The Balancing Power of an Ancient Language: Yogawear Designer Annette Dale Kramek Divines a Line between Work and Wellness

A lot can happen in a split second. One moment Life is a straight line and then, BAMMO! It’s not.  

What happens in the crash of a moment shapes us for who we are to become later in life. Oftentimes, it changes us so profoundly, that we learn to look at our losses and setbacks as blessings.

Annette age 30, the day before her surgery

Such was the case for my dear friend Annette Dale Kramek, who at the age of thirty, was blind-sided by a brain tumor, something way beyond her control and certainly not a consequence of uninformed choices.  A graduate of Public Health and Nutrition, Annette was living a balanced, mindful life. A poster girl for the quintessential West Coast LA Lifestyle, she was enjoying her fit body and all-around sun-shiny good health; running, biking, and watching her surfer boyfriend ride the waves; and LOVING her work as a ski-wear designer. Life was good…

Except for the fact that a brain tumor got in the way of her dreams.  Annette took it head on and came to grips with her health: it was a beast she needed to learn about and tame, and tame fast. But getting an accurate diagnosis was anything but a fast process.  When severe symptoms presented themselves, Annette visited over 40 health care professionals before her tumor was detected.

Annette with her big brother, Randy

At an age when most young women are dreaming about careers, sex, weddings, and babies Annette courageously redirected her life and underwent life-changing brain surgery. It could have resulted in stroke, loss of speech and the need for a permanent gastrointestinal tube but ‘luckily’ for Annette, only her face, throat and digestive tract were temporarily paralyzed.  She could not talk or eat for months but the real life change is what happened inside her to enlighten and ignite her spirit.

During her recovery period, she moved in with her mother who cared for her, unconditionally. It was on one day when her mother was driving her from one place to another that Annette discovered a Transcendental Meditation Center right down the road from her.  Back in 1993, the center was one of a very small number nation-wide. Annette saw that as a very good sign and did not hesitate to begin her sessions. After only one session, movement returned to her face.  In four years Annette only missed one session.

Proud Mother with her daughters Joanie and Annette

For those of you who don’t already know, Transcendental Meditation is not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle.  It is a simple, natural practice that takes 20 minutes twice daily. Annette complemented her daily TM with four yoga classes a week.

Annette learned early on in life that finding her way to a clear understanding of her condition was - and always will be - the first step towards wellness.  Over time and with increasing awareness, the “right way” to treat her body was a natural practice for her. Through regular yoga and Transcendental Meditation, Annette acquired a hard-earned road map to living a balanced life.  

Annette with BFF Shelly Williams who played a big part in helping Annette launch her line of yogawear

Twenty years later, Annette is designing her own line of yoga wear. Her studio is based in Pittsfield, MA where she designs and manufactures yoga practice and lifestyle clothes for leading yoga retreats and wellness spas. Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health,JivamuktiCanyon RanchCranwell Resort and Spa , Mii Amo Resort Spa, and Club Med [and a sweet local favorite - Dottie's Coffee Lounge] are among her clients.   Profoundly influenced by the teachings she learned through the practice of yoga, she named her clothing line Ancient Language, calling upon Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Gods …and studious yoginis

The word “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit 'Yujir Yogey' which means to join, to yoke, to put together and to restore - to restore what is lost. Most of us have lost our balance at some point along the way and Yoga primarily seeks to restore that balance.  For Annette long after her brain surgery, yoga and meditation continue to be her road map and the signposts are written in Sanskrit. 

DO WHAT YOU LOVE and the rest will follow… The practicalities of owning and running her yoga wear company physically challenge Annette every day.  Like many small business owners, she readily accepts the challenges as a natural part of doing what she loves. While Ancient Language is growing exponentially, Annette’s dream is not to have a HUGE company that distances her from the design process she loves. Nor does she want to be alienated from her clients, instructors and customers who wear her clothes and provide inspiration.

Sudha Lundeen Annette's favorite Kripalu instructor wearing an early design for her first yoga video c. 2001 

To Annette, it’s still very personal and she wants to keep it that way. Ancient Language is a natural extension of her thoughts and feelings and beliefs which she is able to express and share through her designs and relationships.  She truly enjoys being in touch with every part of her business and doesn't want to lose that in the wake of a growing company.  Yet, she recognizes that striking a balance between her company’s growth and her personal involvement is not always a straight line. 

