food-2940553_1280.jpgAn active 76-year old man recently shared about his experience in selling the home that he and his wife had lived in for many years. He shared about giving things away to family members and to local nonprofits. And also his dismay in the number of items that were sent to recycling or to the trash; the things he had kept which had little value to them. His wife was in ill health and they had decided to downsize to better enjoy their remaining time together. He felt fortunate that they had the opportunity to take their time and decide what was important to move with them and what could be left behind.

Several years ago, a woman who had a traumatic childhood followed by a difficult marriage found that she could no longer maintain the large home she had raised her family in. The maintenance on the property and the house was significant for a middle aged couple, but was an overwhelming burden for an octogenarian widow. Pressured by her family to sell the house and move, she found herself unprepared to make decisions about the belongings she had gathered over a lifetime. Now she is living in a highly regarded retirement community that is a poor fit for her. And while she has many of her belongings with her, she spends time regretting the loss of her home and so many items which held tremendous emotional value.

A few years ago, I might have had difficulty connecting with these stories. They didn’t connect with my stage in life. End of life transitions were too far away and I was fully engaged in building my life. Now, as I begin to accept that I have entered middle age and see that I have transitioned from life building to maintenance, I can begin to see the next stage ahead.

Thinking about these stories, I look around my own home and notice things that bring me little value. Mixed in with those items are treasures that bring me great joy: the mid-century modern inspired mirror, the photo collage from a beach trip ten years ago, or the books filling the bookcases. And I think about what could be invited to stay and what will be asked to go.

In her KonMari method of decluttering, Marie Kondo encourages you to hold items in your home and ask the question “Does this bring me joy?”

Joshua Fields Milbourne and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as “The Minimalists,” encourage the 90/90 rule: If you haven’t used it in the last 90 days and don’t expect to use it in the next 90 days, let it go.

So, I consider the task of downsizing and clearing out the excess. I want the luxury of taking my time and making well considered choices. There are many people who are master organizers and have resources for supporting simplification beyond the two mentioned above. For myself, I feel quite content to surround myself with those items which are truly used and which bring me joy.



Create a Life Worth Living: Finding your why



When people reach the point where they feel that there is no hope that things will get better or they feel that they have exhausted every option in an attempt to solve the problems they face daily, hopelessness grows. Unchecked, hopelessness fuels self-harm, addictions, and suicide. Life has become so unmanageable that it no longer feels worth living.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl explores his experience as an inmate at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, a place where many died at the hands of the Nazis, but many others died from lack of hope. Frankl  quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how’.”

Just a few days ago a new year began and hundreds of thousands of people made resolutions. Few will hold their resolve into February. And yet so many people plugged into hope, found their why, and survived unimaginable horrors.

Creating a life worth living is about refusing to be a victim. It is about surviving the harsh realities of life and learning to thrive. It is finding your Why in the midst of the storm.

In 2014  author Susan Gabriel shared a blog post, 120 Things That Give Me Hope. This list is an amazing place to begin to build your own well of hope and a life worth living.

As you look at the list, think about those things that give you a sense of purpose:


Does making something bring you joy? Satisfaction? Are you spending some of your time each day creating? Creativity includes writing, knitting, woodworking, gardening, sewing, sculpting.


The beach? The desert? The mountains? Does nature call to you? Do you long to take a long bicycle ride down a country lane? Would you like to hike to the top of the highest peaks? Does sea kayaking make your heart thrill? Are you spending time in nature?


Do you believe in a higher power? Is there something larger than yourself? Do you take time to meditate or pray? Do you lean into the silence?


Can you see others who have needs that you might be able to meet? Do you give of yourself, your time, to lift others up? Can you help the elderly neighbor carry in her groceries? Teach a class at the community center. Read to children in schools or to seniors in care homes? How can you give of yourself?

Creating a life worth living is about giving yourself permission to live fully. What small step can you take today to grow hope and find your “why”?

Instead of giving myself reasons why I cant, I give myself reasons why I can.”

~ Victor Frankl


6 Tips for a Less Stressed Holiday Season


christmas-1911637_1920.jpgNovember is upon us. Holiday decor has filled our local shops even before Halloween costumes hung on the racks. With the advent of November, the holiday season begins in earnest.

The stretch between November 1 and January 1 tends to be the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Shopping, company parties, family get-togethers, can be difficult to navigate.

Monitor your expectations

It’s easy to get carried away with a fantasy of the “perfect” holiday gathering. Take some time to evaluate what is realistic to expect of yourself and your family. Consider adjusting timing or size of holiday gatherings to reduce stress.

Set limits

Spend some time looking ahead at your calendar. Work and home obligations continue during this season. Considering limiting holiday events to one or two per week to keep them manageable.

