Feel the Feels: A Book List

2014-10-04 18.27.04 (2).jpg

There may come a day where I have plenty of time to do whatever I please. On that day I just might choose to add my synopsis of each book and why I like to read it to kids. For now, you get the list because it’s the best this #newmom can do!

Feel the Feels: A Book List for Parents and Educators

1. Is a Worry Worrying You? By Ferida Wolff

2. Brave as can be by Jo Witek

3. The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

4.  When I Feel Scared (Way I Feel Books) by Albert Whitman & Co

5. The Dark by Lemony Snicket

6. The Feelings Book by Todd Parr

7. The Color Monster by Anna Llenas

8. In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek

9. Brave as a Mountain Lion by Ann Herbert Scott

10. There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer

11. Curious George Goes to the Hospital by Margret Rey and H. A. Rey

12. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson

13. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

14. Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley

15. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams

16. My Friend is Sad (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

17. When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland

18. How to take the Grrr out of Anger  Elizabeth Verdick

19.  Benny’s Hat by Juliet Clare Bell

20. Sad Isn't Bad: A Good-grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss by Michaelene Mundy, R. W. Alley

21. Cool Down and Work through Anger, Cheri J Meiners M.Ed

22. When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Maude Spelman

23. When Sophie gets Angry-Really Really Angry by Molly Bang

24. Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney

25. Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boyton

26. Zach Gets Frustrated by William Mulcahy

Giovanni approved Lactation Cookies!


This goes out to all the mamas who appreciate a super tasty snack that will also increase your milk supply! My husband loves these cookies so there’s no need to discriminate against the non breastfeeding humans.

I love to experiment in the kitchen and attempt to make healthier versions of baked goods. After a girlfriend sent me a postpartum care package with the makings of lactation cookies I was basically hooked. It’s the best excuse to have cookies in the house ALL the time. It’s become an evening ritual to pour a cup of warm mother’s milk tea and nibble of one of these cookies.

After 4 or 5 trials I finally created my favorite recipe for my Giovanni approved lactation cookies.

Try it out and let me know how it goes for you!


  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature (I’ve also made these with 1 cup of coconut oil and it works just fine)

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt

  • 1 cup coconut sugar

  • 1/4 cup honey 

  • 2 eggs, room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 1 tablespoon of molasses 

  • 1 1/2 cups flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3-4 tablespoons ground flaxseed (I grind my own with the nut mixture)

  • 1/3 cup brewer’s yeast

  • 1/4 cup ground or buttered almonds or walnuts

  • 4-7 dates

  • 1/4 cup of flaked coconut

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheet  with parchment paper.

  • Beat together the butter, yogurt, sugar, honey, and molasses until light and fluffy.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

  • Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and brewer’s yeast. Add this to the sugar & butter mixture. Mix well. 

  • Toss the almonds, flaxseeds, and dates into a blender. I’ve used various consistencies. Blend longer if you want a buttery consistency or pulse if you like the texture of crunchy nuts. Stir into the mixture and then add coconut flakes.

  • Add oatmeal stirring in one cup at a time. 

  • Stir in the chocolate chips.

  • Drop tablespoons of dough onto the lined cookie sheets.  

  • Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown.  

  • Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Store cookies in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 




A Dream Realized :: Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat


A Dream Realized :: Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat

Elissa Cirignotta

Something fairly significant happened in my life recently and in all honesty I can't stop thinking about it. Even more so, I'm still FEELING it and beaming with gratitude and joy from the entire experience.  

About 7 or 8  years ago a dream popped up in my consciousness. I got an idea that I wanted to travel back home to Sicily for work. At the time I had absolutely no clue what that could look like or what service I would provide. All I knew is that it seemed like a perfect idea! At the time I was a newbie to Oregon, living the Portland dream, broke and having a grand ole time. It seemed like a far cry from reality.

sicily greg.jpg

Now let’s fast forward to 2016 when I traveled back to Sicily as a stop on my honeymoon. I had since changed careers almost entirely and transitioned into a whole new path. Bringing my husband, Don Rosso, back home was its own dream come true. And then again during that trip, the same fantasy from years before was felt, although this time I had a clearer vision. I decided that I would host my very first yoga retreat in this beloved hometown of mine. Still the idea felt farfetched and I was completely insecure in my teaching skills not believing that I could ever pull something like that off.

Meanwhile that tiny seed that had been planted several years prior was now an itty bitty seedling taking on its own life-force. It felt more tangible, still very scary, yet achievable. I spent the following year and a half nurturing, honoring, and watering this seedling of a dream, truly not knowing if or how it could ever grow. Deep down, despite all the fear and insecurities, I believed it in so much that the trust in the dream is what kept me going.


After several more months of coordination and planning the time came to announce this Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat. I was expecting no more than 9 people, if that, to be interested. To my complete and utter shock we sold out and had to upgrade our transportation, which allowed me to add additional spots, to which we sold out again.

What this meant, was that I ACTUALLY had to do the thing… with 21 people while being 4 ½ months pregnant! There was no turning back. I poured my whole entire heart into the process. I answered over 200 participant questions, helped many people buy their plane tickets, emailed & phoned back and forth with countless Sicilians, and spent hours and hours of my days considering every last detail imaginable. It seems silly to me now, but there were many nights of lost sleep worrying about whether people would like my town, if the group would get along, liability coverage, how to get 15 yoga mats to Sicily, etc etc etc…

The time finally arrived and on the Summer Solstice we commenced a week long yoga retreat in my treasured hometown of Scoglitti Sicily. Everyone arrived without difficulty, bags in hand, and ready to eat!


For the next 7 days I had a permasmile tattooed to my face. I had NONSTOP FUN. Our morning view of the Mediterranean combined with a perfect Sicilian espresso and croissant was enough to make me giddy, but it just kept getting better. I'm fairly certain that I've never had more fun  teaching yoga than on the sandy beach I grew up on with a gentle sea breeze blowing in.  No one went hungry. We ate the most delicious meals of pasta, risotto, local fresh caught fish, homemade breads, pizza, and caprese salads. Afternoons were filled with cafes, gelatos, ocean waves, baroque city explorations, interesting conversations, belly laughs, sun bathing, and reuniting with friends and family from Scoglitti. Our retreat cadre became a family. Solo travelers were taken in as part of the gang and everyone was kind and welcoming to one another.  It was dreamy in every way imaginable. 

Something I learned this past month is that the Universe supports intentions that come from a loving place and that dreams come true. That together we are stronger and that our community matters.  

My intentions for this retreat were for individual and collective healing, sweet connections, and rest and relaxation. Every day I made time to take stock of all the things, people, and experiences that make me feel gratitude. Despite being 4 ½ months pregnant and tired from the literal nonstop excitement and adventure I felt so rejuvenated and refreshed after our sacred week together. For me, this wasn't just a yoga retreat, it was a dream realized with some of the most amazing humans I know!  I am fairly certain that I'll be riding this wave for months to come. 

We concluded the retreat on a bright and beautiful Full Moon with happy hearts and full bellies. 

I think I found my calling. 

IMG_2143 (1).JPG

Mantras from our Daily Mediterranean Yoga Practice: 

Today I remember to be grateful. 

I choose to bloom into my most potent, powerful, and authentic self. 

I love all dimensions of myself. 

My dreams are the seeds of my future. 

I am open and receptive to all the the good, abundance, and healing in the Universe. 

All is well. May I be safe, healthy, and happy. 

Here’s what a few others had to say about the experience:

This retreat by far, was the most magical experience of my life. An experience that I will take with me until I breathe my last breath. The love, beauty, family, community and food were intoxicating. Thank you for this experience.
— Kristina Komorowski
Elissa created a truly amazing and healing yoga retreat experience. It was like a real life experience of Eat, Pray, Love. The mornings were spent with a skillful, but accessible yoga practice on a peaceful Mediterranean beach. Followed by a delicious and healthy seafood and pasta lunch. There was enough time built into the schedule for personal reflection or exploration of Sicily. Every detail was carefully considered. And the best part is that you were welcomed as part of Elissa’s huge Sicilian family.
— Katie Desmond  
sicily greg and starla.jpg
I came for the yoga by the seaside but was captivated by the charm and warm welcome of this small Sicilian village. I found the atmosphere invited whatever level of solitude or socialization I desired. I will cherish the connections that I found with friends new and old as well as the memories of exploring Ragusa, Modica, and Scoglitti. This was not just a yoga retreat, this was an experience of a lifetime! And the food- don’t even get me started on all the delicious cappuccinno, risotto, seafood, gelato, and wine! Elissa and Greg, you made us feel like family. I’m so lucky I got to be a part of it!
— Emily Cogan Nieckarz
This retreat met all of my expectations and then some! I love yoga and Elissa is one of the best instructors I’ve ever experienced. She is truly a master and was sensitive to the needs and limitations of everyone in the group. She brings light and happiness to everyone she encounters. The hotel is beautiful, on an incredible beach and everything is well done from the food to the maid service. I truly enjoyed connecting with my Italian roots - the food, the language, the warm hospitality delivered by the locals - it was all perfect. Scoglitti is a lovely little town; I find myself yearning to return. Elissa did a terrific job in helping everyone in the group connect with each other. I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive to go on this trip by myself, but that disappeared immediately. I quickly made new friends and always had someone to eat or walk, or expore with me. I highly recommend this retreat - I came home completely energized and recharged and with some great memories.
— Janice D'Aloia

If you or someone you know are interested in coming on our annual Sicilian Summer Yoga Retreat, we WELCOME you! There's an early bird special on pricing until November 15th, 2018. Head on over to our retreat page for all the info. 