The amount of work required to run her company leads to exhaustion and debilitating pain, an on-going condition she is currently deciphering, not unlike the way she went about discovering her brain tumor. When the scales shift, Annette calls upon the teachings learned in her thirties. She admits that to achieve greater wellness, she still needs to carve out more time for yoga and meditation, and to dial back the hours at work.

Surrender.  Annette needed to learn new ways to communicate her vision before she could completely “let go,” but this was a particular challenge to her because the brain surgery severed one of her vocal cords. The act of talking exhausts Annette and her remaining vocal cords are often over-worked and strained so that her words come out muted. Annette has adjusted to this injury and speaks articulately, but not without effort, so she rests when she needs to rest.

After a recent yoga class while the two of us were dripping in the steam bath, she laughs as she tells me, “You wouldn't believe how LOUD I used to be! You could hear my laugh a mile away.” And that made me smile and think of the vibrant young woman whose life changed overnight at the age of 30.

Annette is still vibrant to this day and her light shines through her work. I had the pleasure of spending time with her in her design studio. It was a quiet, snowy afternoon and we were selecting spring colors and prints. Apart from being fun and providing an imaginary trip to warmer climes, it showed me just how efficient Annette is with her time and how she maximizes it to make room for the creative process, which she clearly loves. Annette is joyful at work. There is no doubt her work brings her joy. 

In order to protect and maintain that joy, Annette practices a constant system of checks and balances. If she works too much, she cuts back.  It is this agility to live each day as it comes that allows Annette to be very present and aware of the joys as well as the strains placed on her health.  By applying the life-long skills she learned through yoga and Transcendental Meditation, she is able to balance her life with her work, all the while practicing and sharing her deep love for yoga and its teachings.

Annette and Carolann

Later when Annette and I are together at Kripalu, her face lights up when she sees the girls in the shop. She greets them as good friends – it’s clear that staying in touch, literally, with her clients is an important key to her happiness. Beaming, Annette told me “I love this part!”

And I know it’s true. 

Source: ancient-language

Modern Day Mythology: Bridget Ford Hughes Rocks the Hero's Journey through Mind, Body, Spirit

When Bridget Ford Hughes emerged in 2008 from four years of breast cancer treatment and a double mastectomy before she got the “All Clear,” the first thing she did was to get married and celebrate Life and Love and the tremendous support she received from her husband and close friends.

The second thing she did was to set forth on yet another journey... 

With singular focus, Bridget began to manifest her cancer-fueled and inspired dream: to find a way to help other women through their journey with breast cancer.

When you first meet Bridget it’s really hard to tell she’s been through a battle. Standing at over six feet tall, all muscle and no fat on her, her strength and positive attitude are the first things you notice…after her smile. Since 2009, she’s applied all her strength, positive outlook, and that winning smile to setting up and maintaining a fund to improve the lives of women with cancer by enabling them to nurture their strength and wellness

In 2010, she launched The Women’s Cancer Wellness Fund at The Pastures, the home she shares with her artist husband, Jonathan Prince.

Practice what you preach, indeed… The fund’s mission is at the core of Bridget’s life and practices. She lives and breathes strength and wellness. Every morning starts with an Ayurvedic cleansing of her five senses; every day allows for reflection from daily prayer, meditation, and dog walks; and every week clocks in over twenty hours of physical exercise playing tennis, teaching group classes, and personal training - her own and private client sessions.

Bridget’s journey with cancer taught her a new way of looking at herself and looking after herself. She learned through hard work and struggle how to make good choices about her care and long-term well-being. Profoundly eased by the healing power of alternative care, Bridget made it her mission to make sure other women knew about the growing number of alternative healing methods out there. She also wanted to do her part to make them available to women with breast cancer.

Bridget's Healing Hands - the Gentle Touch

Bridget's Healing Hands - the Gentle Touch

Complementary medicine and alternative care are not, as a rule, covered by health insurance, yet we can no longer under-estimate the importance of that “gentle touch.” As individuals and as communities we need to embrace the process of learning new ways to approach health problems from multiple angles - and open up to the union of Mind, Body, Spirit. Alternative methods have been proven to contribute positively to wellness. As awareness grows and scientific data in support of alternative treatments mounts, the list of healing modalities increases, too.

