Memories and Dreams

The other day my husband said to me, “Your memories are always with you.” My dear friend used to say, “your mind is a steel trap,” when I would bring up some long ago memory. I started pondering this. Then I remembered what my best friend told me in the 1980’s, “Don’t look back at the past, the only way to get to the future is through the present.” I work so hard at decluttering and letting go of “stuff,” why is my past right here with me?

Let’s be clear, I have a natural tendency to look back to inform the present. I majored in History, I am a genealogist, and I love stories, the older the better. I believe we can learn from the past and I believe reflecting on the past can provide insight into navigating today. I also live in the same city and the same house I grew up in. But that’s not exactly what my husband and friend were referencing. It’s about the mental clutter and the emotionality tied to it  So, why is my past right here with me? The answer, as always, was more complicated than expected.

I was born with pneumonia and spent an extra week in the hospital. When I finally went home, I was sent back to hospital in an ambulance for another stay. At some early point thereafter I began to have night terrors. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital explains:

“A night terror is a sleep disruption that seems similar to a nightmare, but is far more dramatic….During a night terror, a child might:

  • suddenly sit upright in bed
  • shout out or scream in distress
  • have faster breathing and a quicker heartbeat
  • be sweating
  • thrash around
  • act upset and scared

After a few minutes, or sometimes longer, the child simply calms down and returns to sleep. Unlike nightmares, which kids often remember, kids won’t have any memory of a night terror the next day because they were in deep sleep when it happened — and there are no mental images to recall. Night terrors are caused by over-arousal of the central nervous system (CNS) during sleep…We have dreams — including nightmares — during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. Night terrors happen during deep non-REM sleep. A night terror is not technically a dream, but more like a sudden reaction of fear that happens during the transition from one sleep stage to another.” That fear reaction is the night terror.

As is the case with night terrors, I don’t remember them, and I don’t know how often I had them. I know I was terrified and I know the episodes were disruptive to my parents. The episodes were frequent and disruptive enough for my parents to seek medical intervention.

The doctor my parents worked with decided that medication was the solution for my night terrors. Dilantin. Dilantin is the brand name for Phenytoin. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Phenytoin is used to control seizures (convulsions), including tonic-clonic (grand mal) and psychomotor (temporal lobe) seizures, in the treatment of epilepsy. It is also used to prevent and treat seizures that occur during brain surgery. This medicine is an anticonvulsant that works in the brain tissue to stop seizures.” Dilantin reduces neuron activity in the brain. Its a powerful medication that alters how the brain functions. I can only guess that the doctor approached my night terrors similarly to seizures and prescribed the Dilantin to interrupt the neuron activity that he suspected was causing the night terrors.  The prescription commenced, and then, the dark period began. I don’t know if there is a correlation between the two. The timing certainly make me curious.

I remember naming it “the dark period.” No dreams. Few memories. Little creativity and imagination. In junior high my parents would ask me if I remembered some incident or occasion from earlier in my life. I would simply say, “no, that was during the dark period.” 

To this day, I have no answer when someone asks me my earliest memory. Was it when I saw the boys tormenting the Doberman when I was 5? Or when I hit a golf ball across a major road when I was 5? Or accidentally dropping my pen in the storm drain at school when I was in kindergarten (age 5) and trying to get it out? Was there anything earlier? By fifth grade (age 10) I could sleep without a nightlight and without Dilantin. And, there were no more dreams of any kind. I have lots of photos of things that happened from age 4 to fifth grade that I should remember and don’t. Imaginary play and costumes with a friend. Horses. Halloweens. Birthdays. Weddings. But I don’t.

What I do remember, was feeling a pull to defend and protect . The doberman. Students who were teased and bullied, including myself. At this time, dogs roamed the neighborhood and ones needing assistance to get home would end up at our front door or would find me on my way home from school and follow me home. I remember anger. I also remember being happiest in the garden, the water, or the nearby woods. 

Once seventh grade came so too did my passive compliance to expectations set by society and others. This was the state of things for the next seven years or so. But a funny thing happened along that seven year journey. I began to meet people and have experiences I wanted to remember. Beginning in 10th grade the most amazing individuals entered my life. These are people, who together, we created unbelievable experiences and adventures. We grew up together and, most importantly, we grew.

In 10th grade I also began journaling. Some entries were recounting our adventures. Some were daily lists of what happened. Some were creative entries. Some were sleeping dreams. What I discovered was that the more I wrote, the more I remembered and the more dreams I had while I slept. To let go of the memories that no longer serve me is to confront the fear of going back to the dark period. Of not remembering. And not remember means losing track of myself and my journey. 

My word for this year is freedom. When I selected it I was thinking about my retirement and the freedom being awakened by it. It also applies to this. Memory is just our interpretation of events, and the narrative we create about them. The present is all there is. There is no guarantee of tomorrow. The past does not determine the present or future. It may inform my decision-making, my approach, but just because it was, doesn’t mean “it will be.” It can be inspiration but that doesn’t make it reality. There is freedom in letting go of the emotionality of memories. And, that is what I have decided to do. I have decided to go for the goosebumps. The goosebumps that come from the daily act of living, and diving into each moment with the full breath and awareness it deserves. I’m going with Henry David Thoreau:

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.

Here are some of the ways I am doing this.