5 Ways to Teach Your Child Empathy

5 Ways to Teach Your Child Empathy


By Elissa Cirignotta

Imagine an existence where it was natural and normalized to love one another, to be passionate about your life, and to live in harmony with ourselves and with others around us. Let’s talk about this. It’s time for adults to step up, show up, and become more dynamic and engaged teachers.  Our younger generation depends on us right now to guide them into a better future with our global community bound together in positivity. It’s time for us to get curious, choose happiness, over and over again, say more Thank-Yous, slow down, and just breathe.

The million dollar question…Can we live as more compassionate, empathic, connected humans? I certainly hope so. Empathy is a complex skill with several different parts. It involves a sense of self awareness and the ability to distinguish your own feelings from the feelings of others. It asks us to engage in perspective taking or alternatively to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. It requires us to acknowledge our feelings, regulate our emotional responses, and create healthy boundaries.

 Read on for 5 ways you can teach your child how to be a more compassionate little human!  

1.    Talk about Emotions!

Practice recognizing the common feelings and emotions that every person experiences throughout their lifetime… sometimes all in the course of a single day. Happiness, surprise, disappointment, sadness, anger, rage, pride, and so forth, are big time emotions. Let your child know that it is totally okay to feel them all. They are a beautiful and mysterious part of life. Try using language like, “Are you feeling hurt or disappointed? Are you angry or scared? It looks like your feelings got hurt. Are you feeling left out?” Giving these powerful feelings a name helps us maintain control over our bodies and our preceding actions. Once you’ve had a chance to identify the emotion try helping them process through what they might need. For example: “It looks like you might be feeling sad. Do you need some time to rest, a hug, or a glass of water?” For younger kids you might try using emotion cards or an emotion poster to help identify hourly emotions.

2.      Address YOUR needs. Teach your children how to handle stress by handling your own stress in a healthy way.

Your kids are watching you ALL the time. They pick up on your habits, they know when you are stressed, and they are constantly learning from you. If you lose control and yell at them every-time you feel overwhelmed you can’t expect them to do anything different. Ask yourself “How do I feel?” and “What do I need?” Be honest with yourself and with your kids. Let your family in on your process. “I am feeling very sad. I think I need to take a walk and breathe fresh air. Would you like to join me or stay with mom?”  Evaluate your needs and address them as they come up. Take care of yourself. As humans we feel a spectrum of emotions and contrary to popular belief it is OKAY to feel them ALL. Expose your kids to your emotions so that when you ask them how they feel and what they need they’ve already watched you model the process.

3.    Help kids unravel what they have in common with other people.

Let’s be real. As a species we are way more similar than we are different. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we will like everyone we meet. The world is a melting pot of different beliefs, cultural norms, and personal practices. Hopefully we are all trying our best to live happy, creative, productive lives. Learning to live in harmony with so many personalities from different life experiences can be challenging. As kids begin to understand themselves better, opportunities to explore biases and prejudices will likely emerge. Try to emphasize all the many things we have in common and CELEBRATE how our unique differences enrich our neighborhoods, schools, and greater community. Keep communication open and explore ways to keep us connected as humans. Demonstrate the value in respecting EVERYONE.

4.    Talk about and Model how our feelings influence our behavior.  

Feelings shape our behavior, our life, and our world. More precisely we shape our world to reflect or validate the way we feel. Try not to cover up feelings. Be honest with yourself and with others about how you feel. This is an extremely valuable way of taking care of yourself and advocating for your needs. Building, maintaining, and sustaining relationships is tricky, even for the best of us. Imagine how tricky this can be for an emotionally unregulated five year old. Model how to be a good friend, and how to be fully present when you are with others, stand up for what is important to you, and create healthy boundaries.  If your child hears you incessantly talking about how angry you are at a close friend in the confines of your home and then watches you pretend like everything is fine the next time you are together you are not only sending mixed messages but telling your child through your actions that it is in fact not important to advocate for your needs. Get it all out on the table, try to understand and listen to the other person’s view point, and then determine what personal boundaries you may need. Emotions are designed to appraise and summarize an experience and inform our actions. They can give us an advantage in decision making if we make proper use of them. Let yourself feel the emotions and then process them with your family or in writing. If after assessing the situation you decide to create a personal boundary that involves more space between you and your friend, tell your child why. It’s unfair to assume that we will be friends with everyone but we can instead learn how to be respectful of everyone. Go forth in bold kindness.

5.     Help kids identify other perspectives.

As you read your daily books try to understand what the characters think, believe, and feel.  Ask probing questions about how they can tell if a character is upset, frustrated, or happy.  Have conversations about what and why this is happening to the character. Apply this same type of conversation to school peers, family members, or people in the community. For example, “Did you notice that your friend Sarah was upset this morning? I bet that impacted her day. Would you like to give her a call and check in this evening?” Practice noticing how others might feel and learn to become interested in how you can offer compassion in a variety of situations.

Teaching kids empathy is one of the most important jobs of being a parent or educator. These books are great for all ages and will help make it easier to introduce the concept of Empathy. They celebrate friendship, differences, and the importance of caring for one another.

1.      Wonder

By R.J. Palacio

A rich memorable story that will pull on ALL your heartstrings. Get ready for a journey into learning how to love your inner self and be accepting of others despite what they may look like.

2.      The Invisible Boy

By Trudy Ludwig

A sweet story of empathy shows how to reach out to left-out kid at school. This story inspires kids to contemplate whether they would prefer to be invisible or bullied?

3.      Ramona the Pest

By Beverly Cleary

In this story Ramona navigates Kindergarten and explores all sorts of interesting situations and feelings!

4.      One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street

By Joanne Rocklin

One very special Orange tree draws a neighborhood together in an inspiring and unique story.

5.      Stand in My Shoes

By Bob Sornson

This is a story that introduces the concept of empathy and shows kids just how easy it is to notice how others are feeling.

Help Your Child Overcome Childhood Fears

Image by Evelyn Cirignotta

Image by Evelyn Cirignotta

Our fears are never going to fully go away; sometimes we overcome one and then another pops up in a different way, time, or place. They are here and a part of us. Instead of treating them like a nuisance let’s try to approach them with curiosity and compassion. I invite you to consider fear to be the places within us awaiting our love and attention. Read on for how to help your kids face and overcome their normal childhood fears with an extra dose of compassion.

Try to understand your child’s fear. Young children are still discovering the world that they live in. Their imagination is developing and things they see or hear in real life can result in the formation of scary mental images. This can lead to all sorts of fears! Including a fear of darkness or of imagining a monster in the dark room. Ask questions that help inspire introspection and help your kids sort through all of the overwhelming emotions surrounding fear. For example, “When you feel scared what happens in your body? What do you need to do in order to feel safe?”

Talk to your child. Talking to your child about your fears can help them feel more comfortable and let them know they are not alone. Ask your child to share their fears with you. If they are able to, have them explain why they are afraid of that particular thing and where that fear may have come from. Let them explain how it feels to be scared. It’s okay to let your kids know about some of your childhood fears, ones that you may have overcome, and some that keep popping up throughout your life. Show your concern and love for your child’s experience as you talk about fears. This demonstration of empathy can strengthen your bond with your child.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s common to hear parents say things like, “Don’t be scared” or “See, your friend is not scared” etc etc. Try to avoid this language. This can make your child believe that they are wrong to be scared. When kids feel like there’s something wrong with their behavior it often leads to them sharing less and less information with you. Make sure your child understands that it is alright to be afraid and to ask for help.

Listen to what they have to say. Do not ignore your child’s fear. It is there for a reason, even if you can’t fully understand it. If your child is scared of a particular relative, caregiver or a neighbor, don’t ignore it or force the child to be with that person. Instead, let your child explain what makes them fearful of that person or experience. Even if you think the person is unlikely to cause any harm give your child the benefit of the doubt.  Listen to what they have to say and let them feel heard.

Take it seriously. There’s a time and place for making jokes. Sometimes it can be healing to treat fears with a lighter more jovial approach but when you are first exploring your child’s fears take them all seriously. Making fun of a child’s fear will not make them less fearful. It can however increase their anxiety and lower their self-esteem. This can lead to more intense problems like developing phobias which is an advanced state of fear. We can overcome fears only with your love, care, and attention.