Bridget made sure the fund was set up to support the ever-growing list of healing pathways such as: Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Chinese/Herbal Medicine, Chiropractic, Fitness Instruction, Homeopathy, Hypnosis, Kinesiology, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Movement Therapy, Naturopathy, Nutrition Counseling, Psychological Services, Physical Therapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Spiritual Counseling, Yoga.

Entrance to the studio at the pastures

Entrance to the studio at the pastures

Bridget is warm and welcoming, just like the huge St. Bridget’s door mat on the steps leading to her studio. She is completely open about her journey with cancer and this transparency helps others to open up, too. It is then that Bridget is able to flex one of her strongest muscles, and it’s a strong one – her ability to listen to another person’s story.

Bridget understands that cancer is a personal journey. A treatment that works for one woman might not work for another, but through constructive dialogue Bridget is able to help, and to reassure and to offer suggestions that support healing, strengthening and overall wellness.

Light n Brite - class in the studio

Light n Brite - class in the studio

In talking with my friend, I can’t help but be reminded that when we think of the archetype mythological hero and his journey, we intuit a man, his journey and his struggles, and his ability to impart wisdom to others upon his return home.  The key to this myth is that throughout his travails the hero [actually] stops along the way to ask for directions from wise guides who make his journey more…meaningful.

It is this ability – to ask for guidance as well as to share knowledge - that turns a mere mortal into a Hero because he is both able to listen and learn as well as to teach and help others.

But what if we fast-forward to modern day and that archetypal hero is a breast cancer survivor, a woman who acknowledges that through her own journey with cancer she has learned many lessons and is capable of sharing her knowledge for the greater good?

This is the beautiful under belly of breast cancer, the silver lining, the soft part that despite its innate frailty and vulnerability grants a woman with cancer the courage to open up and ask for help and when, in the end, she is possessed of strength and gratitude can help others become Heroines, too.

Like folklore passed down through the ages, the stories and wisdom these women share make them all modern day Heroines, key witnesses and chroniclers of a battle just waiting outside one out of every eight doors to a woman’s home. But every so often, a breast cancer survivor takes the dialogue a step beyond the sacred journey and sets up a fund to help others, to ease their journey and to bring those touched by cancer closer to wellness.

Strength and wellness are gifts we cannot fully comprehend until we find ourselves struggling to regain them. There are many paths to wellness, but no path can lead back to wellness without the gentle touch of Love and Encouragement and Reassurance.  Mountains of Gratitude have been built upon the power of a gentle touch and its ability to calm and sooth and ultimately - to heal. 

Like a true Heroine returned home, Bridget's own words describe how her experience taught her how very much “we need the support of well-informed, dedicated people to assist us at every level of healing — physical, emotional, and spiritual — so we can focus on hope and recovery…”

When you remember the many blessings in your life this Christmas and holiday season, please also think about the many women with breast cancer who are clinging to theirs.  A gentle touch can bring a woman with cancer one step closer to becoming a Heroine, and this belief is what lies at the heart of the network of support that Bridget Ford Hughes has lovingly established at the Women’s Cancer Wellness Fund.  

Feeling Blessed: B Chillin' with her good friends

Feeling Blessed: B Chillin' with her good friends

Dottie’s is on a Post-Modern Mission: One Java Shot at a Time

Coffee marks the start of my day. The first spark occurs when the dark roast slips from the tilted cup and hits my palette, mmmm, Zing-Kabooom! Like electricity to Frankenstein, my day has begun…

Imagine my excitement about working at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, where I would shadow my friend and its proprietress, Jessica Lamb, for three days.  I couldn’t wait for that special, dreamy, creamy Dottie’s latte concoction, but the truth is, I really just wanted to hang with Jess, who has been a role model for me ever since I first met her.

Jess is a rare combination of beauty and truth, courage and love. She moved back to the Berkshires from Brooklyn at the ripe old age of 20-something, fired up and ready to take what she had learned on the city streets and apply it to a rural dream of her own.  In 2007, she opened her doors to Dottie's Coffee Lounge, the first sustainable coffee house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

It was a calculated risk for Jess and one she was willing to take in order to start up an eco-centric java-joint in a neighborhood where an artisanal cup of coffee wasn’t exactly a part of the local landscape...

When Jess started out, there were no guarantees. There were no other investors, no business partners, and no grants to lighten the financial load. It was entirely her own venture, and a costly one at that when a top-of-the-line La Marzocco espresso machine alone can cost the price of a small car. But Jess was passionate and wanted only one thing: for coffee and “coffee done well” to be a part of Pittsfield’s re-awakening.