Part of living in the present and going for the goosebumps involves paying attention through my hands and feet. At least once a day, I walk barefoot outside in the grass or in the garden as a way of grounding and connecting to the Earth. It recharges my spirit as I absorb the energy the Earth and Sky offer. Even in the first few moments I feel the shift, my breathing eases, I feel calm, light. Sometimes it is early in the morning while still dark, and sometimes it is later in the day. I try to notice all I can with as many of my senses as possible. If you are interested in taking a deep dive into how connecting feet to the Earth impacts our autonomic and parasympathetic nervous systems, this is a good starting place: Journal of Environmental and Public Health.

I also make sure I connect my hands to the Earth as often as possible. Gardening has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I planted my first garden when I was a little girl. I had two gardens – a sunny garden and a shade garden. My sunny garden was filled with forget me nots, rabbit ears, and other sun loving perennials my magical gardening neighbor Mrs. H shared with me. My shade garden was more of a secret space. Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Virginia bluebells, hostas shaded by evergreen trees. My mother had a flower garden and my father grew tomatoes. My grandfather had an amazing vegetable garden. Gardening is just something we did, and I still do. Flowers, vegetables, herbs, native plants are all members of my garden community. Getting my hands in the soil, the Earth, provides an opportunity to dive into each moment with the full breath and awareness it deserves and to the future growth that will result. Digging. Feeling. Smelling. Listening. To notice the colors, images, sounds, smells, words, all the details, while gardening. If you are interested in how gardening benefits a range of general, physical, mental, and social outcomes, I recommend starting with What is the evidence for the impact of gardens and gardening on health and well-being: a scoping review and evidence-based logic model to guide healthcare strategy decision making on the use of gardening approaches as a social prescription,”  by Howarth M, et al. in BMJ Open 2020, with particular attention to Figure 3. From this article, it is possible to dive into other studies.


I have a dear friend who shares his dreams with me; his actual sleeping dreams. For him it is part of the process of honoring the dream, the persons in the dream, and the message. I am profoundly honored to be in these discussions with him. Nobody is an expert here, in this life, and it often takes us coming together to find our way. After our discussions of his dreams I find my self wishing I had dreams again. I do occasionally dream but I often do not remember them. I am often left with a feeling from my dreams but nothing real to dive into. So, in my effort to live in the present and launch myself on every wave, I have decided to delve into dream work. Not only to learn about dreams, but also welcome dreams back into my daily life. To notice the colors, images, sounds, smells, words, the details, in my dreams. To do this I am taking my usual nighttime practices and fortifying them with additional practices. This is my process:

Regular Practices:

  1. Tracking my sleep habits. Since vivid dreams typically occur during our REM sleep cycle, my sleep analytics provides me with valuable information about my deep and REM sleep, how long I was restless, amount of time awake versus asleep, all of which can clue me in to the quality of my sleep.
  2. Ensuring healthy sleep habits. I cannot control REM sleep, however, I can adopt habits that will support REM sleep. Habits such as, no alcohol three hours before bed, no blue lights (i.e. cell phone) one hour before bed, regular sleep time and wake up time, etc.
  3. Practicing yoga nidra for sleep. “Yoga Nidra is a systematic method of inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. The term yoga nidra is derived from two Sanskrit words, yoga meaning union or one-pointed awareness, and nidra which means sleep… nidra is often referred to as psychic sleep or deep relaxation with awareness,” explains Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Yoga Nidra, 1998). Yoga nidra involves resting and listening, no physical movement at all. Swami Satyananda Saraswati  did not intend for yoga nidra to be used to induce sleep. Since yoga nidra is “a state of mind between wakefulness and dream,” Swami Satyananda Saraswati reminds that “the most important thing in yoga nidra is  to refrain from sleep.” Yet, practitioners have evolved ways to use yoga nidra to support sleep. Yoga Nidra Network has a free Yoga Nidra Library that I often use. For those new to Yoga Nidra they have a section called Yoga Nidra Made Easy Audio Files that has 13 audio files that take the listener through the yoga nidra process.

New practices:

  1. Reading about dream work and experiencing dream circles.
  2. Dream Tea before bed. My tea includes rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), peppermint (Mentha × piperita), chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), skull cap (Scutellaria lateriflora), mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), damiana (Turnera diffusa), and rose (Rosa spp.) petals. All of these herbs support memory and relaxation. Some folklore suggest that mugwort encourages intuition and dreaming. To learn more about these herbs, visit  The Herbrarium.
  3. Rituals to enter the dreamscape. I keep a doomahitchie on my nightstand. It doesn’t matter what it is. Its nonsensical and really doesn’t even belong there. Before I go to sleep I tell the doomahitchie that in the morning I will tell it my dreams from the night. Then, in the morning, I look at it as I get out of bed, before writing in my dream journal, as a cue to remember.
  4. Placing a dream pillow over my eyes. Since I am focusing on my dreams I have made a new dream pillow, one that contains mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), lavender (Lavandula spp.), and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).  Mugwort for dreams, lavender for relaxation, and rosemary for memory.
  5. Dream journaling. When I awaken each morning, I lie in bed and stretch and breathe a bit. This gives my mind time to process any dreams I had the night before and to prepare my self for moving. Then I get up and write in my dream journal, even if there isn’t a dream I make a note of that so that I can notice emerging patterns.


There is a new moon and solar eclipse on April 20th. The combination makes for a great time to focus on transformation, planting seeds for new personal growth. As I am striving to let my heart be free and wild this year, I will be lighting a candle and taking a ritual bath that night to support that intention. Ritual bath’s were part of my ancestors celebrations at various times of the year and I have been exploring adding them into my practices.

