on Unbound Grace for 2017

“You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it. ”
― Mary Oliver

Since I made peace with my conflicting beliefs between my relationship with God and The Church (as a Formal Institution) back in 2008, the belief that we are always within reach of God’s Grace and Mercy has been a core part of my spiritual life.  As part of this space of peace, I started going back to Mass in 2008 after missing it for many years, seeking spiritual nourishment when I was living in a hotel in DC.

Throughout my coaching practice, I’ve encouraged folks – whether they are random passersby, participants in a course, or one of my clients – to play with the concept.  One exercise has been to write a Letter to Grace from the standpoint of childhood, back when we were less influenced by the outside world. The exploration of Grace made its way into the latest version of Clearing Brain Clutter released this past October.

I guess you could say I’ve been flirting with Grace for years.

Flirting with Grace and seeing it as a shining beacon, though, are two different things. And believing that I am within reach of Grace and also extending it towards myself are two totally different things as well.

During the Lenten season of 2015, I reached out to a friend’s husband, a retired Episcopalian Priest, for help understanding Grace and Mercy – and how they both connect and differ from one another. He understood my confusion, my desire to understand, and reminded me that we put our own ethics and sense of justice based on a personal compass, with a tongue in cheek statement that God is rather promiscuous in his extension of mercy. My takeaway on grace, though, was this:

“So grace flows out like a river, and one element of grace is mercy.”

I tend to stop up the river and never allow neither grace nor mercy to flow to me, myself. To my failings.To my inability to be perfect.

So, part of Grace for me in 2017 is learning to be more merciful to myself. To find more beauty in my failings. To see my lack of perfection as perfect in their own way. I’ve come such a long way in all the years of self-development, but I know that this tender spot is ripe for exploration.

I am the Queen of Compartmentalization. It’s how I survived the challenging years of my mother and my ex-husband and my crazy Gypsy Years. Yet, Grace seeks to see Me on the Whole: not a single piece of who I am or a role I play, all of it. I am woman, mother, lover, self, artist, daughter, professional, and more. But all of these are the parts that make the whole of me, yet I tend to look at each tiny area of who I am and judge it as a whole.

This has become less and less over the last six years, but I can’t deny the way stress sends me back into this tight view of who I am.

I am at a crossroads. Professionally. Personally. Spiritually. I did an enormous amount of personal work around the the phases of womanhood (Maiden, Mother, Crone) this past fall. I see myself morphing into the Crone (a word I’m not fond of, but the meaning I get). I dove into ancestral waters two years ago when I had my DNA done and discovered my Celtic and Irish Roots along with the mother line of Romanian Gypsies who migrated into Wales and Ireland and dove deeper into those waters this fall.

To make peace with this, I must call on Grace.

In my reading from Amy Palko, as she gifted me with the Goddess Hsi Wang Mu , she  said:

And as these selves slip like veils softly sliding to the floor, I see – we see – the true oneness of being.

And later added

So, how will she present to you? Well, I see her stepping forward and assisting you in finding that still place inside which exists in eternal grace. She is guiding you towards experiencing and determining the great ‘I am’ which is not defined by ideas of self-hood, roles or identity, but which exists beyond.

The age old question: who am I? what is my purpose? What is the great I Am beyond the roles I fill?

To be in a State of Grace, though, I must also find Freedom, which is where the word “Unbound” comes into play.

One of the coaching tools I use is to ask a client during a decision making process: “does this feel like shackles ON or shackles OFF.”

Shackles ON meant something made us feel as if we were bound, tied up against our will. Shackles on was a bad choice, acting from or making a decision from a space of doing what others expected of us. Shackles OFF feels like freedom, that moment when the ties that bind us to life are suddenly released and we feel free, to make a choice for our deepest good.

I’ve used this tool for myself over the years, too. I’ve applied it in many of my decision making processes in terms of my personal life and my professional life.

And on the flip side of this, I am the first to admit that I am wound tight. I am an ENTJ, a believer that life is black and white without much grey. The ENTJ part of my soul demands that I follow the rules, and it bothers me when others don’t follow the rules. Nothing winds me up more than traveling and witnessing others believing that the Rules Don’t Apply to Them.

I want folks to stand in line, take their turn, follow the rules of society. This makes me feel safe, this makes me feel secure, this reduces my stress levels. (This is one of the reasons the political climate has been so upsetting to me.)

But life isn’t like this. People feel entitled to exceptions from all the rules. It’s ok to discriminate against someone because they don’t believe a particular way, but I’m not seeing the same side of mercy when it comes to the other side. This feels hypocritical to me. I believe in live and let live,  yet don’t understand those who stand up for the Rights of Others, who them damn those Who Don’t Agree With Them.