Plan self-care

While your calendar is out, schedule your self-care including exercise, massage, and evenings at home. Stick to your schedule when invitations for holiday gatherings arrive, decline those that conflict with your self-care plan.

Don’t overindulge

Holiday parties and employee break rooms can be hazardous places during the holidays. Enjoy treats from time to time, but don’t overindulge. Excess sugar and alcohol make you feel sluggish and interferes with sleep.

Buy experiences, not things

Things tend to accumulate and create clutter. Consider investing in experiences with your family. Buy movie tickets, museum passes, or concert tickets as gifts that you can enjoy with your friends and family after the holiday season.

Do something for someone less fortunate

Take time to think outside of your circle of friends and family. Buy gifts for children living in poverty and donate to local organizations, serve a meal at a soup kitchen, donate gift cards for gas or groceries to your local church to distribute to those in need.

Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint


Galen Rupp won the Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2017. Rupp is an accomplished athlete having competed for the University of Oregon and the United States Olympic Track and Field teams.


Galen Rupp

Galen Rupp of the United States wins the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Chicago. –The Associated Press


I am not a runner, however, I am fascinated by the minds and lives of people who run. So many of the runners that I know are independent, determined, positive, and future thinking. The parallels between training for a big run and living life are endless.

Pace Yourself

“In a marathon, if you run too fast, you get exhausted. If you run too slow, you never make it.” ~ Uday Kotak

We only have this moment in time. If we hurry through it, we miss out on the experience, the memory. Be mindful of the moment and allow yourself to savor it before moving on.

“The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” ~Unknown

This Too Shall Pass

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” ~Albert Einstein

Painful moments are just moments. Tap into your wells of resilience and stamina. Reach out to supportive friends and family members when life gets tough. The act of giving up is not the same as pausing or resting. Giving up means not only starting over again, but having to rekindle the motivation. Stay the course and you will reach your goals in time.

Talk to Yourself Positively

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” ~ George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Use affirmations to remind yourself that you can get through the difficult times. “I’m okay, right now.” or “I can do this.” are simple reminders that can carry you through times when you feel like you cannot go any further. Positive thinking increases energy and allows us to continue forward despite struggle.

“With the spirit of endurance, we shall strive in any situation.” ~ Lailah Gifty Akita

Set Goals

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”  ~ Pablo Picasso

Set achievable goals for yourself, then attain them. Once you’ve attained your goals set new goals. Goals keep us moving forward, but only if they stretch us and are achievable. If you set goals that you cannot accomplish in a timely manner, you set yourself up to fail.

Set goals for every area of your life. Consider a career goal, a health goal, and a relationship goal. Start small and create a plan that will guide you to the completion of your goal.

Rest and Recover

“The best of all medicines are resting and fasting.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Take time regularly to rest and recover. Runners training for races take breaks in their schedule.  On a daily basis, this can be as simple as reading for 30 minutes in the evening or going for a walk. Plan time in your week to ride your bike, spend the day at the beach, or take a hike in the mountains. Plan a big trip once or twice a year to allow yourself to completely disconnect and recharge. Resting will allow your mind and body to become stronger and increases endurance.


Between the Miles

I have always counted the miles.

Sometimes they came quick,

Other times slow.

The distance between things,

The way I could know.

Close could feel far,

And far could feel near.

The miles that passed too quickly,

The ones I ran out of fear.

They weren’t all the same,

So I had been told,

The unmarked trails,

And the days I was bold.

Some miles went down,

Spiraling so low,

When I was afraid to look forward,

There was nowhere to go.

The sunset came fast,

And the day turned to night,

But the trails could be endless,

If I looked at them right.

Everything I knew,

All I was told,

The conversations left behind,

The people who grew old.

When the miles stretched out before me,

I wanted to sew them at the seam,

Looking forward and then back,

Holding everything in between.

~ Jacqueline Simon Gunn

7 Tips for Talking to Children About Mass Shootings


With great sadness I read of another mass shooting. 58 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds more were injured in the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday, October 1, 2017. As adults, it’s difficult to understand the hows and the whys of these events. For children, it’s even more difficult.

Young children, under the age of 8, have a difficult time differentiating between fact and fiction on screens including television, computers, smartphones, and game systems.

Children over the age of 9 have greater understand, but when overexposed to information about shootings and other traumatic events are at risk for developing anxiety, depression, anger, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Below are 7 tips for talking to children about mass shootings and traumatic events.

1. Limit exposure to news.

If possible, do not allow children under the age of 9 to watch the news.

If older children are watching news, make a point of watching with them. Take time to help them express their thoughts and feelings about the information. Provide additional information from a calm, adult perspective. Point out positive media images if appropriate.