Here’s my process:

A green candle will be set on the windowsill near my bath. Green represents sowing seeds and growth. I will write my intention, to let go of the emotionality of my memories and to dive into each moment with the full breath and awareness it deserves, on a small piece of paper and fold it three times. I will light my candle and set fire to the piece of paper. The candle will then burn while I take a hot bath using a homemade bath salt blend which includes sea salt, pine (Pinus spp.) needles, juniper (Juniperus spp.) berries, violet (Viola spp.), cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) essential oil, fir (Abies sibirica) essential oil, and a splash of new moon water collected during the last new moon.  These plant allies are a nod to my ancestors as well as supportive of emotions, relaxation, forgiveness, self-acceptance, and grounding. To learn more about these herbs, visit  The Herbrarium. After the candle burns out I will bury the residue by the Juniper tree in my garden. 

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Place – Union of Dark and Light

It’s February. February is my tough month. I suspect everyone, alright, most people, have a tough month. For whatever reason, some months just seem to be more challenging than others. For me, it’s February. Memories. Deaths. Losses. February is filled with them for me.

Several years ago I began to befriend February. May be I finally listened to my dad, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” May be I was just super tired of holding on to the February angst. I no longer remember the catalyst, and that doesn’t seem important anymore. Now, I find appreciation in February. Lotus #2 Place is heightened in February and helps me remember the sweet spot where the human experience and the landscape are one. And, it reminds me to listen to this wonderful place. I simply need to step out side and be, and I can find all that I need to lift up February for me. 

I now understand that February is the month where the divine feminine and the divine masculine present their union so clearly. Fire and water. Shadow and light. Cold and warm. Dormancy and growth. Earth and sky. Sun and Moon. Boredom and inspiration. Fullness and emptiness. Being and doing. Receiving and creating. This divine union is everything.

February 2022

February is still a challenge but it’s different now. I feel things in my body more intensely during this month. Emotions. The flavor of food. Cold on my face. My bare feet on the Earth. The slow returning of the light. I have made peace with the challenge of February and have all sorts of rituals at my fingertips to help me manage my response to February. Here is how I look after myself in February…..

Our story for February is: The Candles by Hans Christian Andersen (1870) which we read surrounded by candlelight and a glowing fireplace as a sign of the returning sunlight.

Our ritual is: Candlemas and Imbolc. They fall on the cross quarter day between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox – the middle of winter in this place I live. A day where the the solstice and equinox are in balance, in union. Candlemas and Imbolc are linked together in their origins and we have built our own family rituals around them that ground us in time, place, and spirit. With Candlemas we thank and celebrate our candles for all they have done getting us through the dark days of deep winter, and Imbolc is a celebration of the awakening of the land from its winter sleep and the return of the sunlight. Both are about the transition from dark to light, from dormancy to growth.

Pancakes or Crepes and Chamomile Tea for dinner followed by Rice Pudding or Creme Brûlée afterwards. Blessing our hearth with a hearth oil made for the day. Clearing our path into the new sunlight by cleaning and purging of that which is no longer necessary throughout the house. Adventuring outside. Beginning to lay out our plan for this year’s garden. It’s a day that is both nurturing and comforting as well as filled with anticipation and excitement of what is to come.

What we make: Hearth Oil. 

  • 1 drop Cinnamon Bark Cinnamomum zeylanicum essential oil
  • 2 drops Sandalwood Santalum album essential oil
  • 4 drops Lavender Lavandula angustifolia essential oil
  • 1 drop Jasmine Jasminum grandiflorum essential oil
  • 1 drop Rose Rosa x damascena essential oil
  • 2 drops Frankincense Boswellia carterii essential oil
  • 1 drop Scotch Pine Pinus sylvestris essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon Solubol (because we use our hearth oil as a spray)

According to Aromahead Institute

  • Cinnamon – Supports lessening stress and increasing feelings of  optimism
  • Sandlawood – Supports meditation, inner unity, quiet mental activity
  • Lavender – Calms, soothes, nurtures, and encourages balance in all body systems
  • Jasmine – Supports comfort within oneself
  • Rose – Soothes and heals the heart, brings a feeling of love
  • Frankincense – Supports reflection, introspection, tranquility, and quiets the mind
  • Pine – Calming yet uplifting while helping to improve air quality

We use the hearth oil to anoint our hearth as we say a blessing/prayer of thanks. This is the perfect blend for how our family interacts with our hearth. Our hearth is the heart center of our home. It provides a warm space for us to gather, relax, recharge, even enjoy a meal. The essential oils in this spray support this quieting, relaxing, uplifting, harmonious environment. 

Hearth 2022

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Earth – Love Conquers All

– Waldorf meal blessing

Last year I focused each month on the broad strokes of each of my 12 American Lotus that are always available to integrate me and this land and universe I am part of. Throughout 2021 I shared how each lotus is part of my daily life, rituals, routines, comings and goings. This year, 2022, I am diving deeper into each lotus. My plan is to align each lotus to a month, and then to share one story our family focuses on that month, one daily ritual I practice that aligns to the story and the lotus, and something we make as a family that aligns to the story and the lotus.

Lotus 1 is Earth/Nature and January is the perfect month to talk about this lotus.  We are putting away all of the decorations from Advent-Christmas-Christmastide. By Sunday night our home will be back in order from all of the festivities. Furniture back in its place. Pine needles swept from the floors. Elves and Tomte in their sleeping spots until next year. Just as that happens so too does a calling to connect with this deep, dark time of the Earth.

