Posted Sunday, November 9th, 2014 @ 5:29 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Meditation, Spirit

Sometimes it helps to name my inner state. So here goes.

I’m lonesome. Restless. Edgy. Feeling isolated, weighed down, slothful. Muffled. Not really engaged by anything. Or rather, not able to settle in and get absorbed by tasks. Avoidant of things I want to do, like writing or making art. Avoidant of things that need doing that I don’t really want to do, like cooking or cleaning. Wishing to be anywhere but my current location. Missing the structure of going somewhere and being with people working. The weird bit: I haven’t gone to a job in eight years. I’m feeling a little like I used to feel long ago: that my life feels too tight, constricted, doesn’t fit right.

I used to wonder if I’d ever feel comfortable in my life. I wondered if I might just be permanently broken. But still I resisted accepting my lot completely, always working toward my goals. And it paid off. I did eventually change myself and my life in ways that created a good fit.

For the first time in about 14 years, my life feels too tight. I’m noticing and naming what is true for me. That part of me gets to exist. I dislike how it feels, but it’s real.

And then I tell myself what this song says to give some balance; it’s a great mantra. Because after all, I get to be here. To be. So sit back and chill for six minutes; absorb the message and the music.

If the embed doesn’t work, go here.

On Staying or Leaving Abusive Relationships

Posted Sunday, November 9th, 2014 @ 3:50 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Quotes

These are excerpts from a powerful essay about domestic abuse.

How many times did I find myself on his bathroom floor cowering beneath him, feeling the hot spit land on me as he screamed? Stop crying like a baby. You’re crazy. No one else would put up with you. …

How many times did I crawl into that bed, rather than into a cab, and wake up with his arms around me, telling me that I brought it out in him? He wasn’t like this. I made him like this. I needed to change the way I approached him about these things. Be less accusatory. If I just softened my approach, it would allow him to react differently. How many times did I adjust my approach before I realized the only way to avoid the abuse was not to bring it up at all? But he never hit me. …

How could I explain to someone that I believed it was partly my fault, even though I was embarrassed to hear those beaten woman’s words spoken from my lips. No one really understood. No one knew him like I did. It was my job to protect him from the truth of what he did to me. I couldn’t let them think he was a monster. I wouldn’t tell anyone. I was entirely alone. But he never hit me. …

When it was over, I wasn’t permitted to mourn him. No one could understand how love, hate, fear and comfort could coexist simultaneously. They could not understand that in addition to my abuser, I also lost my confidant, the person to make dinner with, the person to watch movies with on a rainy Sunday, the person to laugh with, the person who knew me. I lost my companion. How can you explain to someone that the abuse was only a part of who he was? How do you explain that to yourself?

–Reut Amit, “He Never Hit Me

Verbal and emotional abuse is so insidious. It takes strength to decide such treatment is unacceptable and leave the relationship. It takes love for one’s self, a belief in one’s own dignity and worth, to leave and learn to tolerate living alone. It takes courage to quit what is known and safe, especially if one doesn’t have skills for a job that earns a living wage. Being single is often lonely. Still, I preferred the loneliness to what I witnessed growing up.

The Reason I Love to Bake

Posted Thursday, November 6th, 2014 @ 12:37 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Culinary Delights, Journal, Quotes

There is another reason for the priority of pastry: pastry chefs are the only ones in the kitchen who are alchemists by necessity. Where the rotisseur or the man with the sauté pan does his best work when he does least, it is in the nature of pastry-making that you begin with ingredients that don’t at all resemble what you end up with. It is de rigeur for the fish chef to say that he wants his fish to shine through, but the cake maker does not want his cake to taste anything like the flour that constitutes it. Baking is always making new.

–Adam Gopnik

The Privilege

Posted Monday, November 3rd, 2014 @ 5:12 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood

She lies on her side curled into a C, tucked under a fuzzy blanket. Her body radiates fever; her wan face sports bright red patches. She moans every so often. She sipped a little tomato soup. Her head aches. It hurts to chew. A whine slips out. Everything hurts, sleep won’t come. “Please come sit near me, Mommy. Don’t leave.” I could be doing so many things: folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping, even knitting. But I don’t. There is a sleepy comfort sitting here next to her, listening to her favorite lullaby CD on repeat. Keeping vigil, keeping company. The privilege of a mother.

fever sleep

Advent Ideas Focused on Kindness

Posted Sunday, October 26th, 2014 @ 11:00 am by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Journal, Spirit

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

–Edith Wharton

advent candle

Advent is approaching! (Yes, I know I’m thinking way ahead.) Every year I put special activities (written on slips of paper) in our calendar pockets for us to do each day. This year, we’re going to do something new: random acts of kindness. Below is a list I found online (although I can’t remember where). We’ll pick 24 of these for Advent. And maybe we’ll keep doing it after!

