In the book How To Be Awake and Alive, the authors, a married couple who were therapists, write of a young man in their office speaking about his unhappy marriage: “He loved his wife, but felt compelled to criticize her and put her down.  As the session continued, he was asked about his parents.  He shook his head sadly, saying he was sure they didn’t love each other.  He was encouraged to talk about his childhood, and it became increasingly clear that somehow it was important for him to believe that his parents had an unhappy marriage.  Not only that, but he had an equally strong conviction that all marriages were bad, including his own.”

              The stories we tell ourselves about our lives, about who we are, can empower us or damage us in ways that persist throughout our lives.  I have had a heart murmur from childhood but it was not diagnosed till I was in junior high. Up until then, I only knew that I could not keep up with other kids.  I wasn’t picked for teams.  It took me three years to pass beginner swimming.  I felt defective. While I now recognize the feeling and can challenge it when I encounter it, this is embedded in my psyche. 

              I also told myself I was not very smart.  This was based on the fact that science and math were not my strong suits.  I excelled at English and journalism and did well with languages.  But perhaps along with my belief that I was “defective,” believing I was also not very smart came easily. 

            The term “narrative therapy” came into use in the 1980’s by New Zealand therapists, Michael White and David Epston, who felt it was critically important for people not to label themselves, to see themselves as “broken” or “the problem,” or for them to feel powerless in their circumstances and behavior patterns.  Thus the focus of narrative therapy is on stories that we develop within ourselves and carry throughout our lives. We give meaning to our personal experiences. These narratives influence how we see ourselves and the world around us, thus impacting choices and decisions we make. I look back on opportunities I missed because I didn’t believe myself smart enough or capable enough to give them the effort they deserved.

         “The way we tell our life story is the way we begin to live our life,” wrote author Maureen Murdoch. Or, as one saying I recall, phrased it: “Be careful how you speak your life because how you speak your life can become your life.”

          So speak to yourself as you would to someone dear to you, with love and encouragement.  Be alert to old beliefs that hold you back and challenge them. If necessary, rewrite old “scripts” and develop a new narrative.  Discover the empowerment of affirming your own truth.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “We all make mistakes, have struggles, even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.” — Steve Maraboli, author and motivational speaker.

Graceful Exits

            “There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’  It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over—and let it go.  It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives.  It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up rather than out.”  So wrote Ellen Goodman, American journalist and syndicated columnist.

            Letting go, exiting gracefully, seems to be a challenge I have never quite mastered, a skill set never fully developed.  I mourn.  I agonize.  I dither.  My mother was fond of saying “Once you’ve made a decision, murder the alternative.” I’m sure she had watched me mourn/agonize/dither enough times just trying to get to a decision, that she was encouraging me to put an end to it. 

            Probably another ‘trick’ to the graceful exit is to recognize what purpose it serves to hang on. When I look at my own process, I see that it gives me the sense of having two (or perhaps more) desired things at once.  Sadly, it deprives me of truly having either (or any).  Case in point:  each year as we are aging, living on our property becomes a little more difficult.  We talk about selling.  We talk about where we might move.  We do very little towards either.  But as long as we remain in place, we have the benefit of being here and the dream of being somewhere else.  However, that means I spend a lot of time not being in the present moment, disrupting the pleasure of living where we are, of truly being present to where I am in this moment of time.

             So my goal today is to pay attention to my life as it is right now, in this place where I am right now.  And when the time comes to move on, may I exit gracefully.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  A #MondayMoment quote is “Today I will live in the moment…..unless the moment is unpleasant, in which case I will eat a cookie.”  Doesn’t hurt to keep a sense of humor as you practice living in the present moment!  A cookie won’t “fix” anything really.  But should you “need” a cookie and want a new cookie recipe to try, I suggest one I adapted: 

Oatmeal Chip Cookies ¾ c. butter or margarine; 1 c. brown sugar packed firm; ½ white sugar; 1 egg; ¼ c. water; ¼ c. molasses; 1 tsp. vanilla; 2 c. oatmeal; 2 c. flour; 1 t. soda; 1 t. salt; ½ c. chocolate chips; ½ c. butterscotch (or peanut butter) chips; Beat together shortening, sugars, egg, water, molasses and vanilla.  Add remaining ingredients. Drop by rounded tsp. onto greased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 min. at 350 degrees.    Bon appetit!   


            “Optimism is really rooted in gratitude.  Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance.”  These are the words of Michael J. Fox, age 59, who has battled Parkinson’s disease for 30 years. 