Looking back, Jess admits that she was “ignorant and blissful” in the beginning. She describes herself as "so right-out-of-the-city” and not bothered by the fact that there was no year-round foot traffic let alone daily foot traffic; that crime and homelessness were a problem; and that a fortified neighborhood association had yet to be established.

It was like the wild-wild West and Jess, a Post-Modern Pioneer at its forefront ready to stake and claim new territory on the corner of North and Maplewood.  Like any Post-Modern Pioneer, Jess has been defending her territory while simultaneously educating a community about local sustainability.

Jess’s vision of owning a sustainable business coupled with her very clever sense of how to connect a diverse community over a delicious cup of coffee are at the core of her business – the two are inseparable.  She didn’t want to open “just another coffee shop” and cater to people who are used to paying $4 for a ho-hum latte. Nor did she want to follow a meaningless cookie-cutter business plan to sell coffees to senseless coffee drinkers. 

Jess’s dream was so much more than that and still is to this day: to make a pure and authentic, quality cup of coffee and spread the word about the importance of supporting local farmers and businesses.

In the truest sense of post-modern, Jess’s approach is a sublime combination of mind-altering coffee and community relations…she’s out there to change the way we think about a cup of coffee and the rest of the world, too.

Dottie’s gets its coffee from Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, a local company from Lee, Massachusetts that sources top quality coffees grown in complex natural agricultural systems by farmers who employ environmentally sustainable methods. Barrington Coffee Roasting Company also purchases all of its coffees at prices far above the pricing floor established for equitable trade. 

And what could go better with Dottie’s coffee than local milk from those darling cows just down the road?High Lawn Farm is a local farm dedicated to providing Massachusetts [and Dottie’s] with the best quality, freshest Jersey milk and dairy products available.

…and the food’s good, too. So why is it so important to Jess that she source local, grass-fed meat from farms that are no further than 20 minutes away from her shop?

Well, for one… it tastes better, but going beyond taste buds, Jess knows the farmers and that means she can TRUST what she is serving and we can TRUST that we are not ingesting synthetic hormones, antibiotics, pesticide residues and that there is less risk of E. coli contamination. Plus, grass-fed meats have less fat and fewer calories and are jam-packed with those all-important Alzheimer’s-amyloid-busting omega-3 fatty acids and linoleic acid-CLA and more beta carotene, too. Yum Yum. What’s not to love about our local farmers!? I see a bumper sticker in our future:  Love Dottie’s Coffee. Love a Local Farmer.

The parallels between Jess’s coffee shop and “Church on Sunday” don’t escape me.  This girl is on a mission! and the bible she’s banging is the one called Local Sustainability.  Dottie’s is a meeting place, a special place where all parts of a diverse community intersect and congregate to share stories of joy and pain and love and laughter and some very bright ideas, too.

When we do have time to stay a while and soak up all the java joy that comes pouring out at Dottie’s, we are certain to meet a friend or make a friend.  There really is a whole lot of eye contact going on, so don’t automatically expect to get internet access at Dottie’s. It’s not an internet café, and that’s just the way Jess wants it. This isn’t a cookie cutter coffee shop owned by a chain brand. 

Dottie’s is cute and retro-stitched on the outside and Jess has put her Gramma’s name on it, but beneath the surface of Dottie’s lies a switched-on, plugged-in, Mother of a soul ready to greet the wild-wild west every day with a cup of coffee thoughtfully and lovingly prepared. And love abounds at Dottie’s…in its name, in its coffee, in its food, in its commitment to the local community, and in the darling baristas who have a way of being so eco-adorable and sustainably friendly that you can’t help but put your happy face on, even before the coffee hits your tongue. 

It’s a hive of buzzing activity with every pretty bee wonderfully quirkier than the last, busy humming along. Jess as Queen Bee, never stops as she moves from cracking local farm eggs; to cooking up delicious plates of ‘health 'n hearty;’ to stopping to say hello and visit with friends; to nursing her 5 month old daughter, who is then joyfully passed around from friend to friend.

Over the course of the past five years, new businesses have opened up around Dottie’s. “The North Corner” has morphed into an urban campus of thespians and theatre-goers, poets and doctors, musicians and yoginis, consignments and hip hop high tops, health food and soulful flipped burgers. It’s no longer the wild-wild west but sadly, bad things can and still do challenge Jess almost every day.

