mayacama mama

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Breaking the Rules to be Kind


Earlier this week at work I was struck with sorrow for a co-worker who had experienced a traumatic death in her family, someone very close to her. Her world was falling apart, yet she showed up to work because that is what she had to do. Did we embrace her with gentle, loving kindness? We who work with children who have experienced trauma, did we embrace this co-worker who was in our midst drowning trying to stay afloat and manage the details of her life while showing up for work? No. We didn’t. We failed to support her through the chaos of her life. Sure we signed a card for her and said, “we’re sorry for your loss.” But we expected her to follow all the rules the next day. Act normal. We thought to ourselves, “what do you mean you have to take care of personal things during work hours? What do you mean you can’t keep it together and not cry?” I wonder, if we can’t break the rules sometimes to be kind, we who experience trauma everyday through the eyes of our clients, who can? And where will there be kindness in the world if we who are helpers can’t even muster the ability to do it? And then I heard this poem on an  OnBeing podcast by Naomi Shihab Nye and found hope again. Because kindness begins with you and me.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
by Naomi Shihab Nye




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Holding and Letting Go


I heard someone say the other day that they felt they were becoming more cynical and negative about humanity. As I do this work as a therapist facing the pain of my clients, I am reminded again, this time around, of the importance of letting go of the story of suffering that is not my own. I come home and I smudge myself with sage–symbolic perhaps, but a necessary ritual nonetheless, to acknowledge that the pain of my clients cannot become my own. I let go of the day’s work. And I say a prayer of healing. On many levels throughout the day, I carry my clients suffering with me. My clients past and present, whether I like it or not, have influenced my own story. And while for a time, I carry their story with me, there comes a time when I have to let them go or the burden becomes too heavy.

In talking to my coworkers, it was fascinating to hear how many of us do not watch the news. The news about the world that we do take in is very selective. It’s not so difficult to understand why that is. For me, there is only so much negative news I can take in. It’s not that we don’t care about world events, but the work we do requires us to also take care of ourselves and to nurture our own spirits so that we have space enough to contain the suffering of our clients–until it is time to let it go. The work we do requires that we make a point of seeking out the beauty in life and that we seek out the good in people. Otherwise it is too easy to drown in the sorrows of the world. There are many people–babies, children, teens, adults, the elderly who are suffering in this world. None of us are exempt. We all hold the light and dark within us, and we all are called to do our part in making the world more beautiful.


How would our lives change if we filtered our lives through the lens of beauty? How would we see each other if we sought out the beauty in each other? What words would we speak to friend or foe if we spoke that which was beautiful? May we be wise enough to know what we need to hold on to and what we need to let go of.

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Falling into Place

Today was one of those days where everything I fretted about in the morning as I began my work day seemed to fall into place. I didn’t have to drive a client home after our session, her mother picked her up, the session I thought I was going to be late for, the mother called and asked for a later time. All day it went–things falling into place making what might have been a stressful day turn into a day that flowed smoothly.

I am remembering as I work as a therapist that there are many times that I have to do things I dread and really don’t want to do, but I have to because it is part of my job. A metaphor for my life right now. I’d rather not change poopy diapers. I’d rather not have to bathe little ones at the end of the day when I’m bone tired and just want to take care of myself. But we all do what we must do, and if we don’t, well, I’ll see you in therapy. Perhaps it’s the Catholic in me, lessons learned through many Lents observed, that one’s character is strengthened by the trials we endure. Sometimes life hurts, but we come out the other side with our wounds and know we can do it again if we have to. I want my children to look at Stephen and me and know that we’ve tried hard, and we keep moving forward.

If life is a struggle for you today, my blessing for you is that your life will fall into place.



The Butterfly


Zoey found this butterfly yesterday off our  back patio in the grass. It was resting on a stick. She picked up the stick and brought it over to show me. It dropped onto the concrete patio, and I took this photograph. It was still alive, but hardly moving. My life has felt a bit delicate this month of May. Delicate and fragile. Stephen’s aunt passed away on Mother’s Day. He flew to Texas for the funeral, while the kids and I stayed here. We’ve been dancing the whirlwind of trying to keep a stable home for the kids while working out the messiness of our lives.