Give them time to process. Do not force your child to do something that they are scared of. Allow them the time to process, adjust as needed, and determine what steps are needed to face this fear. Support them with love and care.

Model being brave. Kids are social learners and will often follow your lead, your actions, and your cues. Notice how you respond when you encounter fear. If you flail your arms, scream, and run out of the the room every time you see a spider your child may react in similar ways when they encounter something they are afraid of. Next time you see that terrifying spider, take 3 big deep breaths, voice your concern if you must, and make a plan. “Mommy is very scared right now. I am going to take a big breath and move away from the spider.”

Keep kids away from scary characters. A young child cannot completely differentiate between reality and fantasy until they are around 8 years old.  Kids can easily get scared of the fantasy characters they watch on television. Turn off the scary TV shows or commit to having limited screen time together.

Make sure your child knows they are loved and you will always be there to protect them.  Let them know that you are always available to listen and help whenever needed.  Let them journal or draw about their feelings or experience. Keep the doors of communication constantly open.

Try using this Guided Relaxation to help your child release their fears.

Find a comfortable position on your back and slowly begin to listen to the sound of your beautiful breath. Feel your breath coming in, listen to it going out. 
On your inhale imagine breathing in love, whatever that may mean to you. Let it fill you from your tippy toes to your finger-tips and to the top of your head. 
Now exhale out your fears and worries, about anything and everything...school, grades, the dark... etc.

Breathe-in love now imagining that your breath is like a river sweeping through your body. It makes you feel strong, safe, and relaxed.

Breathe out your frustrations. Breathe out your fear. Imagine seeing your fear leave your body. In your mind watch yourself waving goodbye. "Goodbye fear!"

Breathe-in love and think, “I am calm.” Breathe out love. 
Breathe in love and think, “I can do this.” Breathe out peace.

Breathe-in peace, whatever that may look like to you and feel your body relaxing. Breathe-out love.

Breathe-in love, breathe-out peace. 
Continue for as long as you want! 

30 Ways to Have Fun With Your Kids This Spring!

30 Ways to Have Fun With Your Kids This Spring!

By Elissa Cirignotta


Flowers are blooming, the sun periodically shining through the drizzle, and the weather is nearly perfect. Get outside with the whole family this spring! Breathe the fresh air, go for a hike, take a bike ride, dance away the winter blues, plant a garden… and so much more! Read on for inspiration on your next spring adventure. 


Read article on Red Tricycle

Inspire Relaxation Before Your Child's Bedtime

 Inspire Relaxation Before Your Child's Bedtime

By Elissa Cirignotta

Image: Evelyn Cirignotta

Image: Evelyn Cirignotta

Unwinding and relaxing can be a challenge for anyone, especially as we continue to live in a noisy loud world dominated by technology and distractions. If you want to create a calm environment from this fast paced world it’s time to create some new habits that help you and your family eliminate external and internal noise. It is possible to make bedtime a positive experience for everyone in the family. Read on for ideas on how to inspire relaxation in your home! 

Read Article Here. 



Prep time: 30 mins

Serves: 2-3


Yummy healthy tummy loving breakfast/snack pudding perfect for cold winter days!



·         2 cups 2% Milk

·         ½ cup of plain or honey yogurt

·         ½ cup coconut milk/cream

·         1/3 cup Maple Syrup

·         ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

·         ½ teaspoon ground flax seed

·         ½ teaspoon maca powder

·         ½ teaspoon hemp seeds

·         ⅔ cup chia seeds

·         2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

·         1 apple, cored and chopped

·         ½ banana cut in small bits

·         1 cup of frozen blueberries



1.      Whisk ½ cup of yogurt with vanilla, maple syrup, & coconut flakes.

2.      Add milk, keep whisking. Slowly stir in chia seeds.

3.      Stir continuously for about 2 minutes while the chia seeds absorb the milk. Allow the mixture to sit in the fridge for 15 minutes.

4.      Add flax seed, maca powder, apple, blueberries, banana, & coconut cream/milk. Stir for 1 minute. Allow mixture to sit for 15 minutes in fridge.

5.      Top with coconut flakes, apple slices, hemp seeds, cinnamon, almonds…. Etc



We enjoyed a bowl of pudding + half a whole grain peanut-butter/banana sandwich as an afternoon winter snack! YUM! 

Stay Warm! Stay Cozy! Stay Cool!

~Elissa Cirignotta

Release... the best is yet to come.


Contributed by Jesse Soto


Seasons change. The sun’s journey from horizon to horizon irrevocably (or so it seems) shortens, and with these changes, what is seen by many as a shedding of the year’s hang-ups and newly-acquired emotional baggage climaxes in a pivotal point of transformation: the coming of the new year. This passing of the torch from the beaten and battered you to the emboldened, enlightened scion of truth that the cleansing fires of all the revelations of the past year’s shortfalls and mistakes have molded you into is your rise out of the ashes, your rebirth, your second chance.

Watch out 2016! This time IT WILL be different. The 32nd time is the charm…right?

Sounds great, doesn’t it? With the passing of one year to the next, and a single stroke of the clock, our slates are wiped clean and we again have the ability to be the person we think we should be. We charge on, invigorated by countless self-important soundbites of prose stamped on the sides of bottles and affixed to tea bags, plastered on manufactured memes against a backdrop of a shapely model’s silhouette, gazing contentedly across an impossibly beautiful vista, gone with an upward swipe of our thumbs.

This axis of time is steeped in ritual and cosmology as old and varied as the ever-growing collection of leggings and mats in each of our closets, dear readers. Myself, I’m not that much of a holiday person, but this one day of the year does seem to hold a bit more magic for me, even than perhaps my own birthday.

I’ve always been in love with the idea of transition and moments of transformation, of sudden, irreversible change. Growing up under the yolk of extreme and distorted religious doctrine, the trappings of tradition – holidays, organized religion, and even family gatherings (best to let sleeping dogs lie) – continue to lack significance for me beyond serving as worn-out exercises performed simply because the same was done the year before. The ability to shed the notions and predetermined ideals foisted upon me by people, by circumstance, by the passage of time serves as an exception to my rule, in the form of New Year’s Eve.

It’s on that night every year that I hold a private ceremony, a cleansing of spirit, if you will, which I call my Release Ceremony. I write out a long letter addressed to the year that is passing, and all of the stowaways that I am intentionally shedding and relinquishing from my control and my being. In this letter I record everything I am thankful for and everything which has introduced pain into my life – breakups, friendships gone south, transcendent evenings, great meals, achingly beautiful skylines – and through this homage to my perpetual balancing act, a salute to necessary and destructive creation. When the letter is complete, I light it on fire, burning my scribbles and releasing those moments as I enter the new year with a clear and open heart. Burning these discoveries, revelations, losses, and adventures brands them in my inner narrative and releases them as base matter, once again broken down and assimilated back into the folds of potential.

What is true is that we are only the temporary custodians of the particles which we are made of. They will go on to lead a future existence in the enormous universe that made them. 

-Stephen Hawking

What is also true is that we are only the temporary custodians of our pain, and of all the negative emotions we feel compelled to hold on to and carry with us. Let them go! Give that pain and the energy spent reconciling it back to the universe, where it can take on new life as gratitude, as love.

Now, on to something completely different...

2015 introduced loss into my life in a way I had not yet experienced, and I am so very thankful for the clarity it granted me. With last year’s Release Ceremony, I made goals, set challenges, and purposefully scared and shocked myself with every possible opportunity. I started running again. I quit smoking and the lifeless, dead-end job I hated, and landed one that I love at more than double the salary. As if that weren’t enough, I’m getting my own interior design/terrarium business off the ground, and loving every minute of my hectic pace. I wanted to explode, and I succeeded. Balancing all of this with my day-to-day of living with PTSD and manic depression has been, like, really, really, really hard. 

Life is short and the years continue to speed past (since when can anyone born in the 90’s operate a vehicle or get into BAR?!).

This is your December 2015 challenge, dear readers: create your own Release Ceremony this New Year’s Eve. Face 2015 and examine your year with naked honesty, allow yourself to love even the darkest moments. Ground yourself, love yourself, forgive yourself. As you take your first steps into the new year, mind you the words of C.S. Lewis:

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.


Jesse Soto is an artist living and working in Portland, OR, where he continues to collect abandoned shadows and human memories. An accomplished artist, published poet, and lover of all things green, Jesse spends his days keeping company with Philosophy, the Esoteric Arts, cooking and juicing with his partner, hiking, and appreciating the wondrous canvas of sky above. He can be reached for any number of reasons at soto.notebook@gmail.com


*image credit: Jott Robertson

Leaning In

Contributed by Krista Basis, E-RYT 200


I’ve been teaching Yoga since 2002. Wow. 13 years. I’ve owned three yoga studios. And most recently started to teach barre at my little cozy space called The Yoga Barre in Washougal Washington.

