Shins to the Boots

At the end of your days, be leaning forwards, not falling backwards.  

H. Jackson Browne Jr. 

I wasn’t sure I wanted to ski.

I’d already had a white-knuckle drive to come up the mountain on Thursday.  Complete fog whiteout at the top of Rt. 421 before Boone, where the Blue Ridge Parkway crosses over the highway. I couldn’t see six feet in front of me, and it lasted for miles and miles. I was still shaking when I got to our mountain house 45 minutes later.

So, fear already had a solid hold of me before the weekend even started. And I’d just written a blog post that mentioned giving up skiing, for fear that I would further damage my right hand, which is riddled with arthritis.  

But my brother, my niece and her children were coming for a ski weekend. My great nephew Jack had just turned 10 years old, and the weekend was a birthday present for him.

We headed out early Saturday morning to rent their gear, and I didn’t even put my skis in the car. On the way to the slopes, I changed my mind last minute and ran by the house to get my stuff. My plan was to spend the day helping the children learn, on the bunny slope. It was all about the kids.

Our family has skied for years. We started in North Carolina, and then took the kids to Colorado once a year for a family vacation. I have never been an expert skier but could handle myself well on blue intermediate slopes. My boys are both solid skiers/boarders. Ben went to App State and spent his winters on the slopes. He was made for snow.

I learned to ski in high school, taught by my boyfriend, who had lived in Colorado for some time.  We would go night skiing at a small Virginia resort 90 minutes down the valley from Winchester. It was all very romantic for a 17-year-old, and I caught the ski bug.  I even talked my parents into buying me my own skis.

But I am A LOT older now, and, well, SHIT, skiing is dangerous – particularly on a crowded Saturday when the slopes are covered with first timers who have way more confidence than skill or sense.

But, back to the plan. I was on the bunny slope, helping Jack as he struggled to learn how to control his turns and, more importantly, how to stop. I talked him into getting onto the bunny slope’s “magic carpet” – basically a small escalator that pulls you up to the top of the little hill. 

He got on and promptly fell off. Toppled right off the edge. And since there was ditch to the left, it was quite a process to get up and back on. He was frustrated but persisted. We got him back on, and I said, “Don’t lean back! – lean FORWARD!” as he took off.

Then I got on, and you can guess what happened.  I LEANED BACK, and fell off, right into that ditch.  Poor Jack was looking back at me with a face that said, “What do I do now?”

He kept going while I crawled out of that ditch.

Crawling out of a ditch in skis is not that easy. Particularly if you are a woman of a certain age. And I was absolutely mortified, while praying in that ditch that my left knee would not twist too badly, as my ski had not popped free. I had never been on a magic carpet before – chair lifts only – and trust me, will NEVER get on one again.  For the rest of the day, I called it the ‘death trap’.

We took a break for the afternoon and booked Jack a private lesson at 5pm. My brother was wiped out from helping 7-yr-old Grace all morning, so I went back to ski with Rachel. Wasn’t really loving the idea, with that fear still sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear.

You are OLD! 

You fell off the F***ing magic carpet, for God’s sake!

What the HELL do you think you are doing?!

And Good Christ, you’re gonna do it at NIGHT?”

But I didn’t want to let Rachel down.

One of the most common mistakes beginners make is “skiing in the back seat”. Backseating refers to a stance where the skier is leaning back, putting too much weight towards the back of the skis. The front of the skis come up with less weight on them and you lose your center of balance. You want your shins pressing up against the tongue of your boots. A solid LEAN FORWARD position.

One of the root causes of backseating is FEAR. Fear of the mountain. An unconscious attempt to resist, to slow yourself down. In fact, leaning back actually makes you go faster, with less control.

Even with that fear on my shoulder, I got back on the horse again, so to speak – got on that chairlift with Rachel.

She wanted to ski. I will do a lot for people I love.

I didn’t even care when some nutjob ran into me from behind and I took another tumble.

We watched the sun set, in magnificent purples, pinks and blues from the top of the slope.IMG_0825


Jack was an excellent student – really stuck with it, even went up the quad with his instructor while Rachel and I watched with our mouths open – part in fear and part in amazement.  Jack suffers from some anxiety, brought on in part by a father who left him at 3, followed by a bitter and acrimonious divorce. He struggles sometimes to manage his moods and cope in fearful, uncertain environments.

Jack was a happy chatter box on our last run together after his lesson, even schooling Rachel and me on “shins to the boots”.



You know, it feels really, really good when you conquer fear.

And even better when you watch someone you love do it as well.

On the drive home today, I thought a lot about leaning forward, and getting out of the backseat – as a metaphor for life.

I have been too focused lately on what I can’t or shouldn’t do now that I am in my sixties. I’ve been letting fear put me in the backseat position. Backseating while heading down whatever mountain you’ve chosen to ride is no way to go – whatever your age. In fact, it’s flat out dangerous.