I am reminded again and again to treat others with gentleness and kindness because you never really know what a person is experiencing. All may seem outwardly okay, but inwardly or in one’s private life, there may be rupture and chaos ensuing. I leave you with a poem–not my own. A poem as reminder that you, too need gentleness and kindness as do I for myself. When we make mistakes and act foolishly, as we all do at some point in our life–remember this:


I stirred in the small hours of the morning. Sensing a presence, I did not return to sleep, but ventured into the living room, apprehensively.
There, by the balcony, sat a familiar figure — cross-legged and reading in the semi-dark, with just the milky moonlight for company.
I do not know how I knew, but I did. I recognized the intruder, at once, with a mixture of dread and affection.
“I’m sorry,” were the only words to leave my lips. “I’m sorry, too,” replied my longed-for-self, with a sigh of infinite kindness and pity.
He did not rise to greet me and, somehow, spoke without words, transmitting what was needed.

Catching his glistening eye, the caring made me cry. “You’ve taken every detour to avoid me,” he gently reproached. “For every step I’ve taken towards you, you’ve taken back two”.
I did not know what to say in my defense (how could I protest against myself?) “I missed you,” he said, and feared you’d forgotten me.”
His admonishment was tender as a kiss. “I visit from time to time, and hope you’ll ask me to stay.” I knew what he said was true, and felt that way, too.
“I worried,” he continued, “if I postponed this visit, we might never meet, in this life… and so I came to sharpen your appetite.”
He rose and moved towards me. “There’s no need to speak, return to sleep. But when you rise, try to remember me. And to keep awake.”

–Yahia Lababidi, taken from

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My Favorite Things in April


Friday nights at home
Wind chimes serenading us through the day
Soft small arms wrapped around my neck
Saturday afternoon naps on the bed with Zoey and Zane
Walks through the garden to check on new sprouts
Farm fresh eggs
Lester jumping on my lap to be rubbed
Sweet kisses from my beloved
Gentle yoga in the evening
Sleeping by the light of the full moon
Spotting wild turkey
Discovering new wildflowers
Hiking through tall grass
Greeting the day with a light heart





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So This is How it Feels


It’s the beginning of the week, and I already feel like I am swimming against the current. So this is how it feels to not be able to do it all. The weekend came and it dawned on me–I have a choice. I can spend all my time doing housework because it’s the only time I have to do it, or I can spend good quality time with the kids. I’ve never been very good at juggling although I’ve tried many times.


Some photos from our weekend. The wildflowers are in abundance on our land even though down in town they have begun to wither. IMG_1694Anyone know what those pink flowers are called?

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New Growth


It’s amazing to me to see how plants that might not have done well last year suddenly come back with such beauty and grace. Some little bug was eating comfrey’s leaves last year that I didn’t harvest any. About two months ago (or perhaps more because I can’t really recall) little comfrey sprouts came up and I was overjoyed to see it growing again. Now look at her in the photo above. What a beauty she is. She is just starting to flower. I have a special love for comfrey. She healed my mastitis two years ago and helped get a splinter out of Zoey’s foot awhile back. She is a great healer. Underneath her Sweet Annie is growing back.

Two nights ago I was getting ready to leave the office when I started talking to a co-worker in the kitchen. She asked me if I liked plants. I said yes–that I was planning on getting a plant to bring to my office desk. She asked me because she is leaving our agency in two months time and she is the only one who remembers to water the plants around the office. She didn’t want the plants to die, and she seemed really happy to know I would water the plants after she is gone. We got into a conversation about plants and energy. I immediately recognized a kindred spirit, and I felt she thought the same of me.

I haven’t always treated plants well. There is a spider plant in our bedroom that I forget to water. I just went to water it now. But since taking Donna de Terra’s herbal class last year, I’m trying to be more aware of the living being-ness of plants. So don’t forget to water your plants today and say hello to them. Put your hands around them and see if you can feel their energy.




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My Favorite Things in March


Three more days to go until I return to paid employment. This last week spending time with the kids, Stephen, and my parents, who were visiting, felt extra sweet. On more than one occasion I’ve talked to mama friends about how to balance home life with working outside the home. I look at single moms and wonder how they manage. Staying organized helps of course, but we’re all just doing the best we can. And I’ll do that, too. Life is messy right now and it may get messier, literally, but that’s okay. We keep moving forward.