            In an interview with him I heard this week, the talented and now retired actor talked about a dark place he had been in more recently when he fell and shattered his arm.  Following his initial reaction to his diagnosis in 1992 when he drank heavily, he had since worked to maintain an upbeat attitude through all his difficulties.  But this latest accident was a severe blow that sent him reeling emotionally.  What brought him back?  Gratitude

            I have written about this approach to life before.  But in sorting through some materials I have saved over the years, I found an article that expanded my understanding of gratitude.  The author of this article, Diana Butler Bass, noted that we misunderstand gratitude as a practice of looking backward, giving thanks for what we have previously experienced.  Instead, Butler Bass wrote, gratitude is not about passive reflection, but about building resilience.  Further, she conveyed that when we practice being grateful, we create an “upward spiral” of well-being such that we increase the likelihood of functioning well and feeling good in the future. 

            Gratitude is a habit we can build by “engaging the past more graciously, living more appreciatively now and building thanks into the foundation for our future,” according to Butler Bass.    When I myself have begun to slip into some doldrums over disappointment or loss, ranging from minor to catastrophic, counting blessings has rarely failed me.

              While we all can identify experiences in our lives that have left us struggling to cope, the antidote is within our capacity to develop.  After her termination from her first job out of graduate school, Butler Bass was encouraged by a friend to keep a journal and write down at least one blessing every day.  In the beginning she found it hard but eventually began to notice the list of blessings was growing and her own sense of herself and her world was growing more positive along with it.

            This practice of journaling has been given the name “gratitude intervention” and has been recommended by psychologists and medical professionals as evidence has mounted that writing about blessings reduces stress and improves moods.  Seems a worthy practice whether one is experiencing extreme challenges or a period of calm. If the very idea seems daunting, consider it an experiment, tinker with it a bit.  You might be as surprised as Butler Bass and as renewed as Michael J. Fox. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “If you must look back, do so forgivingly.  If you must look forward, do so prayerfully.  However, the wisest thing you can do is be present to the present…gratefully.”—Maya Angelou


“Forgiveness  is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”  So said author Marianne Williamson.  Many of us have experienced this truth.

In our household, we often discover a bit of hard, crusty bread that managed to sink into some abyss in the pantry.  I find my own process of forgiveness to be much like finding bits of hard, crusty remains of a loaf of old resentments I thought I had forgiven.  But no!  I had hung on to some part that still smoldered, like remnants of a fire that cooled but never went out entirely.

Dr. Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, offers this suggestion for dealing with those difficult emotions that we tend to perpetuate by keeping them tucked in some corner of our hearts, where we can easily retrieve them to ruminate yet again on the injustice of it all:

“Picture the crowded screen in front of a harried air traffic controller.  Picture the chaos in the room and the jumble of planes on the screen.  Now imagine that your unresolved grievances are the planes on that screen that have been circling for days and weeks on end.  Most of the other planes have landed, but your unresolved grievances continue to take up precious air space, draining resources that may be needed in an emergency.  Having them on the screen forces you to work harder and increases the chance for accidents.  The grievance planes become a source of stress and burnout is often the result.”

Forgiveness is the peace you learn to feel, Dr. Luskin says, when you allow these circling planes to land.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: (From my archive of therapy tools) 

An Exercise for Dissolving Old Resentments: Sit quietly, close your eyes and allow your mind and body to relax.  Then imagine yourself sitting in a darkened theater and in front of you is a small stage.  On that stage place the person you resent most, past or present, living or dead.  When you see this person clearly, visualize good things happening to this person.  Things that would be meaningful to them.  See them smiling and happy. Hold this image for a few minutes then let it fade away.  As they leave the stage, put yourself up there.  See good things happening to you.  See yourself smiling and happy.  Imagine the theater being brighter yourself feeling lighter and radiating peace and joy.  Be aware that the abundance of the universe is available for all.


              On a pleasantly warm August evening in 2016, my husband and I took our one year- old grandson in his stroller for a walk in a nearby park.   A dog got loose from its owner, raced past me, his leash wrapping  around my leg, knocking me to the ground, leaving me unconscious and bleeding. After a night in the hospital, my scalp stitched back together,  I was grateful to have come through it as well as I did.  But I was left with a fear of dogs.   I “therapized” myself, searching for wisdom that might help me overcome this. 

              “The fears we don’t face become our limits,” was one bit of direction I leaned on. 

              “You have to remember fear is not real.  It is a product of the thoughts you create.  Don’t misunderstand me.  Danger is very real but fear is a choice,” was another quote I found.  There is some truth in that quote.   But I posit that fear is not always a choice.