Stephen Levine, the poet, said, “All fear has an element of resistance and a leaning away from the moment. Fear leans backward into the last safe moment, while desire leans forward toward the next possibility of satisfaction.” I think he was actually arguing for “presence”, the optimal state in between fear and desire. But Presence only will NOT get you down a mountain.

I won’t be bungie jumping or hitting a black diamond slope any time soon, but damn it, once I choose to do something, it needs to be SHINS TO THE BOOTS from now on.  

Choose thoughtfully, lean forward, and conquer that mountain.

Whatever it is.

Only way to go.


Time Found

It takes courage to realize that you are greater than your moods, greater than your thoughts, and that you can control your moods and thoughts. – Stephen Covey

It’s a new year. And I turn 63 tomorrow, on January 9.  

So, I’m taking stock.  Where I’ve been, where I am now, and what’s left to do. 

I saw a picture on Facebook last week of a signpost that really got me thinking. In one direction it said, “Your Life”, and in the other it said, “No Longer an Option”.

When we’re young, that metaphorical signpost has many arrows. So many ways to go, so many choices. And if you take one path for a bit and don’t like it, there will be another signpost coming along soon with many other arrows to choose from. 

But perhaps not so many when you have lived a while. 

I learned last year that I have extensive arthritis in my right hand. So extensive that I will probably need surgery in a year or two. 

So, some sports I have really enjoyed are probably no longer going to be an option. Like golf or skiing. 

Those are little misses, not a big deal in the scheme of things. (Although my P.E. teacher mom, who golfed until she literally couldn’t walk anymore, would probably disagree.)

But there are bigger things. Things that were once on my bucket list that, if I’m honest, I am probably not going to do. And given that my husband’s health is not the best, there are things we are probably not going to be able to do together anymore.

Owning and running a dog rescue farm.

Hiking the entire Camino de Santiago.

Barefoot sailing in the Caribbean.

You know guys, as I write this, I am kicking myself.  This is all bullshit.  I don’t think I even want to do some of those things anymore. And the things I KNOW I want to do can still happen. 

Travel, learning, photography, writing, more travel – those are still wide open to me. 

I have been carrying a good deal of fear, anger, and grief since my husband was diagnosed with diabetes last January. It’s coloring my view of the future. 

I have never been very good at living in the present. I‘m a planner and a risk mitigator. I’ve made my livelihood for many years driving big projects to successful completion by thinking ahead and anticipating the worst that could happen. A good project manager always has a Plan B.

You would not believe the awful scenarios I have gamed out in my head of what’s to come. Or maybe you would, if your own health or that of a loved one has dropped a bomb (small or big) into your life. 

My best friend has a saying – This may be the best day of the rest of your life. When you are of a certain age, this really rings true. But I guess it is also true for anybody, at any age. It’s just easier to forget when you’re young, the road ahead is long, and there are all those options at each crossroads.

Anticipating the worst and planning for it may be a good project management approach, but it’s not a smart way to live your life. 

It’s a new year and time for a new mental mindset. The philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

Man, I have been doing a terrible job at managing my thoughts. 

It’s time to stop looking into the future and imagining the worst. 

It’s time to get crystal clear on what I really want to do, and to get busy doing it. 

It’s time to stop bemoaning all that I may have lost – all the roads not traveled – and rejoice in the immediate road ahead of me.

I took that picture of the B&B door in Puglia, Italy this past November, in Locorotondo. Locorotondo is one of Southern Italy’s white towns, nestled between the olive groves in the countryside known as Valle d’Itria. The village is designated “Borghi piu belli d’Italia’ – one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. 

I didn’t even notice the sign by the door at the time. Il Tempo Ritrovato. 

It means “Time Found”.

In three little words, why I love Italy. A place where I only focus on the vista in front of me. Where I don’t think about what bad stuff might happen in the future. A place where my thoughts are only filled with wonder, curiosity and joy.

When I took a closer look at that ominous Facebook picture, I noticed something else besides that depressing signpost that said, “No Longer an Option”. I looked at the person on the road. 

Her head – with a jaunty hat on it – is UP.

Her step is light and strong.

She’s packed and dressed for the road. 

And I think she may be whistling.

She might just be headed to Italy. 

Happy birthday to me. I’m headed there twice in 2023. 

One Phone Call from Our Knees

She got the call today, one out of the grey 
And when the smoke cleared, it took her breath away 
She said she didn’t believe it could happen to me 
I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees… 

– Matt Kearney, Closer to Love

On June 7, with one phone call, everything changed. 

