Monday, December 23, 2013



In the dark and silent night, all indeed is calm. 
We have passed safely through the Darkest Night
Signs of a New Dawn, even midst the bleak and trying times
Begin to unfold in mysterious ways

In the labors to keep Downton Abbey alive as the aristocracy must learn to adapt if it is to survive, we see Matthew, Tom Bronson and his Lordship, still head of the Crawley estate, forging a coming together after their mistrust came so close to dividing them.
Matthew knows the legal, financial needs, Tom has the Irish farmer knowledge of the common folks, and his Lordship, father of Mary and her sisters, now feels he is not being disregarded, but included in vital ways to preserving Downton as it faces a very different future.  Tom agrees to join the House cricket team, and Matthew coaches him on this game he knew nothing about.  Everyone  needs to rally, and games are a time-honored way we bond even in difficult times.

After his experience in prison, falsely accused of murder, Bates has a new empathy for Thomas, facing shame and dim prospects of new employment if Carson sends him off without a letter of reference.  For all his mistakes, Thomas is not evil, but a gay man in a day when it was criminal to be so; with Bates speaking to his Lordship, Thomas has a second chance by playing on the house cricket team, and finding a new position downstairs as a footman.  The downstairs women help soften Carlson’s heart, and forgiveness and good will begin to brighten prospects for the emerging alliances, both upstairs and downstairs; they have a need to work for the common good.

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the world for a brief time comes together to honor and respect this incredible man who, even when imprisoned, envisioned a South Africa not just free of the curses of apartheid.  He began to create a homeland where men and women of all races could live side by side, free at last in ways never thought possible before he began the journey of reconciliation, forgiveness, bringing joy and celebration to a land known for its intolerance and harsh indifference to the humanity of its black and poor people.  He was a leader both humble and willing to suffer personally to see his dream come true.  President Obama spoke of leaning from Mandela that it does matter if we strive to be the best we are capable of becoming, not settling for an easier life if we have talents that may help change the course of our country’s destiny.  Light is returning, and the struggles for justice and equality are making a new world order possible.

So as we slumber, let us give thanks we are part of this unfolding, this enormous time of transition if the planet is to survive.  Men and women, all colors, rich and poor beginning to envision a future that embraces and includes us all. “Peace, peace, peace, peace, wars have been, and wars must cease.  We must learn to live together. Peace, peace, peace”—the words of our beloved Dave Marston in a gathering of poets and musicians in the fall before he died.  May we learn to grieve, to laugh, to love and honor one another and be part of the great healing with our circles of reconciliation and deep listening to one another.  May the Chalice indeed replace the Blade in the years to come.
 Shalom, my sisters and my brothers.  The old ways are dying, and new blessings lay dormant, waiting to receive the Light.  May the New Year indeed be a much happier, healthier one, where we dare to address real issues and forge a more compassionate way of living, working, and being together.
   Carol Browning in the predawn hours of December 23, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


OH, Divine Light within and surrounding us, help us feel your comfort, your guidance, your protection,  your Love that allows us to be at peace.  Allow our hearts to soften and  trust your devotion, your support no matter what our circumstances.  Please unbind us from unhealthy cords to the worries, fears, concerns, and obligations we may still carry from others, or even from past lives.  Help us let go what is not our own truth, that our hopes and dreams may begin to unfold in earnest, with the support of our joy guides, our angelic friends in unknown realms and even in human form now.   Help us trust all the work we have done to be more open, more in touch with our own true nature is not in vain.  Help us forgive those who have harmed us, intentionally or not, and may we forgive ourselves and others too, for making mistakes is part of our learning to be more discerning.  In this season of Thanksgiving, may we put our attention on the blessings in our lives, and realize we, too, may be a blessing to others with our kind thoughts, healing words and touch, gentle ways of being. 
     The early Pilgrims endured much hardship and loss of friends, health, everything familiar that they left behind when they sailed from England.  Yet they took time to give thanks, to share with one another, and learn from the native folks who helped them survive by planting crops that were unfamiliar to them.  May we continue to learn from one another, giving thanks, trusting more, fearing less so Joy and Wonder fill our days.  Time to put on some warmer clothing, and attend to the needs of my patient body!