When I first started teaching barre, I thought “How can I possibly teach both yoga and barre? They have nothing to do with one another. One is spiritual. The other is pure fitness.  What the hell am I doing?”

In reconciling my feelings about teaching both modalities, I realized that I was a part of my beautiful community, and essentially we are all just trying to take care of ourselves. We are sharing stories, connecting, and helping others by just being there. This reminds me that we don’t have to pigeon hole ourselves to being one particular stereotype.  We can love what we do, be proud of what we love to do, and calmly detach from our own preconceived notions about being what we THINK we should be. As we all know it’s a lonely and never satisfying space to be in. Ditch the glitch!

The long and short of it is that I love people. I love to see people take care of themselves. I love to see people thrive. I have always been public service oriented (I spent my early 20’s volunteering and working for the Peace Corps & Avon Walk for Breast Cancer).  I’ve worked waitressing jobs, cleaning hotel rooms, making ice cream cakes for birthday parties. I’m a Usui Reiki Master and Tarot Card lover (and occasional reader with a glass of red wine). If people need taking care, I want in. And the fact of the matter is that’s not changing.  My job in life is to connect with people.

How do you practice Mindfulness?

At home: It’s HARD! There are a lot of distractions at my house. I try to squeeze in my meditation time right before I go to sleep at night. I usually play Yoga Nidra audio clips from Amazon Music (my current favorite is Yoga Nidra II – Yoga Nidra Practice with Healing Sounds by Robin Carnes)

I also try, and fail more times then I like to acknowledge, to turn off all technology and spend time with my husband, child, furry children by talking, hugging, and trying to stay present.  Walking my dog is a joyful part of my mindfulness practice.

At work: No matter who shows up or whatever mood they are in….I try to be present for them. I make space for them- to get what they need and to shake loose. I am supportive, as best I can. Do I let people walk over me? Nope. That is not real Metta (practice of loving kindness). If my students come in being flustered, slightly rude, annoyed, etc. I try to be light hearted and kind. Does it work all the time? Surprisingly, yes, it does. They walk out in a better mood or note that even if they were a jackass…..the light in me honors that sometime prickly person I am as well.  It helps me to meditate on the “All One” messy human show. It’s a good reminder that we need some compassion now and then, especially when we are the little stinkers.

In  my community: I try to help or give when I can. I stay aware and present. If I see that someone needs help – maybe a senior who cannot carry their groceries – or someone homeless at a highway ramp, I offer my support, I give money. I also volunteer at my daughter’s school washing dishes every Thursday. I would love to be Mother Teresa-ing it all the time…. I help when I can and know that I make a difference in my own way every day. I’m enough.  

Why do you do what you do?

This question makes me laugh. Not sure why, but I question it a lot!  I am not sure why I do what I do!?! Logically, I would have a lot more stability working a “regular” 9-5 job with a 401K. And, honest to goodness, maybe I would not stress out so much on a daily basis about what I am going to teach or how many people attended class, how am I going to pay my teachers and bills this month? What I can say is that I do what I do because it makes me feel good about helping others.  That almost every day I am connecting with people on so many different levels….ways that an office job might not afford me.  Sometimes I feel it is my Dharma and that is a comfort.

How does being in the present moment heal you?

Lately, I have been reading “Taking the Leap” by Peema Chadron. She discusses the Buddhist concept of Shenpa (being attached or hooked). I have been using this to heal myself. The practice is taking little snippets of time to meditate when and where I can. I stopped feeling guilty for not spending what I thought was ample time meditating.

Seriously, if you are able to meditate for an hour on a daily basis, I envy you. As for me, running a studio, teaching yoga and barre classes, being mother to an 8 year old, active dog and 18 year old senior cat (who has lots of health issues now) I have little time to be in the NOW. But with Pema’s guidance, I realized all I need to do is:

1.      Acknowledge that you are hooked.

2.      Pause. Take 3 deep breaths. And lean into the discomfort of whatever it is that you are hooked or attached to. Feel it. Taste it. Be curious about it.

3.      Move on. Do not make it a competition that you win or lose.

I cannot tell you how many times a day I do this. It is simple. And guess what? I have had so many big moments of revelation. Before I would have thought that I needed more time to acknowledge all of this “issues” that I am carrying around. But, for me, I realized that all I need to do is pause, lean in and move on. You don’t need to keep replaying the old stories. You can quickly take in what you need, acknowledge it, and get on with your life.  I am learning to lean in.

krista fam.jpg

Krista is a Massachusetts gal who loves to travel.  She has visited and lived in Mexico, St. Vincent, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Trinidad, South Africa, Lesotho, Costa Rica, Italy, Turkey and most recently Thailand. She loves to hike with her husband Dan, daughter Zoe and miniature Australian Shepard Annie in beautiful Oregon.

Krista teaches at her little studio The Yoga Barre most days. She also has the honor of teaching at Karma Yoga in Clackamas, OR and The Love Hive in Portland, OR. She's grateful to have such a wonderful community who opened there arms wide in the Northwest. 

Enough is Enough

Enough is Enough

By Elissa Cirignotta





This month Elissa Cirignotta was a guest blogger on he Manifest-Station. The Manifest-Station is an online magazine created by Jennifer Pastiloff with Angela Patel and Melissa Shattuck as editors.

Read the full article here


I am enough. We are enough.

I am enough and I always have been. I am whole & I am part of your whole. I am complete. I am perfect.

I have experienced how easy it can be to forget this truth. Time and time again. I forget that I’m connected to the intelligent ebb & flow of life. I forget that my essence is pure. I forget that within me, God can be found.

Becoming the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

Becoming the Person My Dog Thinks I Am

Contributed by Anita Howard




One summer day in 2012 I happened upon a Ted Talk by Adam Baker entitled, “Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.”  In that talk, Adam challenged his listeners to one important question, “What does freedom mean to you?” 

There are certain moments in life that can be traced back to true turning points, where you begin to reconsider, unravel and evolve.  This was one of those moments on my path.

I’m a self-described “Earthy” girl wild about plants and animals and living in harmony with nature on this planet.  For the past 15 years, I’ve followed my heart and volunteered with various animal care and conservation organizations including a wildlife refuge on the Emerald Coast of Florida, a wildlife conservation center in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia and farm sanctuaries, an equine therapy center, City Dog Country Dog and the Oregon Humane Society here in the Pacific Northwest.

So I asked myself, what does freedom mean to me?  This was the answer that I kept coming back to…

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This passion for animals and the environment ultimately drove me to create an eco-friendly tiny home to minimize my footprint which now advocates for my chosen lifestyle.  The house utilizes solar, rainwater catchment, composting, and wood heat. It is approximately 10% of the average-sized home in Portland.  As a happy herbivore, I grow much of my own fruits, vegetables and herbs. Between whipping up nourishing smoothies and cultivating my meditation practice, I’m rooted in the belief that the earth freely offers the resources to sustain a balanced life.

What is my work?

I am becoming the person that my sweet rescue dog Kingston thinks I am.  I became certified in naturopathic animal care at the Northwest School of Animal Massage in Seattle, WA, retired from my desk job and recently launched a full-time practice nurturing happier and healthier tomorrows for pets through therapeutic small animal massage, holistic aromatherapy, and gentle Reiki energy work in addition to pet sitting. 

Living lightly with natural resources and ultimately choosing to do what I love as a vocation is the happiness that Mahatma Gandhi spoke of. 

Happiness is my freedom.

How do I practice Mindfulness in my community?

I created a “Paw It Forward” program to further my commitment to community service and donate therapeutic massage sessions to hard-working service animals and shelter animals in need. 

What’s the best advice I’ve ever heard?

“When someone you love walks through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.” – Denali, the dog (and his human Ben Moon)

Why do you do what you do?

To put it simply, I live for the benefit of all sentient beings on this beautiful blue-green world.

Today is a very good day to ask yourself…

What does freedom mean to you?

* * * * * *

Anita Howard is a lover of the natural world, animals, plants, stargazing, altruism, Rumi poetry, open hearts, gypsy meanderings, enchanted forests and is naturally drawn to benevolent spirits that swim against the current.  She is a Master Practitioner and Teacher in the Usui System of Natural Healing known as Usui Reiki Ryoho and the owner of Now and Zen Pet Massage & Natural Care offering pet sitting and holistic pet care throughout the Portland metro area.  To learn more, visit:  http://www.nowandzenpet.com/



If you would like to follow her journey on Instagram: @nowandzenpet or find her on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/nowandzenpet



Contributed by Kate Rutter

What is your work?

In the past, coming face to face with this question triggered an immense amount of confusion, shame and deep rooted self-judgement. It has taken me a long time to find my place in this sweet, ever-changing world. I’m not implying that I have arrived. More accurately, I realized I wasn’t ever going to arrive. Our life - made up of wants, needs, desires, expectations, emotions, connections, etc - are always shifting shape and I believe the real mission is to find balance and peace in the present moment on the journey towards nothing and everything, trusting we are right where we need to be. 