Aren’t we all equal in the eyes of God?

In my need for rules and seeing the world in black and white, I want less judgement, less rhetoric, less vitriol, more compassion.  I want family members to treat all family members the same, with no favorites.

This is the part of me that sees the disparity in the world.

This causes me an immense amount of undue pain and suffering.

This also highlights a space that I need to work on in the coming months. How can I unwind myself? How can I extend more grace and mercy to those who seem hypocritical to me? How can I loosen up and find that tiny space of mercy for my own inability to be perfect? How can I find GRACE if my brain wants to focus on the space of being bound up?

This is my task for the year ahead: find Grace, extend Grace, be Unbound in all the ways I approach my life.

on Visiting DC

Seeing DC from the Lincoln Memorial - 2010

My first visit to Washington DC occurred in 1985. I was on the cusp of womanhood, though at seventeen I would have told you I was all grown up. It was the first trip I made solo, well, not exactly solo in the broad sense of the word, but in the narrow sense of my teenage world, getting on a plane without my parents or sister felt like a solo trip.

I felt very sophisticated.

I had been chosen as an American Airlines Scholar and, along with dozens of other area teens, were being whisked away to DC for a whirlwind tour of DC in the summer before our senior year of high school, thanks to being nominated by our school counselors. We had breakfast with our Congressman, saw the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial shortly after it’s unveiling, toured all the major sites in the city, and slept in the dorms of a college whose name I can’t remember.

It was the first time I ate pizza topped with pineapple and the first time I felt a little free to be myself.

Being surrounded by people I had just met allowed me the freedom to remove my masks without the fear of love being withdrawn or the need to live up to the expectations of others.

My second trip to DC was nothing like the first. I was still married to my children’s father and our relationship was tenuous. But he had been invited to participate in a special run from Philadelphia to DC to commemorate Law Enforcement Memorial week and had decided a trip for the girls would be educational.

Flying alone with two young children and trying to manage the DC Metro system for the first time was stressful, but I managed it. I saw DC on foot that trip, a new experience that was refreshing despite the tension.

Oh, but the masks of dutiful wife and perfect mother were firmly in place.

My third trip to DC literally changed my life.

It was Memorial Day Weekend of 2006, almost 20 years after that first trip to DC. I tasted what freedom could be like, in every permutation of the word.

I went at the encouragement of a friend to scout for work and by the end of the trip, I had committed to visiting DC at least once per month for the foreseeable future. I had also committed to friend that I’d visit a mutual friend’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery whenever I was in town.

I stopped counting trips to DC after that.

I visited at least once a month from May of 2006 until July of 2010. With each trip, a little more of the real me emerged and it became harder and harder to put my masks back in place. In 2008, I basically lived in DC. I was working full-time for a client on a project for DOE. And by full-time, 50-hour weeks were the norm. It became easier to just stay in town for the weekend to avoid the stress of packing, traveling, returning, and unpacking again.

During those years, I explored every nook and cranny of DC I could. I found favorite places to eat and spaces which made me feel closer to God and to myself. I discovered tiny corners in big museums that made me feel like I was coming home to myself.

The folks at the Monaco in DC became my witnesses during the most critical years.

I’d visited here and there, but during my 2008 stint, it became my home.  The Monaco employees treated me like family, and I met the spouses and parents of more than one member of their staff.

The shelter and loving care I was given while a guest there allowed me to be vulnerable, grow my creativity, discover different facets of my personality, and grieve the loss of my mother. I also first me the man I would fall in love there. And, it was in their restaurant months later that JB told me he had real feelings for me and wanted to give this relationship thing a real try.

This past week, I was welcomed back home to the Monaco.


Note: I sat down to write about my trip this past week, but that’s not what came out on the page. I have several unpublished posts here in the bowels of WordPress, not published because it wasn’t what I planned to write about.  As an ENTJ and a planner, which is wonderful in a lot of ways, but stifling in others.

If I am to be true to Create as my theme for 2016, must give myself permission to Create Differently here….

Later this week, I’ll share more about my most recent trip to DC…and how that visit took me more deeply into my Word of the Year: Create.

A Daring Adventure

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
–Helen Keller

Today is the last day of my solo adventures in Boston as tomorrow I shall need to turn over the car keys to JB.I had barnesandnobleofficingtwo days of adventures in the area and today my adventures have taken me as far as Barnes and Noble.

I am need of a quiet and nourishing day today; the last two days have been lovely in their adventures, but frankly, I am exhausted due to spending big chunks of the time driving around lost.