Engage children in non-news related activities: Watch movies on DVD, play board games, go for bike rides, go to the park.

2. Reassure children that they are cared for and safe.

Remind them that there are more good people in the world then bad. Encourage them to make a list of all of the supportive people in their lives.

3. Validate their feelings.

Let them know that it is okay to be sad or scared, but they are and will be okay.

4. Identify ways to give back.

Doing something productive can help manage feelings. Encourage children to write a letter of encouragement to the injured, collect soda cans and donate the proceeds to a medical fund to help victims, or other ideas that they may generate.

5. Check in with them periodically.

Ask children if they have any questions. Be sure to let them know that you are open to talking more if they want.

6. Monitor adult conversations.

Children hear more than adults realize and can often misunderstand adult reactions to traumatic events. Have adult conversations in private spaces where you cannot be overheard. If a child overhears part of a conversation, be open and honest about your feelings while continuing to reassure the child of their safety.

Some indicators that your child needs professional help includes:

  • Persistent worry or anxiety about their safety or the of their friends and family.
  • Continuing to focus on thoughts of the incident, including seeking out news information, talking about the event, or drawing pictures of the event.
  • Significant changes in behavior including inattentiveness, irritability, sleeping too much or too little, lack of appetite, etc.
  • Persistent headaches or stomachaches.
  • Increased sensitivity to sounds.

On Being or Acting As If


Or, fake it until you make it.

Change is difficult.


Smoothing out old patterns and creating new pathways doesn’t happen overnight. But is there danger in faking it? Yes, and no.

When we use affirmations, we affirm statements that are how we want life to be.

“I am healthy, strong, and fit.”

We may not be there, but our affirmation is pulling us that direction. We are working towards being.

When we act “as if” we can allow ourselves the opportunity to grow into our desired behavior. Putting on your running shoes and running around the block can begin to move you closer to being a runner.

However, acting as if can create significant cognitive dissonance when the acting is not being followed up by doing. Cognitive dissonance can become strong motivation to work harder at being more authentic. Ignored, it can develop into shame and manifest depression and anxiety.

Think back to the CBT triangle.


Stating that “I am a runner” when putting on shoes each day, but only walking as far as the kitchen for potato chips can create feelings of defeat, despair and disappointment and drive thoughts of insecurity.

Acting as if can be healthy if there is truly action behind it. In this same scenario, the client puts on their shoes and runs around the block each day. Each time they run, they increase their stamina and experience feelings of accomplishment. They begin to run a little further and positive emotions and thoughts increase about their move towards becoming a runner. Soon, they are no longer acting as if, but are firmly entrenched in being. They are a runner.

Take time to reflect on what you want to manifest in your life. Are you on the road to being? Or, are you just acting as if?

Dealing with Emotions: An Analogy


imageSometimes you don’t want to deal with emotions.

Sometimes you need to wait until you have more time to process.

Sometimes you hope that they will just go away.

Waiting until you have time alone to think things through or holding onto the emotions to share at your next counseling appointment can be a healthy option. Stuffing emotions down and ignoring them long-term can make them even harder to deal with and create more problems.

Unprocessed emotions are like leftovers. After dinner, you can carefully pack them away in the Tupperware and place in the refrigerator, but at some point you will have to take care of them.

If you deal with the leftovers within a day or two, it’s easy to handle. But the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to manage and will take more work to sort out.

If you really try to ignore the leftovers, push them to the back of the refrigerator and “forget” about them for a month, the task of dealing with them becomes awful. The leftovers become rotten. They are smelly, slimey, and hairy. Taking care of them takes more work and effort.

So, shall we deal with it now, or later?

Total Eclipse of Life




Oregon is in the path of totality, which sounds ominous. Discussion of the impending eclipse has ranged from a party-like excitement to a deep wariness.

There are many situations in life that bring untimely darkness, much like the upcoming solar eclipse. The death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or losing a job are just a few of the events that create a shadow in our lives, effectively blocking out the light.

Yet, just as the moon passes over the sun for just a few moments, so do these dark moments in life pass. They fade away and the light returns to our lives once again.

But even during totality, that darkest moment, the corona of the sun is still visible. Planets including Venus and Jupiter will glow in the twilight sky along with the star, Sirius. There is light, even in the darkest places.

So often we believe that this loss or that failure will create a permanent dark void in our lives and that we may never recover. Yet given time, hearts heal, new relationships develop, job opportunities appear, and the light returns. And, if we are paying attention when we are lost in the dark, we will see the bright lights of our family, friends and other supports guiding us back into the light..

In every darkness, there’s a light.

In every struggle, there’s a way.

In every faith, there is a hope.

