You Matter More Than You Think You Do

As we move out of the shock of losing our daughter Teal and into the reality of living the rest of our lives without her,  it feels right to share some observations of what happened out in the world as this all unfolded. Particularly on Facebook. Basically healing of so many kinds has happened — incredible healing that might never have happened if Teal had not died.

As I wrote here yesterday, it was her fondest wish to become a healer. She so wanted to be in the space of healing and joy … she was truly called to love and nurture people from the bottom of her heart throughout her life. And people remembered it. At the Celebration Party for her life that we had in San Francisco a few days ago, we heard from an incredible array of people — from her fellow baristas in their early twenties to the tough guys who grew up on the street and were brought down by her smile at the gym where she learned martial arts and forms of fighting. We heard from prominent coaches in the Bay Area who would go out to lunch with Teal to advise her on her career path and end up being coached by Teal. And from a young man who dated Teal and shared the sweetest story of remembering watching the Transit of Venus with her.

Along the way over these last few weeks, in my own life, I have healed some of my relationships in amazing way. Because the truth must emerge at times like this, and as we know, love is the truth — not pettiness and anger. First I was joined by my former husband, Larry, and our son the day after her cardiac arrests. That, alone, has been amazing. My former husband and I had already had a decent, amicable friendship which we told ourselves we were doing for the kids. But the loss of one of those precious kids brings things into a whole new light. I really love this man, and he really loves me. And I know we will support each other, no matter what, as we move through this crisis.

An Extraordinary Gift for Us All

Two weeks ago, our 22-year-old daughter, Teal, was struck down by two unexplainable cardiac arrests. She was without a heartbeat for a long time, alone in the bathroom of her shared apartment, before her roommate broke down the door and saved her life. She died six days later from irreversible swelling to her brain.

I loved my daughter completely. She was a lot like me, and yet so different in so many wonderful ways – she was a total free spirit, and a truly loving being who was so lightly tethered to this earth.

Teal believed in love, happiness and the joyful adventure of life – backpacking through Europe and Asia by herself, sky diving, sailing, practicing jiu jitsu and muay thai boxing, organic farming, perfecting latte art in her job as a barista, and perfecting the ultimate chocolate cake covered with salted toffee. And always, always coming back to her first love, singing the blues.

Woven through all of this was her spiritual journey, which she discovered as a direct result of the grand and petit mal seizures she suffered from. Teal had a moderate, controllable case of epilepsy, but it left her shaky, uncomfortable and scared at times. And so she began a quest to determine how to heal herself – and other girls and women – of the anxiety and panic attacks that seemed to accompany her condition.

Teal wanted to be a healer, and in the final year before she left us, she began a serious quest to discover what she felt was her special healing gift. A few months prior, which backpacking with a friend in Morocco, she had a profound healing experience in which she felt transported while in a pre-seizure ‘aura’. She felt the energetic vision of a large snake wrap itself around her body and run bolts of lightening throughout her. And she felt this was the beginning of that profound gift.

Four or five months prior to her death, Teal said to me, “Mom, I know something big is going to happen to me around my healing gift – I just know it.” On the night of her cardiac arrests, a friend and I had dinner with her and we watched a presentation by the Pachamama Alliance and their work in Ecuador with the people of the rainforest and their shamans. Teal was really excited by the idea of traveling between worlds, as shamans do, and healing with her heart on that level. A few hours later she was struck down.

What I know to be true is that Teal died so we can heal – in fact, her healing journey has begun. She has been released from the burden of her body so those who have been directly touched by her, and those who haven’t, can live lives of greater peace, understanding and just plain joy.

She is here for all of us, energetically, and the story of her death needs to be told at this time. And so I will be posting over subsequent days some of the posts I put up on Facebook as we were moving through the last week of her life and her death with her.  I do not see her death as a tragedy, the act of a vengeful God, or any kind of real-time rip off in life. Instead, I see it as an extraordinary gift for now so many more people can be touched by her healing grace as news of this experience ripples out through social media.

One thing she made sure to communicate with me was that if people felt sad about this gorgeous young free spirit passing, they should put on Al Green’s ‘Love and Happiness’ and just sink into it. Because really, what more is there in life but that complete and joyful rightness – love can ‘make us do wrong, make us do right’.

And the rest, dear friends, is gloriously up to us. And in that simple thought, Teal lives on.