Two hours after I left Jess closing up after our Saturday shift, Dottie’s was broken in to. On Sunday morning the next day, Dottie’s was filled to the rafters with people who love and support Jess for all the hard work and courage she pours into her local sustainable business. She’s clearly winning hearts over, one java shot at a time. And you have to ask yourself, if Starbuck’s was broken into, would it hurt so much? I am grateful to Jess for every delicious cup of coffee and for every tough time she’s had to endure to keep her doors open…but more importantly, I am forever indebted to Jess for teaching me years ago that there is whole lot more going into a cup coffee and that we should all take some time to think about that before we opt for a “quick fix.”

Every time I have a Dottie’s latte, it’s hard not to taste the courage and the love and the thought that went in to making it. Like a true friend, it’s not to be taken for granted.  

Sometimes, you just have to slow down to savor a slow brew.

Family portrait: all the Lambies...Matt, Esme [in wall photo] and Baby Tallulah

Family portrait: all the Lambies...Matt, Esme [in wall photo] and Baby Tallulah

Source: /dotties

Dirty Filthy Farmgirls: Grounded and Digging Deeper

By Carolann Patterson

I haven't always eaten kale. In fact, I rarely ate my greens. Admitting that sounds like a confession. It wasn't until I was so desperate to feel better that I was willing to try anything new, but I still had my doubts...I wasn't yet convinced that changing my diet really could change my life. [How ridiculously unenlightened could I be?]

CA and Trub 5.jpg

Before being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia, I had already changed to a gluten-free diet just to see if it would help... and it did, but it wasn't enough. I was only scratching the surface and needed to dig deeper and learn more.  I began reading more books and articles and listening to good advice from knowledgeable friends. I then transitioned from a merely gluten-free diet to a full-on organic, anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic diet. 

No amount of reading prepared me for the life-changing results I received... the ability to move without pain; to wake with optimism; to fall asleep in a daze of gratitude for a day well spent; and to sleep unburdened... all these were precious gifts restored to me. I embraced them all and wrapped them in the newfound joy of being able to move my body again and to live for days without constant, debilitating pain.

Profoundly grateful for the nourishment that enabled my body to repair and recover, I didn't just want to buy organic, I wanted to learn what it meant to be organic...and so I asked my friend Kyra Hart if she could indulge my quest.  Kyra alongside her husband, Matty, farm at Overmeade Farm, the Hart family farm in Lenox, Massachusetts.  Their crops are Authentically Grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides and are grown with cover crops and green manures, through crop rotation and soil management.

What I learned from 2 days farming with Kyra and Matty surprised and awakened me beyond my expectations.  At the outset my approach was straightforward: I was going to perform an act of physical labor and to learn some really useful things along the way. Nothing signaled to me in advance that I would receive a spiritual wake up call, a veritable "lightening bolt" not from Heaven Above but from the ground beneath my feet.

The beauty of farming with Kyra is that a day follows its natural rhythm. Mother Nature is in the driver's seat and what could be more natural than starting the day off with a Fire Cider shot and bringing my son AND my dog to work with me!? No make up. No high heals and no internal-maternal struggle. As my son, Allott, headed off for riding camp in the Overmeade barn, I met up with Kyra and her 3 year old daughter, Zofia, and together with my dog Trouble, we made our way to the lower fields.

We emerged from the track into the wide-open glory of the fields and an uninterrupted blue sky above. Kyra parked the car and set up the big red sun umbrella, while I did a 360 turn to take it all in, noting the red umbrella as the only flash of color amongst the deep earth tones and greens.  In an instant, I could feel myself exhale and release. 

The first thing to strike me was how incredibly neat and tidy all the rows of vegetables were. Added to which, there was no fence in sight. I asked Kyra how she kept the fields so beautifully maintained without a fence and her answer was profoundly simple: "we replant. and some times we replant again. and some times we replant again."

Replant. Replant. Replant: a profound take-away from the day. I have thought about this ever since - that no matter what kind of life we lead, the ground can always shift beneath our feet, and quite literally for Kyra, who needs to go to bed each night with a working knowledge of which way the wind is blowing in order to prepare for the next day.  There's a reason they call it a Farmers' Almanac, and not a Bankers' Almanac...but the truth is, whether you are a farmer or a Wall Street banker, we all need to learn at times how to adapt and redefine how we go about doing things in order to yield a crop and put food on the table.