And now on to my favorite things this month. I’ve been enjoying listening to Natural MD Radio podcast with Dr. Aviva Romm. She’s an herbalist and fellow Yalie (she received her MD from Yale Medical School). Not too long ago Stephen’s mom sent me an article on the link between depression and inflammation in the body. At the time I had never heard that discussed before, and then earlier this month Dr. Aviva released a podcast called Tumeric for Depression in which she addresses this connection between inflammation and depression. If you haven’t heard her podcast, check it out on iTunes. She tends to focus on women’s health and children.

Have you seen El Abrazo de la Serpiente? It’s a black and white film, perfect for Stephen, and it was about plant spirit medicine, perfect for me. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet.

I’m currently reading The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. The story begins with a Jewish grandmother telling her granddaughter about her life growing up in Boston in the early part of the twentieth century. I’m enjoying the book so far. It is reminding me of how important it is to gather the stories of our elders, especially for our children born in the twenty-first century. Stephen and I had a chance several months back to interview both of our parents to hear about their lives before they were our parents. The recorded interviews are gifts we’ll give our children one day when they are older.

I smile as my own story is unfolding. I’m 38 years old, and yet my life experiences have been far from boring. As I begin this path of social work once again, I realize I am not the social worker I was six years ago. I bring to my work my mothering, my herbalism, my wild woman nature, my blogging, my daring to be afraid of the unknown yet my strength to stay open and keep sharing. My life is changing yes, but the creative force in me must find a new path. I leave you with this short excerpt from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., which I may have quoted before but I think is worth reading again:

Creating one thing at a certain point in the river feeds those who come to the river, feeds the creatures far downstream, yet others in the deep. Creativity is not a solitary movement. That is its power. Whatever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, is fed. That is why beholding someone else’s creative word, image, idea, fills us up, inspires us to our own creative work. A single creative act has the potential to feed a continent. One creative act can cause a torrent to break through stone.



A Change in Plans


To be an adult means to accept the awesome responsibility of constantly making choices.
–Mary Pipher, from Letters to a Young Therapist

These past two months we’ve been faced with making a barrage of choices, enough that I’ve felt–man, it sucks to be an adult sometimes! For those of you who are parents, do you remember a time when it really hit you that you alone are responsible for the well-being of your family? Awesome responsibility indeed. Well, that reality has been hitting me a lot recently–to the point of terror. But of course, one must move past the terror and do something about it.

And so the time has come for me to return to work as a social worker. I start working as a therapist at a local foster care agency after Zoey’s spring break ends in April. It’s been a long six years since I’ve worked as a therapist. I’m going down a path I thought I’d left behind only to return once again.

Mary Pipher writes about her “breadcrumb trail.” I look back on my breadcrumb trail from teaching second grade in Compton, to legal assistant at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, to case manager, to graduate student, to palliative care social work fellow, to hospice social worker, to therapist, to homemaker, herbalist, and now back to therapist. A new season is beginning yet again.









We spent Zane’s birthday morning out on our dirt road. It’s been raining a lot again here, and last night the wind was so strong it knocked down two trees that fell across our dirt road. The biggest one was right in front of our first gate.


Thankfully my husband knows how to put a chainsaw to good use and was able to cut the tree so we can go into town tomorrow to take Zoey to school.


A few weeks ago I finished reading a book recommended by my local librarian called The Girl From the Garden by Pernaz Foroutan. I won’t tell you what it’s about because like the math anxiety I feel when trying to add or subtract in my head, I tend to experience anxiety when trying to explain to someone what a book is about. I know, weird, right? Suffice it to say–I enjoyed reading the book. Go read the Amazon blurb about it and then you’ll know what it’s about.

My little guy turned 2 today! He was so eager to blow out his candle that he blew it out twice before we were able to sing Happy Birthday to him. We all enjoyed a birthday nap today while it rained outside. We have a reprieve from the rain for the next two days, and then it is supposed to rain seven days straight. Winter is still with us for awhile longer.