Bear was my son’s dog first. He came to me for temporary care when Ben was in his first year of law school. The stress of L1 was not working out for a puppy. Ben took him back in second year, and then Bear got sick. Awfully sick, with pancreatitis, literally right before exams. Mimi came to the rescue again – bringing him home with me to heal while Ben focused on school. He went back and forth between us several times over the next 18 months. Sort of a joint custody arrangement. Until I broke the deal and said, nope, he’s mine. When Ben threatened to come take him back, I threatened to change the locks on the doors. It’s one of those contentious topics Ben and I just don’t talk about. 

Bear wormed his way firmly into my heart. He was my animal soul mate – me in a dog personality; introverted, perennially anxious, loud when stressed, and not a cuddler. He and I understood each other. He was with me all the time when I was home. He was my writing muse and my comfort blanket. Bear was my rock, my constant. Period.

In late April, a large mass popped up on Bear’s shoulder. We took him to our family vet. They aspirated the mass and did not find any suspicious cells. We decided to wait and watch to see if perhaps it was a trauma, a bruise, that would go down over time. A second aspiration a month later was sent to a pathologist, with again, inconclusive results. So, we set an appointment for June 8 with a specialty vet, at the CARE facility in Charlotte. During all this time, Bear appeared perfectly normal, no signs of discomfort or change in activity. 

Until the week after Memorial Day. He began acting sick, refusing to go out, refusing to walk, refusing to eat. I sat up all night with him June 6th, and we took him into the CARE facility in the early morning of June 7. 

We sat for almost 3 hours in the car (damn COVID) until the emergency vet called us. The news she shared was beyond anything we had expected to hear. He had an aggressive cancer of the blood cells, a hemangiosarcoma. It had spread to his internal organs, he was bleeding internally, and surgery, while a faint possibility, would only give him maybe 2 more months to live – and not 2 more good months. He was a ticking timebomb and could die at any moment. 

We had to decide right then and there what to do. We could take him home, and watch him die within 48-72 hours, or we could decide to let him go. 

We called Ben to ask if he wanted to be there with us. We went home, walked Zoey, and then came back to meet Ben. 

Bear was gone by 1pm. 

I can’t talk too much about the experience of putting him down. Only to say that I literally have never cried that hard in my life. Not EVER.  Not even when each of my parents died. 

That phone call on June 7 literally brought me to my knees. I was totally unprepared for what happened. Bear was only 6 ½ years old and had been healthy until just a few days before. 

My heart broke wide open. A river of tears, of grief, of loss, of anger and denial. A freaking river that carried me away. 

I am usually a pretty ‘in-control’ person. I take charge, I get things done, and I move forward. 

But this stopped everything for me.  Everything except trying to deal with the grief. 

 So, I ran. By 3pm that day I was on my way to the mountains. Alone. 

I stayed there for a week. And it rained every day. 

I just observed my grief. Watched it ebb and flow. And listened to what it was teaching me. 

Lesson one was compassion.  I am not known as a particularly compassionate person. I’m kind of a hard-ass. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and all that. But after June 7, I felt like I was walking around with hole in my chest – a hole I wanted everyone to see. I wanted to put a sign on my forehead that said, “I just lost my best friend, please be kind to me.”

It made me wonder – and see with new eyes.  How many other people are out there walking around with holes in their chest as well?  How many other people had just gotten a similar phone call that dropped them to their knees? 

There must be hundreds, thousands of us.  All of us walking wounded. 

So damn it, be kind. It’s hard to walk in the world with a hole in your chest.

A wise friend told me that often, the death of a pet can open a gateway to all the other grief in our hearts we didn’t even know we had. Our relationship with pets is uncomplicated, a simple love, not fraught with the challenges of human relationships. So, when they die, there is little of the regret or guilt that often complicates the loss of our human family and friends. 

Just one huge chasm of grief and loss. A gateway to let everything out that has been tamped down for a long time. 

A RUNNING RIVER of grief, washing us clean. 

My second lesson was how this grief connected me to my body. Connected me in ways that nothing has been able to do before. My mind has always been in charge, driving, ordering, pushing, regardless of what my body had to say about it. I just didn’t listen and have paid for it with bad health decisions. 

That was the “before Bear died” me. But now there is a different, “after Bear died” me. 

In the “before”, I was what you would call an “over functioning” person. Controlling, owning tasks for everyone in my circle. If anybody hesitated or faltered, I was quick to pick up the baton and take it over the finish line. It was automatic for me, with no thought to whether I could handle it or not. 

After June 7, I just STOPPED automatically picking up the baton. My head would say “you should do X”, but my body would say “Nope, not doing that now.” Three months later I am still doing it.  I take a scan of my body and determine whether I am able to do something. If I am not, I don’t do it. And I don’t feel guilty about it. 

This mind-body connection is a big deal.  I have been searching for it for years. FIVE YEARS I have been working with an intuition coach, and it took me being on the floor of that facility, sobbing uncontrollably into the soft fur of Bear’s neck, feeling his soul slip away, to be completely in my body. 

… to know I am not super-human. 