Zoe is an amazing little girl and held her own in the heat.  The sweetest assignment was picking snap peas and eating them with Zoe, all of us talking as we moved down the tangled line of greens. I was equally charmed by the Coleman hoes we used to carve weeds gently out from under and around the baby lettuce heads.  Kyra told me how Eliot Coleman, the now famous Maine homesteader, had developed sharp, narrow tips to insert on long or short handles.  Kyra cleans and sharpens her blades each night.  It is interesting to see how Mr. Coleman's definition of "organic" has shifted over the years to "authentic."

As I researched Mr. Coleman, I was easily side-tracked when I discovered that his daughter, Melissa Coleman, had written a book on her family's life homesteading in the yet untamed environs of Maine. This Life is in your Hands is one of the best books I have read in a very, very long time. Ms. Coleman is a gifted writer whose prose are both lyrical and level

IMG_1430.jpg

While I have no desire to romanticize farming, I can say with confidence that there is nothing so grounding [actually] as getting dirty and "feeling green" all around you. Yes, of course it is Romantic [just read Thoreau] but Farming is about so much more than what we choose to put in our mouth; or what we choose to plant; and how we choose to plant it. It is bloody hard work but it's also one of THE most natural things we could ever do - growing our own food with our own hands and actually connecting with the earth.

I've never been one for the gym, and after a back-breaking day pulling garlic, the concept of going to the gym seems even more absurd: all that energy leaving our bodies and not going anywhere, and not making anything. There is no better place to find strength and to make ourselves strong than when we are closer to Nature. But Farming is no easy or convenient thing - if it were, we would all be doing it... Farming is a temperamental beast ....an elusive practice that is part beauty, part pain; part  bounty, part loss; part planned, part unpredictable; part sorrow, part joy. 

But in less than one week, farming [with a little 'f'] showed me that I could find so much happiness just by taking time to do a whole lot more with my hands and seeing a whole lot more with my eyes. If I could re-jig my life and make time for this hands-on approach to life, I could live more fully and breathe more deeply. I took this lesson with me, from the Overmeade fields and into my home and witnessed how magical and transformative it is to apply this approach to practically every thing I do...Like many people out there, I am Slow Living

And that means: no more rushing around for me. Now that I am healthy again, I plan to stay healthy and that means taking time to read labels on food; learning how to make good choices about the food I buy [i.e, just because it's gluten free doesn't automatically mean that the level of sugar is healthy for me]; and learning how best to prepare certain foods. 

But it also means no more multi-tasking. My to-do list is now an Un-Do list and it will take years to work through it. My phone is always turned off from the time I help my son with his homework after school until the next morning when we are making breakfast and packing lunches for my husband and my son. It's also turned off when I am walking our dogs, "hanging" with friends, and visiting with my elderly mother. I need that quiet to be present and engaged with what ever I am doing...I don't want one thing more to get in the way or pull me away from what I am doing and experiencing "right here.right now." 

Whatever I am doing, l needed to learn how to slow things down and to make time to be in touch with my life. The more nurturing and nourishing things I do for myself and for my loved ones, the deeper my life will be and the stronger, more able I will be when the ground shifts beneath my feet. And the ground always shifts, no matter where you are standing.  From now on, it's Hands-On!

Some times, you just gotta' slow down and live slow...

Source: /farmgirls

Olivia's Gift: A Grieving Mother's Gratitude

Slowly. Just beginning. Starting to breath again in Parrot Cay, three months after losing Olivia. You can see my foot slipping in the sand...it takes Time.

Slowly. Just beginning. Starting to breath again in Parrot Cay, three months after losing Olivia. You can see my foot slipping in the sand...it takes Time.

My baby daughter Olivia died. Stillborn on the day she was to be born. For years, I walked around as though carrying a heavily weighted sandwich board over my shoulders advertising “I’m the mother whose perfect baby just died” on the front of it and “I’m the mother whose perfect baby just died” on the back of it …a silent, endless cry as Grief’s mantle followed me wherever I was headed and whenever I looked back. For years, this is how I defined myself. but not any more...

I am now able to look back to the hot, hot summer in the South of France in 2003 when it was 110 degrees every. single. day. I understand my body struggled to sustain the pregnancy. I don’t hate God and I don’t blame the doctors. If anything, I blame myself for not knowing my baby was in trouble. Any parent whose child has died will fill a lifetime with futile wishes for something – the one thing – they could have done to save their child’s life.