Friday, October 18, 2013

It is a sacred time for New Beginnings

Star-od-David-660x660crop2This is a sacred time.  This spring we saw amazing rings around Mt. Shasta.  In the summer heat, wildfires purged many of our forests; Mother Nature told us loud and clear we need to listen and respect her, walk in better balance with her rhythms.
    And now the rare star of David came in July to herald the birth of a new king, perhaps to herald the birth of a new Era where charisma and power will be aligned with a very different kind of leadership, one that honors the heavenly bodies, the Earth Mother, not the false gods of personal greed and capital ventures that harm our environment and destroy the very air we breath, water we drink, oceans and soils that have given and sustained life for millennium.
   As we gather to honor the changing seasons, let us also make time for solitude and reflective moments so our course is more true to our unfolding talents.  It is a time to pay attention to our bodies, our sacred vessels that allow us to better enjoy this earthwalk. 
   It may be a time to quietly, or boisterously, create rituals that honor those who have died, and also give guidance , courage,  and inner strength to  those of us still living.  Yesterday I heard a coyote story about grieving souls crossing the great river into the Land of the Dead. They learned their loved ones who had died did not want to come back, but had made peace with their transition, and wanted their living partners to return, to be doing their work in the Land of the Living.  Grieving can help us be more open, more vulnerable, and it can give us resolve to move on, accepting our losses and learning resilience from their gifts.
  If we are to become stronger from enduring losses as we grow older, we need to be attentive to our blessings and our lessons, and not be frozen in fears that make us unable to be present, to enjoy the simple pleasures in our daily living.  It's a new Dawn.  May we arise and honor it!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Grieving Needs Balance with Self-Care Measures

In recent months my family has celebrated the life of my mom and dad with a memorial service in the Sierra (see photo of my sister and son, Jeff), a dear friend Mary died unexpectedly of a heart attack, Alex, one of my favorite caregivers has stepped down and I am getting used to Shira, Alex's replacement.  The seasons are again changing, and my vision makes it unsafe for me to drive much at night for 6-8 months of the year.  My companion for several years, Curtis, has multiple health issues and feels unsafe driving out of Chico, so I phone him just to chat, and send him e-mails with a few i-photos he might enjoy.
    With aging comes loss, some expected, some sudden, with little time to adapt to the necessary changes.  It helps me to celebrate simple pleasures, like preparing an interesting potluck dish when my energy is at its best, or saying yes to a chance to dance, or attend a special concert with a neighbor.  Sunshine and simple exercises always help me, and I've just begun a class on Stillness Midst the Chaos, where we're learning mindful meditations to help us be more relaxed, present, and okay with whatever arises in our day.
    The driftwood photo above evokes the memory of walking the beach, listening to the waves, and the sound of young children making forts and laughing, oblivious to the fact it is windy and cold.  I have always loved arranging driftwood, and as a child, I'd make gifts for family out of driftwood and manzanita and pinecones. Yesterday I delighted in making a collage to hang of  the fun time in the mountains and a Davis park with my sons, Adrienne, and granddaughters, Taryn and Eliza.  Even midst the waves of grief or focus on loss, it sure helps to pay attention to what is working, what still gives joy.
    Self-care means honoring routines that nurture me on my own, and it means being with others in ways that don't drain me.  Tonight I'll be part of eight women sharing a potluck dinner, and soon I shall get outside to enjoy a warm and sunny autumn day.  This is enough for now!
    Carol  October 5, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's A Hot Summer: A Day in My Life