  1. Leave a bouquet at the hospital; the nurses will know who needs it the most.
  2. Make a struggling family’s summer by buying them a season pass to the municipal pool.
  3. Help a friend see today in a wondrous new light: Hand him or her a kaleidoscope.
  4. If you are in a long line, invite the person behind you to go first.
  5. Shower the pediatric wing of a hospital with $1 coloring books and $2 boxes of new crayons.
  6. Hang a sign on a bulletin board that says “Take What You Need” — with tear-off tabs at the bottom for Love, Hope, Faith, and Courage.
  7. Bring courtesy back in an instant: Hold the door open with a flourish.
  8. Drop off combs, toothbrushes, and toothpaste at a shelter or a soup kitchen.
  9. Curb road rage: Let other cars merge onto the highway.
  10. Leave your neighbors a note that tells them how much joy you find in admiring their garden.
  11. Put sticky notes with positive messages (e.g., “You look gorgeous!”) on a restroom mirror.
  12. In low-income families, a baby can spend a day or longer in the same diaper, and laundromats often don’t allow cloth diapers to be washed in machines. Help out a mom and a baby by donating diapers (find a directory of diaper banks at
  13. Send a thank-you note to the brave officers at your local police station. (Given how we carry on about parking tickets, it’s important to acknowledge the daily risks taken by the men and women on the force.)
  14. Share the wealth: Ask the grocery clerk to apply your unused coupons to another customer’s items.
  15. Arrange to pay anonymously for a soldier’s breakfast when you see him or her dining alone.
  16. Slip a $20 gas card or public-transportation pass into someone’s shopping bag.
  17. Rekindle your Girl Scout spirit: Pick up trash at a park or a playground.
  18. Donate your old professional clothes to an organization, like Dress for Success (, that helps women jump-start their careers — and up their confidence.
  19. Carry someone’s groceries.
  20. It’s hot out! Offer your mail carrier a glass of iced tea or a $5 Starbucks gift card.
  21. Bake bread or cookies and deliver the food to a nearby fire station or group home.
  22. Be the bigger person: Cede the parking space.
  23. Check “yes” when asked if you wish to become an organ donor — and tell your family.
  24. Lay your neighbors’ newspaper at their front door along with a plate of blueberry muffins.
  25. Donate old cell phones to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (, which will use the proceeds for programs that protect families from abuse.
  26. Sing an employee’s praises to a manager or on a comment card — a little recognition goes a long way.
  27. Share happy memories. Stick an old photo in the mail to a friend and write a note about the day it was taken on the back.
  28. Send an ooey-gooey dessert over to another table at a restaurant.
  29. Leave a copy of a book you love, with a note for the next reader, on the train or the bus.
  30. Send valentines in August.
  31. Load extra change into the vending machine to buy the next person a Coke.
  32. Send somebody an e-card, just because. The funnier, the better.
  33. Name a star after someone (
  34. Forgive someone. Repeat as necessary.
  35. Resolve to refrain from negative self-talk (you deserve your kindness, too!).
  36. On trash day, wheel your neighbor’s can out to the curb.
  37. Relay an overheard compliment.
  38. You don’t have to send every disadvantaged child to college, but you can buy one of them a life-changing book: Try
  39. To melt away her blues, send a friend a funny video from YouTube.
  40. Volunteer to read to kids at an after-school program.
  41. Give your mom a shout-out on your birthday — after all, she deserves some credit for your life.
  42. Pause and give people the benefit of the doubt. E-mail, especially, can cause unintentional feather-ruffling.
  43. Bring your spouse coffee in bed.
  44. Treat an elderly neighbor, with a gift certificate, to a $30 pedicure. Bonus points if you can do so anonymously.
  45. Dedicate a song on the radio to someone you know is listening during his or her long commute.
  46. Take kindness on the road: Pay the toll for the car behind you.
  47. Slow way down when you drive past a pedestrian — 35 mph can seem like the Indy 500 to a woman walking her dog.
  48. Rescue a wallflower! Strike up a conversation with someone who’s standing alone at a party.
  49. Leave extra umbrellas in vestibules with notes that say “Use this to stay dry!”
  50. Deliver fresh-baked cookies to city workers.
  51. Bring flowers to work and share them with coworkers.
  52. Simply listen to someone in need.
  53. Donate a percentage of receipts for the week to a special cause.
  54. Bring coworkers a special treat.
  55. Sing at a nursing home.
  56. Offer a couple of hours of baby-sitting to parents.
  57. Serve refreshments to customers.
  58. Treat someone to fresh fruit.
  59. Pay a compliment at least once a day.
  60. Hand out balloons to passersby.
  61. Give free sodas to motorists.
  62. Transport someone who can’t drive.
  63. Mow a neighbor’s grass.
  64. Say something nice to everyone you meet today.
  65. Send a treat to a school or day-care center.
  66. Volunteer at an agency that needs help.
  67. Give the gift of your smile.
  68. Organize a scouts or service clubs to help people with packages at grocery store.
  69. Offer to answer the phone for the school secretary for ten minutes.
  70. Volunteer to read to students in the classroom.
  71. Give a hug to a friend.
  72. Tell your children why you love them.
  73. Write a note to your mother/father and tell them why they are special.