I moved to Portland in the summer of 2011. Over the last four years I’ve had more than a handful of jobs most overlapping on on-going. My work has included ::



shop girl

hair styling

wardrobe styling

art direction

floral design

jewelry design

essential oil educator

co-host of a women’s gathering






Most of my adult life I have been self-employed, hired freelance or worked as an independent contractor. This type of work has its pros and cons just as anything else, but it definitely takes a lot of faith and hard work. I have solid skill sets in both logistics and the arts. Being able to oversee and envision both aspects of left and right brain is a blessing and a curse. It can easily lead to burnout and control issues but also allows for self-sufficiency and rapid growth.  My dad started his own business and I grew up in the Midwest, thus indicating my work ethic is solid. More importantly, my time here in Portland has helped me realize how important it is to balance work and rest.

Since my relocation, I’ve taken solo entrepreneur business courses, a digital photography/Photoshop intensive, classes in textiles, metal-smithing and ceramics, trained under a florist, and studied plant medicine.  I was seeking experience and craving knowledge. It felt like every time I told someone my story, especially in a business course, they all said the same thing - Find your niche. Define your market. Just pick something. But my gut was saying otherwise. My intuition told me to keep looking, keep studying, keep learning. When a new job, partnership or derailed opportunity presented itself, my heart said Try it.

So, that’s what I did. I surrendered to the flow. I let go and I allowed my life to show up for me. All I had to do was accept. I didn't know why I was doing these things and I didn’t know where they were leading me. I had a new plan everyday - I'll be an herbalist, a shoe-maker, a visionary, a farmer, a teacher (these were all real considerations by the way).  There have been moments where it has been hard for me to keep up with me. I realized that although I was surrendering to the flow, I felt more like I was floating away. I was constantly thinking about what job I would have, what I was going to do for a living, what I was going to be. That’s how we are trained to think. We study and then we become something - a nurse, a firefighter, a mother, an architect. I found it more and more difficult to define myself and my work. I wasn’t in a box. I didn’t have a label or title and that was very confusing. But again, in my heart I felt safe and I knew my intuition was leading me somewhere.

When I was asked what I do, I did one of two things. I respond with my work history, usually going something like, "Well, I've been a hair stylist for the last 12 years. I studied fashion design and ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Textiles. And, you know, what do you really do with an art degree? So, since I had a trade I just kept doing hair. Oh, and I make jewelry." And later, when I thought I was moving forward, it went something like, "Well, I used be a hair stylist, but I kind of retired because now I'm only in the salon once a week. I have a company called HeartCave and I design jewelry and make essential oils blends that are connected to symbolism, intention and communion. But, it's more than that. Its bigger than that. I just haven't been able to define it yet. Oh, and I want to be an artist."

What I noticed was, I quickly relied on my past to give value to my current work or spoke of confusing details about my unknown future and desires to be an artist. Why did I feel the need to justify my present with stories of the past or the future? What is an artist anyway and how do I be one? Where was I right now? What do I do?

I began to get curious about myself, my place in the now and what made me unique. It wasn't until I was prompted to write this entry that I really got honest about it, realized where I have arrived and began to feel immense gratitude for trusting my intuition to guide me to a place beyond my wildest dreams. What a blessing this platform has been. Happiness is the immediate emotional response to gratitude. Simply by feeling grateful we conjure up joy and begin to manifest further joy in our lives. Thank you Elissa. Thank you Happy Mindful People. Thank you self - for being brave and getting real.

So, the burning question, What do I do?  Well, still lots. But I've found the common thread! My purpose is to connect and create. I connect with people, plants, myself and Source. My medium for creation shifts between metal, textiles, essential oils, imagery and manifestation. The point is, I feel inspired and balanced. I am safe and I am able to provide for myself. I own a business authentically aligned with my passion and purpose of beauty, intention, symbolism and communion with whoever is called to listen. I softly fell into a position working freelance for a company that I firmly believe in. They too are balanced in creativity, spirit and business. Their work has depth and integrity. My position within the company has a familiar title but my work is beyond a role I could have dreamt up for myself.

Owner of HEARTCAVE - a space devoted to creating and curating of ALL THAT IS :: the timeless and majestic, the oneness between all beings and the collective consciousness.


Creative Director at The Wild Unknown



How I manifested my reality ::

What I haven't mentioned about this journey is my focus on personal development. It began with my relationship to nature and my daily practice of communing with essential oils and flower essences. All beings have a vibration measured in megahertz. Human vibrate between 60-80 MHz. Plants are anywhere between 80 and 320 MHz. Feelings also have a vibration, or frequency. Feeling like love, joy and gratitude resonate higher than feelings like sadness, anxiety and depression and it is difficult for lower vibration feeling to remain in existence around high frequency feelings. Simply by communing with plants we can raise our vibration.

I also made it a point to start identifying as an artist, creating my life. I think in pictures. I turn feelings into photos and vice versa. I learned how to use my practical, career-based skills to support my true work - being a dreamweaver deeply rooted in trusting the universe and the art of manifestation. I continue to dig deep - figure out what inspires me at the moment, how I want to feel and what I want to call in. I develop a tone, fine tune the concept and direction and create a moodboard. This creates non-duality in my life. My work and my pleasure centers of creation and connection are one. Instead of thinking about what position or career my skills would fit into, I started thinking about how I wanted to feel when I worked. I took note of pleasurable activities. When I sat in the park surrounded by the trees, I left feeling really good. For me, that didn’t mean I should be a park ranger or landscaper. I simply took note of the feelings. I started to write them down, words like - calm, graceful, rooted, free, inspired, alive. I started collecting beautiful imagery of plants, spaces, places and people from print publications and sites like Pinterest. Anything I got online, I would send to be printed on photo paper. It was important for me to see and touch them in real life. I’d pull swatches of fabric that felt sweet on my skin and go to the paint store for colors that reflected those feelings. I began treating my life as I would a client and that allowed me to show up for myself with greater clarity and accountability.

Best advice ::

Be compassionate, first to you. If you haven't felt true compassion for yourself or your circumstance, you're just going around feeling sorry for people. Follow your intuition. Allow your life to take shape without force. Trust your experience. Release resistance. Detach from outcome. Make space for rest and self-care

Ways to support and clarify Who am I? And what am I doing here? Practices to evoke consciousness and awareness of self.

  • Practice the powerful of the pen. Write down goals, desires, feelings you want to have and anything that inspires you.
  • Start a collection of images that motivate, stimulate and awaken your dreams.
  • Have conversation with like-minded people. These people will likely start to form your tribe.
  • Commune with nature
  • Work with essential oils
  • Meditate
  • Move/Practice Yoga
  • Bring awareness to the breathe
  • Eat foods that support your body
  • Read


Favorite Books ::

The Book of The Heart Amit Singh

Partner Earth Pam Montgomery

Plant Spirit Healing Pam Montgomery

The Secret Lives of Plants Christopher Bird

Yoga for a World Out of Balance Michael Stone

The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle

Ways to sink into the heart ::

Give thanks

Be kind

Practice non-violence

Speak truth and avoid gossip

Go to nature

Stare at the moon

Buy or pick flowers

Peel an orange, slowly

Donate or give something away, like a compliment


Dirty Feet, Happy Heart

Dirty Feet, Happy Heart

Contributed by Kristina Komorowski 



Imagine with me a little girl in a white sundress, sitting on her great-grandmother's porch. Now, follow this little girl as she stands up and walks through the screen door into the house. She walks innocently around and  in-between the grown-up’s legs and pensively around the knobby feet of the large armchairs that are scattered around the house. She stops and turns her attention to a brown wispy bundle on the table. She carefully and suspiciously picks it up, making sure the adults do not see. The smell meets her nostrils before the strange bundle does. Curing onions. Beautiful golden bulbs, flaky and speckled with soil.

I was a rebel, or at least I liked to think of myself as one. I turned away from college life, wanting to be free of the obligation to study day in and day out, choosing to fulfill my life with music, parties and as little responsibility as possible. Like most of us do, I eventually realized that I had to settle down and start behaving like an adult. I worked retail and then an office job and finally settled nicely into the role of mother. When asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up (in the back of my head, at least) the answer was always the same: A mom! I quickly realized after having two beautiful boys that my dream job wasn't the calling I had thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom and I adore my children but it didn't give me that feeling like I'd finally opened the door and found what I had been looking for.

I became so deeply wrapped up in putting my family before myself that I saw my personal goals become even more distant. I did this for so long that my closest of friends encouraged me to get a hobby. I remember distinctly sitting with a glass of wine in my hand and tears in my eyes crying, “What am I supposed to do?!”