… to know when to stop over-functioning. 

… to feel compassion for myself and other humans who are hurting. 

… to submit completely to big grief, to have it wash me clean. 

… to be softened, as Pema Chodron says. 

Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both…

Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other.

One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together

… to be grateful to have had such love.  As the writer Anne Lamott said on the death of her dog Lily, “I think she was the closest I’ll come, on this side of eternity, to experiencing the direct love of the divine.”

Processed with MOLDIV

Mandala Meditation

We have art in order not to die of the truth. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak. – Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

I haven’t written in my blog since May. I started a few posts over the summer and autumn but left them unfinished.

In truth, I think the reason I haven’t written much this year is that I didn’t think I had the right to. 

The pandemic was a blessing in many ways for me. I feel guilty saying that. 

While other people lost their jobs and their livelihood, I kept mine. And so did my loved ones. 

As of this date, no one in our immediate family has fallen ill to Covid. 

I was able to work from home, spending the summer and fall on top of a mountain. 

I lived with the windows open. I had my dogs with me. 

I walked the ridge most days, where you can see across three states when it’s clear.

I had close encounters with deer, and even a bear and her cubs.

I listened to the creek tumble down the hill behind my house, on its way to merge into the rhododendron groves that hug the Pond Creek gorge. We hiked that gorge, as well as the trails on Emerald Outback and Elk Falls.

We were able to retreat and isolate. And we were very diligent about it. Other than our boys, only six people have come to visit us, and not all at the same time. We have made only one trip out of the state in the past 10 months.

While Black Lives Matter protests were raging, with people fighting for justice and the right just to breathe – I watched on TV from the mountain. I donated to help the cause, but I stayed put – on my mountain. 

I felt guilty about writing about my life – how could I have anything to say when I was so comfortable, and others were dying or fighting for their lives? It didn’t seem right.

But writing is a stress relief outlet for me – a cathartic process – and yes, I was stressed. Stressed and scared, as many were. As many of us still are. 

When I couldn’t write, I turned to art. Inspired by my friend Bo Mackison, I began a small mandala journaling practice. Mandala means “circle” in Sanskrit and is a spiritual or ritual symbol in Asian cultures. Mandalas represent wholeness, and reflect the cosmos, reminding us of our relation to the infinite, to the world that exists both beyond and within ourselves. Creating a mandala as a healing practice is a form of meditation, a way to create feelings of calm, focus and concentration. 

I didn’t know any of that at the time. I just thought Bo’s mandalas were beautiful and wanted to try it. And yea, I couldn’t write. 

So, I bought myself some black artist paper and a bunch of metallic art pencils and gel pens and went to town. It was a simple practice, where I only had to commit a few minutes in a busy day. Sometimes I did them while listening to conference calls. (Keep that to yourselves.)

I drew what I saw. I drew what I felt. Some were peaceful, some were sad, and some were angry.

I still felt guilty, and sad that I wasn’t writing. But my coach finally set me straight. She told me that my mandala practice was exactly what I should be doing right now. The writing could wait. In this challenging year, our minds have not adjusted their expectations, but the body is trying to correct. The mandala practice allowed me to get out of my head. It was a way of changing my brain. 

Just like meditation. 

I had found a healing practice that I didn’t even know I needed. A way to quiet the mind and deal with the all the fear and horror of this year – which frankly keeps on coming in 2021.

My drawing skills are minimal, to say the least. But I don’t judge my little mandalas like I judge my photography. They are a record of my year, in all its beauty and its horribleness. 

Breadcrumbs from my soul. And perhaps a lifesaving practice.

My healing gift to me. 

What healing practices have you found to help you through this difficult time?

The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow. – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

You Can Talk to Me


My father loved 3X5 cards.  They were his go-to note taking tool. He would write his to-do list on them, in small, neat engineer-quality script.  He’d slip the 3X5 card into his shirt pocket before going off to the hardware store or to his work shop.

When he came to visit us, he would make a list of all the things he planned to fix about our house on one of those 3X5 cards.  And he’d make his way through the list, methodically, during his stay.

My Dad died five years ago, in 2015, after living with Parkinson’s disease for over 10 years. 

Today, while cleaning out a desk drawer, I found one of his last 3X5 cards. He carried it with him – in his shirt pocket – in his final years.

It wasn’t a list, but a message for people that he met or interacted with, during those days when his voice had left him. 

A fiercely independent and brilliant man, he hated that people mistook his lack of ability to speak as an indication that he was not THERE, that his mind and attention were not still sharp. 

He would get very irritated when a doctor directed their gaze and words at me, or to my brother, and not to him. 

He was HERE, he was PRESENT, and he did not appreciate being overlooked.

He wanted to be seen. Seen as human, as capable, as still in charge of his life.

But who among us does not want that? 