We are deep into Winter darkness where we live. But all is not still. While we are snuggling in with even more twinkly lights, candles, and fires, and warming beverages, cozy blankets, and fuzzy socks, the Earth is busy.  The Solstice has passed and the dark days are working their way towards increasing light. Our paper whites,  that were planted during Advent are beginning to bloom. This time of dark towards light is a time for noticing and listening to what is stirring within me (What new ideas are trying to get my attention right now) and within the Earth (What signs of increasing light and seeds for new growth are emerging?). My focus is: What do I hear and learn if I create space and pay attention to what the Earth is sharing? The story, ritual, and tea that follow support this process.

Our story for January is: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (1845). A version can be found online at and includes annotations, illustrations, and links to modern interpretations. There is so much imagery around the Earth that draws us into this story – roses, river, long winter’s night, ice, flowers that have stories to share, crows, pigeons, reindeer, the Otherworld. It is the ultimate message of the story that has always been most special to us – love conquers all.

My ritual: At least once a day, I walk barefoot outside in the grass or in the garden as a way of grounding and connecting to the Earth. It recharges my spirit as I absorb the energy the Earth and Sky offer. Even in the first few moments I feel the shift, my breathing eases, I feel calm, light. Sometimes it is early in the morning while still dark, and sometimes it is later in the day. Yesterday, it was in the freshly fallen snow. If you are interested in taking a deep dive into how connecting feet to the Earth impacts our autonomic and parasympathetic nervous systems, this is a good starting place: Journal of Environmental and Public Health.

January 2022

What we make: We integrate herbal knowledge into our daily wellness routines, and a favorite this time of the year is Heart Warming Tea. Each of the ingredients is selected for its warming and heart supporting properties. According to The Herbrarium:

  • Hawthorn – a general cardiac tonic that appears to improve the mechanics of the heart and its metabolic processes. Hawthorn is also calming and stress reducing, and is used to heal, open, and protect the heart.
  • Rose – to open and fortify the heart.
  • Cinnamon – Warming, carminative, anti-inflammatory.

1 teaspoon Hawthorn berry (Crataegus spp.)

1 teaspoon Hawthorn leaf (Crataegus spp.)

1 teaspoon Hibiscus calyces (Hibiscus spp.)

1 teaspoon Rose hips (Rosa spp.)

1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)

I like to use a quart size canning jar to prepare this tea so that it is easy to strain when it is ready. Combine all of the ingredients in the jar and pour 2 cups of boiling water over the mixture. Let steep covered for 20 minutes. Strain the tea into a favorite mug. Add honey, to taste, if desired.

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Lotus #12 – Divinity

“We are made out of the most common ingredients in the universe. Those elements are made in the cores of stars, that explode, scatter that enrichment across the galaxy, allowing the next generation of stars to have those elements that can make planets and life. So, it’s not simply that we are in this universe, the universe is in us. It’s not just poetically true, it’s literally true that we are stardust.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson on Danica Patrick’s podcast, Pretty Intense, 5 September 2019

My high school best friend and I spent a lot of time back then talking about God and religion. We read theologians like Henri Nouwen and naturalists like Sigurd Olsen whilst trying to find our way in the world. We discussed the role of theology and natural experiences in building one’s belief system. We proved, to our teenage satisfaction, that God is within each of us. This led us to the conclusion that divinity is not a public experience but rather an individual experience. And, as author John O’Donohue said in Anam Cara, we began to “sense the magic and mystery of [our]self.”

We were definitely onto something. It took me years to begin to understand the shift that was manifesting in our ideas.  It’s vast importance, however, is why this is the shortest blog post of all of the 12 lotus. Everything that I have written before comes together here. There is no path, practice, journey, or straight line to follow to discover the divine or the eternal, because it is within. Living my life simply and intentionally creates space and silence for the connections between the lotus to grow. All of the 11 lotus before this one are there to support me as I move in the space and silence that I need, just as they support each other when they move into the deeper water. In that space and silence, I am able to glimpse what is me and what is the universe, and our entwined relationship. 

Divinity, the eternal, whatever name I give to it, is in all. It’s not a search to discover or find or become, its a journey to see.

Candle, December 2021

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Lotus #11 – Ritual/Ceremony

Ritual practice is the activity of cultivating extraordinary ordinariness. It is necessary, because human activity has a kind of entropy about it; life, like love, runs down. Things get tiresome and difficult. Body and soul cry out for something different, hence the impetus to ritualize.”-Ronald L. Grimes

When I was really young our family did not go to church. When my little sister was born it was like a switch flipped for my parents and church became what we did on Sunday mornings.

What captured my attention in church was the rituals. All those glorious candles. The beautiful flowers. Incantations. The first time I saw an acolyte I proclaimed to my mom, “I want to do that!” It all seemed like a gateway to a secret club. All of the rituals and ceremonies were fascinating to little me. And, by fifth grade, I was an acolyte.

Acolyte, November 2021

These rituals were comforting and grounding, in the moment.  They were formal, collective, traditional, and connected to eight (8) generations of my ancestors. I enjoyed the histories and meanings behind the rituals, too.  As I went through my own rites of passage – marriage, birth, deaths – I began to crave rituals that were comforting and grounding but also private, independent from hierarchical constraints, connected to my experiences and beliefs, to those I love, to those I’ve never known, and to the eternal.

