of what we type into our Google search, we are in control of what we tell our RAS to look for. Think of the last time you bought a car. If you are like most of us, you researched and explored your options before buying. You finally settled on a particular make and model. Let’s say you buy a green Toyota Camry. Suddenly, you see green Camrys everywhere you go! It is as if everyone noticed you bought one and went out and bought one for themselves. In actuality, there are no more on the road and in the parking lots than before. You had put green Toyota Camry in your “Google search” and your “computer screen” filled up with examples.

How do we use this knowledge? If I put into my search, “everything that is wrong,” my “computer screen” fills up with examples and experiences to support it. I run out of “disk space” for anything that doesn’t support my belief and statement. If I put into my search, “everything that is right,” my screen fills up with all of the examples and experiences to support what is right.  Or, as Henry Ford said:   If you think you can do a thing or think you cant do a thing, you’re right.”

I am doggedly diligent about what I put in my Google search.  When am feeling any way that is unpleasant I first ask myself if there is anything I need to be taking action on. If not, I notice what I have put into my search. Am I making myself wrong? Am I making someone else wrong? Am I making a situation wrong? Am I looking for what I don’t like? Am I focusing on something I have no control over? Am I filling up my “disk space” with everything that is wrong?

I am going to refer back to an example I used last week, living in Texas in the summer time. (Is it because it has been a hot summer and I am needing to remind myself of this?!) I have a belief system that I don’t like heat. I see it as miserable. I see the steam, I feel the sweat, the scorching on the bottoms of my feet, the aching and blistering skin from overexposure to the sun. For many years of my life I complained all summer long. “It is SOOOOO hot.” “I hate the heat.” “I am miserable that I can’t do the things outside that I like to do.” Whine, whine, whine.  I had put into my search everything that was wrong with Texas summers.

After learning the value of gratitude, I changed what I put in my Google search. I noticed a big difference in how I was feeling. I was saying, “I am so grateful for air conditioning in my home!” “I am so grateful that I don’t have to work outside.”  “I am so grateful for air conditioning in my car.” “I am grateful for air conditioning in my office.” You get the picture! Hot Texas summers no long brought me upset.

When I notice I am not feeling emotional, mentally, and/or physically the way I want to be feeling, I look to see what I have in my Google search. If it is a statement or belief that is causing me to feel less than my best, in my mind’s eye I “highlight and delete.” I then, consciously and with great intention, fill it in with a new statement that encourages and supports being in a place of ease and joy.

Is your disk space filled with “spam?” Do you need to highlight and delete? What are you going to iintentionally put in your Google search?

I experienced a technological “mishap” today. I was trying to connect to a teleseminar for an afternoon of learning. Instead of hearing the featured speaker, there were three of us listeners who ended up on the phone line together. One of them, Todd Jensen, took charge in suggesting we introduce ourselves and share the titles of our books.

I quickly became thankful for the “problem.” Todd shared his book, On Gratitude, to be released on World Gratitude Day September 21st (Learn more at his website, His message moves me and reminds me.

I was first introduced to the gratitude journal back in 1995. Initially I thought I would be repeating myself to come up with 5 “gratefuls” every day. What I quickly discovered was there was not enough room allocated for each day and I was writing in the margins of the book. I surprised myself one blistery hot August day by saying, “I am grateful for air conditioning.” What a contrast to my usual whining about the Texas summer heat!

Many years later, I had a profound experience with gratitude on one of the most difficult days ever with my parents. Both of them were experiencing failing health. Their physician said it was no longer safe for them to be living independently in their apartment. Three medical social workers said they must be moved to an assisted living facility and if it did not happen they would report me to the state as not being an adequate caregiver for my parents.

It could have been easy. While they were still functioning better mentally and physically, my brother had taken them to visit several such facilities. They had selected their favorite and we had everything in place when future needs determined it necessary. My mother had even said she was ready then as she would no longer have to cook or clean. However, when it came down to it, she was the one that resisted most vehemently. She stood resolutely, with feet planted firmly in front of me saying, “I won’t move and you can’t make me!”

I had tried everything I knew to convince and reassure them. In desperation I called a social worker friend who had worked with the elderly. He suggested that I call the state myself, reporting the situation and requesting support from their social worker. It was Friday early evening and I knew there was nothing else I could do until Monday morning. I had other important family business that I needed to attend to that weekend and wanted to be in a place of greater peace within myself.

That is when I discovered what I call, “Present Moment, Grateful.” I was in my car, driving down a country road. I asked myself, “What am I grateful for?” I am grateful that I have a car. I am grateful that I have gas in the car. I am grateful I have money to put gas in the car. I am grateful for a safe road to drive on….

I continued….”What do I see I was grateful for?” I am grateful for the blue sky, the beautiful white clouds, bright and dark greens of the leaves swaying in the breeze…..”What do I hear I am grateful for?” I am grateful for the car radio. I am grateful for the large selection of stations available to me…. “What do I smell I am grateful for?” I am grateful for the smell of the fresh outside air…. “What do I taste I am grateful for?”…. “What do I touch I am grateful for?”….

As I moved my attention into the present moment, involving all five senses, I felt my body sink into a peaceful relaxation. I felt my heartbeat slow, my blood pressure lower. I became present to all that I usually take for granted. By the time I reached my next destination I was feeling great joy!

I have now reduced the Present Moment and Grateful to PM & G. Whenever I find myself feeling frustrated, tense, upset, powerlessness, I remind myself to go to PM & G. I invite you, as you experience those “mishaps” to try it. Let me know how it works for you!

Watch for next week’s blog: PM&G, Part 2.