Finding that card again, after so many years, broke me open a little bit today. I remember how hard that time was, certainly for him, but also for our entire family. A strong and stoic man, clinging fiercely to his dignity and to his humanity. Telling people that they could interact with him, no matter what they saw in front of them.

At first, this card made me sad. It made me cry. 

But then I thought about it more. 

It’s a tough time right now. 

After 50+ days of COVID lock down, we’re all getting tired and irritable.

People are scared, people are angry, people are hurting. And a lot of people have died.

So what this card said to me, on my second look, was BE KIND. 

Jeri, for God’s sake just be freaking KINDER.

Look behind the first impression. Look for the story. Look for the humanity.

And persevere. 

Even if it’s hard.

Just like my father did. 


Over and Over Again


Hearts are made to be broken.  – Oscar Wilde

Ten years ago on this day, my mother passed away. 

I remember it all vividly. 

It was a Tuesday – two days after after Easter.  We had just left her on Sunday, after moving her into an assisted living facility in our home town of Winchester.  It was a painful, difficult, emotionally charged weekend. My Dad was now alone in their home, with advanced Parkinson’s, barely able to take care of himself. My mom was somewhat stoic about her situation, but pretty miserable, and constantly asking after my Dad. 

My brother called me early that Tuesday morning. I remember collapsing on the bed after he told me, just sobbing and sobbing.  “I should have stayed!  I should have stayed!” 

Then I picked myself up, threw some clothes into the suitcase that was still beside my bed, and took off on a six-hour drive to Winchester. 

My brother left Jacksonville at the same time. Our plan was to rendezvous at their house, and tell our Dad together. 

I remember crossing over the gap through the mountains, entering the Shenandoah Valley, and the car just eating up the miles. I listened to Mary Chapin Carpenter for most of the way. The song “Almost Home” was on repeat. Over and over. 

I’m not running

I’m not hiding

I’m not reaching

I’m just resting in the arms of the great wide open

Gonna pull my soul in

And I’m almost home

It was so important to get HOME. 

I remember a lot more. 

The chair my father was sitting in, when we both knelt beside him to tell him his wife was gone. 

The visit to the funeral home, where I saw her for the last time. Her hair had been recently cut by the hairdresser at the assisted living facility. She had not been happy with that cut. 

I can see the room with the coffins and cremation boxes, as we walked around the displays and made our selection. 

I remember staying up all night with my brother, planning the funeral service and writing our individual goodbyes. 

I remember sitting beside my father during the service, holding his hand as he sobbed. Parkinson’s had taken most of his words months ago. 

I don’t remember putting her ashes in the ground. Perhaps by then I was numb. 

Memory is a funny thing. How can an experience ten years old still be so vivid?

Today when I realized what day it was, an invisible fist grabbed my heart. For a moment I couldn’t breathe. My heart was broken again, just for a moment or two. 

David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, says that heartbreak is unpreventable. It’s “the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight.” 

Heartbreak is the very essence of being human. As Whyte says, it is the “hidden DNA of our relationship with life.”

Every heart does eventually break, in a physical sense. Hers broke that day. She sat back down in her bed after visiting the toilet, said “let me just catch my breath”, and then – that was that. Her heart just stopped. 

She had a larger than normal heart. No – seriously – she did. Not just metaphorically, but physically.  By virtue of being an incredible athlete all her life, her heart was actually larger than others. 

So I guess humanness grabbed my heart today. 

It said “Remember.”

Remember that you were loved, loved BIG, by that larger than normal heart. By a most remarkable woman. 

Heartbreak, says Whyte, asks that we not look for an alternative path, because there is no alternative path. It asks us to be ready for the ultimate letting go. 

And it asks us to be ready, over and over again. 

Apparently it happens at least every year. 

Today, I celebrate not only my Mom, but the gift of being human. 

For the gift of heartbreak. The beautifully helpless side of love and affection. 

I’m still sad. I wish she was here. Oh lord, do I wish she was here.

But I’m grateful for everything. 

Even the heartbreak. 

And the letting go, over and over again.

Hang In There

The pose begins when you want to leave it.  – Anonymous

For the past three weeks, I have been working extended hours, 7 days a week, to support the HR team at the company with whom I am contracting, as they race to deliver on responses to the coronavirus crisis. I have had little time to do anything other than work, eat, and sleep (a little). In some ways, this has been good – to be incredibly busy and full of purpose. Our work is making a huge difference to the 300,000 employees who serve customers of a business deemed essential to our communities during this pandemic.

This week we began to work from home, which has been such a blessing to my health and energy. I have had a little more time to hug my dogs, be with my husband, and take better care of myself. 

It’s also give me the opportunity to stop and assess how I am personally doing right now, and to consider how I can move through this awfulness with more purpose and intention. 

It made me think of the experience of struggling through a yoga pose. Some poses are more difficult than others. It varies by individual, body and skill. 