I realized that I didn’t need someone to tell me how to infuse rituals and ceremonies into the every day. I realized I could invent and reimagine, create, rituals for myself. The ones I create for myself and with my family are the ones that sustain me. They slow me down, remind me return to the breath again and again and again, help me remain healthy and happy, connect me to Earth/Nature and Place/Community. They are the ties that link each lotus together. They make the ordinary extraordinary.

Some of my rituals are short in duration, some are based on the small moments in the day, some are longer in duration, some are for deeper practices, some are seasonal, and some are daily. Some examples are:

  • Drinking Tea
  • Making herbal preparations
  • Blessing the morning
  • Blessing the first candle that is lit in the morning
  • Meditation
  • Saturday Morning Potatoes with my husband
  • Personal Morning Ritual
  • Personal Evening Ritual
  • Family Rituals around the seasons such as at Solstice and around the change of the seasons
  • Walking barefoot outside, every day

Here is an example of my Meal Prep Ritual:

  • This begins when I enter the kitchen, before any food prep begins. The kitchen is a sacred space in our home as it is the location where one of the most intimate family events occur – the place where nourishing food is prepared, food that will enter into self and others. As a result, it is important to me that I prepare the space before any food prep begins, and then connect to the sacred on each phase of food prep.
  • Here’s what I do. I begin by lighting the candle on my kitchen altar. Then, three full inhalations and exhalations to leave behind the tension and anything troubling. These breaths help me shift my energy into the moment and the food prep to come. It also serves to create the best energy possible so that the energy transferring from me to the food is nourishing as well. My words come next, tailored for the morning or the evening.
  • The food prep then begins. I endeavor to make the food prep process sacred as well. Slowing down. Raising my awareness. Aware of the sounds/light/smells/etc within the kitchen environment. Aware of how my body is entering the space. Being mindful. Hand washing becomes a cleansing ritual. Wiping counters becomes about clearing away thoughts to bring calm and balance. The ingredients are whole foods, plant based. Each phase is an opportunity to raise my awareness and connection.
Meal Prep Ritual. November 2021

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Lotus #10 – Wisdom-holder

This is the first of three posts that begin to connect the lotus to each other.

This post connects directly back to my September 2021 post about teachers and teachings.  It also connects all of the previous posts, just like a field of American Lotus, linked together to support me in finding my way through the mess and imperfections of each day.

I have written previously (see post: Collecting Stories) about how I was not a kid who grew up hearing family stories passed down through the years or who had heirlooms throughout the house that connected to people from prior generations. I barely knew my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and had no knowledge of anyone beyond them. I had no understanding of who came before or from where they actually came. Broad sweeping generalizations only.  (see post: Earth/Nature). I am not going to re-hash that here so check out the earlier posts if it calls to you. Suffice it to say, that lack of connection and ancestral knowledge was foundational to my journey.

The most amazing thing has happened over the past 30 or so years of research. My ancestors have found me. Yes, I do lots of research, and take courses to be an even more thorough researcher. And, yes, I do work hard in the process. But it still feels to me that my ancestors do not appear until they are ready to do so. Once I see them and begin to delve into their stories, I learn from them – their histories, their lives, their practices, their beliefs, their cosmology. Each reclaimed ancestor and story provides an opportunity for me to reclaim a part of myself, and in doing so to create practices that are relevant to where I find myself. The beauty is that I am continually rediscovering ancestors and their stories so my practices are always evolving. There is no ending, only new beginnings and integration.

I am here to grow and to learn. To be the fully integrated authentic person I am meant to be.  I am here to hold the wisdom and knowledge of my ancestors, to care for it, nurture it, to practice, and to continue to learn. I am an educator at my core. I love the 1560s usage of educator – “one who nourishes or rears.” This is how I see my role. I hold all of these practices and teachings that offer nourishment. I endeavor to live by example according to what I have learned – the principles, practices, and teachings. I hold it all, protect and nourish all, and am ready to share with those who come after me, in service to others.  I am here to share the knowledge, the teachings, to help those who yearn to learn, to listen and feel, to build compassion and love for the natural world and all living beings. Essentially, I am endeavoring to become the ancestor my descendants need me to be when their time comes. Our children are at an age where I am able to see these practices and teachings beginning to move in and through them. I find myself wondering if one of them will hold this wisdom for others after me.

The recipe that follows is born out of desire to hold the wisdom and knowledge through a connection to heritage, to heal the relationship with the Earth in the place where I live, and to provide an opportunity to engage in deep Earth practices. It is a recipe that is in our Death Book and will be nurtured and protected for those yet to arrive.

Saining is a Celtic folk practice of using smoke and herbs to purify and bless a home. Similar to smudging with white sage in Native American traditions, saining provides a practice for those with Celtic ancestry who want to develop their own practice based in their ancestry. In my herbal practices, it is important to me to heal the relationship with the place where my feet are planted by using the plants from within my ecoregion that have the energetics that align with my intention. And so, this recipe is crafted from flora sourced in my ecoregion. I use this recipe as a loose herbal smoke/incense blend and as a saining bundle, depending on the need and the intention of the deep Earth practice.

