Friday, July 19, 2013

Why Retreat?

As I dream about and make preparations for my upcoming Heart Connected retreat, In Honor of the Journey, I am thinking a lot about what it means to "retreat." 

For absolute certainty, I googled the definition. says the following:

 noun \ri-ˈtrēt\

(1) : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable(2) : the process of receding from a position or state attained <the retreat of a glacier>
(1) : the usually forced withdrawal of troops from an enemy or from an advanced position (2) : a signal forretreating
(1) : a signal given by bugle at the beginning of a military flag-lowering ceremony (2) : a military flag-lowering ceremony
: a place of privacy or safety : refuge
: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director

Mmm... how lovely - a place of privacy or safety, a refuge, and a period of group withdrawal... those words make way for the most peaceful images in my mind. I can picture myself on the shore of Lake Michigan at my magical little cottage nestled in the woods. I am with a group of soulful women and we are sharing stories, enjoying delicious food that none of us had to plan for, shop for or cook, making art, and, well, retreating.

Since I announced that I would be hosting this retreat, I am noticing some people aren't real sure what to make of a retreat. No matter how appealing the concept of going on  a retreat may sound, a lot of us dismiss the possibility of actually doing it. We think things like: "I could never do's too expensive...I won't know anybody...I won't fit in...I need to be home for my family...My colleagues would be lost without me...I'm not sure what else will be happening at that time...How could I ever leave BY MYSELF for a few days?" Things like that.

I'm sure we can all think of a dozen or so reasons why it's not the right time to take a retreat. We might decide to wait for the stars to be in perfect alignment...

I get that. The truth is though, the stars may never perfectly align. Some things require us to decide that we are going for it. I think because there are so many obvious reasons NOT to leave our families, our work, and our lives for a few days, it is easier to never go for it. 

Of course, I would love for any lovely soul who reads this post to join me in September (sorry boys, this one is for girls only), and I also know that my retreat isn't going to work for everyone. For those of you who are looking for a reason to take a retreat, mine or another one, I came up with a few for you. These are the reasons I have come to appreciate the opportunity to go on retreats, and to carve out the time, space, money, and energy to make it happen when I hear the call.


I live in a house with my husband, our three children, and our family dog. I am mostly responsible for meal planning, grocery shopping, making meals, and cleaning up afterward. Sure, I have help, but for the most part it's on me. I actually enjoy doing all of these things, and it also makes me crazy. 

At a retreat someone else is responsible for planning my meals and buying the ingredients to cook them. Someone else cooks. Someone else cleans up afterward. Words cannot express my gratitude for these people. It is a GIFT to take a break from the decision making process and all that follows when I go on a retreat. When our retreat chef Andi asked what kind of menu I wanted, I said "I want you to prepare the kind of food you would eat if you were taking the absolute best care of yourself." Most retreat planners insist on the most wholesome, delicious, and nutritious food for their guests - made from the freshest ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible. It is worth every penny and logistical nightmare I face when planning to leave my family for a few days to enjoy a meal prepared with love by someone whose charge is to take the best possible care of me.


I'm going out on a limb here and making a huge generalization: American adults don't allow enough time in their lives to play. We work long hours, and sometimes in multiple jobs. We volunteer in the community and in our children's schools. We are constantly plugged in. We carry smart phones and check the Internet. We are non-stop. If we have children, we are likely to be running them around all night to various events and activities. We are tired. We are depleted. We are stressed out. We are often depressed.

We need time to play. It is really that simple. Nobody is going to grant you that time to play because most everyone in your life is in the same boat. Most everyone in your life will ask you for more because they are giving all they can and they need your help.

I learned not long ago that the only way I will ever get time for myself, to do the things I want to do, is to make that time. Sometimes I treat it like an appointment and schedule it in my calendar. Retreats provide endless opportunities to play. I need that. We all need that.


I think these pictures speak for themselves. Retreats occur in the most beautiful places around the world. Taking a retreat means getting away from it all.  Sometimes all you can hear are the waves crossing against the shore and the seagulls flying overhead. The hustle and bustle of our every day lives is far behind. We can move slowly if we want to, and speed things up when we're ready. It is quiet. I can hear myself think. I can actually stop thinking and be present in the beauty that surrounds me. It is heaven on earth.


I am one of those lucky women who has a real, live sister. She is one of my favorite people on this planet. We fought when we were kids so we didn't always adore each other, but I absolutely adore her now. One of the neatest things about having a sister is not having to explain myself to her. She knows me. She loves me exactly as I am. We have differences, and we can talk about them most of the time, and so far we have left each conversation still loving each other.