For me it was always the pigeon pose. 

The pigeon pose is a hip opener. One yoga teacher has compared the hips to the body’s junk drawer. It’s the place where we put emotions when we don’t know what else to do with them. We store stress, trauma, fear and anxiety in the hips. They are emotionally charged, a place where we store some of our deepest vulnerabilities. The pigeon pose opens the hips and releases negative feelings and toxic energy stored in your system. 

In yoga class, I both dreaded and looked forward to the pigeon pose. My body yearned for it, but my mind knew it would challenge me. 

But what struck me as THE lesson here, now and in this time. was the guidance provided by my yoga teacher as I experienced the pose. 

Breathe:  Breathe in, breathe out. Take it in, and let it out. Revel in the pure MIRACLE of breathing. How wonderful to be able to breathe now, when so many are struggling to do so.

Invite: Invite in ALL the emotions and physical feelings. Acknowledge them without judgement. 

Explore:  Settle into the pose. Explore if you can go even deeper. Assess the points in your body that are holding stress and pain. Adjust and persevere. Learn to sit with discomfort.

Trust:  Trust your body and get grounded. Feel the strength in your legs and back, in your arms, in your chest. Celebrate them. Go back to #1, Breathe.

Challenges with the pigeon pose can indicate that you fear the future, or are holding on to the past. 

How apropos to our situation right now. 

Hell, YES, I am fearing the future. I don’t know when I’ll see my sons again – I’ve told them to stay in their towns and not come home until the danger is past. My husband’s hip replacement surgery, which he needs desperately, has been indefinitely postponed. I still haven’t looked at my financial portfolio, but know that I have lost 30-40% of its value. I have trouble sleeping and have strange and frightening dreams. 

And I am better off than others. 

On our walk yesterday, Zoey, Bear and I came upon the driveway chalk drawing above. I think “hanging in there”- hanging from the proverbial branch – is a little bit like doing the pigeon pose. It’s hard, it’s painful, it challenges your strength and stamina, as well as your emotions. There’s resistance – a lot of resistance. 

We are all hanging from the proverbial branch right now. All trying to learn to sit – or hang – with discomfort. Learning how to adjust and persevere. And doubting our strength. 

In the coming days, along with washing my hands and maintaining social distancing, I’m going to try to remember those four simple yoga mantras:





In addition, I need to lay out my mat and embrace that pigeon pose. Again and again. 

Sending love, strength, breath, and trust to you all.


Stop the Wheel

Time is not a measure, but rather a quality. – Paul Coelho

Every morning when we are in the mountains, I take the dogs for a walk along the ridge overlooking the gorge through which Pond Creek flows. I can hear the rushing water as we make the turn onto Overbrook Trail. We are rewarded with a magnificent vista, the gorge full of rhododendron and the valley stretching out for miles. 



Across the gap is Pinnacle Ridge, soaring 5,500 feet, with the “fancy” houses jutting out along Oz Road. As we continue down the trail, we see the slopes of Beech Mountain Ski Resort glimmering in the distance, the early morning skiers making their way down the White Lightning run. The sound of the water rushing grows louder, as I let the dogs sniff their way along the edge of the drop. 

I have hiked the lower Pond Creek trail through that gorge. It is a challenging but fantastic hike. The creek turns into a river, picking up steam and power as it cuts its way through the gorge. The trail runs directly along the water, and you have to carefully make your way through the rocks, the roots and the rhododendron, the river your constant companion. There are loud and brash waterfalls, as well as quiet, peaceful eddy pools where the native trout live. 



Today, as we came back up the road, I thought about why it is that I love this place so much – why my heart both leaps as I see the mountains for the first time, and then why it settles with a big fat SIGH when I land at our house. 

What came to me was, “Time moves slower here.”

I move slower here. 

I have always had a rather complicated relationship with time. When I am in Charlotte, I am always concerned with time. What have I done? What have I not done? What do I still need to do? When I turned 50 and my parents were rapidly declining in health. I was unhealthily obsessed with time. What has been spent and can never be retrieved? What was left? What would happen in the future? It was a vicious cycle, with no answers, just tons of stress. 

It is winter now, ten years later, and I am a still winter baby. A Capricorn through and through. Winter, and the harsh and changeable weather of the mountains, suits the serious nature of a Capricorn. We are typically fierce and unforgiving, always expecting the worst, with a solid penchant toward the melancholy. Capricorn is ruled by the planet Saturn, a cold, distant and rather immovable force. Saturn is the God of time and destiny, also known to the Greeks as Chronos. Chronos was the God who turned the Zodiac Wheel – the wheel of time. 

Capricorn is also one of the four Cardinal signs (cardinal = important) – a turning point in the wheel. The “air” changes when the Sun enters each of these signs, bringing a change of season. Capricorn is also an Earth sign. We thrive on being grounded. We are practical, prickly and plucky, just like the sure-footed goat, who finds their way to the top of the mountain every time. 