Recipe: Purify and Bless the Home


• Cedarwood Juniperus virginianaas

• dried orange peels

• dried cedarwood, Juniperus virginianaas

• dried rosemary, Rosemarinus officinalis var arp

• dried calendula, Calendula officinalis varr esina

• 8 drops Sweet Orange, Citrus sinensis essential oil

• 5 drops Cinnamon Bark, Cinnamomum zeylanicum essential oil

• 3 drops Nutmeg, Myristica fragrans essential oil

Tie the ingredients above into bundles with a natural cotton string. The bundle can be used for a one room or whole house blessing. Alternatively, small bundles may be made and added to a winter fireplace fire.

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Lotus #9- Teachers & Teachings

I love the beginning of the school year. There’s an excitement and energy to it that is unique. It is a time filled with hope, anticipation, renewal. This lotus fits right into this time of the year for me. It s big and juicy as it covers all the teachings and teachers I turn to for insight.

I have had lots of teachers throughout my life. School teachers. Religious teachers. Flute teachers. Swimming teachers. College professors. Yoga teachers. Some formal teachers, some informal teachers. The ones that most deeply resonate with me right now are some I have never met – my ancestors.

I have an altar of sorts where I start each day. It contains items that represent the five directions (East, South, West, North, Center), the five elements (Earth, Water, Ether, Air, Fire) and the five devotions (ancestry, humanity, Mother Earth, divinity, teachings). There are also three ancestral photos: my Great Grandmother Holly Louise Parker (Mama Parker), my Great Grandmother Bertha Gramlich, and my Great Grandmother Mary Elizabeth Hinson. These three women connect me to different aspects of myself and different ancestral traditions from which I gain insight and guidance. They tether me to my ancestral past, to my roots, so that I may integrate ancestral knowing in to my life and in service to others.

I remember the first time I learned anything about my great grandmother, Mama Parker. It was 1977, I was 11 years old, and my parents, sister, and I drove from Baltimore to Lithonia, Georgia to visit my dad’s aunt and cousin. It took two days for us to get there because I got car sick along the way. That I would vomit in the car was pretty much guaranteed whenever we went on extended family trips. Needless to say, I was quite happy when we arrived in Lithonia and pulled into the driveway at my great aunt’s house. The house was right on a lake so I was enthralled as soon as I saw it. All I wanted to do was be outside and explore. My desire to explore was quickly thwarted, however,  when they saw me. 

It began right away. Moving the part in my hair to the other side, they proudly proclaimed, “You look just like Mama Parker.” I had no idea what this meant because I knew nothing about Mama Parker, not even her relationship to any of us. We went inside and the analysis continued as a portrait of Mama Parker was brought down from where it was installed on the wall. My great aunt passed on to me a broach that had been Mama Parker’s and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was sparkly and had its own little satchel to rest in. I knew it was special and contained its own kind of magic because it had been hers. All of the excitement around my physical appearance eventually settled down as we adjusted into our time together. By the end of the day we had gone fishing on the lake and I had caught my first fish. 

Mama Parker, September 2021

It would be 10 years before I caught another fish and even longer before I learned more about Mama Parker. As I think back, I’m surprised I didn’t try to learn more at the time but it planted a seed that patiently waited I until the time was right. 

After my dad passed away, we went to Georgia again to visit my dad’s cousin. This time I asked about stories and memories, and she excitedly shared stories about Christmas, birthing babies at home, building a tiny incubator for my aunt who was born premature, mementos, handkerchiefs, knitting, pictures were all shared.

I learned so much about Mama Parker that day. I have seen pictures of her feeding strangers on the front lawn of their home during the depression. Strangers who often promised to come back and pay but never did, and that was okay by her. I have touched things she made by hand – shawls, embroidery, autograph books. After my grandfather died, she was the one who supported my grandmother in raising her two teenage children.  Mama Parker teaches me about care for community, compassion, family, marriage/partnership, the importance of making things for self and others, and she encourages me to remember.

Great Grandma Hinson was described to me as full of spirit – “when she said frog they all hopped; no question about it. That little tiny thing, she ruled the roost.” It is said that she bore her struggles with a smile. She gave birth to 14 children, two of whom did not survive to be teenagers, and had a husband who ran off for extended periods of time. I am certain her struggles were many. Great Grandma Hinson is my gateway to my Celtic ancestry. Her father was born in Ireland and her mother was the child of Irish immigrants from Drumbeg in County Down. I could share facts from her life that are gleaned only from historical documents – birth, marriage, death, census but I am partial to the story that makes the person. In this instance, I have just shared everything I know about her as a woman. And yet, when I look at her picture there is a familiarity that is pronounced. She is the one into whose eyes I look and wonder what she can teach me. Something in me recognizes something in her. It is something that runs deep and connects to family and to land. Great Grandma Hinson teaches me about strength, courage, perseverance, the importance of family and land.

Great Grandma Hinson, September 2021

Great Grandmom Gramlich was born in 1884 in Mramorak, a Danube-Swabian village community in the Banat. In 1901 at the age of 17 she set sail from Bremen to the United States with her 23 year old brother, Frederich.  No other family members were with them on this arduous journey. With in one year Frederich had moved to Ohio and Bertha had married my great grandfather. I do not have anecdotes to share from those who remember her. Great Grandmom Gramlich died in 1917 in childbirth, as did the child, so there are no family members that I know who also knew her. I have come to learn that rosemary’s calling to me came from a deep ancestral place. Rosemary was my entry herb into herbalism, I carried it in my wedding bouquet, I had some with me at both of our daughter’s baptisms and both of my parent’s memorial services, and I grow it in my gardens. Years after my love of rosemary was fully realized, I learned that in my Great Grandmom Gramlich’s tradition, “The little sprig of rosemary, as a symbolic mark, epitomizes fertility, health and life-creating power on special occasions such as christening, wedding and burial, Kirchweih, Swabian ball, and rendering of the pigs, throughout the events that make up a human life.” (Hans Gehl as translated by Nick Tullius, 2006). The red geraniums that I just knew had to be placed in our window boxes when we moved into our home 15 years ago were also important in Mramorak and it was customary to overwinter them for the next season. Great Grandmom Gramlich teaches me about bravery, perseverance, herbalism, farming/planting, ceremony, connection to land, and hope.