I'll never forget the day I discovered my calling. It was the type of moment where life stands still and if you don’t pay attention to the sign, you could easily miss it. I was hurriedly unloading groceries fully aware of the clock ticking towards dinner time and I grabbed a few onions to toss into our vegetable bowl.The smell stopped me in my tracks. As I lifted the crunchy sweet bulbs to my nose and inhaled ever so deeply, I was immediately brought back to my inner little girl wearing the white sundress smelling great-grandmother's cured onions. Couldn’t I grow these? Shouldn’t I grow these? Surely I can grow these. The thoughts ran rampant. I excitedly began opening this door. I searched for various gardening techniques online, I purchased a few books and read countless blogs about urban gardening. It wasn’t enough for me. I needed more.

I decided to start small, taking a few months of classes through The OSU Master Gardener program. Luck had it that my youngest son was sick the day they presented the vegetable growing portion of the course, so I experimented with the knowledge I read from our handbook, and soon began growing food out of raised beds my husband built. I quickly found out that I got more pleasure sharing what I grew with my friends and neighbors than I had ever imagined was possible. I could hear my passion about the plants when people would ask me basic gardening questions or how I grew my own food. Something was happening and I wanted to continue exploring this new found love. I began to find more farming and gardening books in the free boxes around town, I began following masters in the industry on social networking sites and by reading University publications. I found myself so flooded with accessible knowledge that I needed to hone in my new craft. I knew that I could read sun up to sun down but because that required time that most mother’s do not have, I decided instead to take the plunge and ask for help. I recognized that by putting in the time now this new passion of growing food would likely benefit my family, my community and my soul for a lifetime.

Today, I am a student of the Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship program which is a part time farming program that teaches adults the beginning elements of food production. I am confident that I have found my calling! Despite the current Portland heat wave this summer, I’ve been proudly and happily digging, sweating, harvesting, watering, and knowing that my efforts will soon pay off. I’ve cried on the farm numerous times, allowing the soil to absorb the pain of the busy world. Being connected to the soil brings me to this state of tranquility that only those who’ve dug in the earth can really understand. The soil is a healer and not only of the body and mind, but of the soul. It brings out your angels and demons. It will make you feel strong and it shows you your weaknesses. Listening to the bees hum, the leaves rustle, my breath as it exits and enters my body, the groans of pain and the cheers of excitement over a newly harvestable food source is what makes my soul come alive. I am a totally different person in the elements. I have found a new side of myself that I never knew existed. I am powerful and yet weak, open, vulnerable, humble and thankful. Working with men and women who share the same goals only intensifies my experience. I am beyond grateful for being able to be a part of a community where we all ache for the ability to share our food and knowledge with the people around us.

I want to share this journey with everyone I meet. It was the soil that helped me see what my gifts are.  I am a nurturer. I nurture the soil, I nurture my children, and I will forever continue to nurture my soul. 

Trust your inner voice, your inner child. Stay inspired and honor your gifts. Lastly I encourage you to ground yourself daily. Go stick your hands in the dirt.

I dare you.

“The Meaning of Life is to find your gift. The Purpose of life is to give it away.”  -William Shakespeare

Kristina Komorowski is a Texas native who moved to Illinois after high school. She fell in love with a Polish man and together in the Winter of 2010 they created a home in  Portland Oregon. They have 2 beautiful children in SE Portland and dream of life on a small farm. They love everything nature and get great joy in sharing their rich bounty.

Kristina is currently a student of the Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship program. See more at their website to learn more:http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/beginning-famers/BUFA

If you would like to follow their journey look for Kristina on Instagram: @Mamakomorowski or send her an email: kkomorowski13@gmail.com

Finding a Path




Finding a path

Contributed by Allison Burt-Tilden






As a small child growing up in 1980's Portland, I felt like I had it all: a loving family, a nice home with lots of other children nearby, and a secure spot as teacher's pet at school. All of this came crashing down shortly after I turned seven. My parents declared bankruptcy, my dad had to sell our home and his flourishing business, and we began living a pattern of chaos that would last more than a decade. My parents fought bitterly until their eventual divorce, I was enlisted as a secondary parent to my two much younger siblings, money was always an issue, and we moved every six months on average, often living with my grandparents in between rentals. Needless to say, I developed some pretty gnarly anxiety and as a result, I started to struggle in school.

By the time I turned 18 I had already dropped out of high school and gotten my GED. Despite having worked full-time for a couple of years already, I had no idea how to manage money or how to find my purpose in life. I went to work, paid the rent, paid the bills, bought some food, and spent whatever was left on make-up and clothes. As a life-long lover of fashion, I used my free time to read high fashion magazines and shop, which was my main joy in life. As far as I could figure out, life was about working so that I could shop.

In my early twenties, I was overjoyed to make the move from the service industry to an office job – and just like that, I fell into real estate. For a high school drop-out, it seemed like my golden ticket; a good salary, benefits, evenings & weekends off, and most of all, stability. Never mind that the work itself didn't interest me, I was doing what people are supposed to do. Naturally, it didn't take long for me to feel completely dissatisfied. Remembering how easy it had been to fall into my job, I gave my notice and went back to the placement agency to ask for something else. That's when my total disregard of news and current events first bit me in the ass. The year was 2002 and apparently the country was in a recession. After six months of unemployment, I got swept back into real estate after finding a series of dead ends elsewhere. Apparently my experience was quite sought after.

For the next ten years, I slogged my way through the industry. I worked in escrow and in mortgage, I worked for a listing brokerage, I negotiated short sales, I went back to mortgage – and what I remember most of those years is being utterly miserable. I dreamed of quitting and going to school - but for what? My interests were so varied and the harder I tried to decide on a path, the more confused I became. Part of me has always wanted to do something in science or health care, while another part of me desperately wanted in on the fashion world. No matter which ideas I entertained, I always felt like someone who was peering through a thick glass wall and I couldn't imagine ever getting past.

The turning point was slow in coming and in some ways, I feel like it's still happening, like I'm at the halfway point through a revolving door. It all started with meeting people at parties and dreading the inevitable question: 'What do you do?' I didn't want to talk about it! I would reply that I hated my job, that it doesn't define me, that I wanted to do something else, something in fashion, and ultimately, all the reasons why I couldn't make a change. This is where I want to take a moment to thank each and everyone one of those people who were such good sports listening to my negativity, but mostly, I want to thank each and every one of them for also telling me: Just do it.


It took years and probably a hundred such meetings and discussions before I had the epiphany. There I was at another social gathering, introducing myself to someone new and dreading the inevitable. 'So what do you do?' came, but this time I answered, 'I'm a blogger'. Granted, at the time my blog was more of a personal thing and I hadn't shared it with many but that simple sentence enabled me to think of myself outside of the real estate box, to talk to someone about something I genuinely enjoyed doing, and to give up the negativity that was really starting to grate on me (I can only imagine how it came across to others). Sure, I was still working in mortgage but suddenly it was just my day job - something understood as just a means to an end and not really worth discussing.

Once that first shift occurred, suddenly, I realized I was indeed a blogger. I started brainstorming new content ideas, I pushed my boundaries (like, a lot), I upped my game, and I started sharing the results with people. Crazily enough, they liked it! Blogging is not my ultimate goal but it has helped me in so many ways. I now understand my talents for writing and photography and how I can apply them to my love of local & indie fashion. Most importantly though, I have learned that not only can I step outside of my comfort zone, I can re-define my comfort zone.


Four years later, my blog has a small but steadily growing following and I work as a contributor for a really big blog (honeykennedy.com - check it out!). I'm about to take the next big step in putting myself out there for even bigger jobs in fashion writing and photography - I'll be honest, it's scary as hell! When I look back at miserable me sitting in a cubicle, processing loan applications and hating life, I remember the hard work and determination that has, so far, gotten me out of that cubicle, resulted in a body of work I'm pretty proud of, and helped me make real connections with amazing people doing amazing things.

When I think back to all the praise I received for my writing in school, how much I enjoyed learning photography from my dad, and how much time I spent engaged in anything and everything fashion related, I see that this has been my path all along. Despite having not had the best role models when it came to living a happy and purpose driven life, nor any real education to speak of, I found my path, and not only that, I'm working on forgiving myself for finding it later than some others. Finally, I see a glimmer of light over the horizon and it’s lighting my path. 

Allison Burt-Tilden is a Portland based indie fashion blogger and freelance photographer. She's the creator & editor of Votre Grande Soeur and a contributing writer & photographer for Honey Kennedy. When she's not working, you can find Allison enjoying a burger at one of her favorite spots on N. Mississippi. Follow her on Instagram @votregrandesoeur.




Contributed by Robbyn Peters Bennett








Knowing that I speak openly about the need to end spanking, people often ask me for advice on how respond to a parent who threatens or spanks their child in public.  Their fear of course, is the offending parent will strike back with the classic response, “mind your own business” or “who the hell are you to tell me how to deal with my child!”  And then later on, is the child the worse for it?