                                    FRIENDS, IT’s HOT  THIS SUMMER!           
            Dear Family and Friends,
                        I awake to news on the radio it will be 102 here today, hotter than Redding yet another day.  Harder to sleep at night, for it doesn’t cool off till way beyond midnight.
Plans that require thinking need to happen while the day is young.  So I’d like to share a bit of yesterday, for it was a mixture of listening to longings, gentle friendships, hanging in there when the weather is too darn hot to be outside very much.
            I awoke with hopes of getting to the outdoor pool for the first time this summer; it is only open for seniors now on Sunday mornings, 9-11.   I’ve had an injured baby toe for two weeks that throbs if I walk too much, so cool water and sunlight sound so inviting.
I put on plenty of sunscreen, pack to go, water myself, prepare my morning tea, and try to walk that balance between courage to get out there and discretion, given the weather.
            After a light breakfast, I do get to the pool by 10:15,  after my warm-up doing feldenkrais exercises in bed with full-spectum lights-my pineal gland does need light to get going, and I have windows only to the west, letting in little morning light.
            The pool feels delicious, and the swimmer in me begins her slow laps, so grateful to finally be here, without  the noisiness and crowdedness of the YMCA pool; there I’ve been patiently building stamina and balance, but it’s nothing like fresh open  air, swimming in the sunshine before the day is too hot.  This may be my “worship” when I am home in the Sundays ahead, for my body thrives on movement as well as good company with kindred spirits.  I dry off after 8 laps, in the sunshine my too white body needs right now.  Then I drive to church, catching the coffee hour, missing the service, so I visit a bit, have some herbal tea and a cookie (nothing healthy today) and drive to the Ashland Food Co-op for some salad greens, a few cold deli items, and the weekly flyer of specials so I can plan my grocery list for the week.  Home by 12:30 so I can crank up the fans, work on a hem for a camisole to wear in this heat.  I eat and rest, then have a short but lovely visit  with my good friend Susan, a shaman spending this summer as park host at Howard Prairie with her husband.  It’s 89 degrees there, and she is frazzled by the demands of the Sunday check-out, for the campgrounds are very full Thurs-Sunday, with fewer duties, less chaos and more quiet time Mon.-Wed.  The job is free rent, but no pay, so she works three caregiving shifts in Ashland for some income.  As a former back-country park ranger, it’s still a shock to see so many folks who leave trash, light fires when the fire danger is so high, and generally have little respect for the beauty and needs of the land.  I am her mail contact, and her son has sent her new debit card, as the bank won’t let her get it in person.  We hug after our 10 min visit, and she is off to caregive and get groceries before dark.  She and Geno could take over the Emigrant Lake host duties, but that park has no shade, so even without internet access (she works on line, too) it’s better to stay where they are, much as it tries their patience.  Folks go thee from the upper Rogue Valley, and the Ashland types try to hang out at the Greensprings and Hyatt Lake areas, but being new to camp hosting as a job, they don’t have seniority  or they’d be on the coast in the summer.
            I try to rest again, and am awakened by a phone call from the fraud dept of my bank;  someone is using my debit card number with a $1000 purchase  in Wisconsin, so the card is cancelled and I need to call the bank today; thank goodness they are on their toes, and she had no idea how they got my number but it needs to get changed as it is in bad hands.  What a strange world we live in!  Yes, there are still folks who steal in strange ways out there. 
            Lindsay, my caregiver for 4 weeks while Katt is in Spokane, gives me a hand with dinner, clean-up, organizing the fridge.  I  realize I shall miss her lovely company, like having a 21 year old daughter drop by to lend a hand, and then she’ll be returning to Tennessee for fall term.  She helps me design and order business cards on vistaprint for sharing with friends and letting folks know I wish to be a essential oils and health care consultant for doTerra;  I believe in their products and am seeing results in only 6 weeks.
Lindsay is a graphic designer, so she can do this much better than I can, and it saves me about $20 compared to the local print shop.  I weep after she leaves, for in a short time we’ve become friends and I’ve enjoyed her company.  Caregivers do move on, and when I especially enjoy them, it’s sad to have them go.
     This was a special day!  Now I need to attend to chores that need doing in the cool of the day, and prepare for my annual recertification interview tomorrow, requiring lots of detail work that is not my strength, but it’s necessary.
      Hope you are dealing well with the heat where you live.  It was great to have Katherine report we are okay being at the cabin on Aug. 11, as folks are scheduled to be there the day before and the next day, so our timing is good, and Kirt is likely to be there with his wife, as they knew mom well and want to pay respects, too.  Blessings to you, and my yu find some goodness in your day, too!  Love, Carol

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
Maya Angelou      LOVE indeed, affirms the happy times, forgives the difficult times.
LOVE perseveres, letting go when that feels wise, holding on firmly to what nurtures us.
LOVE handles life’s many changes with grace, courage, hope that helps dispell our fears.
The more we learn to lighten up and be gentle with our own selves, the more we can
   be present and treasure our  friends, even if we go long periods without much communication.  I am not as concise as Maya, but she also has had to learn hard lessons from mistaken choices, trusting folks who were toxic for her, learning discretion that comes when we lose our innocence after being betrayed, rejected, left to find our inner strengths when there is no one by our side.  We all have lessons to learn, and our own unique paths to follow. 
    We all play many roles in our growing up.  Today I reaffirmed I can still cook a good casserole, made easier by cool temperatures outside, having all the ingredients on my home front, adapting a PBS recipe to suit my personal needs.  I am grateful to have caregivers, and grateful I’ve had an adult lifetime of appreciating healthy cooking, so it’s not unfamiliar territory for me.  Eating well is a vital way we advocate for our own health!  Bon appetit!
   THE PHOTOS above are of my casserole, enjoying Jeff's lovely vases, and my daughter Meagan's boyfriend, Jaimie, on a mountain  top in Chile!  All are about affirming life, enjoying what we love!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


