How Queen Corona Rules.

“A queen is wise. She has earned her serenity, not having had it bestowed on her but having passed her tests. She has suffered and grown more beautiful because of it. She has proved she can hold her kingdom together. She has become its vision. She cares deeply about something bigger than herself. She rules with authentic power.” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

Queen Corona has come to town, travelling with a thousand horses and an army of men. She is feminine power.

You cannot pay her off.

She’s not a princess you can seduce.

Or a child to be trifled with.

People step aside for the queen, yet peer behind for the king.

Where is he? The king got drunk on power, slept with all the pretties as if they were playthings, spent his fortune, and send his troops to wrong wars.

The king beheaded himself.

Queen Corona is feminine power.

We all bow before her.

First, in fear.

The closer she nears we see the parade is not for show.

She earned her crown. The queen rides with dignity.

She’s come to clear the field, to wake us up to our own greed and evil.

Queen Corona teaches us what matters by her royal presence.

She loves like a mother, after the father fled and the children grew wild.

Although she’s shrewd, Queen Corona doesn’t pretend everything is a business proposition.

She sends us to our rooms, lays down new rules, takes no backtalk, and reminds us what’s important now.

Take care of each other. We are family.

How to Show up During the Coronavirus.

“The ability to recognize these times of pressurized pain as opportunities to love and heal—along with an openness to accepting what is and facing it unflinchingly—become the wings of freedom.” ~ Jennifer Salima Holt, PhD, Sacred Gateway of Loss and Grief

It’s Sunday morning, the first in the Coronavirus shutdown. It’s surreal. It’s out there.

My friend’s 24-year-old son died Friday night. That’s close.

I can feel his pain, although he’s several states away. I ache for him.

I remember my mother, a warrior among women, weakening when she lost her only son, my brother, at age 27.

I held her hand as we drove from Oklahoma to Arizona to see his body for the last time.

I stayed with my mom when my then-husband told me to come home. I was 25. I didn’t know anything about grief, except my mom needed me.

Now, I’ve endured several seasons of grief, losing my mother and others.

I’d like to think I know something, like when my friend’s mom died recently. I wanted to have the right words.

There are no right words, except maybe what my friend Lisa said when my beloved died: “I’m so f*cking sorry this happened.”

I’m 55. More deaths will come.

My friend who lost his son has a pain as deep as the core of the earth.

I won’t pretend I have any power to take it away or that words mean anything when grief hits like Ali.

I stand in my friend’s corner. I stand witness to the blows. No matter how hard it gets, I’m here.

I cheer him on, even as he bleeds tears. His pain is as strong as his love. He’s a fighter, but he never wanted to be in this ring.

May he feel the crowd chanting on his behalf. May his children who still live be his Adrian, his reason. May he endure the pain like Rocky.

This is the hardest fight of my friend’s life. In the face of this, Coronavirus is tiddlywinks.

Just getting up from the bed, holding morning coffee while grief grabs everything, is round one.

From the sidelines of those we love who’ve lost their mother, sister, brother, lover, spouse or child, presence is our only power.

Let us step into their corner, wipe their wounds, offer them water, witness their pain, knowing it’s their fight, but we sit in the ring of grief with them.

We stay present while they fight. We love them as their bones of reality crack and break with every blow. We wince while they take the hits.

We are here because worse than grief is having no one in your corner while you face it.

Even though we’re all practicing the new normal of Coronavirus, let’s still be there for one another, even from afar.

Be in someone’s corner today.

How Sister Ships Sail.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Like ships passing, I realize I’m on one and my sister stands on the other—after we’ve ridden side by side for a while now.

Our ships never completely paralleled.

I like my ship. Even while I view the vivacious parties and glorious sunsets over there, on hers.

She might not get the same view of the sunrise or meet the peeps I will on my ship.

We have different destinations.

Either of us could be rerouted or sail into inclement weather.

We bought our tickets and said where we want to go.

Now, we enjoy the adventure, greet the people, choose events and excursions, relax and relish.