Alice Miller, author of “For Your Own Good,” talked about the importance of the Witness in helping a child buffer the effects of abusive treatment. A witness sees and acknowledges the suffering of the child.  I suspect in some cases, a witness who voices disapproval may cause a parent to feel shame, which may further provoke the parent to blame or attack the child at home. At the same time, the child does hear another point of view beyond the message of “I am bad. I do bad things and deserve to be hurt.” The child also hears, “it is not OK for me to be hit.” This is a very powerful message.

Sometimes, witnessing may be the only thing we know to do.  The role of being a witness for a child has often left me with a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction.  Yes, I spoke up, but I still felt I was abandoning the child to his fate and was unsure if I had really helped the parent.

Awhile back, I tried something different. I was at the airport with my granddaughter who was six at the time. She was getting ready to return home after a sweet summer visit.  We were both pretty sad.  We wandered into a gift shop looking for some kind of craft she could enjoy on the plane ride.  As usual, I was overloaded with bags and suitcases and I accidentally knocked over a toy from the display. I’m not always the most graceful and my granddaughter started to giggle at my exaggerated “oops” face. A woman standing nearby let out a sigh of relief, “Oh god. At least it isn’t my son!” A young boy about my granddaughter’s age was launching through the isles flopping his legs and arms about nearly missing the candy trays and dental floss display. It was like his body was floating through space where there was none.  His mother grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the store. Just watching those two gave me a pit in my stomach.

My granddaughter and I found our way to the waiting area after we purchased some greasy airport pizza. The worst. We ate a few pieces just in time for the intercom announcement, which was urging her to board. She waved me goodbye after our elaborate hug, handshake, love you more than the ocean is deep goodbye ritual. My heart ached with that deep sadness that comes from your children and grandchildren living too far away, followed by waves of love and gratitude. My husband and I decided to wait and watch the plane take off, a sweet and lost ritual in today’s airport experience where usually only passengers can linger at the gate.

It was then that I saw the mother and that rambunctious boy sitting on the floor, also watching my granddaughter’s plane.  The mother was yelling at the boy, threatening to spank him “if you don’t knock that off!” Things were escalating and the mother rose up to grab hold of him. It always makes me cringe when I hear a parent threaten a child. My initial feeling is always an urge to retaliate against the parent. It enrages me.  I took a deep breath and heard myself exhaling. Her son was becoming more and more upset, yelling back at her, and then it happened. He punched her and ran away. He did to her, what I felt like doing.

Maybe it was my grieving heart that opened me up to the suffering of this mother. Maybe it was because he hit her. But when I looked at her furious face, I could feel her exhaustion. I could feel her feelings of being defeated, overwhelmed, and completely alone. I walked over to her.

I just let all the judgment and anger go.  I opened my heart to her and felt tears welling up inside of me.  I gently rested my hand on her back and said, “Be kind to yourself, mommy. I can see you are doing the best that you can.”

I guess in that moment it didn’t occur to me that she might turn her fury on me. She slumped down and started to weep. She cried and cried and told me everything.  Everything. How her son is autistic and he gets crazy, how her teenage daughter who is on the plane hates her because she didn’t do right by her when she was younger, and yet she did the best she could and didn’t know what to do, and how she is working full time and moving soon and needs more time with her son, and isn’t sure about how to make ends meet.  She talked and she talked, sharing her worries and pain. I mostly listened, while rubbing her back and smoothing her ponytail, gently pulling the bangs from her eyes. I listened. As she talked, she softened. I listened, nodding, and understanding. Her son, who had been ramping up for a fight, started rocking himself moving a little closer over time.  The mother didn’t seem to notice.  She had so much she needed to tell me. As her tears subsided, her son crawled into her lap. She held him, kissed his forehead and started rocking herself with her son in her arms. “Thank you,” she said, as I stood up to go. I don’t remember what I said at that point. The whole day was so surreal.  I know I didn’t change her life, and that her son would continue to struggle along with her. But somehow, the harshness of life seemed a little less so.  There was this moment where this mother found relief and her son found comfort, and I felt compassion where I often mostly feel despair.

What we see in others is so often just the surface of their deep struggle and suffering.  Parents who bully and aggress their children are parents who are out of control and who need those of us who can, to connect with them. Feeling into the world of another person and problem solving with them takes time. In neuroscience, it is called co-regulation.  It sounds scientific, but it really is an art form. We all want our children to manage their emotions and relate to others with courtesy, warmth, and empathy.  Children learn these skills by developing the self-regulatory equipment of the brain and this essentially happens through our connection with them.  Deep connection is the art of co-regulation.  Psychiatrist Alan Shore, MD explains how the development of self-regulation occurs within relationship with another brain. We essentially are our relationships. The beauty of co-regulation is when we are able to stay connected with another person who is distressed, feel into their world and create a sense of safety, we feel better.  When I was able to connect to the mother at the airport, when I was able to listen and rub her back and understand – I felt better. I felt connected.  Connected to her, to my family, to the little boy, to my granddaughter, to all the mothers and fathers that struggle and to myself as a mother and even to myself as that vulnerable child.

Robbyn Peters Bennett is a psychotherapist, educator, and child advocate who specializes in the treatment of mental health problems due to early abuse and neglect. She also helps parents whose children struggle with tantrums, anxiety, bullying, and ADHD using sand tray therapy, with a sensitivity to advancements in neuropsychology. She believes children do well when they can and that behavioral problems stem from unmet developmental needs and lagging skills.  Her work with children supports the attachment between the child and parent,  so that the child's developmental needs can be met within the parent-child relationship. 

Robbyn also works with adults suffering from anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post traumatic stress.  She works from a Jungian perspective, and believes that the psyche contains the seeds to its own cure. To learn more about her work, go to http://robbynpetersbennett.org


The Ritual Reveals Itself

The Ritual Reveals Itself

Contributed by Kelly Sunrose






The spring is a special time for my practice. I celebrate the anniversary of my practice (18 years, half my life) as well as the anniversary of my becoming a yoga teacher (9 years, a quarter of my life). It’s only natural to reflect on how things have changed, the expansions and contractions, the elements that have remained constant (in a sense) through all of that time.

I carried around a book about meditation for 7 years before I started to sit still. “You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait.” The Supremes sang the truth.

Somewhere between my very first class and today, the state of being that is yoga began to reveal itself to me until I had the visceral, embodied memory that it is, indeed, my natural state. The times of longing for it were manufactured by my own ego. My attachment to the story that I’m separate, less than or greater than everyone else.

abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah

stillness is the result of practice for many years without attachment to the outcome.

-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.12

My morning practice has the potential to set the tone for my entire day, so I am devoted to it. The work is to remain open to whatever happens during that practice.

At least five days a week, this is the sacred ritual that begins my day.

My morning ritual really begins the night before. I create conditions that support an early morning by winding down early. When my 4 year-old daughter gets in bed at 7pm, I slip into my evening-wear, tidy the house, turn on the robot vacuum (game-changer for a working mom, by the way), shower & lay out my clothes for the morning and retire to my bedroom to read or watch something on my iPad. (This is my social-time with my husband, so I am looser with the rules about “no tv in bed.”) We are usually fast asleep by 9pm (we adopted this particular ritual about 9 years ago).

I wake up feeling super-refreshed between 5 and 5:30am. (I do set an alarm as a back-up, but don’t really need it if I adhere to the 9pm bedtime.)

Quiet as a mouse, I tip-toe downstairs once I’m dressed and washed.

While I wait for water to boil, I step outside into the first sounds and smells of morning. Non-attached listening is one of my favorite meditation practices. Morning is so good for this.

I make myself a brew of hot water with lemon, and sometimes ginger, turmeric and honey. This practice is newer for me, but it feels SO good to start the day with water. It’s usually too hot to drink right away, so I carry it to my meditation cave to hold in my lap while I ready to sit.

For the last 9 years, I’ve meditated consistently. Mostly every day, but I like to be loose about it because… practice without the non-attachment for me is the road to suffering. There were times when I was still practicing law and again when my daughter was a baby where I would make myself a little crazy just to get in a 20 minute sit, and that very rarely leads me to Yoga, so I am loose about it. I know that I am a kinder human, a better mother, a more loving wife when I meditate, so I treasure the practice. I treat it like my sweet necessary luxury.

After I sit, I move a little bit. Many days, it probably looks like I am just rolling around on the floor, but there is a lot of intention behind that rolling. Locating the balance of effort and ease in the movements requires attention.

After practice, I drink tea or (on occasion) coffee. A hot drink in the morning is a practice in mindfulness. Boiling the water, selecting the cup, steeping the tea, pouring the milk, holding the cup, smelling the brew, the very first sips. It’s a ritual of joy.

When I begin my day this way, the rituals keep on coming. I am in relationship with presence and able to attend to what and whom are with me. I am so grateful for this practice.



Kelly Sunrose began practicing yoga 18 years ago under the glow of the Hale Bopp comet. Kelly is grateful for every teaching that has illuminated the path, from the grocery store parking lot to the top of Meditation Mount. Kelly has been teaching her signature blend of investigative, devotional yoga since 2006, when she was certified to teach by the Shambhava School of Yoga.