               I think of the story my husband tells of an experience in Vietnam when he was ordered to take a particular village.  He deemed it a very poor decision on his superior’s part, that he would almost certainly lose a lot of men with nothing accomplished by their efforts.  He initially thought he would act just as soon as he got over his fear.  But he quickly came to the conclusion that he was going to have to use his fear to propel him to carry out the order.  As one quote I discovered noted, “Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you’ll have to do it afraid.”

              One of the most helpful pieces of wisdom I found was from Dawn Markova:

              “I will not die an unlived life.  I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.  I choose to inhabit my days, to allow living to open me, to make me more accessible; to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.  I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed, goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”

              Occasionally, I still feel wary when I see a dog.  But I choose to not let fear disrupt my peace.  We do well when we refuse to acquiesce to fear and instead embrace life.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  One last quote:  “What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it.  We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”  Jiddu Krishnamurti


“Anger is a habit.” Years ago, I heard this as I was listening to the radio, hearing someone interviewed about anger.  Anger management classes were trending at that time and  sometimes as a therapist I referred people to them.  But all of a sudden this was about ME and MY anger.  I recognized immediately that I had developed a pattern.  We had taken a teenage boy and his younger sister into our home as foster children.  His sister had a habit any time things were going well, to inject something into the mix that was destructive.  And I would get angry.  This was, of course, the exact response she wanted.  It provided emotional distance if she was starting to feel too close, too cozy in the family.  Foster children often have that tendency.  After that program, I made an effort to be less reactive.  At least sometimes I was successful in that.  Not nearly often enough, I think. 

“While anger can bring about change, it can ultimately only lead to more conflict,” writes Brother Phap Dung, a monk at Plum Village in France.  He points out this can be true in our personal lives as well as in the fate of a nation.  His suggestion is to first find one’s center, when faced with a situation that invites anger or aggression. 

“Nonaction is sometimes very powerful.  Sometimes we underestimate someone sitting very calm, very solid and not reacting and they can touch a place of peace, a place of love, a place of nondiscrimination.  That is not inaction,” Brother Phap writes.

One time in particular, I was quite irritated with my daughter.  There was some task I had asked her repeatedly to do and she had never taken care of it.  I recall so clearly my hand on the doorknob, ready to storm upstairs and read her the riot act.  But I stopped.  I thought what the outcome would be.  She would be upset.  I would be upset.  If she did the task at all it would be with resentment.  So I didn’t storm upstairs.  I sat down and wrote something to the effect of what it was I wanted her to do, how I felt because she had not done it and my appreciation for her taking the time to complete it.  I carried the note up to her, handed it to her wordlessly and left.  In a little while the task was completed.  She was not angry.  I was no longer irritated.  I still marvel at the simplicity of that interaction.

When I consider the anger in our country, indeed in our world, I imagine what it might be like if everyone paused with their hand on the doorknob and took stock before they took action.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  A breathing practice: (in breath) Peace in Oneself; (out breath) Peace in the World.  Repeat frequently. 😊

P.S.  This is the blog I intended to write last week when I came across the story about Shirley the elephant and elected to write that instead.  Next week will be on fear, as I think anger and fear are the biggest obstacles in any movement towards a more peaceful coexistence.   

Shirley’s Story

As I was about to sit down to the computer to write this week’s blog, I happened onto a story that just seemed too good not to share.  It rivals even the blog from a few weeks ago about the giraffes.

Shirley the elephant died last week at age 72.  Hohenwald Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. had been her home for the past 21 years.  Born in Sumatra and captured for a circus, she had lived through incredible trauma in her long elephant life.  Shirley suffered terrible treatment in the circus.  At one point, she survived a political uprising when she was captured by the forces of Fidel Castro. (Would love to know more about that story!) A car accident that killed two other elephants spared her.  When a circus ship she was on caught fire and nearly sank, she was badly burned and lost part of an ear. 

After a broken leg in 1974, she was sold to the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and Garden.  Sadly there, she was kept without any other elephants for 22 years.  But her arrival in the Hohenwald Elephant Sanctuary in 1999 brought about a marvelous serendipity:  she was reunited with an elephant named Jenny who had  been in the same circus as Shirley.  The two were joyous in their reunion and were inseparable until Jenny’s death in 2006. 

My husband Terry and I stopped at the sanctuary some years back, thinking we might view the elephants.  However, no viewing of the elephants is allowed there.  They now have the addition of an educational center. They also have an “Ele Cam” by which videos of the elephants can be viewed.  There are other sanctuaries set up to meet ethical standards which do allow interaction with the elephants.   