Knowing we’re not actually driving the ship, we must trust.

I’m certain my big sister read the safety rules and learned her ship’s map.

When I holler across from mine to hers, “Hey, where are you going?!” she screams back, laughing like an 11-year-old girl on vacation with her mom and best friend, “I don’t know! Where are you going?”

It dawns on me that maybe I don’t know either. As I try to formulate an answer and speak it into the wind between us, I see her man come up behind her and wrap his arms around her.

She turns to look at him the way Rose looked at Jack on The Titanic.

There goes a love story.

My sister turns and waves, joy dripping from her face.

“Have fun!” she screams.

“I will!” I shout back, like a promise. “You too!”

How My Parents Taught Me to Walk at Age 47.

In 2012, I spent the summer with my parents in their home in Santa Fe, NM.

Most mornings and evenings, they headed out for walks. They had to get their little coyote-looking dog Ginger out, but the walks saved them from life’s daily stresses.

Most times, I was invited. Often, I joined them on the streets winding around adobe homes, dirt paths, and arroyos. I learned “a little walk,” unless it was dark, typically took an hour. So, sometimes I declined in honor of time and solitude.

Often, I heard my stepmom say, “I’m a little tired. I’m going for a walk” or I could see her emotional edge (we all have one) sharpening. Those moments called for solo walks with Ginger.

They both returned brighter and kinder. The desert air, the smell of dirt and pine, and the expansive skies covering the Land of Enchantment can clear the blues. 

Back in junior high, my stepmom introduced me to running by entering a ten-mile race through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado on the day she married my father.

At 14, my skinny legs and thick willpower carried me through the course.

Mary Jo was a runner. So, I became one. Not a jogger. Certainly, not a walker. In my mind, walking was what old people did in malls.

I ran through my teens, 20s and 30, but by my forties, my body wasn’t as forgiving. Yet, my mind couldn’t imagine the power of walking, except for wimps. I’m not a wimp!

Neither are my parents. Now in their 80s, they’re big time drinkers—of water. They’ve travelled the world, and ridden bicycles across the country on serious trips: across the Great Divide, from New Mexico to my dad’s high school reunion in South Dakota, and one summer they rode 4,000 miles from Virginia to Oregon, covering over 50 miles on most days.

So, it shouldn’t have surprised me when, the summer of 2012, my dad met my offer to join him on a bike ride with, “I need to get a real workout in.” Ouch. Hey, old man!

He was right, though. I couldn’t keep up with him mountain biking on the trails, and though I intended to, I never made it up the vertical-as-a-wall killer hill he took like a 12-year-old.

Between bicycle rides, walking served as my parents’ constant. Like water, it’s the simple, almost unnoticeable key to health and longevity.

As Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron states, “You might walk out with a problem, but as you walk, you come into a solution.” She added walking as a third tool for writers, after morning pages and artist dates.

Between Ms. Cameron and my parents, walking became my secret weapon.

Even if walking doesn’t bring me to a solution or resolution, it transforms me. When I’m angry, I must run, but when agitated, irritated, or tired, walking offers revival. It can be medicine, but it’s best taken daily like vitamins.

After that summer in Santa Fe, I returned home to Minnesota, but not to my husband. Yeah, I’d learned to walk in several ways.

Anyhow, in my next chapter, I took up walking with my new neighbor Michael and his German Shepard Jessie. As Michael and I walked among the Victorian homes of Cathedral Hill, St. Paul, we discussed men and women and relationships.

Each step dropped our defenses and forged a friendship I doubt would’ve happened over coffee or meals. Walking made talking easy.

I also walked alone, slowing into the pace of poetry.

Later, when I moved to Worthington, OH with my sister Jayne, our evening walks tamed workday stresses and unraveled the threads of grief, relationships, and childhood memories matched with our adult perspectives.

During winter, my sister and I long for and lean into spring so we can get back to our synchronized steps.