So I am a child of winter, an Earth girl, one ruled by Saturn and Chronos. I have an intimate, if somewhat unwelcome, relationship with Time. 

But back to my observation that time seems to move slower in my mountains. 

Can we really slow down time? 

I don’t know.

The practical goat in me says that time is relentless. The seasons turn, the wheel moves always, and we are moved with it. 

But what if time is not a measure, but rather a quality, as the writer Paul Coelho says? 

A quality of life that we can weave and manipulate, adjust to our needs and our whims, by force, or will, or even place?

I am coming into a new relationship with time, and the mountains are guiding me on the journey. The wheel is still turning, but I can choose where I want to stand on it, and how I experience it. 

Coelho also says, “A day has 24 hours and an infinity of moments. If we slow down, everything will last much longer.”

An infinity of moments. If we only slow down. 

So, here is what I know to be true right now. Time is a concept of the mind. A quality that you can make to do your bidding. It might only be for an hour, or a day, or a fortnight, but when you are there, in those infinity of moments, the wheel stops. 

Or at least it slows. Most magically, it slows.

And what a wonder that is.

Where – and what – makes the wheel stop for you? Find it, and spend as much time there as you can.  



Stepping into 60

picture 60

I’ve got silver in my hair. Gold in my heart, And steel in my veins. …And I know my worth.   –

Tonight is the last night of the last day of my fifties. Tomorrow I will turn 60.

Most days I don’t feel 60. Despite a little bit of arthritis in my back, I’m still moving. My knees are good, my hips are good. I can still chase after my pups, ski the slopes at Beech Mountain, and hike a mountain, even a wet and slippery one. I still have a lot of hair, which my hairdresser has to thin every time I get a haircut. 

So I count myself pretty lucky, all things considered.

But regardless, I must accept the fact that I am now firmly in the “Crone” category. 

In Astrology teachings, a woman becomes a Crone when the planet Saturn makes its second pass around our birth chart. This happens every 29 years, so it is in a woman’s 58th year that it begins. It takes a while, several months to actually pass by, so it might not be until she is 59.

The word Crone is derived from the old word for crown, suggesting the wisdom that begins to emanate from the head like a halo. Her child bearing days are past; she is the wisdom keeper, seer and healer and midwife, whose knowledge is sought out to guide others during life’s hardships and transitions. 

I have a hard time calling myself a seer or guide yet, but yes, I think I have gained some wisdom as I made the turn to crone-ism this year. 

I passed the 4-year mark of my exit from Bank of America. I proved to myself that I could maintain a livelihood and work on my own terms and my own time. I took two months off this year to travel and go to photography school. And the world didn’t end. 

I saw another beloved sister-in-law die at 67, this time from pancreatic cancer. It spurred me to stop worrying about money so much, to spend some of my hard-earned dollars on what I really wanted – a little house in the mountains. And we didn’t become poor and destitute because of it. 

I moved from busy-body mother to advisor and supporter. I gave up worrying about how they live their lives, instead, watching and cheering them on from the sidelines. I revel in their presence, and do not try to fix them any more. I also gained a future daughter-in-law, and welcomed her into our fold with no mama-bear angst or jealousy.

I coached several project managers to become better at their craft, without technically being their manager. I learned how to maintain the boundaries of a consultant/contractor, while constantly adding value and keeping myself whole and sane. 

I expanded my skills as a photographer, delving deeply into the technical aspects of the craft, in the wild west of Montana, no less. I found the confidence and commitment to dedicate time and attention to my art. It provided the wind beneath my wings to finish the second half of the year. I plan on doing it again in 2020.

But back to that term “Seer”. 

In November, after reading the book, The Power Of Naming, I participated in a Naming Ceremony with Melanie Dewberry, a native American wisdom woman. I claimed the name of ‘See-er’. One who sees beauty and magic, searches for wisdom, and shares it with the world. It was a powerful and brave, but scary moment. Melanie’s naming process asks the essential questions – “What is you core identity?” “What is the medicine you bring to the world?”

Who are you without your title, your gender, your talent, your weight, your income, or your personality? If you strip away all your niceties, all those embellishments that you’ve added to your persona to be accepted, what is left? If you wriggle out of all the identities that others have foisted on you, if you release all the ways you smooth out your rough edges so you can belong and feel safe, who are you? What is your core identity?

Who are you, really? And does age change it?

I’m still a mother, a wife, a writer, a photographer, a coach. Still passionate and outspoken. Still a seeker, a learner, an advocate.

But yep, I am now officially a Crone.

In the feminist tradition, “croning” is known as the ritual rite of passage into an era of wisdom, freedom, and personal power. 

Wisdom, freedom and personal power. 

Now that’s a powerful combination.  

