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May is Mental Health Awareness Month: My Story

I am feeling called to share my story during Mental Health Awareness Month. I will try to keep it brief, even though I could go into great detail about a lot of things here!

Looking back, I think my mental health issues were set in motion around age 5 when I was separated from my grandmother, who I looked to as my primary caregiver up until that point. After that separation from my grandmother, I found myself being raised in an explosive household with an abusive alcoholic / drug addict stepfather and a very young mother who barely knew how to take care of herself, much less another tiny human. All of this early trauma set me up for a lot of issues surrounding safety, trust, anger turned inward, etc.

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Service to Others

This is the third article in the series, “The 12 Healing Tools“. These articles outline the things that I have found most useful in my journey to overcome childhood trauma and abuse, drug addiction, and debilitating depression.

Once I got clean back in the mid-90s, I really didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do with my life. I grew up with an overbearing mother (to put it mildly), I had no self-esteem, spent years trying to lose myself in men and drugs, etc. etc. etc. It was a rough road for quite a number of years.

The guy that I was with at the time – we’ll call him Marty – who, incidentally met me during my active addiction and stayed with me during rehab and after, convinced me to sign up for Americorps. Honestly, I just wanted the pay out at the end to help pay off my student loans, so I agreed. During this time, Marty also gave me some other volunteer work making art with kids in some local low income housing projects. I spent a full year in Americorps, doing art with kids, making murals, sweeping streets, fixing windows, and basically just giving back to the community. Eventually Marty and I parted ways, but I have to give him credit for this cuz selfless service really changed my life and probably helped keep me clean too.

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“Text Neck” Stretches

I’ve been struggling with a pain in my neck and right shoulder for MONTHS now. I had Reiki done on it – that did nothing. So I went to the doctor about it. Twice. After the second visit, I was prescribed muscle relaxers. Needless to say, they didn’t work either and made me feel looped out of my mind as well. So, I did some research on my own and deduced that the tension in my neck and shoulder must be from using my cell phone too much! UGH!!! The dreaded TEXT NECK! And as it turns out, a lot of the students I teach at yoga seem to be experiencing similar aches and pains which led to a whole class focused almost entirely on the upper body.

Anyway… Here is a set of stretches I found online that has FINALLY given me some relief (along with a daily application of BioFreeze): https://www.wikihow.com/Relieve-Text-Neck-Pain-by-Stretching

Could This Be the Reason Why the Mayan Calendar Ended in 2012?

So I FINALLY made it to Belize to see the Mayan ruins. (And many other things that were totally unBELIZEable!) One of the most interesting things? A discussion with one of our shuttle drivers about how he could no longer tell time by the sun. !!! He said that now, what used to be 12:30 pm according to the sun, was now actually 1:30 pm.

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Lymphatic Facial Massage & Anti-Aging Exercises

I am currently on a kick about the lymphatic system. I read recently that “while the blood brings in the groceries, the lymph takes out the trash.” Unlike the bloodstream, the lymphatic system has no pump. It relies on the movement of our bodies (#1 way is walking) and manual drainage (lymphatic massage) for its proper functioning. If the work of the lymph nodes is insufficient, the filtering and transport of waste products becomes impaired and the body becomes more and more toxic. If the production of lymphocytes is insufficient, the body’s defense against invaders and against cancer and other immune disorders becomes impaired. So… I think it’s pretty important to keep this system in tip top shape!

Below is a 1-Minute Quick Massage to drain lymph from the area of the face. It’s very easy to do as you’re moisturizing your face. I’ve also included a video that’s definitely worked for me to reduce the bags and puffiness under my eyes.

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Yin/Restorative Yoga – January 2018

Since most of us are usually quite busy – maybe even frenetic – over the holiday season, I decided to offer a special yin/restorative yoga class at Garth each Monday in January. This four-week session was a welcome change of pace for those that attended the class. Familiar asanas took on a whole new effect as we held the postures for at least 3 minutes at a time, focusing on moving mindfully and the breath. Students left feeling more nourished and centered, and deeply relaxed at the end of every class. Here is a good beginner yin sequence if you’d like to try this style of yoga at home.

On Witnessing Birth and Death

Divine Force, Primal Force: to You I Bow. Rising Up, Divine Mother: to You I Bow.

Where to begin with this one? I guess I will start by saying that I — as many of us have — had the blessed honor of welcoming in the embodiment of the Divine and seeing its exit from this plane on more than one occasion. Is there any honor greater than these, to see a soul birth into Being or to see a soul birth into Spirit?

I was quite young and naive when my own daughter was born. But I remember how special the moment was when she took in her first breath and how quiet she became merely by being held by the person that gave her Life. My eyes still tear up at the thought of it. It was truly love at first sight. And I am continually amazed at the unconditional love I feel for my daughter to this day.

After that, there were many years that were touched by death, but I chose to avoid the finality of it. Illnesses, addiction, and old age took my friends, family, and lovers, but I chose to keep my distance from such a dark and dire subject.
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Exercise & Dementia

I feel like I’ve been studying people and the world around me for a very long time. This tendency helped keep me safe while I was growing up in an incredibly volatile home environment and it made me a more perceptive artist as I tuned into all of the details around me (sometimes to an overwhelming degree, as most empaths can attest). I’ve also witnessed how we can create our own mental states of stress or how we can choose to induce a sense of well being. It’s all pretty fascinating.

So in my ongoing quest to ‘figure things out’, I recently started volunteering at a local hospice. My decision to volunteer was sparked, in part, by how important hospice was when my own grandmother was dying from cancer and another part was based on my own near-death experience.

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The 12 Steps

This is the second article in the series, “The 12 Healing Tools“. These articles outline the things that I have found most useful in my journey to overcome childhood trauma and abuse, drug addiction, and debilitating depression.


By the mid-90s my drug days were coming to an end. I couldn’t handle the lifestyle. I was tired of chasing the white dragon every day. Tired of seeing my friends die. Tired of feeling like a total waste and hating myself for it. Just TIRED. Life was truly unmanageable as every waking hour was consumed by this substance. I wanted to finally be free from heroin and try to act and feel “normal”, though that was part of the reason why I started to use drugs in the first place – I always felt (and was told) I was ‘different’ and didn’t understand why.

Anyway… after several failed attempts at detox centers and 30-day rehabs, I was somehow admitted to Colonial House for a 90-day inpatient program.

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A Burning Desire to Know the Truth of Reality

I write these words because I am 100% sure there are many more out there who have felt this way and/or are feeling this way right now. I want you to know that you are not alone. And there is a reason for everything that is happening in your life. Have faith, stay strong, keep seeking, and amazing things can happen.


As far back as I can remember, I felt like ‘reality’ wasn’t quite the way it seemed. And I especially knew that things were NOT the way those ‘grown ups’ in charge of me were telling me they were. It always felt like I was missing an important piece of the puzzle, like everybody was holding out on a key piece of information and I didn’t know why.

I remember things that my family tells me I shouldn’t remember – I was too young to remember they say. I feel like I came into life with a lot of memories. Memories that most of us want to forget when we embody, that blissful state of amnesia we choose to operate from most of our lives. But some of us ask to remember, NEED to remember – so we can do the work we came here to do. I am one of Those.

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