Grief has many layers and anger is one ofthem. I learned to let go of my anger. And as I let it go, every new breath opened me up and allowed forgiveness in. I am forever straightening out and up from the posture of grief. My throat is relaxing, my words are coming out. My shoulders are no longer rounded in front of me, surrounding my heart, covering it. My lungs are no longer compressed. I can breathe again and so I feed every inch of my body and soul – and all the cracks in between – long starved of joy and light and laughter.

I watch my son grow and I do not fear for his life every minute of mine. I am no longer closer to the dead, slowly dying for my daughter. I am alive and I am living for my son. and for me.  It has taken a long time for me to get here -to a place of strength - but I have respected Grief as Life’s hardest taskmaster and followed its unpredictable, painful course. I did not avoid it or sugarcoat it. I allowed it to poison me and make me pure.

I have been through Grief’s cycle and emerged from the depths of despair. Chewed up and spat out, I finally found ‘happiness’ again and for me, it was like none that I had ever known before because I had to work so, so very hard to find it… and I treasure it and I keep it safe. I am blessed and I am thankful. I know now what I did not know before – my limits, my boundaries, and what things pull me off-center. I am grounded and I am alive again. Grief has deepened me and is one of the greatest teachers of all.  I believe that through Grief what is lost in Death will be returned to us in higher ways. This is Olivia’s Gift. and I carry it with me wherever I go, like a compass.

Source: /olivias-gift

Signposts to Light and Wellness: Making Good Choices about your own Self-Care

By Carolann Patterson

My close friends know that I had been sick for many years and struggled to find the reason for my constant sorrow and never-ending physical pain.  Unraveling my symptoms was complicated: it could have been a million things, and I didn't know where to start...so I just had to start some where. It was a slow and agonizing process as I began to pick things apart. There were no start and finish lines and the check list was long, with each tick-box scarier than the last – Depression? Allergies? Adrenal? Thyroid? Neurological? Pre-Menopausal? Auto-immune - Lyme or Lupus? Cancer? You get the idea.

Self-Care isn't a fad or a trend. It's foreverrrr.  It takes a long time to work through it all.

It wasn’t until 2016 that I emerged from disease to wellness, from darkness to light.  I had been suffering from constant, un-diagnosed pain that was eventually "lumped" under the label of Fibromyalgia, and it was anyone's guess where to begin in terms of "the right" protocol to follow. I had to figure out what worked best for me. 

My condition was possibly triggered by a mysterious virus and extreme fever for which I was hospitalized in 2009, just prior to the Swine Flu pandemic reported in April 2009.  It is possible that the mysterious virus combined with my genetic profile and pre-existing viral exposure to bring me to my knees.  

Two years later in 2011 I received the diagnosis that I had an under-active thyroid and began treatment with Armour Thyroid.

I discovered later that this diagnosis was only scratching the surface, but still, it was a starting point so I embraced it as one stepping stone of many. The diagnosis allowed me to progress to the next step, to move beyond the prior diagnosis that my condition was a “mental” thing, most likely post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] that was causing my depression, physical pain and brain fog. It was a huge relief to receive a diagnosis that allowed the dialogue of healing to open up beyond the limited view that all I needed was an anti-depressant pill. 

There was no way I was going to pop pills and wish my symptoms away. No matter what Science had to say about the benefits, I wanted to work through each and every one of my symptoms in order to understand my overall condition, how it all "fit" together, and how to work through to The Cause.

I wasn't looking for a Quick-Fix and I sure didn't get one. I cleared the decks to allow time [nearly 2 years before I started to see real results] for new life practices and the process of trial and elimination that would allow me to arrive at the source of my anxiety, sleepless nights, depression, inflammation, weight gain and debilitating pain. As I write this, I am still tracking my symptoms, behavior and stress levels as well as shifts in weather and will continue to do so for the rest of my life as part of effective self-care.

In a way, I am a bit like a farmer tending his crops - you can watch and learn and figure out the best practice of prevention but no matter what, no year is ever the same: there are many unknowns and variables. Part of healing is being able to surrender and trust the process of healing, to embrace the good days and to allow for the bad ones.  