                                 Peace is Possible:  Imperative We Take Action
 Yes, peace is possible if we speak out for justice
          Stand up for Truth, take initiatives to support the changes we sorely need
           To create fertile grounds for life to be better for the Earth, for the many peoples still endangered by their own governments, for so many species threatened with extinction if we ignore their plights.
            It is imperative we stand up for causes that matter for future generations.
Yes, peace is possible, but not if we accept the status quo that glorifies war and oppression, and seems indifferent if not repressive to changing our priorities to honor one another and protect our planet as best we can.  We need to be part of the solutions now!
            It is true.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, the midwives to giving birth to a more sustainable, kinder world where our kinship with one another matters.  WHAT ACTION MOTIVATES YOU to make a difference today?
Will you weed a garden, plant flowers that attract bees and butterflies?  Take a child under your wing?  Congratulate a senator or a friend who stands up for justice?  Take good care of your own body so you'll feel healthier in the days and years ahead?  Every step matters.  Take some today!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


                                    IN MY TWENTIES,  I HAD NO IDEA
    In my twenties, I had no idea a poet lurked within.
Life was too busy being mom and wife,  yoga teacher,  a better cook, a teacher of kids who lived in a different world where they’d had no books at  home….
     It was a time of many changes, of wonder, frustration, disappointment, and the absolute joy of creating new life when Jeff and Neal were born.
     Time to write just didn’t happen, except the “good girl” letters homes, which were mandatory in my psyche then. 
      I awake this new day to news this is National Poetry Month.  Like other poets, I am amused with many art forms: commentaries on Facebook, loving live jazz and many other forms of music, dancing just because it feels good, creating jewelry, rearranging my home space with the ambition of seeing it become simpler, more organized.
      Alas, too often the poet inside doesn’t find her voice, or share it with others, as she would like.  Having just honored my 68th birthday, it is time to give the muse within more space, regardless of the clutter.  For she is curious, adventuresome, playful, and undaunted, a bit like my cat Abbie, who has learned to retreat when I sit at this computer.
Thank God I am no longer in my twenties, and despite many challenges, the writer longs to come out and play.
       Grey skies, falling pink blossoms
        Daffodils strut their beauty, then fade
         Tulips of every shade begin to unfurl
           The drabness of winter without flowers
             Gives way to spring, reminding us to treasure
                This colorful landscape in our gardens, our meadows, our salads
                  Yes, it is the time of Rebirth everywhere!
Good morning to you this new day!  MAY YOU  FIND WAYS TO REJOICE IN SIMPLE PLEASURES1      Carol Browning

Friday, March 8, 2013

Navigatng the World of On-Line Dating

                                 TRAVELING THE UNKNOWN  ROAD

As we grow older, it can be a real challenge to meet a potential partner in this fast-paced world.  What sounded good on paper can backfire in person.  One gentleman ten years my senior had the energy to drive his jeep on back roads for days, camping wherever he landed.  This would be torturous for my body, though I do love adventure and being outdoors.  So an actual date allows fine-tuning regarding different expectations!

After two years exploring this world, I am learning it is most helpful if we become clear about our own values, limitations as well as strengths, and priorities. We need to ask ourselves:  Is a friendship critical to me first, or am I ready to leap in where the more cautious would fear to tread?  There are folks who want instant gratification in this game, and others of us have learned honest relationships take time, for trusting one another means making and keeping agreements. This requires patience, good communication skills, and a willingness to check within and say “no, this person makes me uneasy, or “I truly don’t want an e-mail friend who lives beyond where either of us are likely to be able to drive.”  If money is no issue, fine, fly and check one another out.  For many of us, this would bust the budget, so part of being at peace is accepting what is practical, given our finances, age, and health limitations.  What may be realistic to a young, energetic person in her or his twenties is vastly different from someone in her or his sixties who no longer drives at night nor travels lightly.  This form of dating is the modern version of men posting a letter in a newspaper to get a mail-order bride.  Until you actually meet, both parties can present themselves however they choose, and there are no guarantees. We all have baggage from previous relationships, too. This means discretion is in order!