  74. Pat someone on the back.
  75. Give coffee to people on their way to work in the morning.
  76. Give blood.
  77. Plant flowers in your neighbor’s flower box.
  78. Give another driver your parking spot.
  79. Leave a treat or handmade note of thanks for a delivery person or mail carrier.
  80. Tell your boss that you think he/she does a good job.
  81. Tell your employees how much you appreciate their work.
  82. Let your staff leave work an hour early.
  83. Tell a bus or taxi driver how much you appreciate their driving.
  84. Give a pair of tickets to a baseball game or concert to a stranger.
  85. Leave an extra big tip for the waitperson.
  86. Drop off a plant, cookies, or donuts to the police or fire department.
  87. Open the door for another person.
  88. Pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive-through.
  89. Be a friend to a new student or coworker.
  90. Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading a car.
  91. Buy a roll of colorful stickers and give them to children you meet during the day.
  92. Write a card of thanks and leave it with your tip.
  93. Let the person behind you in the grocery store go ahead of you in line.
  94. When drivers try to merge into your lane, let them in with a wave and a smile.
  95. Buy cold drinks for the people next to you at a ball game.
  96. Distribute kindness bookmarks that you have made.
  97. Plant a tree.
  98. As you go about your day, pick up trash.
  99. Laugh out loud often and be generous with your smile.
  100. Pay for the order of the person behind you in the drive-thru line.
  101. Rake leaves or shovel snow for a neighbor.
  102. Send friends and relatives notes or letters of encouragement on the back of your kids’ artwork.
  103. Leave love notes for your spouse or kids in places like a briefcase or clothing drawer.
  104. Bring water, coffee, or hot chocolate to outdoor workers (police officers or crossing guards, for example).
  105. Put your neighbor’s trashcans away for them after pick-up.
  106. Buy a soda or candy bar for the cashier when you’re checking out.
  107. Give a restaurant or coffee gift card to someone (bank cashier, postal worker, homeless person, or random stranger).
  108. Send a silly card to brighten someone’s day.
  109. Call or email someone you haven’t talked to in awhile, just to ask how they are.
  110. Send your spouse a text just to tell him something that you appreciate about him.
  111. Hide a kind note in a library book.
  112. Leave your trade credit inside a book or video game at the used book store. (This happened to my son last week. It was just enough to get an inexpensive game and it made his day.)
  113. Bring your spouse his favorite drink while he’s getting ready for work. (This happened to me last week and it made my day…except, I wasn’t getting ready for work.)
  114. Cut someone’s grass.
  115. Bake cookies for someone. (Postal carrier, neighbor, elderly friend, Sunday school teacher, etc.).
  116. Leave coins on a parking meter or the machines at a laundry mat.
  117. Pay the toll for the car behind you.
  118. Help someone load their groceries.
  119. Offer to return someone’s shopping cart to the store.
  120. Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line.
  121. Let someone pull out or turn in front of you in traffic, if it’s safe to do so.
  122. Keep unopened kids’ meal toys in your purse to give to kids you encounter (with their parent’s permission).
  123. Pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant.
  124. Make extra meals to share with a sick or busy neighbor.
  125. Offer to keep a friend’s kids so she and her husband can have some time alone.
  126. Take a friend’s child(ren) shopping for an upcoming holiday so they can buy their parents a surpise gift.
  127. Make hats for kids with cancer.
  128. Make cards for nursing home residents…and deliver them with your kids.
  129. Pick up trash at the park.
  130. Thank a soldier.
  131. Make care bags for the homeless – toiletry items, bottled water, food store gift cards, non-perishable/ready-to-eat foods.
  132. Buy car wash coupons and give them away.
  133. Leave copy of the Sunday newspaper on your neighbor’s doorstep.
  134. Clean house for a friend or family member while she’s on vacation.
  135. Leave extra coupons on the store shelf next to the item they’re good for.
  136. Pack a bag for someone undergoing chemo – include snacks, bottled water, magazines, word-find games, a mechanical pencil, and a good book.
  137. Tape envelopes with quarters to vending machines.
  138. Take care packages to patients with new babies at the hospital.
  139. Take homemade cookies or cupcakes to the police or fire station.
  140. Invite a homeschool mom friend’s kids over for the day so she can run errands or do lesson plans alone – or just take a nap!
  141. Save change throughout the year and bless another family with some extra cash during the holidays.
  142. Pack a date-night box (movie rental card, popcorn, soft drinks, movie candy) and leave it on someone’s doorstep. Ring the bell and run!
  143. Take lunch to the ICU waiting room.
  144. Take magazines, word-find games, or Sudoku puzzles and mechanical pencils to a waiting room.
  145. Take flowers to a nurses’ station – for the nurses.
  146. Get a group together to make a meal for your local Ronald McDonald House.
  147. Give your unwanted newspaper coupons to the lady behind you who’s buying three papers. Chances are, she clips coupons.
  148. Fix a make-ahead breakfast for a working/school-not-at-home family to make their morning a little smoother.
  149. Purchase a store gift card or a gas card and send it to a friend in need.