So I say, wholeheartedly, welcome to my 60’s. Welcome to this rite of passage.

My intention is that I SEE more, SHARE more, and LOVE more. 

I can’t wait. 

Mountain Girl

Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows. – Michael Landon

Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are. – Miguel Angel Ruiz

We hadn’t planned to buy mountain house just yet. We have been casually looking for at least four years – every time we go to the High Country of North Carolina we take a day to explore and dream.

But on July 9th, we looked at a lovely little house on Beech Mountain – in our price range, fully furnished and at 4450 feet elevation. Someone else had put a contract on it that very day, so we had to act quickly if we wanted to be in the running. 

I have absolutely no idea what got into me that day, but I decided we were going for it. NOW, RIGHT NOW. No more waiting. 

One week earlier, on July 2nd, my sister-in-law Cathy was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer and given 3-6 months to live. With no treatment options available, it was a horrible shock to our entire family. Only 67, a dancer all her life, it was incomprehensible to me that another beloved sister-in-law would die shortly. Only two years ago, in July, we lost my sister in law Barbara to brain cancer. (Our family is not particularly fond of the month of July.)

We were at Cathy’s bedside shortly before she passed away on August 1st. I held her hand and watched her take some of her last breaths. I had known her for 38 years. I saw death steal her vibrance, leaving an emaciated body that would never dance again on this earth. 

In the month between signing a contract and our closing, I never wavered in my conviction that this was the right thing to do. This was pretty unusual, given that I am highly driven by financial security. Worrying about money, the market, and the costs of insurance and retirement often keep me up at night. But I slept great in that month. Just great. 

It was a total GUT-HEART decision. And my heart has stayed strong in this.

There are definitely compromises associated with the decision. I will need to keep working for a few more years. But I learned in my time-off between contracts that I am better when I am working. I like my new assignment, and love flexing my leadership muscles again. 

There is so much risk around this decision, but I have learned over the last four years how to live with risk. A BIG win for me. I have been paralyzed in the past by fear, but no more. The risk and associated fear are not gone, but I will not let it stop me from living my life. 

Something else about this house drew me in. The previous owners had lived there for 30 years. It was meticulously maintained. Hand-written labels on the fuse box, and complete files in the office on every appliance and service reminded me so much of my father. He was just that way. I can still see his distinct, neat handwriting on all the switches and equipment in my parents’ house.

This weekend, after we closed, I thought of my father so many times. He was a quiet, practical and thoughtful man, not given to spontaneous purchases or decisions. When I bought my beloved Movado watch several years ago, I proudly showed it off to him. His only comment was that there were no numbers on the face, so how would I see or tell the time? It was clear he did not think it was a wise purchase. 

This weekend, my father was there with me, as we figured out how to manage some of the basics of the house – where the water cut off was, how to turn the hot water heater on and off, how to work the timers on the outside lights. He would have loved to thoroughly explore the carefully arranged workroom in the basement, where everything was in its place and labelled. 

My father could fix anything. We never had a repairman at our house when we were growing up. He was so capable. When we moved into new houses, he would come to visit for a week and then would just take care of everything. He would make his lists on 3X5 cards, in that elegant small handwriting, and then cross them off, one by one. He would explain everything to me, in thorough detail, unfailingly patient as I hurried about my day as a young working mother. 

I think my father would have approved of this house. He would have thought it a good purchase. I am convinced of that, and it has buoyed me and kept my heart strong over the last month. 

The dead speak to us in many ways. 

On her deathbed, Cathy couldn’t speak, but nevertheless she told me that I should wait no longer to fulfill my dreams and really start living my life. She told me that I was more than capable of conquering my fears, so that we could make these next years some of our best. “Don’t wait anymore, don’t wait,” echoed in the quiet bedroom of the hospice house.

My Dad, gone since 2015, was right behind me as I entered and explored our new mountain home. I think he’ll be there every time I go up there. And oh, what a comfort that is. It’s his place too, I just know it. 

I will turn 60 in a mere five months. Time is running out. I think about that hourglass every day. 

I want to live where the air is cool. 

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

I want to take pictures of mountain landscapes. 

I want to walk in the woods with my dogs. 

Boone Fork Trail, Blowing Rock NC

Hound Ears Club, Blowing Rock NC

I want to feel the warmth of family and fire when the snow lays cold and crisp outside on the ground. 

Beech Mountain Ski Resort

I want to watch the deer loping across my property with their fawns in tow. 

222 Spring Branch Rd, Beech Mountain, NC

I want to be my best self, and the mountains have always been the place where I reunite with her. 

Listen to the voices of loved ones who have passed.  

Take steps to reunite with your best self. 

Turn away from fear and take the risk to be fully alive. 

So I’m returning to my roots – I’m going to become a mountain girl again. 

It is time. Way past time. 

Moses Cone Park Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC