Deep Roots: Growing Resilient Families

Endeavoring to raise healthy humans at this time is no small task.

Our families are not insulated from these pivotal times - many are feeling the tension of trying to stand steady while the sands are shifting beneath our feet. 

We are being called to raise our awareness to new levels, to see with Eagle eyes, and equip ourselves with the right tools to build the world we most want to live in.

The tools we used to get to this point are not the tools we need to build the future our children deserve. 

There is no one right map for each family to follow, but thankfully we still have access to the most-wise guide of all – Mother Nature.

How exactly will the guidance of Mother Nature help me to navigate toddler tantrums, my own temper, the world of social media and video games, the incongruence around parenting styles with my partner or the myriad challenges inherent to the terrain of raising a teen, you ask?

Come, let’s explore together…

The ecology of your family system is not unlike that of the forest or coral reefs – it’s also comprised of many interwoven and interdependent relationships.  Some are obvious, like the relationship between parent and child.  Others might be a bit harder to tease out like the relationship between the non-living elements of the home, and the external influences coming from the workplace, school, community, and society at large. 

Our family systems are complex woven webs.  In optimal health they functions to support our growing connection and resilience; in this state it’s easy to take for granted, or simply not even notice the bedrock that supports us. Remove one rock in the foundation, or strand in the web, however, and we become acutely aware that something isn’t working.  The symptoms often become harder and harder to ignore while the root – literally – cause of the situation can be hard to identify.

Symptoms of a weakened family foundation might present as:

  • difficulty connecting with your child; knowing what they need, or how they are feeling,

  • angst and heartache caused by incongruent parenting styles between partners,

  • lack of cooperation between family members.

  • frequent, unproductive arguments that seem to drive a deeper wedge between members of the family.

  • a persistent feeling of being out of alignment with the way life is being lived, but not knowing what to do differently.

  • swinging from trying to control your children to passive parenting and feeling like neither one works.

Beneath the forest floor, out of sight from the human eye, is the very web of life that supports all the above ground beauty we see and feel as we walk through the landscape. The health of the forest depends on the health of the underground root systems reaching, in many cases, deeper and wider than the above ground branch structure and canopy. 

There is, indeed, more than meets the eye to any thriving family or natural system.

The roots of our families are ultimately that of connection.  There are many names we can give to these expressions of connection, such as: open and honest communication, aligned values, cooperation, peaceful limits, healthy boundaries, joy, gratitude and play to name a few, but they all boil down to connection.

So what is this thing called connection?


Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment, and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

~Brene Brown


If you’re thinking to yourself “yeah, that connection thing really isn’t happening in many areas of my life right now.”  It’s not your fault -it began long before you were born, before your parents even. We carry the scars of historical trauma, disconnection passed down.

Epigenetics shows us in scientific terms what we’ve known forever: patterns of relationship and response are passed down from generation to generation.  We also now know that we are not stuck just tolerating the way it is, or accepting it as “just the way it’s done”.  We have the power, and neuroplasticity, to mend the fragmented strands in our complex, interdependent web of connection.

We can cultivate our legacy of love and pass along ripples of new patterns and ways of relationship that will have a positive, healthy impact on not only our own children, but also all who they come into contact with in their lifetime and the many generations beyond.

We begin with the foundation of family; learning the practices to nourish the root system that supports all else.  We are shifting the paradigm of relationship from one of power-over, authority and control, to one of connection, cooperation and relationship-with.  By nourishing the root system first we allow for healthy upward and outward growth with the resilience to bend and sway rather than snap or topple when the storms inevitable with a growing family move through.

If you feel called to delve deeper into the practices of nourishing your healthy root system through cultivating connection in your family, you can learn more about Family Foundations below.

Shame on the Ball Field :: how we begin to Shift It

This article first published in Natural Mother Magazine, July 2016



Standing in the dugout he stared through the chain link as if summoning all the courage in his body for his next at-bat.  From behind his Dad asked quietly, “Where do you want to go to dinner tonight, son?” He didn’t seem to hear him. 


It seemed an odd time to break his focus with such questions.  He repeated his question, this time lower and deeper, “Where do you want to go to dinner tonight, son?” 


The boy turns to him with tears in his eyes and says, “Dad, I don’t know if I can do it.”