It’s funny that just Sunday I wrote (for Summer Love Notes) about the shift of modern travel thanks to GPS yet the usually calm and helpful voice of Google Maps on my phone has told me “GPS Signal: Lost” within two miles of leaving the hotel.(JB says that’s the clue it’s time for a new phone, but I hate going through all the set-up that requires, but let us not digress.)

I had looked up destinations online prior to leaving the hotel for my adventure of the day to gauge distance and timing  – and jotted down some general notes of street names – my modern dependence upon having help at end has left me feeling betrayed and a little panicked as I drove along unfamiliar roads through towns I read about in history books or know thanks to movies. Towns like Bedford, Cambridge, Medford, Woburn, Lexington, Arlington, Burlington, and Concord – and along both the Charles River and Mystic River.

I would will away the panicky feelings by taking big deep breaths and choosing to embrace the wanderings as adventure rather than being adrift. I would admire the beautiful clapboard homes and appreciate the beautiful yards as I wound through strange streets seeking street names or landmarks I recognized.

Then I would rejoice and finally relax upon finding my destination or something familiar sounding.

Today, though, I am too mentally exhausted to wander around, so I took refuge in a place that feels safe and comforting: Barnes and Noble.

I am surrounded by walls and walls of endless books, a haven since the moment I learned that sentences formed stories. Merely being surrounded by the shelves and stacks of books is beyond soothing. I am ensconced in a cushioned arm chair and have access to strong iced lattes, savory and sweet food choices and super fast WiFi.

Though I embrace the words of Tolkien “Not all who wander are lost” as a mantra, I am in need of the shared companionship of other bibliophiles and tranquil hours of space to gather my thoughts. I simply cannot fathom another sojourn today and am grateful for sanctuary.

Remembering Pearl Harbor



“It is said that patriotism is the love of country. I think it is the love of the things about your country that you don’t want to see lost—that you want to see perpetuated—and you’re willing to sacrifice to ensure it.”–General David M. Shoup, USMC


I am rarely without words visiting Ford Island on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor took away my breath and my words. The Arizona. The moors where the  other battleships were “parked”. The memorial for the USS Oklahoma. The USS Missouri standing watch.

Never Forget.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m sure the writer in me may not agree as I can be quite verbose when my fingers get to moving. Today, however, many of those words are private and I prefer to share brief words and more photos.

9/11 shattered lives. Some people lost their faith in God. Others discovered that they wanted more out of their life than simple existing. And some discovered faith and strengths they didn’t recall they had.

Washington DC was a second home to me for many years. Though I had a house in Texas, DC was my heart’s home. For a long stretch in 2008, I slept better in hotel beds than I did in my bed at home.

But I digress just slightly. Only to share part of the reason my 9/11 Memorial Photos lean heavy to the DC side.

The first group of photos are of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.  They were all taken in September 2008 the weekend it was dedicated.  The photo of Arlington National Cemetery was taken in November 2007. Arlington National Cemetery is just on the other side of the Pentagon and where many of the victims of the Pentagon were buried. It’s here for my own reminder. The photos of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City were taken on my 5th or 6th trip into the city after that day…they are from November 2011.

Never Forget.

Days 7 to 9: Bergen op Zoom

We spent several days in the North Brabant town of Bergen op Zoom. Our hotel was on the town square and while JB taught, I alternated my time between exploring, writing, and catching up on extra sleep.

My space of refuge for creativity was the Quist Book Shop & Cafe.

Days Two: The Hague


Yes. A repeat of the same breakfast on Friday 😉

But then, an exploration into a new coffee space that was in the process of getting ready to open. They let me peek at their renovations and sent me out with a cappuccino – their FIRST To Go Cappuccino!

This Church in The Hague seems to be divided into multi-use space: a nightclub in the evening on one side, a place to eat on the other side, and the chapel is used for church on Sundays.

And The Palace – well, no longer a residence. Said that Queen Beatrice has her offices here now.

Respite for a Gypsy Soul

I call the side of myself that loves to travel my Gypsy Soul.  There is a magic, at times, to the exhilaration of travel and the exploration of new places.  There is also a special joy that can be found in embracing a far away city as a second home.   Since 2006, Washington DC has that place that has held my heart and has always nourished my soul.

Last week, however, I discovered that though I love DC, my soul was longing to return to Dayton, Ohio.  I’m fortunate that I can find the humor in that realization.  It’s funny how the Universe shows us that if we listen to our hearts, it will lead us into wonderment. Stepping off the plane in Dayton last Thursday, my heart beat told me the answer.

Sometimes, a Gypsy Soul finds peace and contentment when she least expects it.  I never dreamed that place would be Ohio.