Posted Friday, October 17th, 2014 @ 9:46 am by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Meditation, Spirit

What is real for me in this moment: life feels bittersweet. It’s October again. Soon it’s Christmas. It’s “Where did the time go?” Then it’s a new year, and the school year ends, and summer vacation evaporates, school begins again, and then: another new year. Life is like this, every year. I recognize this, every year. I remember this conversation with myself from last year. The older I get, the more time compresses.

I practice presence — living here and now — and I’ve gotten pretty adept. Compared to the me I was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I focus less on past rumination and future anxiety. But that doesn’t make the time pass more slowly. It doesn’t change the fact that this life is such a short stint.

Yes, there’s Presence. The intangible subtle Mystery to which we are connected, from which we arise and to which return. It is possible to notice and experience this daily. Sometimes I even live within and from it — from a knowing that defies description or understanding with the mind.

But lately I’ve been noticing: I like this current incarnation. I like being in this body, living this life. It is precious. Yet it all changes. And there is grief.

I found a photo of myself when I was seven months old. I look into that sweet baby’s face and feel such love for her. Her softness, her open expression. Her innocence. I look at my daughter, a lovely soul, and remember the delicious intimacy of holding her.

Life is doing what it does. I’m so grateful that I am, that I’ve gotten to be this person. It’s just passing so quickly.


Me, 7 months old

you want some?

Claire, 7 months old

Good Advice

Posted Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 @ 9:34 am by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Education, Science, Social Science, Technology

I saw this clip, and I think it’s so valuable!

A Hot Tomato

Posted Saturday, October 11th, 2014 @ 4:16 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Arts, Journal, Spirit

SoulCollage® Committee Suit: Hot Tomato

I am one who is juicy and curvy and full of life. I am sweet and tangy. I am tempting. I am the dame they call a Hot Tomato.

What is your gift or message for me?
Be in the fullness of your body. Take up space. Tomatoes go with everything.

What do you want me to do?
Show yourself off to the world. Be proud of your abundance.

Why did you show up today?
Because you’re ripe.

If you have a shadow, what would it be? Or, what light do you offer?
The shadow is over-ripeness, fruit rotting on the vine. The light is celebration.

Committee_Hot Tomato

No Matter

Posted Friday, October 10th, 2014 @ 9:20 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Nature, Quotes, Science, Spirit

“Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest — thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.”

–Beau Taplin

Lying and Defiance in Children

Posted Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 @ 1:12 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Journal, Motherhood, Social Science, Spirit

The topic of defiance has popped up in my life in several places recently, and so today I share some reflections on it.

When I did my practicum as a therapist in training, I worked at a private mental hospital. In my work with children, they would sometimes describe a home life that sounded unreal, because the details were horrific. Some of these kids, to all appearances, came from “normal” middle-class lives. So I wondered: Could they be telling the truth? Are these kids making up stories? What is real?

I came to a conclusion. The question about truth or lies is a distraction from the underlying need. For some reason, the child is telling this story. It is an expression of need for safety, connection, love. There is a place for determining whether abuse is really occurring, but in a therapy session the goal is to be a loving, open presence with the other soul. To be concerned about whether the child is “pulling one over on me” would not serve.

I also worked with defiant children. Fundamentally, a defiant child is a deeply frightened child. Kids with a tendency to defy authority have strong wills; this quality is neutral. In fact, a strong will can provide energy and discipline to accomplish many goals.

There may be no outwardly apparent reason for a child to be terrified. Some of this is innate to personality. Or, there may be additional exacerbating factors: loss of a parent, abuse, instability at home. The bottom line is the child is afraid and protecting herself or himself by refusing connection.

This type of personality is very challenging to one’s patience. It isn’t easy to reach these souls. It is tempting to call such a child a bad seed, to want to punish and force his will to conform. This won’t work. The only approach is to build trust and connection, which these children are slow to respond to but desperately need.

One resource I found helpful in my work, and even in my personal life, is the book by Dr. Stanley Greenspan: The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Five “Difficult” Types of Children . His approach of “floor time” with kids — spending 30 minutes a day of time on the floor, playing whatever the child chooses — is an excellent way to build connection. You can also learn more at his website.