At the retreats I have attended, I sit in awe of the women gathered around me. There are these amazing little retreat fairies and angels who oversee the gathering process. They make sure that every woman who is meant to be present at any particular retreat is there. So when we arrive, even if we are complete strangers, we know each other. We love each other exactly as we are.

You might think that people who are alike are drawn together, and I am sure in many cases that is true. Retreats, however, often draw people together who might appear to have nothing in common. At the retreats I've attended, when we first meet we don't know a lot about each other. We don't know who voted for who in the last election. We don't know what kind of sexual partners everybody else prefers. We don't know who has been abused. We don't know each other's salaries. These qualifiers, the stats we use to judge people from time to time, we don't know any of them. In the absence of qualifiers, there is nothing but love. We may have nothing in common but the love in our hearts, and magically, mysteriously, and actually quite logically - that love in our hearts is enough. It is enough to carry us through our time together and to etch a new place in our hearts where we will hold each other forever and ever and ever.

I love, love, LOVE meeting new sisters.


With all that in mind, you must know the truth. My favorite thing about attending a retreat is going home. The four people pictured above are my everything. They are my world, my heart, and my soul. I will do anything I can to be a better person for them - a better wife, and a better mom. I am moody and absent-minded, and I leave my shoes all over the house. I am often running late and if I am early it is usually because I forgot something. I yell and I am sarcastic. When I come back from a retreat, I am fresh. Being fresh and new - rejuvenated, replenished, and relaxed - is the greatest gift I could ever give my husband and my children.

That's where I think a lot of women make a huge mistake. I used to think that taking time for myself made me a bad mom. I felt guilty about it. I made stories up about myself and other women who made time in their lives for things they enjoyed. What I have found to be truer than true is that it is actually a very good thing for me to go away, for me to do things I enjoy, for me to connect with other women, and to miss my husband and children. It is okay. They are fine without me. They have fun and they don't trip over my shoes. Sometimes they don't eat very well, but hey, that's the "Dad Way" in our house. When I come back they get the very best of me. I can't wait to see them, to hug them and kiss their cheeks, and to hear all about the things they did while I was gone. I love coming home, and being able to fully appreciate the sweet beings I have to which to return.

If a retreat calls to you, definitely entertain the voices in your head that follow. And when they are finished and it is quiet again, know this: you are worth the cost of the retreat and the time away from your job and your family. Everyone and everything you leave behind will be just fine without you. Make a commitment to figure out a way to to attend the retreat of your choice. Upon your arrival, all your needs will be met and you won't even have to think about it. You will have fun and you will make new friends. Then, at the end of it all, you get to go home. It is one of the very best gifts you can give to yourself and to the people you care about most in this world.

We don't expect our cars to run without gas so how can we expect ourselves to run without it? We need fuel - good food, rest, and practices to feed our souls. We need to fill ourselves up with all of this delicious goodness because when we get back, we've got work to do Sisters! Give yourself the gift of a retreat. You won't regret it.

If you are interested in learning more about MY retreat, please click here. I would LOVE to welcome you to my magical little slice of heaven on earth.

Take care Sweet One. xo

Monday, July 8, 2013

Oooh La La!

Here is Alexander, my 7 year-old son, holding the most recent addition to our art collection. This kid is a magician. He has the power to both mortify and charm a girl at the very same time. He used to surprise me with his worldly wisdom, but now I've grown to expect something profound to exit his lips every few days. When it's not profound, it makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong as a mother... Let's just say he is no stranger to profanity. Yes, he is seven.

So enough about children who rock my world with the power to both break and build my heart... A week or so ago I posted this picture of Alexander on Facebook.

I am an avid iphontographer. Meaning I take pictures with my iPhone. All. The. Time. It is amazing what one can do with an iPhone and some cool software these days. Photography is an art that has always left me in awe. Back in the day the process of taking a photo, finishing a roll of film, dropping it off at the drugstore, and waiting, usually impatiently, to take ownership of an entire stack of beautiful new photos - that process was magical to me. I loved plowing through that stack of photos reliving every precious moment captured on film. Hoping I had actually captured the precious moment. Celebrating when I had, and trying not to be disappointed when I hadn't. Let's face it, some moments, the most hard to capture moments, like the sunset, a sleeping baby, and the Red Rocks in Sedona must be lived and appreciated fully in the moment. The pictures are simply a reminder of that moment.

I spent years carefully placing my photos in albums - remember those magnetic pages with the sticky stuff on them? I made my own scrapbooks, and felt as if I had died and gone to heaven when I learned there was an entire world that existed around what I had been doing in my own way for years - scrapbooking! I loved it all. The entire process. And as much as I love the instant gratification we experience now with digital photography, a part of me misses the rush I'd get when I'd finally get to see the product of my work after waiting with anticipation through an entire process.