Up until a year ago, my Labrador Phoenix joined us. There’s nothing like a dog to get us out for walks. She’s gone now and it’s more of a chore to drag myself outdoors during the cold days.

Still, every time I go, especially stepping into the woods and letting nature return me to mine, I’m better for it.

On my most recent visit with my parents in their new small Santa Fe apartment, I said, “I need to get out for a walk. Would either of you like to join me?” They both declined the cold. The wind of their aging blew through me.

Of course, we shared many walks that week: down Canyon Road by art galleries, along the downtown arroyo surrounded by glistening yellow Aspen trees, and a drive out close to my folks’ old neighborhood where Ginger could run free as Mary Jo and I plunged up and down hills and through sandy arroyos where she lost her hat and we had to go back.

Walking carries us back and forward, to reflection and perspective of beauty that a drive, or even a bicycle miss.

Ginger is slowing. My parents are growing into what, despite their health, is old age. My companion Phoenix aged out.

I try to pick up the habit of running again, but I’m thankful my parents passed onto me a new constant to carry me through life’s daily joys and challenges.

So, when you’re feeling lost or blue, I encourage you to get out and experience the magnificence, simplicity and magic of walking. 

How I Came to Meet the Devil in my Bed.

“I want to live my life in such a way that when I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, “aw shit, he’s up!” ~ Steve Maraboli Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I’ve long denied a devil exists. But, can I just call it dark forces, ego, or the lowest part of humanity which lives, even in me?

She woke me up at 3 am to tell me how stupid I am—a useless failure who should just commit suicide—because of all the time I’ve wasted, which, according to the she-devil dancing in my head, is proof I’ll never make it as a writer.

Therefore, I’ll have to go back to retail hell, or at least the sales game. She reminds me I can’t make a living doing what I love: writing, teaching, and yoga.

What about the gals I know succeeding as writers, like Louisa Deasey and Christy Williams? What about the yoga goddesses, Annie and Addie traversing the world and awakening women?

At 3:15 am, she-devil helps me compare myself to women I love in a way that makes me feel smaller.

I’m staying in a friend’s home, crying and ashamed of crying, hiding, trying not to make noise and wishing to shrink under the sheets of shame.

The she-devil is my own self-hatred. Hatred for my own humanity fueled by fear of too much reality outside myself which I can’t stop reading, thinking, and wanting to scream about. I can’t let the devil drag me into fear about our country and society, which seems so obvious to me. (The ship called America isn’t just sinking; She’s on fire!)

That’s too dire to think about at his hour. I want to sleep so I can be a better version of me tomorrow.

I pray to God to help me, angels to surround me, and guides to direct me.

I forgive myself.

I remember what Sarah Entrup said in her Oracle Council. Sarah runs Free the She (not Unleash the She-Devil).

Sarah says uncomfortability is part of being a woman. We keep looking for the one thing to take the longing of our hearts away. No man, no child, job, house, or thing outside of ourselves can do that for us.

Ahh yes, it’s true. We have our moments, even seasons of contentedness, but they tend to be fleeting.

So, what if I made space for the distress? What if I acknowledged the she-devil trying to distract me and bring me down?

I see you, B! You’re the part of me called insecurity, the one who lurks in the background with certainty. The same certainty I held as a toddler and a kindergartener when my mother stared down at me screaming, “Alice Ann, you’re not stupid!” over something I’d done, proving I was the thing she wanted me not to be.

I’m an adult now. I’ve done my work. And still, the she-devil lurks. It’s okay.

It’s part of being human and especially a woman. I’m a woman of faith—the kind that doesn’t fit in a box, the kind who believes in a God bigger than a book written by men.

I believe in LOVE. I love myself. I forgive myself. I bless myself. And I rise.

Well, in this case, I fall asleep, surrendering to dreams and the belief I’m okay, even in the uneasiness.

I no longer deny the devil exists—both as the she-devil who’d derail my divine desires and the he-devil who’d drive our country off a cliff with glee.