Great Grandmom Gramlich, September 2021

Even though I have never met any of these great grandmothers they are my greatest teachers. Their essence runs through my blood and being. Their ancestral wisdom is there in the shadows, just waiting to be rediscovered by me, so that I may bring it back into the light of day for my family and in service to others.

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Lotus #8 – Breathe

Breathe….and go for it! September 2021

I had all sort of plans for this post  I was going to discuss how breath was a reoccurring theme when I was completing my aromatherapy certification program. I was going to discuss how I learned the role of breath control in playing the flute and swimming. How Yoga taught me to breathe into areas of my body to release them and let the energy move again. How important diaphragmatic breathing is to our body, down to a cellular level. And, finally I was going to link it all back to last summer when I made the connection to the American Lotus.

But then July came. The heaviness of July wore me down. Yep, even with sun and the slower pace. I thrive in the times between the seasons. Those liminal spaces are where my creativity and confidence live. Once the summer was in full swing I began to stagnate. Knowing the change of the season will slowly start to emerge gives me hope.

In times of stagnation, heaviness, I turn my attention back to the American Lotus. I remind myself that it grows in shallow water but then moves out to depths of 5 or 6 feet, just as I am able to ground myself first and then confidently move into unknown depths.

The stem in the center of the American Lotus draws oxygen into the plant. Oxygen. Breath is life. Like life, I cannot control my breath but I can awaken my breath to move through and with me. Breath affects how I receive everything happening around me. Being breathed makes way for life itself. 

Throughout the day, when I feel the heaviness emerging, I turn to a simple timed breathing exercise. I inhale, hold for a count of one at the top, and exhale for a longer count then the inhale. I maintain this rhythm for several cycles. The effect is that I drop into a place of ease, calm, comfort, and peace.

My breath joins my other lotuses each day and my creativity flourishes, my limbic system is nourished, and I am at my best for the divine work of supporting my family and community. 

There are so many resources for breathing exercises on the web. A simple search is all it takes to get started. When I am in need of targeted breath work beyond a simple time breathing exercise, I turn to: Britt Steele, Maya Tiwari, Jon Kabat Zinn, Yoga Nidra.

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Lotus #7 – Music & Meditation

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart. -Pablo Casals

What is it about music and meditation that cause them to be so important to me? Sound and vibration and silence and stillness are found throughout the universe. It seems to make sense to me that it would also speak to me, and that I would also feel the need for both in my life.

Music was the first to speak to me. As a small child it was music that helped me fall asleep and calm myself. As I learned to perform other’s music – Bach, Handel, Debussy, Faure and on – I came to understand that music provided a safe place to touch emotions I didn’t otherwise give space to in my day to day life. Music became deeply personal. As that happened, my ability to play in front of others diminished. Now, it is just for myself. Listening to music changed as well. I found that certain types of music connected to different emotional states I was feeling or wanted to feel. Listening to music became purposeful, as well as enjoyable.

Meditation extended the purposefulness into the realm of silence. I remember the first time I was guided through a meditation experience. I was 20-years old and working as the waterfront director at a summer girls’ camp, and the head of the camp decided that as part of staff training we would also participate in a guided meditation. My tent mate and soon to be best friend Anne practically quoted A Chorus Line after the guided meditation, “I dug right down to the bottom of my soul and I tried, I tried……but I felt nothing.” I, on the other hand, recounted to Anne all that I experienced. She rolled her eyes, and I was hooked.

Music & Meditation, July 2021

When I listen to music or meditate I connect with something larger than my self. Both are heart-based practices. Both provide an opportunity to acknowledge and feel different aspects of my thoughts and emotions, to get out of my head and into my heart. They provide respite and recharge throughout the day. They help to release stress and anxiety, but more importantly through music and meditation I am able to soften and open my heart to all around me. I find my morning meditation to be my most powerful practice as it creates a foundation for the day. Morning meditation provides an opportunity for me to check in with my self and the universe. By focusing my mind, emotions, and senses first thing in the morning, the calm, peace, and devotion that arises sets the tone for how I approach challenges throughout the day.  I am able to lead with my heart.

My morning meditation occurs at 4:30am while everyone in the family is still asleep and after Winston, our bull mastiff, and I have gone for our morning walk. I have a dedicated  space, a cozy cushion to sit upon, and a candle.  I sit in a comfortable seated  position, roll my shoulders backwards, then forwards. I slightly lower my chin and just breathe. Some days I set an intention. Some days I chant. Some days I sing mantras. Some days I ask a question and then listen. Some days I focus on a natural element – earth, air, fire, or water – represented by a special rock or crystal, an aromatherapy blend, the candle, or a bowl of water. Some days I focus on an ancestor through a family heirloom. Some days I just sit and focus on 108 breaths. When I come out of morning meditation, I am able to carry the awareness that arose to all of my daily activities.