To which his father simply repeated, this time at the speed of cold molasses, “Where do you want to go for dinner, son?” 


Then he was up, he opened the gate, jogged onto the field, chocking back tears, his body language screaming defeat. He tried. He tried hard, and, he didn’t make it; He only got to first base, not third.  The crowd cheered. His Dad shook his head in dismay as he turned and walked away. 


No fancy dinner out for them tonight. 


“Shame drives two big tapes: never good enough, and who do you think you are?” says Brene Brown. 


In my work as a parenting coach, I hold space for many stories to unfold and meet the light of day. Somewhere in each of us is a voice of shame, a voice that questions our self worth, our right to love and belonging.  This voice of shame has a tight grip; it drives the success, or lack thereof, of our lives when left in the unconscious depths. 


Often these voices began to whisper, or shout, when we were very young children, in moments when we simply didn’t feel we were good enough to be worthy of love.  Trouble is, shame takes hold and becomes the script of our life, it doesn’t stay isolated to one incident on the ball field.


When I ask what inspires a coach to coach, or what inspires a parent to sign their child up to play team sports, I most often hear sentiments that speak to gaining valuable relationship skills, learning to work as a team, building childhood memories and character, and having the opportunity to spend time together.


On the field the other day Coach told them all to run a lap. Peter could barely keep up a jog for the last leg. He’s not as fit as his teammates. His parents are in the deep throes of divorce and it shows on his sweet face, and in his overall stamina.  As he approached, Coach yelled:  “What’s wrong with you, boy?  Run again!”  I could only imagine how he might have felt, trying to eek out another lap with his whole team watching.


The voice of shame, “what’s wrong with you”, has the potential to seep into every corner of our lives and highjack our willingness to reach for the stars, to chase our dreams, to engage in meaningful relationships, even to parent our children with love. 


We are hard wired to seek belonging - our whole being knows that there’s safety in belonging.  Once that voice of shame takes hold we begin to avoid the things that might risk exposing us, blowing our cover.  We’ll do about anything to stay under the radar so no one knows that we’re actually “not good enough”. 


The voice of shame keeps us small.


What we know, according to the research of Brene Brown, is that “shame is highly, highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide and eating disorders.”  Nowhere in my conversations with parents, and coaches, have I ever heard that any of the above makes our desired outcome list when we consider dedicating months out of each year on the sports field with our children.


So what is it that we really want our children to gain from their experience of playing sports? 


From my conversations with parents, I believe we most want our children to have what it takes to succeed in life, not to kick some ass and always come out on top, but to feel happiness.  Under all the layers of it, I believe we want to know that our children are really okay, that they feel truly fulfilled in their hearts.


We have a tremendous opportunity on the sports field to focus on building character, to learn to work cooperatively even in a competitive setting, to learn to be resilient, kind and compassionate.  We have the opportunity to cultivate emotional intelligence, which is a top predictor of living a truly fulfilling life.


Here’s the rub: we can only give to our children what we truly have.  If we’ve never felt the gift of compassion from another, if shame is so thick inside us that we can’t feel an ounce of love for ourselves, it isn’t possible to give compassion to our children, much less coach them to be compassionate towards others.


Shame is running amok on the field because we, ourselves, are riddled with shame.  These voices are passed from one generation to the next until someone has the recognition of it and decides to do the work to break the chain. 


I don’t for a second think that any parent, teacher, or coach would pass on the voice of shame consciously, especially knowing that shame is highly correlated with many life-diminishing ailments such as eating disorders, depression and worse.  I always assume the most positive intent, and within the parents I work with, have yet to be proven otherwise.  We are driving our children to perform, to look tough, to succeed, and we’re using our internal voice of shame to do so.


 “The antidote to shame,” says Brene, “is empathy.  It can not survive being spoken, and being met with empathy.” 


Back on the ball field, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a young boy throw, kick, or bat a ball right into another child.  Their natural instinct is to feel for that child (empathy) who just got hurt, sometimes they even cry for them.  The tragedy is not that someone is hurt on the field, but that we shut down the capacity for empathy right then and there.  “That’s the game of ball. Don’t let it bother you.  Shake it off”, we tell them.  We’re not just telling the child who is hurt to shake it off, and not feel how badly it really hurts, we’re also telling the child who threw or kicked that ball not to offer their sincere apology, not to show compassion.  So they stay on the pitchers mound, choke back their own feelings and internalize it all. They shut down their capacity for empathy as we perpetuate the shame cycle that, especially for men, runs a script of “never let them see your weakness”.


What if we used this very scenario to build the capacity for empathy, emotional intelligence and shame resilience?  What if instead of shutting down the feeling capacity we actually cultivated it?


We are missing a tremendous opportunity to help our youngsters develop the skills it will take to thrive in their adult life.  We are shutting down their greatest internal compass – their emotional intelligence.  We are not encouraging them to perform better, but to stay small.


So, where do we begin to break this cycle of shame?  The first step is beginning to hear it, identifying what the voice of shame sounds like.  We want to hear the voice of shame both internally, in the way that we speak to ourselves, and externally in the way that we speak to others. 

Brene says, “Shame needs three things to survive, secrecy silence and judgment.”  By strengthening our listening for shame we begin to break the secrecy.


To thrive our children are going to need the guts to be bold and daring, to take risks and fail.  They need to learn how to gain the wisdom their failures provide rather than learning to avoid them.  They need to know they are worthy of love and belonging, independent of their performance. Our children will need to lean on their own emotional intelligence to find their way in rapidly changing times. They will need to depend on their empathy muscles to forge strong relationships.  This is no time to let the old script of shame run our lives. 


It’s time to step up our game! It begins by calling shame out of the shadows and into the light of day.

Family Foundations is a powerful first step to begin doing the work of shifting our parenting from a power-over structure which uses the tactics of shame, blame, manipulations and bribery to control to a relationship-with paradigm of parenting based on connection, cooperation, authenticity and trust.

Honoring Your One Wild and Precious Life :: Intentions for a New Year

This article first published in Natural Mother Magazine, January 2016

Throughout this post I add reflections on the evolution of this process, and where we find ourselves now in regards to many of the intentions I set then. 

Have you heard that quote, “the days are long but the years are short”?

I’m present to the fleeting time as we enter a new year.  To really drive the point home, we all, meaning my husband, both of our children, and myself, just celebrated the ending of one trip around the sun and the beginning of our next.  It’s hard to believe how fast this chapter of life seems to be flying by.  I know this is the chapter that will write my children’s childhood story, and I want this to be my very best when all is said and done. 

[in the years since publication I have grown more and more gentle on myself around the expectations I hold for writing the “perfect story” or showing up as a “perfect mother”. The focus has shifted to navigating the messy of life together in a way that builds our resilience and strengthens our bonds as a family.]


Each year on my birthday, which is in December, I carve out space for a long sit at my favorite coffee shop, a yummy cuppa and my journal.  I prepare for this date with myself ahead of time so that I can make the most of it; once there I get right down to the business of creating my reality – literally.  Without this practice, I’m pretty sure that I would still be stuck and wishing in many areas of my life, especially the one that matters most to me – mothering. 


I want for each of us to write our very best chapter right now, in the thick of it, while our children are watching.  So my New Years gift to you is a peek into my process, perhaps it will inspire your unique manifesting process in time. 


Begin with a journal, pen and full creative license to dream, unhindered.  It’s important to set the tone for yourself, come to this from a space of playfulness and possibility.  If you feel inhibited or held back by old stories about how this life you dream of isn’t possible for you, shift into knowing that this is play, this is fun, this is creativity. Anything is possible here.  The strategies and tactics of how to make this daydream reality will come later.


Opening your journal, make a list of the areas you will explore during this time.  The categories I look at each year include: my purpose, relationships, family, mothering, community, business, connection to spirit, contribution, health in body and mind, home and adventure.  You might notice that many of these categories have a point of intersection, or a thread of continuity running throughout. 


For the sake of this time together let’s explore Mothering.  My thoughts on Mothering, excerpted from my journal a few years back, fell into three categories: how I show up to mothering, what I dream of experiencing with my children, and how I want to specifically support each of my boys at this place in their development.  I always write these intentions as if I am living this reality already, “I am” rather than “I want to…” I’ll share what this looked like for the year I turned thirty-seven, but in your journal make this your very own unique life list.