Now I get a taste of that high through software like PicMonkey. It's not exactly the same, but I really enjoy my new process of clicking "Apply" and seeing my photos change right before my eyes. I enjoy seeing the many ways a photo can change with a simple click - adding "clarity" or a vintage look. Playing with the filters is really so much fun, and anyone can do it.

I still appreciate the art of photography and I sit in awe of the professionals. Seeing the ways they work their magic is inspiring. I guess the software is much like the magic kit I received as a gift as a child. I'm doing tricks with my software for sure, but it is play in comparison to the transformation that takes place at the hands of a real live magician.

Finally, we have arrived to the point of my post. If you love to play with pictures and even words, like I do, AND you are in the market for some meaningful art for your home, please consider this... I snapped that picture of my son and used PicMonkey to play with the filters and add a poem I found by Mary Oliver that fit both the image and the boy in it - within minutes. I uploaded it to Snapfish and within a week I have a brand new piece of art on canvas. I LOVE it! I love it so much, I just had to share it with you. I didn't anticipate you'd get an entire story to go with it, but that happens with me sometimes.

Go... Make some magic! Enjoy! xo

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wisdom from Mama

A few weeks ago, this mysterious being appeared just a few steps from my door...

Meet Mama, a female snapping turtle. She seemed to have either fallen from the sky or sprouted up from the earth. She arrived in her spot with intention. I thought I saw her laying eggs as I watched her, but then I thought maybe it was just her legs moving. I was mesmerized.

Reptiles fascinate me. When I see one, especially so close like this, I feel powerfully linked to all of time - to dinosaurs! I watched her carefully and took some pictures. My daughter didn't want to leave Mama. I didn't think she could move too far too fast, but within a half an hour of our departure, she was gone. It seemed so sudden that I thought maybe I had imagined the entire thing.

With the help of a friend, I learned that this mama was most likely laying her eggs by my door. She dug a hole, deposited her offspring, and returned to the creek behind our home. The process is awe-inspiring, and while she did it all on instinct, it was deliberate - thoughtful even.

I learned that as one of the oldest reptiles, the turtle was a symbol of Mother Earth to the Native Americans. The turtle is a reminder that Mother Earth provides for all of our needs.

As I dug deeper with Mama Turtle, I was also taking stock of the end of another school year. I was thinking about my mistakes - like the music night we completely forgot about, and the decisions I made about the next year - moving my son to a new school and enrolling my daughter in full day kindergarten. None of these decisions were taken lightly, and yet I wondered if I had thought of everything - explored every option? Prepared for every possible outcome?

Sometimes I feel so unqualified to be making such weighty decisions. I wonder if I'm not doing enough to help my children navigate their lives? And if I am doing enough, is it too much? Am I overbearing? Will they be equipped to leave home when it is time? Will they remember to chew with their mouths closed when I am not there to remind them? Being a parent is so hard. For me. I think it is hard for a lot of people, and I am not sure we always feel comfortable admitting that. I know a lot of mamas spend a lot of time wondering and worrying about the choices they are making that affect their children.

In the midst of my day and my reflecting, I couldn't stop thinking about Mama. A highly esteemed reptile, she is so revered that she is thought to symbolize the mother of ALL mothers - Mother Earth. How could that be? How could a creature who lays her eggs and leaves her babies to make their own way back to the water represent this divine Mother? It wasn't adding up in my mama mind as I spent the day wondering where I had held on too tightly and where I still needed to let go.

I thought about my sister, who had just delivered her second child safely and lovingly into the world, and how she and her new son would be closely connected for many months to come. He dependent on her for everything... Her wondering if she was doing everything she possibly could to meet his needs and help him ease into life outside the womb. With him every single step of the way, she would never dream of leaving him to make his own way in the world. That is what it means to be a human mama - we are gifted in the art of wondering an worrying, and in holding on and learning when to let go.

By the end of the day, I realized that Mama Turtle might be one of my greatest teachers. Maybe leaving her babies to make their own way back to the water is the bravest thing a mom can do for her young. It is sometimes hard to accept this, but the truth is, each of my children is on his or her very own journey. And, I am on mine. Much of what we do, especially while they are children, is done together, but eventually they will be left to walk their paths without me by their sides.

I can hold on tight and let go again, I can intervene and stand back, and I will continue to wonder and worry, but the truth is no matter what I do to help guide my children, it is ultimately up to them to make it back to the water.

Thank you Mama Turtle. xo