There are many types of meditation practices. All it takes to get started is a quiet space and a few minutes. Once I developed my practice I discovered I can drop into my meditative space any time I need it throughout the day, just like I do with music.

Some meditation resources:

  • Jon Kabat Zin – guided meditation  available on Audible: Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1, 2, and 3

  • Britt B Steele – guided meditations on SoundCloud:
  • Insight Timer – is a free app for mindfulness that is available on Google Play and the App Store. I have used Insight Timer for years and love it because I love setting the timer how I want it – duration, starting bell, ending bell, etc. The app also has tons of available meditations (as well as music, yoga, courses, live events) – I haven’t explored them yet but they are there if I want to explore options.  

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Lotus #6 – Slow Down

What are you willing to surrender today… give back to the earth? So. you can rise again…. new, fresh, and ready to face this glorious world and all it brings…. with eyes of acceptance, wonder, and joy.” – Britt B Steele

I don’t talk about my work life here or on Instagram very often but it is the crux of this lotus. My career in education proceeded rather swiftly. Teacher. Department Chair by age 29. Assistant Principal by age 34. Principal by age 40. I completed my Master’s degree and my law degree while working full time. The one consistency through out this time was that I continually sought to prove myself. To do more and be more for the people I worked with and the teachers and students I served. Once my husband and our children entered my world when I was age 35, 38, and 41 the fast-paced stress-filled lifestyle was fully internalized.

It began to take it’s toll on me in countless ways. The internalized negative self-talk grew louder. The internal stress created by me and the external stress created by the work, materialized physically in my weight, skin, eyes. My resilience diminished. My recovery from stressful situations was slower.

There was a subtle voice that grew louder with each day, until one day I heard it loud and clear, and I realized that I brought it all on myself. It was my own thoughts, fears, assumptions, and pressures that created this environment in which I lived. And, if I created it, I also had the power to change it. This wasn’t about how to balance work and home as a wife and mother and educator. This was about setting a pace I wanted; a pace in which I would be able to thrive, not just make it through each day. With clarity I understood that  am able to control my time, how I spend it, and how I feel about it. I put the brakes on, and took the time to really look at my underlying thoughts, goals, and actions.

Slow Down, June 2021

The first step was to Stop. I took a day by myself to stop. To be comfortable without an agenda. No expectations. No requirements. No obligations. No mobile phone. No computer. Paper and pencil only.  This could have been anywhere – a retreat, a hotel, a cabin, my bedroom, the beach. The only requirement was silence and solitude. For me, it was a vacation day in Washington, D.C.  I took walks in the city. I swam in the hotel pool. I took a long herbal bath. I reflected and I wrote.

The second step was to Look. I took a long look at my days through the lens of two questions: (1) What time is available in my day? (2) What are the important things to me – the things that fuel me? On a typical day, my work day is from 6:30am – 4:30pm.  My list of important things turned out to be much smaller than I expected; everything fit into one of four categories:

  • Morning rituals
  • Family time
  • Movement
  • Evening rituals

I realized I had plenty of time in the morning for my morning rituals, as long as I was willing (and able 🙂 ) to wake up earlier. On the other end of the day. if dinner was at 6:30pm that gave me one hour when I was first home and 2 hours before bed time that was available.

The third step was to create an Outline. I began by writing a description of my ideal day. Keeping in the forefront all of the things I listed above that are important to me and fuel me,  I outlined the day – from the minute my eyes opened until they closed again at the end of the day. 

I wake up at 4am and my morning ritual begins with stretching and checking in to see how I feel before I even emerge from bed and then a walk with Winston, our bullmastiff. Then, it’s  a warming morning beverage, morning yoga, meditation, shower, getting ready for work, laundry, breakfast, and out the door.

When I arrive home it’s family time until 5:30pm, then dinner prep, dinner at 6:30pm, yoga at 7:30pm, and then 8:30pm prep for bed – reading, washing up,  no tech, etc.

The final step was to create a Way to implement this plan. I could not do this alone. I realized that I would need others and tools to be successful. Here are three easy changes we made:

Each night of our weekly menu is based upon specific meals:

  • Leftover Night
  • Bowl Night
  • Burger Night
  • One Pot Night
  • Pizza/Calzone Night
  • People’s Choice Night
  • And, the one that was added – Girl’s Chef Night. The girls take over dinner prep one night each week. It helps me slow down but more importantly it gives them creative time together. Breakfast is a common theme but sometimes they are more experimental.

The girl’s also took responsibility for several jobs each day. For example, the oldest takes care of trash, wiping down the dinner table, and wiping down the refrigerator doors on Monday night. The youngest straightens the sunroom, feeds the dog, and gets the mail on Thursdays. They learn responsibility for caring for our surroundings, they learn what it means to be a part of a (family) team, and I get to set my pace.

In the beginning I also set an alarm on my phone to help me remember my evening yoga time. I tend to get caught up in the energy of the night and found myself missing my yoga time simply because I forgot about it and when I realized it, it was bedtime. An alarm helped me create a pattern and commitment.  My husband protects the time by making sure I am not interrupted so I can focus ❤️.

Slowing down. My body, mind, heart, and spirit are now nourished through this changed pace. I am prepared for anything life’s twists and turns bring, and my recovery to stress is swifter and gentler.

My process – Stop, Look, Outline, Way – worked for me. Each of us must find our own way and our own pace. The magic for me came in realizing that I had the power to choose.

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