 Due to poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict (as human populations increase and elephants are forced into greater proximity to human settlements), and mistreatment in captivity, elephants are predicted to become extinct unless efforts are made to avert that outcome. We could make the choice to exert those efforts. But will we?

 As Shirley’s story illustrates: “Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.Alfred Armand Montapert

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter (to include animals!) Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Various foundations are addressing the problems elephants face. To learn more, perhaps to donate, visit


Years ago I was working for an agency whose financial secretary had been fired after the discovery of her theft of funds.  We were without a director at the time and as senior staff I was tasked with covering a lot of bases, to include making the daily deposits.  There was a teller at the bank whose face just radiated peace.  In the midst of this chaotic situation into which I had been thrust, I looked forward to making the bank deposit to bask in that calm presence she exuded.

 I regret I did not ever go back to let that teller know what the bit of peace she offered had meant to me and to thank her for it.  She certainly embodied the words of Wayne Dyer: “Peace can become a lens through which you see the world.  Be it. Live it. Radiate it out.  Peace is an inside job.”

“Every day brings a choice:  to practice stress or to practice peace,” wrote Joan Borysenko.  Thinking in terms of this as choice, as what we choose to practice, puts a different spin on this.  We have choice?  More likely we feel we are trapped in stressful circumstances not of our own making.  Yet Borysenko offers two key concepts: the matter of choice involved and the fact that this choice to be peaceful takes daily practice. 

This serves as a reminder that we impact our own quality of life by that daily choice.  My experience with the bank teller also emphasizes that what I carry into the world affects other people.   While we may tend to think of peace and peacefulness as difficult, even impossible, in this world full of hardship and hostilities,  it isn’t always so complicated.  Once when I smiled at a homeless man, he responded by straightening up, giving me a broad smile in return— a simple exchange.   Peace begins with a smile, Mother Teresa said.  Let us choose to practice peace. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Gabriela Green offers a recipe for Sweet Calm Tea.  Combine 1 t. chamomile, ½ t. rose and 1 t. linden.  Put all the ingredients in a strainer (or tea ball, etc) and make sure to mix well.  Bring water to a boil and pour over the tea, let steep for 3-5 min. Add honey if you like.  If you like the mix of herbs, you can make a bigger batch and store it in an airtight container.  Use as needed to reduce anxiety and induce calm.

The Most Important Valentine

On a Valentine’s Day many years ago, I remember our grade school party.  My valentine box was covered in aluminum foil, a large red construction paper heart and a white doily on the top where a slit had allowed my classmates to deposit their cards to me.    I was so pleased with my beautiful box and with the valentines inside that I would later read at home.  Soon the Homeroom Mother was doling out beautiful heart shaped cookies and punch.

               Valentine’s Day may bring to mind similar images or others associated with candy, flowers, romantic dinners. However, its celebration originated from the dreadful executions of two men in the third century. During his reign, Emperor Claudius II ordered the deaths of the men, both named Valentine, in different years but both on February 14. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of Valentine’s Day.   

              One of the men who was killed was Valentine of Rome.  His offense?  He had given succor to persecuted Christians.   There is some suggestion that Saint Valentine also performed clandestine Christian weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry due to an edict attributed to Claudius II.   Allegedly the emperor believed that married men did not make good soldiers.   

              According to Wikipedia, Saint Valentine supposedly wore a purple amethyst ring, “customarily worn on the hands of Christian bishops with an image of Cupid engraved in it, a recognizable symbol associated with love that was legal under the Roman Empire; Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask him to perform marriage for them. Probably due to the association with Saint Valentine, amethyst has become the birthstone of February, which is thought to attract love.  It is legend that Saint Valentine, to remind people of their vows, gave hearts cut from parchment to soldiers and persecuted Christians.  Perhaps this is the origin of the heart symbol we use today for Valentine’s Day.”

            For many people this is a less than festive day, however. What if you have no “special someone”?  Or your “special someone” is no longer with you for whatever reason?  All of us can appreciate the reminder to be aware of others who find little to celebrate in this holiday . But we can also acknowledge how consequential it is to be grounded within ourselves such that those times when we feel lonely or isolated or unloved, we are sustained.  As an anonymous author once wrote, “Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose.”  May you feel love and connection to all those that matter to you.  But above all, I urge you to nurture and celebrate the most important valentine: You. 