There will be “success testimonials” on many sites.   This is their form of advertising to hook us into thinking this will be easy. Rarely can you actually speak with a live person by phone to express your concerns or frustrations to someone familiar with the system.  Computers often do the matching based on questions you answer regarding factors important to you.  As we grow older, we don’t have the flexibility to move across the country on a gamble that might have seemed exciting a few decades earlier.  One needs decent computer skills to navigate on these sites, and post photos that may attract a potential friend.  In short, there is quite a learning curve to creating peace with a dating process very unlike old times when we met in school or on the job.  On-line dating is a new game, courage and persistence required!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I believe peace is possible.  I believe we need to make peace with our current circumstances, and that can be challenging, but it is part of radical self-acceptance.  We need to have a curious mind that keeps on asking "What can I do to make life within and around me better?"
    We can all smile, slow down, breath deeply, and put our attention on our intention.  We can offer an encouraging word, make healthier choices in our diet and activities, and stop the negative self-talk before it gets out of hand!
   Peace often requires collaboration, deep listening, and a desire to cooperate instead of isolating ourselves by all our judgments and assumptions that may not be true.  It helps to remember our core values may be different from those even of other family members, so a willingness to stay in touch and honor our very real differences is vital to peace as well.  Wonder, beauty, grace, forgiveness, and gratitude are part of this web of life we call living in peace and harmony.  It takes courage to move beyond our own comfort zones, to discern what may be possible, and what might undermine a peaceful process.  It is a challenge to be optimistic and honor our very real limitations, too.  Most folks do want peace on Earth; we can each do our share by cultivating peace in our daily lives, deleting the many negative messages the media feeds us that violence and aggressive behavior is normal.  Peace isn't about ignoring evil and injustice that still cause great suffering.  What we cultivate within our own attitudes and actions has much to do with our own state of peace and equanimity, and it is constantly shifting as we face our fears, our doubts, our own areas of vulnerability.  I choose to align with those who believe we are making progress, and peace is indeed possible.  Our actions make a difference.  May you be at peace with your choices in this new day!

Friday, March 1, 2013


IN OUR TIMES OF TRANSITION, it is often hard to know where we stand, what to choose. Doubts are part of the journey to firmer ground.  Questioning our beliefs is actually very helpful when living with great uncertainty.  I just watched the movie DOUBT, and Meryl Streep plays a cold, rigid, highly disciplined nun who has no room for compassion, deep listening to others, or forgiveness in her structured world.  Kindness is the last thing in her heart, where so much bitterness dwells that she frightens the children and the other nuns as well.   She trusts no one, and has suspicions that undermine all her relationships.
    Annie Dillard in The Writing Life has such a contrasting philosophy.  "Shoot it. play it, lose it all, right away.  Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book.  Give it, give it all, give it now...Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.  You open your safe and find ashes."  If faith is an ascension, a climb into beliefs that help us trust life and its underlying goodness, then letting go is a  process of descending, dropping our cherished habits, addictions, opinions to be open to the moment, without preconceived ideas how someone or something should be.  This takes courage to be at peace with not knowing, with letting answers unfold in their own timing.  It doesn't mean we don't care, but it means a surrendering to a deeper knowing than what our experience  or our beliefs tell us. 
    The image above for me is inviting, honoring the calm ocean,  the rocky yet lovely shoreline, the feather, a symbol of faith in things unseen as the sun is setting.  Each night is a time to enter the Darkness, to rest, let go, and retreat.  Each morning is a chance to let our lives count again, one more day, one precious day, even if things don't go as we'd hoped or wanted.
   Today I assemble a small gift package for a 97 year old friend who is blind.  It includes a jar of split pea soup mix, a dainty cup and saucer she may enjoy, a brightly colored spring-time placemat, placed in a small lavender gift bag from Goodwill. I called her daughter, and she advised no music, no flowery hairpin, nothing requiring much vision---things I enjoy, but would not be appropriate for Hilda.  To make a good decision involving someone else, we may need to consult someone who knows the person's interests better than we might.  It feels good to give Hilda a gift, not hoarding things she may enjoy, but I don't need now.
    Sometimes we reach out with words, or prayer, a phone call or an email.  And it's fun to send a gift too, especially when her neighbor is in town here, and can deliver it to her door.  Old-fashioned ways of saying "I care, I love you" are still important in our fast-paced world where the elderly who can no longer dial a phone would welcome feeling connected.  When we give from our heart, it feels good for both giver and receiver!

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Recalling my maternal grandmother and my own mom, I realize they indulged in emotional eating to deal with their frustration, anger, sense of being powerless to control their health choices, or the downhill spiral of eating too much sugar, white flour, high carbs, with little exercise in their final decades.  The food appropriate for working on a farm didn’t work well for sedentary aging with crippled limbs.  My Grandma was overweight and seriously under-nourished.  The medical advice in her time gave her little help to change her habits.  She died refusing to take her many meds, for she was tired of living with so many medical complications and feeling she a was burden on her daughter.   My mom spent five years in assisted living with terrible food, then four more years in a nursing home where she was wheelchair and bed-ridden, a far cry from her very active earlier years.  When mom no longer cared about food, I knew her will to live was failing.  The strokes had been debilitating, progressively taking away her quality of life.