The Great Stevia Round Up

Let’s admit it … the pursuit of a life without sugar can be hard sometimes. Very hard. You remember the good old days fondly, of hot fudge sundaes, cookie pig outs and heaping teaspoons of sugar in your tea or coffee. Ah, but, your adrenals had other ideas. And now you’re off sugar … indefinitely.

The alternatives aren’t that bad, actually. Coconut Palm Sugar is a lot like brown sugar and a very viable alternative with an extremely low glycemic index level. And those who are into sustainability wince as for all that sugar a whole lot of coconut palm trees must be harvested, and it takes 5 years to replace each one to the point where it runs sap which then becomes the Palm Sugar.

A very good alternative is the herb stevia. Stevia is a remarkable sweetener in that it really is just an herb you can grow in s sunny window, it grows like a weed if you water it a little, and it has zero calories. And zero glycemic index. And one little leaf is SUPER sweet — up to 300 times as sweet as sugar.

And … the extracted form of stevia (those little powdery envelopes that sometimes appear along with Splenda and other artificial sweeteners) can taste pretty bad. It seems to have an aftertaste that is a little like licorice, and in some cases downright soapy. The aftertaste depends entirely on how it extracted and the brands vary greatly on this.

So I decided to do some side by side comparisons and come up with my favorite brands. Here’s what I think tastes best in the world of Stevia.

1. The plant. There is no metallic or medicinal aftertaste here. I just pick a leaf or two, chop it up finely and throw it into whatever I’m sweetening. Seedlings can be found during gardening season as a seedling in health food stores and nurseries. I seen it grown in a potted plant in a sunny window in the winter, and grown outside in the summer. (Stevia does not tolerate low temperatures outside.)

2. Pyure. A certified organic stevia, this one I’ve found as little or not aftertaste. Sold at Walgreens and on Amazon. Packets make it easy to carry with you so you always have an alternative sweetener. Be careful to use far less than a full packet as this is much sweeter than sugar. A box of 80 packs costs less than $6 on Amazon.

3. Stevia in the Raw. From our friends at Sugar in the Raw, this is a really nice powdered Stevia that does not have a strong aftertaste.  Available on Amazon for $3.95 for 50 packets.

Also: There are those who insist there is less aftertaste with stevia extract — I have to disagree. A raw foods chef I respect greatly insists on Sweetleaf’s Vanilla Creme liquid stevia. A two ounce bottle is $7.20. This is a good fit for baking and raw desserts — maybe even for those that call for vanilla extract. (Not as a replacement but as a booster to that yummy flavor.)

What stevia do you prefer? Please tell is in a comment below!

A Love Letter to My Ex-Husband

Dear Sweetie:

Today I filed our divorce papers, and so it seems appropriate at this particular moment, to acknowledge you … and us.

First, I want to thank you for an extraordinary few decades. You opened me up when I was a emerging, tentative, both blustery and vulnerable 25 year old. You saw something in me even when I did not. And you took a chance and followed your heart, and so we came together in perfect co-creation.

What we did was nothing less than amazing – we created our children, who are a miracle we both thank God for every day. Parenting our kids was one of the most important reasons we came together, and what a blessing they have been. They are radiant lights in our life, and I suspect they always will be.

You and I didn’t always have a smooth time, honey. We knew how to push each other’s buttons brilliantly, which more than one marriage counselor pointed out to us. But then, perhaps that is the nature of committed love, or maybe even why we were brought together.

I know we learned some powerful lessons.

Here is what I learned from you: I learned to trust my own voice, and to stand in my truth even when you didn’t like it. And because of you, I also learned to trust the parts of me that I didn’t like so much.

So often I was so afraid to face my own truth it took me almost a two decades to really own myself. Still you were always in the background being a fierce protector of the truth … even though it would ultimately mean the realization of your own worst fears. And even though I didn’t want to hear it most of the time.

So I want to acknowledge you for standing up for the truth and coming back to it again and again.

I also want to apologize for being controlling, willful and emasculating at times, which happened a lot in our last years together. In my own defensive dance, I believed it was up to me to manage everyone’s happiness – as if I was in charge of the entire family dynamic. Turns out I wasn’t. But I couldn’t yet see that everyone needs to find their own way – and can be trusted to do so brilliantly.

You were so tough with me at times. But you were also so tender at other times. I honor you in all of your parts, love. I know you never set out intentionally to hurt me. You were just doing what you knew how to do, and I forgive you completely for it.

And now it’s over … but is it really? We have our children, our connection, our bond which won’t ever end. And so we will always be tied by that fast and certain love.