I also believe in something bigger: the best of me, my divine internal fire, my sweet soul who loves, even when it’s challenging.

I believe in the light arriving like morning within my heart, mind, society, and the world.

I turn to the light, to the love, in the dark night. I pray to be used for good.

Angels kiss my cheek and I go back to sleep, knowing I’m awakening through the agony and with humanity.

Why I Stopped Seeking the One Thing.

“If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?” ~ Kahlil Gibran

In the past several years, I’ve taken yoga classes and teacher training. I’ve been a student of kundalini, meditation, and reiki. And, of course, writing and publishing courses galore. I’m a seeker.

Someone asked me the other day, “What’s the one thing that’s made the biggest difference?”

It’s the same question I asked my friend Sam, who recently lost 90 pounds.

I’ve known her for 25 years and never seen her look better. It’s more than physical. She’s embodying the best version of herself. So, of course, people want to know how she did it.

I asked, “Is it being away from your stressful job?” She was let go, one of those gifts one wants to throw back, but can’t, and therefore learns to seek the opportunity.

“Is it your diet?” She’s gone vegan. “Is it working out?” Sam’s running, biking, and hitting the gym consistently. She’s always been an athlete, but now upgraded, no longer competing with or berating herself.

Her answer: “It’s not one thing; It’s everything.”  

At first, I this everything-answer discouraged me. I’ve already been overwhelmed chasing health, reducing stress, and seeking publications, with the never-ending steps.

Over weeks and months, my friend’s answer started to settle in, the way truth tends to do.

I reviewed my efforts, after losing my beloved four years ago, to overcome grief and strive for solid ground. It wasn’t one thing.

Each step propels us forward, even when it seems immeasurable in the moment.

Now, I stop looking at what I’ve done with the judgement of: That didn’t work! Next! constantly searching for that special magic to cure me of uncertainty, save my sanity, or make me as strong as I know I can be.

I also refrain from envying others’ accomplishments. I see the steps that led up to Sam’s success, including the previous loss and regaining of weight, taking her to a level of disgust and determination to never go back, all played a part in her everything.

This mental shift allows me to be kinder to myself about what I’ve done or not done yesterday.

For example, when I originally wrote my memoir, I needed to put down the 130,000 words. I didn’t yet know 80,000-100,000 was the norm. I couldn’t revise what I hadn’t written, and I couldn’t, even if I’d known, just stop at 85,000.

I also didn’t understand how to write a book proposal or the art and challenge of creating a succinct, impactful query letter.

On another note, for several years, I endured physical sickness which interfered with the quality of my life. That is, if you call this interference: belching as loud as a team of seals, not being able to catch my breath, constant pain, nausea, and inflammation, having strangers run up to help me on the street, and visitors to my home suggesting I see a doctor. Of course, I’d been to many and endured numerous tests, to no avail.

I tried avoiding gluten, dairy, meat, and the other things I suspected might be the culprits—with nopowerful relief. I tried a couple (literally—a couple) of pills doctors prescribed. I searched for answers, but held a deep fear I might be dying.

A few years ago, I learned about lectins, proteins in certain plants that can cause havoc in the body. Bingo! Avoiding lectins became the next step on my path, inconvenient, but now manageable. And, as far as lectins go, they’re not in one thing. They’re in everything!

I could go on, and I will. On my path. Learning, trying, and experiencing what works and doesn’t work for me, as each of us does.

We don’t have to do everything, but everything we do helps us learn what works for us, what we have the capacity to continue, and what we can dismiss because it doesn’t work or we’re unwilling to do the work.

I stopped seeking the one thing to save me, even though hundreds of advertisements tell me daily: THIS IS IT!

I’m still a seeker, just not of the one thing. We don’t have to do everything. We can lean into what works for us, trust our intuitions, hearts, and minds to lead us on our journey to embodying the best version of ourselves.

Then one day, someone will ask us, “How did you do it?”