I too used emotional eating to cover up my depression, anger, and grief as I faced the end of a twenty-year marriage, the death of the family we once were.  I made muffins, pizza, granola, and other foods with high calories that were the comfort foods I grew up with.  My Grandma made delicious raisin-cinnamon rolls when she came to visit.  To have energy when we went skiing, we started the day with glazed doughnuts, then sandwiches for lunch, with candy bars when our energy sagged by mid-afternoon.  Desserts were the highlight of holiday meals, and I didn’t learn to make homemade soups rich in veggies and chicken stock until well into my marriage.  We ate what was fast, convenient, and tasty with little regard to the impact of our choices in the decades to come.  We were physically very active, so I didn’t start gaining excess weight until my early forties.  My siblings are still slender; they can be much more active than I am because they are healthy, and have a very different metabolism. They can eat dairy and pastries without gaining weight, but I cannot.

 I also had an unexpected pregnancy at the age of 42.  I gave my identical twin daughters to new parents in an open adoption, for I envisioned them healthy, bright, and needing a home life I could not give them.  I was a single parent without job credentials to secure a decent-paying job to cover basic expenses.  I had moved to Ashland the previous summer when I had neither time nor energy to create a circle of new friends and begin to make a living as a massage therapist, so my stress level was off the charts.  Mom wanted me to come live with her, but she lived with a sister who was seriously depressed, and it wouldn’t have been a good move for my son or me.  Healthy eating was a priority for me, but I overate to deal with all the stressors beyond my control.  Being a single parent requires multi-tasking big time.

  My dad’s mother, Nana to me, had many ailments that gave her abdominal pain, but the doctors of her day had no answers, for they knew little about nutrition.  She was a very disciplined and contemplative person, traits I have inherited from her. Grandpa was alcoholic, governed more by his addiction than his passion for living a meaningful life. Nana had little emotional support in her later years, and her dreams lay dormant, rarely expressed or realized.  She lived to be ninety-four, and did make a deliberate choice in her will to bestow her life savings on the generations to come, including $2000 to each of her great-grandchildren.  This dream she held firm to, telling no one, and it gave a nest egg to her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren to do with as they chose.  It meant a lot of self-sacrifice as well as discipline to carry out this intention. It had tangible benefits to me, as well as some savings for our children, thanks to my investing wisely in their childhood years.  It meant I could afford to be a mostly stay-at-home mom and we lived on my husband’s income.  It also meant I did not have savings of my own, as my inheritance went into paying our mortgage.  I did not foresee a divorce, and the need to have some financial independence. 

My mom was active into her sixties because she was addicted to amphetamines, giving her a false sense of energy that likely contributed to her strokes in her 80’s. It wasn’t common knowledge how dangerous these drugs that gave the user a high were, but mom wanted to keep up with dad, so she never thought twice, and rarely drank water.  Being dehydrated is one cause of strokes, along with inactivity and poor food choices.   Most of mom’s retirement income from teaching twenty-five years was spent on assisted living and nursing home costs.  End of life in such facilities is a very expensive way to die!

            Choosing to eat well can be expensive and requires self-discipline and willingness to take the time to prepare food well.  As my own health began to crumble, I didn’t have someone to support me in finding new directions or paying for good nutritional advice.  It turned out I had osteoporosis, partly due to the depletion in my body from carrying 15 lb. of babies and not having appropriate health care after their birth.  I did my best to eat well, but was definitely dealing with depression, financial stress, overwhelm, and weakened adrenals from so many years of stress.  I held inside a vision that recovery was possible, despite much evidence to the contrary. I came close to dying, and my son Jeff coming to live with me helped turn that tide.  Today I listen to a tape of Wayne Dyer’s about imagination.  Imagination is the inner connection to possibilities that our identity is not defined by others expectations or by our past.  Einstein said logic can get you from point A to point B, but imagination has no limitations.  When John Lennon wrote the song Imagine, he had no idea decades later it would still be song around the world by folks who share his image that peace is indeed possible, a world without wars can exist.
            I believe I shall someday lose this unhealthy belly fat and weigh 125 pounds, or whatever is my healthiest body weight. I’d like to be there within a year, and am taking steps to make this happen.  Fear of the past when I weighed 82 pounds in the 1990’s has been one cause of my overeating and obsession with having a full fridge and finishing my plate, even when I am no longer hungry.  I am wiser now.  I am learning to trust and honor the unique, special, lovable woman I am.  I let go the worries, doubts, fears, and sadness that have burdened my life, making me settle for a very limited life.  This is a process of course, and I do backslide, but not as often!
            Yes, it takes patience, self-discipline, time for much self-care, and support from others as well as my own perseverance to change old beliefs and habits that have undermined my wellness, my moving in the direction of my dream of living in a healthy body with a sound mind, able to envision and manifest goals completely unimaginable to the generations before me.  I am a writer who yearns to share her journey in poems and prose in ways that inspire others to believe in themselves.  We must first befriend ourselves at a deep level, before we have what it takes to open to our own power and wisdom, sharing with others.  I am able to share now on the computer, and with special friends.  One dream is writing more consistently, getting it all organized on the computer so the poetry chapbooks will be ready to publish, and in time, memoirs and essays will be shared too, with a wider audience.  So with this piece, I am moving in the direction of my dreams, with greater love and much less fear.   Another dream is being more consistent with chi gong, walking, water therapy and other exercise that I enjoy. The quiet desperation of my ancestors who either died young or old, with many of their dreams never voiced nor manifested shall not be my destiny.  I am choosing a path once more not yet trodden, and I intend to make a difference that will be helpful to future generations in my own family, and beyond as well.