How I show up for my children includes:


~ I am present: meaning there are chunks of time I give them my undivided attention.  (This is where my list intersects with the category of health, which includes meditation and regular time alone in nature both of which help me tremendously to be able to be present for my children.)


~ I am supportive: I am becoming a better listener and cultivating the ability to ask more thoughtful questions to really understand my children.


~ I see my children for who they are, where they are on their personal journey and in their development: engage in deep level of paying attention and continue to open my mind to a story beyond my own perspective.


How we experience life together:


~ Maintaining connection: I enjoy a monthly date alone with each of my sons.  This is at least a four-hour chunk of time, free of media and phones, focused on something that supports our family values and includes time for reflection on our time together.

[I loved re-reading this. At the time of writing these journal entries, which was actually a couple years before this article first published, it seemed like a stretch of the imagination to figure out how to actually create a full day alone with each child, meaning without the other. For the past couple years now I have enjoyed a full day a week alone with each of my children - a gift I will cherish forever.]


~ We play together: Create time that is intended for playing, ‘fun’day, game time, I am allowing myself to become more playful – time to play is scheduled on the calendar!


~ We enjoy the arts together:  including trips to visit museums, enjoying the performing arts - be sure to plan ahead and put it on the calendar.


Supporting my children:


~ “What do they need, mama?”: I support Chaz in his desire to help others. [this is still an ongoing conversation - with some truly fantastic dreams about what is possible in the future.]


~ Tee Shirt business development: dedicated time to help Gavin develop his idea and product. [Gavin has enjoyed many iterations of his shirt design business since this time.]


~ Hardwiring Happiness: explore the ideas and methods presented by Rick Hanson.


~Mentor relationship: help them foster a meaningful relationship with a nature connection mentor. [both boys now have long standing rich relationships with multiple, extraordinary mentors.]


The key to making these words become more than just ink on the page is making sure that your heart is fully aligned with the shift that is being called forth.  Make sure that each part of your list originates in your heart, not your head.


At this point you have a great list of the heart-centered ‘what’.  The next step is to elaborate on each part.  Take some time to really feel into the ‘why’ behind each action you are asking of yourself.  What will being more playful, and carving out intentional time for play, do for me? That’s right!  What will it do for me?


It’s really important to get clear on what each of these intentions will mean to you, how it will feel inside your life once this has already come to be reality.  A big part of manifesting this shift into reality is feeling into it before it has come to be in ordinary reality. 


When I am playing with my children, for example, my heart feels light inside my chest and the tension between my eyes melts away like a dripping ice-cream in summer and at the end of the day, I drift off to sleep feeling satisfied and confident in the relationship we are cultivating.  Taking time to play with my children brings more happiness into my life, and theirs.  When I’m playing with my children more our eyes twinkle, our faces enjoy spontaneous smiles, we are rolling around on the ground, running, and chasing each other, and in the end, more hugs are happening.  Our home is filled with the sound of laughter, kind conversation and easeful transitions.


At this point you have identified what is important in these key areas of your life. You’ve taken the time to really identify why it’s so important and how it will look, feel, and sound once this shift has taken place.


The next, critical part is to identify what your strategies and tactics are to actually make this happen before you are reviewing your notes at the turn of the year, next year.  Your strategy is the what and your tactics are the how.


For example, I have a desire to maintain connection with each of my children; one of my strategies for doing so is to commit to a monthly one-on-one date with each of them.  The tactics for making this date happen and making it hold the opportunity for us to really connect beyond the daily include: schedule our four hour date time well in advance, be sure there is also something fun planned for the other child, turn off the phone, make space for shared reflection.


For bigger changes in my life I have needed to enlist support in the form of accountability partners, teachers, coaches and trainers.  There is good reason why we often begin a new year with all sorts of fancy intentions and at the end of the year, few, if any, have actually come to be part of our identity.  Our brain is wired to survive, not thrive.  If we did something one way yesterday, and it didn’t kill us, our subconscious mind sees that as a real win because we survived, even if doing it that way makes us horribly miserable, like staying in a dysfunctional relationship or mothering our children in a way that we swore we wouldn’t, but can’t seem to shift out of.  The subconscious mind is really good at it’s job and you may think you are in charge of you, but the truth is that our conscious mind is only running the show approximately ten to fifteen percent of the time, the rest of the time we are on auto pilot run by our subconscious mind.