How to Be Brave Again.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” ~ Anne Frank

I used to be brave. I climbed in canyons alone and hitchhiked when I was a kid. I rode a bus across the country at 14 to go to Outward Bound. I rock climbed blindfolded.

I knocked on doors and did in-home sales for decades, going into strangers’ homes unafraid of anything but flubbing my closing lines.

I drove across the country numerous times and moved to Mexico once. 

Even after being raped by a boss at age 24, I held an invincibility at my core.

Things are different now. I’m different, but so is my country.

Years ago, my sister and I went to the Bahamas. On a walk along the beach, local men laid like lizards on cement walls and leered at us like we were meat. Their eyes on us felt animalistic.

I’ve seen that look in the eyes of some American men more often in the past few years.

There was the guy in the parking lot at the Mexican restaurant when I walked to get my jacket from my car parked next to him. I said hi and his eyes met me with hatred, enough to make me sprint back to the restaurant. I’d like to say he was the only one, a rarity.

But, in today’s society, being female is a vulnerability. Yes, it always has been, but not to this extent, not for a long time.

You can tell me I’m paranoid, or just devoid of logic. Logic isn’t what’s guiding our society. Even when it was, that left out female knowing.

I know too much, see too much, and feel too much fear.

It’s not just about the men who leer. It’s about knowing, due to our hyper-vigilant gun ownership, any altercation could turn dangerous. And it’s not just altercations. It’s concerts, movies, and children going to school gunned down in innocence.

This isn’t to point blame or suggest maybe we have a problem with violence. It’s acknowledging that the overwhelming presence of guns most places I go can make me want to stay home, to hide in safety.

My mom owned a gun and believed in gun rights and the NRA. Oh, what I’d give to have a conversation with her today.

Just like with pizza or beer, a little isn’t bad, but as a lifestyle too much can be devastating.

I’ve altered my lifestyle for safety and security. Certainly, this is in part due to growing out of youth’s invincibility.

However, even as an adult, I used to feel freer, just a few years back.

Isn’t America about freedom? I don’t feel as free and fear it will get worse.

Too many of our heroes have been revealed as dangerous predators. Too many more roam free, eager, and now, emboldened.

What’s a woman to do, but be afraid? Be brave! You say?

Yes, but not in the way of denial of danger. Not, for me, in grabbing a gun to be part of the society hell bent on rights beyond legitimate concerns.

We all agree mass shootings are bad, as well as individual ones. Cop killings are bad. Cops killing? Really bad.

What I fear is the structures we’ve come to count like the ground we stand on are crumbling. The rules have changed in every area. Truth is disputed.

Serious journalists, the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post, once the bastions of our civil society, who took down Nixon, have been framed as enemies.

Roger Stone has a tattoo of Nixon on his chest and the guy in the White House defends him.

No, I’m not bashing. I’m looking clearly.

As a nation, can we see, or shall we continue to be as blind as Camille Cosby?

No matter the facts, she chose loyalty to what she perceived as truth, to the man she knew as good. Who can blame her?

We love who we love. We put our faith in them. We lower bars to make way for them.

When it’s personal, like a marriage and family, it takes time to see a reality so in conflict with what we’ve been told and shown and believe in our core.

As a county, do we have time?

I’m fearful. I’m told to think positive. I try not to be cynical.

Shall we wait until global warming becomes unbearable?

Geez, this gal’s negative! Turn away. Or don’t. I understand the impulse.

What are you grappling with? Where is the collective personal and the personal societal?

Apparently, we need to learn from personal experience and until it touches us, let’s turn off the TV, call the truth fake, and for God’s sake, take care of ourselves.

Yes, I’ll take care of myself to the best of my ability. I’ll also care for loved ones and strangers when and where I can. I’ll speak and write truth.

I’ll be brave again. Courage is revealed in the face of fear.

To call upon mine, I’ll reread Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Like Frank and Frankl, even if the worst is upon us, we can be diligent in our faith, seek purpose, and imagine ourselves being a part of a better world, or at least paving a path for future generations.

We can be brave again. We must be brave again.