~Anmol Andore

6 Actions to Increase Self-Love



Self-love can be a difficult thing to find when you have spent your life feeling “less than.” A history of traumatic events can lead a person to erect a concrete wall around their heart. Love for others is difficult, but love of self can become nearly impossible.

Short of breaking out a jack hammer, how do we overcome the negative thoughts and emotions that hold us back from loving ourselves?

Get to know yourself

Who are you really? What do you like? What are you really good at? Imagine all the questions that you would ask a person you’ve just met and want to get to know better.

I am a writer, a therapist, a sister, a traveler, and an activist. I am friendly, funny, curious and sometimes silly. I like coffee (and tea), fluffy dogs, and the beach. I love camping in the woods and luxurious high rise hotel rooms.

Take responsibility for your life

Wherever you are today is where you are today. While you cannot change what has happened to you in the past, you can take full responsibility for the choices you make today. Your decisions today are not the fault of your parents, teachers and others that shaped your early life.

Begin a path of healing by seeking out respected therapists, clergy, or healers who can support you in taking responsibility. Create a circle of friends who will hold you accountable to your choices.

Set and maintain clear boundaries

Loving yourself means protecting yourself. Teach others how to treat you by setting clear boundaries. Practice saying “no” to events, activities, or requests for help that don’t fit in your schedule or interfere with self-care or important relationships.

Nurture yourself

Most children have caring adults devoted to cuddle, nurse, teach, and play with them. These loving adult relationships fill the heart and nurture the soul. As an adult, the responsibility to receive nurturing falls on you.

Create a list of enjoyable and soothing activities to try. Some ideas? Take a walk early in the morning before the neighborhood wakes up, slip into a warm bath with scented bath salts, savor a piece of dark chocolate alongside your favorite coffee, or slip into your favorite pajamas and fluffy socks before curling up on the couch to read.

Manage your health

Taking time to manage your health creates more time to enjoy your life. Loving yourself includes taking yourself to the doctor and dentist, taking medications on time, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate physical activity.

Create personal affirmations

Like anything else, learning to love ourselves is a process. Affirmations are a beautiful way to help us remain focused on the path we have chosen. Create your affirmation by thinking about what you want to manifest in your life.

Not sure where to start? Spend some time writing in your journal about how you want your life to be. While you are working on your own personal affirmation, practice one of these:

  • I am deserving of love.
  • I am at peace with my past and enjoy a life of balance and harmony.
  • I love myself; I am growing and healing everyday.

Several years ago, I spent a day writing a personal affirmation. I had been on a retreat that inspired me to accept myself and begin to thrive. Each year since, I have revised the affirmation so that it continues to be my guide. Below is my current version:

My life is an adventure and I seek new experiences.

I do not put off doing something until “later.”

I live my life to the fullest everyday.

I am healthy, beautiful and fit: I spend time doing rather than watching.

I am a warrior: I control the direction of my life.

I can accomplish what I set out to do.

I love myself and deserve to be treated well.

6 Ways to Survive the Dog Days of Summer


sun-622740_1920.jpgAugust has arrived and brought extreme heat to the Pacific Northwest. We are not accustomed to triple digit temperatures in this region of the country. There is evidence that extreme temperatures can affect mood, and high heat can increase aggression. According to research, intergroup conflicts increase by 14% while interpersonal violence increases 4% during peak heat cycles.

So, how do you keep your cool when heat strikes?

  1. Slow Down – Reduce the number of tasks and appointments to the minimum to allow time to move from task to task at an easy pace. Rushing increases stress and body temperature.
  2. Stay Inside – If you are particularly sensitive to heat, stay in as much as possible. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, keep shades and curtains closed, avoiding upper floors as much as possible. Remember heat rises.
  3. Drink Plenty of Fluids – We all need water for health benefits, but during hot weather we need extra fluids to replace what is lost through perspiration. Avoid dehydrating beverages such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol and increase consumption of water and iced herbal teas.
  4. Wear White – Wear white or lighter colored clothing which reflects the heat instead of black or darker shades which tend to absorb the heat.
  5. Eat Lightly – Eat smaller portions more frequently through the day to reduce strain on digestion. Avoid eating large meals.
  6. Cool Down Fast – Even with good intentions, we can sometimes over do it and end up overheated. To cool down fast, apply ice packs, cool compresses or cold water to the pulse spots on your body which brings down the temperature of your blood vessels and lowers your overall body temperature. Areas of focus included the neck, inner wrists, back of knees, ankles, top of feet, temples, inside bend of elbows, and inner thighs.

The impact of weather on mood can be reduced significantly by being flexible. Have backup plans for activities to do inside on hot days such as going to the movies or engaging in hobbies. Or, plan water related activities such as swimming or going to the beach and save hiking for the more temperate days.