To shift our autopilot mode of operations we need to be really clear about the what, the why, the how and how it feels.  We need a plan to remember what path we desire to walk and we need to be willing to get support when it’s needed. 


I recommend keeping your journal handy, and reading through your intentions at the least weekly.  Making our dreams visible is a powerful practice.  I often have a visual reminder that holds my intention and commitment to this shift.  For example, when I was doing the big work of shifting my parenting dynamic from a more control-over paradigm to a relationship-with paradigm of parenting, I had several reminders of the path I was dedicated to walking, in addition to coaching support and guidance, my favorite daily reminders were a verse I said every morning to set my intention for the day, and a Rose Quartz stone that sat on my kitchen window sill.  Rose Quartz is the heart stone; it’s gentle and loving and reminded me to walk in the same way.   So finding something that signifies the intention you have set and can bring you home to it, when you stray.

[Allow your symbolic item be something that you already have, truth be told we don’t need to mine our Earth Mother for any more gems so please don’t let this be your prompt to run to the nearest gem store. If there’s something you are really called to work with, be patient and see where it might come from, who might be ready to pass theirs along, etc.]


This year I am wishing for you the bravery to dream, the space to write it down, the dedication to your own life, and the tenacity to create it!  This is your one wild and precious life!

All Feelings Welcome :: Release the Desire to 'Make' People Happy

Make Mommy Happy this Holiday Season!!!


I was in the grocery store last night when I overheard a Father say to his maybe three year old son, “Come on son, make mommy happy, don’t do that”.  Now this wasn’t a comment about bringing home some chocolate or flowers but rather a comment about modifying behavior in an attempt to make his, visibly grumpy, mother happy. 


I totally get that our children have an uncanny way of pushing our buttons.  They are our very best teachers in life; they hold the mirror for us better than anyone else.  It’s in the thick of it that we’re all learning about who we are, there’s no way to fully prepare for this before our children are born, it’s in the dynamic of our spirits doing a bit of tango that ‘our stuff’ emerges.  It’s right in the here and now of parenting that we are given this, sometimes painful, opportunity to grow, to learn, to evolve.  It’s up to us if we seize the opportunity or shun it.


Behavior is simply our best attempt to meet our needs.  However we decide to make meaning of our children’s unique way of communicating their needs, it is never their responsibility to ‘make us happy’.  It’s not even possible to ‘make’ another person happy.


Our happiness is our responsibility!


All of our feelings have a rightful place in our lives, none are “good” or “bad” they just are.  When we listen to what emotion is moving through us, a great deal of wisdom is available. Once we begin to listen this insight is a powerful guide to living our lives more fully and ultimately with more joy.


When I really let this life lesson sink in, things changed in many ways:


~First, I began taking responsibility for my own happiness. 


~I began releasing the need to unload all my petty grievances (complaining) on others.


~I began shifting my inner dialogue from complaint to gratitude – becoming very mindful of the language I used with others and myself.


~Literally, the way I saw life changed like I put a new set of glasses on.


~I began to feel so much more freedom to make my life exactly what I desired, I felt free to live and create.


~ I also set my loved ones free!  They are free to have their experience of life, and they’re not responsible for my experience.


Whoa! It’s really good.


So, we could do backflips and buy diamond rings, hire a circus show, or fly to a fancy resort, or convince our toddler to stop fussing, but we can’t actually ‘make’ another person happy.


Most of us, especially women, have been conditioned to try to be people pleasers; to modify our selves to suit others.  As we enter this holiday season and the New Year, let’s keep a watchful eye on how we begin showing up in an attempt to please others.  Perhaps we expect our children to display particular social skills or dinner manners and feel some internal conflict or worry that they won’t.  Maybe there’s underlying concern that if our children don’t show up as expected that it might make a relative uncomfortable, and also be a bad reflection of your parenting.  Maybe we are caught up in trying to please everyone through the gifting process or through the just-right holiday baked goods. 