I readily acknowledged that there was a vicious cycle going on inside me, but I never believed that the “most likely” sequence was the correct sequential order of things. I accepted that trauma was part of the problem, in so much as it could have weakened me and my immune system, but it didn’t sit right that trauma was “The Cause” because I had processed the grief over losing my first child at birth; I had worked through it all – the rage and despair; I had surrendered and was blessed to find serenity; and I had accepted the great sadness as though it were a gift, a key to a deeper level of compassion that I had not previously known.

...and so my journey towards a diagnosis began with the question: If I've truly processed my grief and accepted my loss, why then am I still so sad and why does everything in my body hurt so much? The short answer: the sequence had, in fact, been wrong… the 2011 diagnosis of previously undetected hypothyroidism was earth-shattering for me, in a good way - it gave me "the cause" [or one possible cause] as well as the momentum to move forward with the relief that my baby was not to blame, nor I.

Knowing that hypothyroidism was causing my troubles, there was no one to blame. I finally had a starting line.  and I could live with that. And I could begin to heal and with that, change my life for the better and revive my spirit….and so I did.

Change is GOOD. Taking Armour Thyroid daily was a huge help in boosting my energy and abilities, but simply popping a pill and hoping things would "just go away" wasn't enough. I needed to change.

I needed to reinterpret my life and the way I approached my health. For every symptom I suffered, I had to find another way to make it better and for that, I had to change everything: my diet, my exercise routine and my stress levels. I stopped working and cleared the decks so I could focus on regaining my health. I slowed down to enjoy my life and subsequently stumbled upon a greater sense of purpose and confidence, gratitude and ease.

I stopped drinking except on special occasions. I embraced a new fully organic, low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory, gluten-free diet. Now food not only tastes good, it IS Good. Soon I slept through the night and gradually my symptoms disappeared as a result of the changes I had made. My health was so much improved that despite occasional flare ups of fibromyalgia, I am able to enjoy regular pilates, gentle yoga, dog walking and snowshoeing without suffering for it.  

An additional and essential key to my recovery is that I could never have made all these changes to my life were it not for the many enlightened women and men who guided me...

Over the years following the traumatic loss of my child at birth, I've encountered many wise women and men whose love and wisdom and ability to share their stories helped me find my own. My healing is wrapped up in the love and guidance I received from them – This blog is dedicated to those fine spirits whose signposts have marked my journey from the beginning until now, where I am full of gratitude for the life that has been restored to me.

Sometimes, you just have to slow down and read the signposts to move forward on the right track…and then it’s all there right before your very eyes: Go on, Good Girl, Go! 

Change Your Life Around: Slow down to go go go...

By Carolann Patterson

I love writing. I especially love writing letters.  I love searching for and finding an understanding of another person, where once there was none.  I love looking at life from all angles, at the three sides of every coin...

but I am not so brave when it comes to sharing personal stuff I've written, especially with people I don't know...a simple facebook post can give me anxiety for days...did I open up too much? were my words misconstrued? Creating this blog is a BIG, HUGE, COLOSSAL leap for me. and a meaningful one, too. It's time for me to move on and "just get over it"...so from here on, I would like to be able to write to strangers as though they were my friends. I would like to create a dialogue within the ether about life's lessons, starting with my friends and seeing where their leads will take me. I would like love and courage and creativity to lead the way.

For years I have been writing. I've banged out press releases, business proposals, fundraising and press strategies, brochures and advertising jingles, you name it ... basically I wrote anything in the name of corporate communications. and absolutely none of it was personal. It was all about building a story, keeping a message focused, meaningful, and above all relevant within a broader context. but the story was never mine.

It takes time to craft and nuance a "corporate voice," all in the name of consistent branding, but how do you tell a former corporate fashion PR girl, that she has no voice of her own? that she's been an "oid" for too long [ie, robotic, "Armani-oid," "fashion-oid"]. This blog is an exercise, a self-dare for a writer to shed her layers of corporate tongue twisters and move away from the cautious, and closer to the honest. In this blog, my challenge will be to let go of pitching stories and move toward finding stories and in order to do that, I will need to push myself beyond my comfort zone...will the principles of writing I learned on the corporate playing field be enough for me to build a new story, a story of my own? on vera...let's see.

In that sense this blog is about me, but just because my persona is shifting from the corporate to the personal doesn't mean "it's all about me"...it's really MORE about the amazing people in my life and how they teach me and guide me along the way.

Some times, you have to slow down in order to go.go.go...

Source: gotta-slow-down