Monday, February 18, 2013


            As this third series draws to a close, I realize this British series about life at this abbey in the aftermath of World War I is filled with forms of courage, for the aristocracy as well as their faithful long-time servants. We the viewers watch remarkable actors showing how these individuals deal with the massive changes in their lives.
            Matthew faces his guilt at Livinia’s death, his fears and vulnerability as he recovers from serious wounds to his body and his psyche.  Even when he is able to express his deep love for Mary, a tender passion they both share after so many trials, he is plagued by fears of inadequacy, especially whether he can father a child.  Mary has a deep faith, and goes to London privately to find if she may be infertile, has an operation that the doctor tells her will make conception finally possible.  She has the courage to take action on her own rather than being stuck in Matthew’s belief he is at fault.
            Matthew has the courage to realize the Abbey has been poorly managed and cannot become self-sustaining without major changes, but he keeps expressing his concerns in ways that make his father-in-law feel defensive. As the whole family mourns the death of Sybil, Matthew chooses to befriend the grieving husband-father, Tom, who feels out of place because he is a Catholic Irishman, not from noble blood, and he thinks his only choice is to leave with the baby, seeking his fortune in his homeland, bereft of the support of this family into which he has married.  He welcomes the concern and caring of Mary and Matthew, who stand by him in his dark hours.  As their friendship unfolds, Matthew realizes Tom knows about farming and the ways and needs of the simple folks who are dependant on the survival of Downton Abbey.  When the concerns of Mary and her wise Grandmother help Mary’s mother Cora and her husband realize their daughter Sybil would have died even if the old family doctor’s advice had been followed, they begin to grieve together, knowing no one is to blame for this tragedy.
            In the servant’s quarters,  Daisy slowly gathers her courage to consider a life beyond being a servant as her father-in-law sees her strengths and zeal for life, and offers his inheritance if she will come manage his estate while he is alive.  She begins to envision a better life, and it may even include a man partner where she shall have the respect she deserves.  She is outgrowing being a lifetime servant and all that implies.
            As this series of the Downton Abbey saga comes to an end, Mary gives birth to a healthy baby boy.  She and Matthew have a few precious moments celebrating privately this new beginning in their lives.  As Matthew drives away, exuberant to be a dad with his beloved wife, his life is suddenly ended by a truck colliding with his car, which overturns and he is thrown to his death.  It’s a sad and startling ending, and a reminder to us all that life is unpredictable, sometimes very unfair even when you’ve been noble and courageous in overcoming obstacles.  We are left in suspense, not knowing how the families and the servants will deal with this huge and impactful loss, so soon after the death of Sybil whom everyone loved and sorely misses.  She lives on in her sweet daughter and her strong-willed husband.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


                 TO THRIVE IN PRESENT TIME

As we grow older, it is common to have dear friends have serious health issues
Again and yet again, we are reminded of our own mortality.
It helps to be able to grieve with empathy for their losses, their suffering, and offer a helping hand or caring words.
It helps to use our rational mind to realize how we might best prevent the same misfortune from impairing the quality of our own life.
Yes, we all know we need more exercise, a better diet, a social network, friends   
   Who will listen and hug us when we are struggling. 
The obvious is easy to overlook, too, like the importance of drinking more water or
   Taking time to rest or meditate when we are tired and distraught.

Growing old has many challenges we may have not faced in earlier years. So it’s good to have friends who can remind us, in present time, of our strengths.  If we’re in our final decades, it helps to be honest with close ones about our wishes, should we become seriously disabled or die.  These conversations provide a reality check for us and for those we love.

To thrive instead of simply being reactive to life’s challenges, we do need tools
To uplift our spirits, protect our bodies and minds, encourage pro-active behavior.
Aging is not for sissies; it does require courage to face fears, to face loss, to be willing to downsize our expectations when they add to our stress.  Learning new skills keeps our brains active, and saying yes to better shoes, lots of post-its, becoming aware of our changing needs, all help us be more likely to thrive not just survive as we become elders.