Thank you for everything my dear. You are an intrinsic part of who I am today, and why I will thrive for the rest of my life. And I do truly wish the same for you.

I love you.


Are You Ready to Come Down Off Your Mountain?

Would you like a life that is as sweet as honey far more of the time?

Would you like seamless relationships that flow in a river of harmony … even when one of you has your nose out of joint?

The answer is to melt. Yes …melt. As in stop deciding you are right all – or even part – of the time. For just as being wrong has no particular traction in life, neither does being right, believe it or not.

In fact, when you really tell the truth about it, all any of us are doing is just being us – in all of our flawed, messy glory. And that is the source of a great deal of possible growth for all of us. Think about it. What if being ‘right’ was actually an illusion, a trick of the mind played by a voracious ego. What if there was no ‘right’ per se, but simply the clashing of life seen through two different lenses – yours and your partner’s.

Here is what is true: those lenses tend to have a lot of gunk on them, for we are far more than just a deep well of love, peace and essence. On top of all that goodness we have layer after layer of psyche, or personality, much of which has been shaped from our wounds. And therein lies the gunk.

You remember wounds … the big ones happened in the first five years of your life. You were sitting in your high chair, and you cried and cried and nobody came. You got bitten by a dog, or bullied by the big kids, or you lost a library book, or your glasses, or a favorite stuffed animal, and no one seemed to care.

These moments (along with the more serious ones) are often the basis of trauma that lasts a lifetime in your heart and soul, and so your defenses are born. Those defenses are nothing more than just the natural attempt of the psyche to protect you. And yet, they often show up as behaviors in adulthood that make life difficult.

Here’s an example from my own life. When I was just a few months old, I had a severely traumatic experience in which I got tangled beneath a lacy blanket in my crib. I can still remember looking at the light in the room through the holes in the lace as I writhed in my crib, screaming and fearing suffocation. I truly thought I was going to die until somehow I managed to free my face from the blanket.

Fast forward to a recent relationship I was in. For most of the first year of our relationship, I kept finding myself a little scared of my girlfriend for reasons that I couldn’t put my finger on. Sometimes she’d walk in the room and a flicker of fear would well up in my chest. And there was no logical reason for this.

That, to me, is the sign of a wound peaking its head up. Finally in an attempt to get to the bottom of it and live in greater peace, I took the issue to an EMDR therapist. EMDR is a powerful trauma healing process in which the therapist literally helps you recreate the neural pathways around the trauma to be healthier, using flashing lights, clicking recordings, vibrating pods or any number of tools that alternate stimuli.

Colleen, my therapist, placed two vibrating pods in my hands that buzzed in sequence from right to left as I began to explore this strange and irrational fear. And that’s when I discovered my infant trauma … and relived the terror of being caught under my blanket. As I did, the two little pods buzzed in sequence left-right, left-right more and more powerfully, as I began to re-experience these old emotions as if they’d happened yesterday. I was amazed at how immediate the fears were — how present — even thought I could scarcely remember the event. Beautifully, the terror lifted almost immediately.

What I noticed from that time on was that the creeping fear disappeared … it just wasn’t there any more. In its place was a new, relaxed peace. So what does this have to do with being right or being wrong?

Well, consider what is REALLY happening when you argue with a loved one. Essentially, your wound from when teacher embarrassed you in nursery school for wetting your pants clashed with his wound around his own out of control experiences in childhood.

Now I realize you may be reading this thinking … ‘But what about the time that so and so yelled at me in public? I KNOW that wasn’t right!’

No, it wasn’t. But was it actually wrong? Or was it that so and so just got triggered and out came a shriek. Our triggers are so fascinating – those things that fire us up into anger, or sadness, or shame, or rage. In the light of day, they can seem quite irrational … until you remember that we’ve ALL had thousands and thousands of imprinting experiences in our lives. And some of them were truly hard to take.

The question is can we have enough compassion to allow another the space to feel what she feels and has experienced in life?

Most of carry a vast sea of shame in our hearts. What we know is self-loathing, first and foremost, as if the soul’s power and strength was long ago eclipsed by . And that self-loathing gets fired up the minute the other turns a negative emotion in our direction.

The only solution is compassion, friends. That and forgiveness. And yes, you can still set limits, boundaries and even walk away if you need to. Just remember … nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong. We’re all just living life through our lenses. And our only job is to tend to our own garden so we can have a loving imprint on the world.