I propose we stop and really ask ourselves: what about this pattern is healthy and worth modeling for our children?  How would you really love to celebrate without trying to ‘make’ anyone, anything?  How can we live fully and from our own generous hearts simply because it makes us happy to do so?


Be well.  Be happy. Live free!







Intentional Celebration :: Rooted in an Untethered World


This article first published in Natural Mother Magazine, November 2015


In a time where there are more people in our collective human tribe than ever before, communication is literally at our fingertips, and home is just a flight away; people are lonelier than ever, lost and seeking. 


In my own seeking the words meant to comfort, “home is where the heart is” only aggravated me; my heart lay scattered from California to Alaska.  I’m still not sure where to call home.  I grew up flying between parents, one in Alaska the other in California, with a host of beloveds up and down the distance between the two.  I was deeply loved, and not at all anchored to place, everywhere, and nowhere at once, to call home.


As a mother my heart aches a bit to imagine my fledglings wandering adrift in a sea of human bodies without their tribe.  Yet, I imagine, one day they will venture off, and so I lean hard into the traditions we hold dear at home, knowing that these truly can be the home inside their hearts regardless of where their head rests at night.


Anchoring ourselves to the natural rhythms of life, as we make each trip around the sun, weaves a basket of comforting support to hold our whole life experience.  These internal anchors have the power to live inside of us in a way that can never be separated; to offer tremendous strength even in adversity; bring joy in times of sorrow; be the familiar inside chaos – what a gift to our children.


The most joyful way, I have found, to grow roots in an untethered world is through celebration. Our commitment to celebration as a way of honoring the passage of time creates something so much richer than we can see the first year; it grows as we return year after year.  Even just a sprinkling of intention to each season can create a touchstone for our families, even in our busy lives. 


As we enter this time of year that seems to be overwhelmingly busy with celebration I invite you to take a moment and pause.  Pause and feel into what is most dear to your heart; what traditions bring warmth to your soul?  What song, food, act of giving, really feels like home to you?  How can you anchor these elements in your family tradition so that they will live forever in the hearts of your growing children?


This is a process of bringing more intention, not becoming more harried with a long string of to-do lists.  The key is in returning year after year to the same sweet and simple way of celebrating.  The winter season is a perfect time to prepare for the next trip around the sun with deliberate intention paid to the growing of roots, roots of celebration and tradition. 

As our days become darker there is a natural turning inward, sometimes even mistaken for sadness or depression, we begin to pull away, to hibernate a bit; to be more introspective.


I find that taking a moment with the new calendar each year helps me stay on track and to celebrate without adding stress to my life.  The celebrations you choose to really honor as your touchstones may be faith based, or may be based on the wheel of the year and the natural seasons, the solstices and equinoxes, or a combination. 


What treasures might be unburied if you were to allow this introspection to show you what wants to be honored as you make your way through each of the seasons to come?


In our family, Winter Solstice is celebrated around the fire ring with intentions of what’s to come as the daylight begins to lengthen.  Summer Solstice is celebrated in the berry brambles or peach trees, reveling in the juicy sweetness and sun-shining afternoons of summer. 


The equinoxes are both marked in the garden or farm with intentional planting in spring and harvest celebration in fall.  There are, of course, many other family traditions we hold near and dear to our hearts, a favorite song to sing while building our annual ginger bread house, a beloved cookie that brings back all the sights and sounds of chapters past, and ancestors who have passed. 


The point is not to get too complicated, it’s too honor what is really near and dear to your heart.  By building into our life these reminders to slow down long enough to celebrate the passage of time, the transitions from one season to the next.  We are creating ways to illustrate our belonging in this world so that we may feel at home, wherever we are, throughout all the seasons of life.  


Feeling rooted to place here on earth can feel downright impossible in these modern times.  Life is busy, we are plugged-in to multiple digital devices most of the day, our homes are lit with artificial light so that we hardly notice the lessening daylight or the waning moon.  Yet, with just a bit of awareness we can bring this connection to our greater belonging back into our consciousness.  


Anchoring our selves to the natural rhythms of life through celebration provides a sense of belonging, of being at home within the greater world. Our intentional honoring of specific points throughout the seasons strengthens our children to walk with the stability of a well-rooted Oak tree, even as they fly their first solo in an untethered world.