The simple rhyming poems I used to write
Often become a sharing of my inner dialogue, not so tidy anymore.
We need to be flexible as well as resilient, and then it is easier to accept and learn from the unexpected in our lives.

Carol Browning

Monday, January 21, 2013

Creating Peace: Our Choices Make a Difference

In a culture and a world so often driven by anger, fear, and greed, when we choose instead to make choices with a gracious, grateful heart, honoring each of us has conditioning that can bring out the best or the worst in us, we take steps to create a more just and peaceful world.
 It does take courage, patience, and perseverance even to be peaceful with our own inner critic. She may be the demanding voice we first heard on our home front or in school, telling us to “ get busy, don’t cry, listen to your elders” even when their words are hurtful, still undermining our self-worth into adulthood unless we learn to realize where these negative messages have come from, and delete their impact.
  We can always choose to follow a path no one modeled for us.  It will take perseverance, willingness to face our own dark sides, self-acceptance, and finding meaningful ways to be in community with others seeking a more peaceful lifestyle and learning more effective communication skills.
 It helps to realize the history of Europe and our country is riddled with times of war, repression, revolt, and rebellion that continue into present time.  When the needs and rights of others are ignored or silenced, peace isn’t likely. We have a long history of domination and submission, with struggles that were rarely resolved peacefully.
 To be at peace, we need to first be kind, gentle and forgiving with ourselves before we can take time to be responsive in a nurturing way to others when their behavior or words irritate us.  Our culture glorifies important, influential men from our presidents to cool film figures who solve problems by killing people.  It is quick, sure, and still considered manly.  So given such role models, it is no wonder we haven’t taught our children to value mediation and non-violent communication as effective ways to resolve tough problems.  Creating peace has to do with respecting one another, honoring differences, and taking the time to understand and be in another’s shoes; these are not quick fixes.
 We can choose thoughts that make us feel good, but we all have an inner dialogue of discomforting thoughts as well.  We can make a choice to question beliefs that give us stress; often they aren’t necessarily true, or we can choose to believe “this too shall pass.” Discretion in what channels we allow our minds to focus on can help us feel more at peace, aware where we do have some power to make a difference.  Peace does begin at home, in our own minds and our personal choices.  As we make peace a priority in our interactions at every level, we model this new behavior for generations to come.
  written by Carol Browning  Jan. 20, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013


The beauty of our first heavy snowfall
Blanketing the hillsides, dusting every tree in sight
A certain softness in the January air as slopes once green are now white
Memories of skiing with my young sons and husband in rolling hills
  Full of elk and even buffalo roaming free in the Alberta parkland
  Twenty-five miles due east of Edmonton, our home for fourteen years.
  These memories speak quietly to my aging body.

Storm clouds gather in early September,
Foretelling a colder winter to come after a record hot summer
Friends once close, suddenly die of mysterious illnesses.
I grieve their passing, wondering why am I still in this lifetime?
There is so much uncertainty, so much loss, behind and before me.
 It comes with the territory of aging.   I choose to live fully despite my limitations, some real, some imagined.  There are pluses to a slower pace in this awesome community.

The doe and her fawn dart in the darkness across a city boulevard
No longer able to dwell on safer ground where houses now stand. The trees and shrubs and open spaces they counted on are gone.  Progress is tough on wild creatures.
White lines and streetlights help me navigate the darkness when I have cause to venture out.  What shall I do when no longer able to drive?  It’s a precious freedom my fading vision no longer takes for granted.  I do my eye exercises religiously.

The memory of fresh salmon with shitake mushrooms, leeks and garlic shared with a friend on many a cold, winter’s night, gave comfort and camaraderie to us both. He has moved away to a warmer climate, to live nearer family who welcome him.
The memory of skating on a frozen Alberta pond when my sons were young.  The minus 30 degrees skies were blue, pure and unpolluted, but the sun set by 3:30 p.m. in January.

Memories that speak of life’s pleasures often gone or infrequent for me now, but God willing, they’ll live on for the youngsters now raising kids of their own.  There are toddling grandchildren whom I’ll see more often as they are sturdier, and traveling to Oregon will be easier when they’re old enough to hang out with Grandma while their parents go exploring, or we all take outings together.  It’s no longer fun to travel alone as I did so readily in my forties.

I wake from a winter’s nap, treasuring memories and anticipating more good times to come.  Solitude is often my buddy, but I’m still a people person. My heart still has dreams not yet fulfilled, as I greet the new day, usually still glad to be alive!
     Carol Browning    1/11/2013