(THE REST OF THE STORY: The social worker from the state came out on Monday. When my mother realized the state would become their guardian if she did not cooperate she agreed to move. By that afternoon they were safe in their new home. My learnings from this: be prepared for future needs and ask for help from others.)

Seeing our loved ones in pain and knowing it is time to let go is so hard. Sometimes we want to avoid the situation all together. It takes courage to be present! I share the following story of a brave woman, who now has no regrets:

Thank you for yesterday! It was a miracle how events unfolded. I got to the hospital and didn’t want to see mother. I sat outside the ICU for several hours crying. After settling down and it wasn’t visitation time the doors opened up into ICU and without thinking about it I walked in. They didn’t ask me to leave, but had me wash my hands. I easily found mother. When I put my hand on her she opened her eyes for the first time and looked at me. The rest of my family shortly followed what I did. They couldn’t believe I did that. After some time they asked all my family members to leave, but never said anything to me. I stepped back out of the way for awhile and when things settled down around mother. I stepped back to her and stayed with her another hour. They never asked me to leave. She was aware that I was there the whole time. I could see she was afraid and hurting. It breaks my heart that they are keeping her alive.

TWO days later
I was with mother to the very end. It was a beautiful experience. The last hour we went to my special place together and watched the grandchildren play in the water. We remembered when her children were born. We walked together in heaven. She let me know (without words) that she would always be with me and she understood that I would be with her as soon as she went to sleep, because there is no time in heaven. Then Dona started talking to her letting her know it was O.K. to let go and I laid my head on her other shoulder for the last 20 minutes and held her hand. I felt her relax as she left her body. It is because of our session that I was able to do that. Thank you!

What do you say and do before the final goodbye? Join us in sharing and learning at the upcoming retreat in October. See the homepage for registration information.

You know those great little Flip cameras that allow even us amateurs to take movies, download, and edit? What amazing opportunities technology has brought to us!

I was encouraged to purchase one to put clips on my blog page (stay tuned!). I also want to be able to record the Celebration Circle we are going to do for the elder in Honduras so I can post it as well. (Now is time to sign up for this remarkable experience! See my home page.)

So, I unpackaged and started exploring the camera. Although I always prefer not to, I even read the instructions. There is a center area with arrows, similar to a TV remote, for moving up down and sideways with options. I pushed, I prodded, I tried to fit my finger into this narrow space to get the desired settings and commands. No luck. I wondered, was the camera defective? Was it designed to only be workable for people with long and strong fingernails to fit in that small space? I could not believe they would make it this hard!

I decided to take it into the store for instructions. The young male salesman took it from my hands and quickly and easily showed me that the center ball rolled. Rather than pushing on the black up/down/sideway arrows, all I had to do was gently roll the center ball into the desired direction.

I laughed out loud!

Then, I wondered, how many other areas in my life I am “pushing” when all I have to do is “roll”?

“This is how I have always done this when holding a similar button, so it has to work the same in this circumstance.” When it doesn’t, do I blame the other person or situation, making them wrong, or defective?

Are there any areas of your life where it is time to stop pushing and to start rolling?

As we watched the news we saw such devastation as the oil spilled out into our earth’s ocean. The long-term results are still unknown. It is so easy to move to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anger, and sadness.

In circumstances such as this, when something is happening that I have no control over, I have learned to quickly start asking myself, “What do I have control over?” I have control over how much oil I use in my life. I can choose to minimize my driving. I can choose to not drink water from plastic bottles. (It has been estimated that one plastic bottle uses ½ a bottle of oil for the production, transportation, and disposal.) Even when hosting large groups at my retreat center, I have a full container of filtered water and use reusable glasses. I carry my stainless steel water bottle with me everywhere I go. Oil production is based on demand. I can do my part to reduce my personal demand.

I use this same thought process in thinking about grief and loss. What do I have control over? Most of the time I do not have control over a loss in my life. Yet, I do have control over how I think about it. I do have control over my actions around it.

I can mentally “wash away” that which doesn’t improve the situation and focus on what I can do to make a difference. Hence, the creation of what I call SOAP. What is the Situation? What are my Options? What is my Action Plan?

I had no control over my mom having Alzheimers. What were my options? To accept the reality of it. To be realistic in what to expect from her. To know she would be erratic, sometimes able to relate and sometimes not. To accept that sometimes she knew my name and sometimes not. To never take things she said or did personally.

What was my Action Plan? To keep her in an environment where she was physically safe. To monitor her care. To be physically and emotionally present for her as much as I could, while also taking care of myself. To love her!

I invite you to look at all possible ways to apply SOAP to all “dirty” parts of your world.

Remember: You are invited to learn and experience more, while in the renewing Caribbean retreat environment. Join us!

We have so much to learn! When I spoke at an international conference, I met a woman from Africa. I asked her how death was viewed in her culture.

First she rolled her eyes. She then stated that she did not understand the perspective she has so often seen in the United States. She said “You act as if death is wrong and should not happen.” She went on to say that in her village they see that everyone is born, everyone follows the path of their life, and everyone dies. They view death as the natural progression of life. When someone they love dies, they celebrate them, sharing what they liked and didn’t like about the person.

In October I will be hosting a twelve hour retreat on the message of Conscious Acts of Grace at Upachaya Island Retreat Center on the Carribean Island of Roatan, Honduras. As a group of up to 10 participants, we will have the opportunity to fully understand and absorb the “tools” and understandings relating to peace around end of life.

I am most excited about the opportunity to learn more about how the end of life is experienced in this culture, and what we can learn and share. The owners of the retreat center are identifying an elder from the nearby village for our group to create a Celebration Circle. At the end of our week together, on that Friday night, we will host a Celebration Circle for the elder.

If you want a deep and rich experience, as well as renewing and relaxing opportunity, join us! See the home page for more information.