Kelly continues her studies with Kira Ryder, Erich Schiffmann, Patricia Sullivan and many beloved others. Since 2009, Kelly has shared full-length videos and audio recordings of her classes at sunroseyoga.com. In 2015, she joined the teaching family at Yoga Anytime (http://yogaanytime.com). She creates spaces and experiences for transformative practice in-person and online.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family.

Acupuncture and the Lesson of Impermanence




Acupuncture and the Lesson of Impermanence

Contributed by Anne Carruth, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner






As an acupuncturist, I am regularly asked how I got into Chinese medicine.  I think people assume that I had an awe-inspiring acupuncture treatment that jump-started me onto this path.  Or perhaps a longtime fascination with Chinese culture that evolved into a study of Chinese medicine.  Truth be told, I leapt into acupuncture almost by default, and wound up learning how to both wield needles, and embrace the ebb and flow of life.  

Back in the day, I was searching for a complete and holistic style of healthcare.  One that emphasized preventative medicine and physical touch, and focused just as much on a patient’s emotional stress, lifestyle, and diet, as it did on their physical symptoms.  When I couldn’t find this in traditional western medicine, I visited a rolfing institute, toured a Buddhist liberal arts campus, researched nutrition programs, and personal trainer certifications.  I pin-balled from one option to the next, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the Colorado School for Traditional Chinese Medicine that I found a path I truly resonated with.  The program encompassed everything I was looking for in healthcare, so I decided to trust the universe and jump in.

That was ten years ago, and my work as an acupuncturist has proven to be immensely fulfilling.  Chinese medicine is an incredible field that has educated me on disease processes, herbal remedies, acupuncture points, meridian theory, nutrition, the management of stress, pain, emotions, and more.   But the most valuable lesson acupuncture has taught me, is that of impermanence.  I see it in both my patients and myself every day, and it has changed the way I view my life and my health.

Acupuncture ultimately boils down to movement.  Our bodies and minds are constantly moving, regulating, thinking, responding, filtering, adjusting, pumping blood, breathing air, taking in fuel and excreting waste.  My role as an acupuncturist is to enhance wellbeing by balancing these movements within the body.  Stagnation of qi, blood, or nutrients within us allows for pain and disease processes to set up.  Acupuncture prevents stagnation by promoting the smooth, even movement of these things within our bodies.  In fact, the only time we are ever static is when we die.  Wellness = Movement = Impermanence.  Thus, we are impermanent.  We are constantly changing and so is the world around us.  And acknowledging that you are impermanent – that everything is a balancing act, a cycle, a flow - is as liberating as it is motivating. 

Impermanence means that everything you are experiencing right now – in your mind, body, and environment - will change.  Negative things will eventually shift, good can become great, and great cannot be taken for granted.  It means that poor health can always be improved upon, and that good health needs continual support to remain good.  Knowing that everything I am right now will evolve, motivates me to set positive intentions, and gives me solace when things aren’t going as planned.  Impermanence provides opportunities to improve all aspects of your life.    

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have given me knowledge about healthcare in all the ways I was hoping for, but more importantly, they have taught me that we are truly impermanent, that we are constantly changing, and that life is supposed to work this way! 

So, in my professional opinion, I recommend that you:

  • Embrace change! 
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff…it’s not permanent.
  • Set intentions to move forward in all aspects of your life.  Don’t let anything get too stagnant.
  • Remember that it’s never too late to start.
  • Be present.  THIS moment only happens once. 
  • And smile.  It just makes everything better
untitled (9).png

Anne Carruth is a Midwest girl, who has followed her career, family, and love of the outdoors from Ohio, to Colorado, and finally to Oregon.  After completing her undergraduate studies in Ohio, she earned her Masters in Denver at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  She now holds a Masters of Science in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).  

Anne’s philosophy on health is founded in preventative medicine and a holistic view of the mind, body, and spirit.  She embraces the traditional Chinese model of treating the “branch” and the “root”; thus treating one’s symptoms, as well as their underlying cause. This approach enables her to treat a wide variety of health concerns, ranging from pain to the common cold.  Anne loves her work as an acupuncturist and feels privileged to help others achieve their wellness goals.  Her gentle needling technique and compassionate approach make her an ideal practitioner for children, sensitive patients, and those new to acupuncture.  While her extensive training and clinical experience enable her to tackle the most difficult of cases.


Schedule an appointment with Anne at Portland Natural Health. (Portland Natural Health Bio Page)

You can also find her at the next Taking Care event.

Two steps foward, One step back.

untitled (8).png

Two steps forward, One step back

Contributed by Zoë Shipley





When I began my first year as an AmeriCorps member at a low-income middle school in Oregon, I knew I wanted to make a positive impact, but I wasn’t sure how. When I heard about another member starting a group that focused on being kind to one another, I happily stole her idea and created my very own Kindness Crew. As an avid Free Hugger, I knew I loved performing random acts of kindness and I figured that creating an after school Kindness Crew would give me a chance to do even more RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness), while showing students how rewarding and fun spreading kindness can be!

I spent weeks planning out a curriculum, looking up various uplifting videos, and gathering ideas for RAKs we could do around the school. When the class started, I had a small group of wonderful students who were very excited to get going. We wrote in gratitude journals each week, shared stories of kindness, performed RAKS, and came up with ideas for how else to spread the love. I was delighted with what we were doing and was certain that I was changing lives and making a difference.

A few weeks in, I learned from one of the students that she was being bullied by a group of girls, one of whom was in my Kindness Crew. I was shocked! Naively, I had assumed that coming to a 1.5-hour class once a week and doing nice things for others would completely eradicate any chance of any of my students ever being mean to anyone again! I was supposed to be transforming them into compassionate young people who stood up for each other and said nice things! This was definitely a reality check.

What I realized from this early experience - and from many subsequent experiences that left me wondering if I was really making a positive impact - was that I needed to be patient. It’s easy to start these kinds of programs with all sorts of idealistic notions and to be frustrated when they don’t immediately turn out the way we want them to. But change takes time and gradually occurs from the accumulation of many small, often unnoticeable changes.

Despite my own perceived failure after those first few weeks of Kindness Crew, I continued the class and did my best to be a positive and kind role model for these kids. I designed a Kindness Crew mascot, the Kindosaurus, and ordered t-shirts for our group, strengthening our identity and making us more visible to the rest of the school. We decorated kindness-themed buttons and distributed them to students at lunchtime. We took field trips to local nonprofits we had raised money for and learned about issues facing the community. We decorated bookmarks with kind sayings and left them in random books around the library.

A year and a half later, I’ve got many teachers and other students sporting our now iconic Kindosaurus shirts in support of our group and our mission. People throughout the school recognize our “brand” and staff have started assigning random acts of kindness as a consequence for bad behavior. The entire school recently participated in the Great Kindness Challenge of 2015, which aims to create a culture of kindness at schools by providing ideas for RAKs and encouraging all students to perform as many as possible throughout the week.

Since my first rude awakening, I’ve also gathered a small collection of what I consider to be student success stories. One student in particular, was quite a handful when he first joined my class. I talked with him after almost every class and asked him to seriously consider whether he really wanted to participate in a positive way. He remained in the class and continued to take small steps in the right direction. One day, I found him writing on his knuckles with permanent marker - when he showed it to me, he had spelled out “LOVE IS LIFE”. I wouldn’t say that he has make a complete turn around - just the other day, he and another boy were caught passing around a note that said “Personal Ass Licker” (is that really the kind of insult kids come up with these days!?). He still has days when he comes to school angry and unhappy and he rarely replies when I smile and say hi to him in the hallways. But I have seen him perform small acts of kindness more and more often and I know that on some level, his participation in Kindness Crew is making a difference. So I continue showering him with the love and kindness I know he so desperately needs and I do what I can to provide a positive adult relationship and role model in his life.

As teachers, we rarely get to see the long-term impacts, either good or bad, that we have on students. We do the best we can and hope we are sending them off to the next teacher a little bit better than when we found them. And as far as changing the entire culture of our school to one of kindness and compassion, we have a long way to go. But the short-term changes I have seen both in the school wide atmosphere and in individual students has been tangible. Due to the nature of my position, I will be moving on after the end of this school year and it breaks my heart to think of leaving my beloved Kindness Crew in the hands of the new member. But I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from my experience here and believe that if we continue putting our positive energy and love out into the universe, it will come back to us in one form or another. Good things are coming.


Zoë is a Portland native who grew up at the Oregon Zoo. She enjoys hoola hoops, trampolines, climbing, yoga, chocolate, traveling, and people and music of all kinds. Her favourite weather is hot and sunny and her favourite animal is the Steller Sea Lion. On the weekends, you can find her hiking, playing board games, making music, and enjoying potluck dinners with friends.