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “For you cannot live in someone else. You cannot find yourself in someone else. You cannot be given a life by someone else. Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose. To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.” ~~ Author Unknown ~~

A Memoir of Grace

The first week in February is bittersweet for me. February 4 was my father’s birthday. February 5 is the anniversary of my mother’s death. I considered sharing a memoir I wrote for an online writing course through Earlham School of Religion but it is too lengthy for this format to share in its entirety. However, I share a portion of it in the following paragraphs.

“The breath of this soft summer night wafts across the porch, gently stirs the leaves in the woods just beyond. My father and I sit rocking, a comfortable silence between us. As though he has been pondering something, my father says in a thoughtful tone, ‘I guess I should wait awhile.’

“Puzzled, I ask, ‘Wait for what, Daddy?’

“To move in with you….”

“My mother has been dead four months. My father has come from Oklahoma to visit my husband and me at our home in Tennessee. I am startled and pleased. I had thought he was content in assisted living, only a mile from the church he helped start 45 years before.

“I respond with something that I hope conveys surprise and pleasure and say we will talk about it some more. I walk inside the house to get my bearings. Despite this happy and unexpected turn of events, I feel uncertain. During the course of my father’s visit, my husband and I have just begun to discover that our longtime business manager has been defrauding us. My life is already in some upheaval.

“I tell my husband, ‘Daddy just told me he wants to come live with us.’ My husband, bless him, exclaims, ‘That’s great!’ And he means it. He loves my father, who reminds him of his own, who died while my husband was serving in Vietnam.

“I wander back outside and tell Daddy, ‘We would love to have you come, Daddy. When were you thinking of coming?’

“He wants reassurance that my husband is willing for this to happen. He says it will take some time. He has to sell his house, which has sat vacant since my parents’ move to assisted living prior to my mother’s death. He asks if it will be a problem to have his funeral in Oklahoma when his time comes. I am astounded to be having this conversation with my father.

“When he leaves to return to Oklahoma we agree that we will work to clean up the mess in our business while he takes care of selling his home. We will decide on an actual date later.

“The devastation in our business only deepens. We learn just in the nick of time that our building is five days from foreclosure. Our business credit card has been run up to $45,000. Every day is a revelation of some new aspect of this overwhelming situation. My husband and I take other work to pay the bills. We take out an $80,000 loan to cover the debt and keep ourselves afloat.

“Meanwhile, my father and I begin to talk on the phone every Sunday night. I am accustomed to the long phone calls I used to have with my mother. Now the calls to my father become longer and longer. Our connection deepens along with the anticipation of his move. We agree to a date: February 4, his 92nd birthday and the day before the first anniversary of my mother’s death. His house sells the week before I fly out.

“I drive a rented Ford Escape from the airport to my hometown where my brothers and I celebrate his birthday with him and then begin the task of packing his things. We make the trek to my mother’s grave and the next day my father and I head for Tennessee, bolstered with a kind of exuberance at the bold journey we are undertaking.

“I, who grew up n the shadow of my mother, am coming to know and love my father deeply. His dry wit, his interest in and appreciation for life enrich our home daily. My husband and I know we are especially blessed by his presence, a healing balm for the grief we have suffered from our losses.”

The remainder of my memoir recounts the months he lived with us. He and I arrived from Oklahoma February 7. He had a stroke the Wednesday after Easter. His last months with us were marred by his confusion and deterioration. Yet he retained his incredibly sweet spirit. He died July 9, 2009 and his funeral was conducted July 16 in his home church in Oklahoma. Rest In Peace, Daddy. May I carry on your legacy.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Cafe Bonus: July 16, 2009, I stand in the church my father faithfully served for decades and conclude my eulogy: “I was amazed at his forbearance as his body began to fail him badly. The smallest tasks became exhausting. After one particularly difficult episode, I said, ‘Daddy, I am so proud of you. You have just handled yourself so gracefully and so admirably through all these difficulties.’ He said, ‘Good, I wanted you to be proud of me. I want you to miss me when I go home,’ which I understood to mean heaven. I said ‘Oh, Daddy, I will miss you when you go home.’ He said, ‘I’ll be back when the wind blows.’ That reminded me of this poem:

‘Do not stand by my grave and weep/ For I’m not there. I do not sleep./ I am a thousand winds that blow./ I am the diamond’s glint on snow/ I am the sunlight on ripened grain/ I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

‘When you awaken in morning’s hush,/I am the swift uplifting rush/Of quiet birds in circled flight/I am soft stars that shine at night./ Do not stand by my grave and cry./I am not there. I did not die.’

My father’s love will be carried on in the many people whose lives he touched. I will never feel the wind blow without knowing that he is there.