straw bale gardening and my happy place

full garden

Living with stage 4 cancer means I have learned to do what I love whatever way I can for as long as I can.  I have been fortunate to remain relatively healthy and without debilitating symptoms, at least for now. So, this means I have energy to do things that put me in my happy place.

One such activity is driving my tractor to haul bags of mulch, to cut down tall grasses, mow the lawn, and move firewood for stacking. No matter what I’m doing on my John Deere, it makes me happy!

A few years back, I discovered straw bale gardening.  It met the criteria for ample tractor use plus a few added bonuses.  I have wanted to share this process and so here you go…

Straw Bale Gardening

Why use straw bales?

For me, the sunny spot for full sun is in the back of our property where the water table is high.  It tends to be a bit soggy for many plants.  Using straw bales allows gardening virtually anyplace you want, regardless of the soil, how much space you have, or what kind of conditions you have. The straw bales become your containers. Some people put bales on their porch, along their patio or driveway, basically any place that can take advantage of good sun.

Another advantage of straw bales is that they allow me to garden without a lot of kneeling and bending.  This is less strain on my body and allows me to tend to my plants easily. I can talk to my tomatoes and encourage my tomatillos and without getting on my knees. The bales create a raised bed that makes it easy to harvest too.

One of my favorite things is that straw bales serve as a container for my plants while providing them a rich, nutritious base.  They are rather self sustainable.  When treated properly, the bales begin to decompose over the course of the growing season.  This is like growing veges right in a compost pile.  The plants, send their roots down through the straw and get all kinds of good nourishment.  And at the end of the season, the composted straw can be used in your gardens or potted plants.

What you need to get started?

Here are the basics for getting started using straw bales for your garden.

Gather your materials:

  • buy your straw bales – Here in upstate NY, I get mine in May so I can start treating the bales at least two weeks before planting.  I will explain what to do below.
  • get a bag of soil and compost – we will use this just as you would when planting in conventional containers.
  • get a high nitrogen fertilizer — we will use this to treat your bales. Please know there are other ways to do this and I am showing you how I do it.  I use liquid fish fertilizer.

Where to put your bales:

  • plan out where you are going to put your bales.  you can have just one or a whole bunch depending on how many plants you want to grow
  • don’t cut the string or whatever material is binding the bale together.  You want it to keep the bale intact.
  • make sure the bale is placed so the binding is on the side – you should be able to look straight down and see the cut straw as in the picture to the right.
  • you will want your bales to be in a sunny location
  • you will want access to water, or be able to haul water to your bales
  • you will want to place your bale where you can eventually gather it up as compost or spread it around
  • be sure to pick a spot and plan to leave it, unless you put it in a wagon or other rolling base.  once you start to water the bales, they can get heavy

How to treat your bales:

  • do not plant anything in your bales before you treat them properly.  This requires watering, fertilizing, and cooling before plants go in.  It’s easy…really!
  • plan to water your bales daily for 12- 14 days
  • on day 4 through day 10, mix your high nitrogen fertilizer with water and pour over the bales, then water as normal to allow the fertilizer to soak in
  • after day 10, just keep watering.  your bales will begin to heat up inside from the decomposing process.  this is good but you need then to start cooling off before planting.  typically, they are ready around day 14 or so.  I make a hole with my trowel and stick my hand down into the bale to feel the heat.  it’s kind of exciting!

How to plant your veges, herbs, flowers or seeds:

  • Remember, planting in your straw bales are just like planting in a container
  • plant anything you want to grow in your bale, keeping in mind to space your plants as you would in the ground.
  • I planted these three cucumbers in one bale and will allow them to drape over the edge as they grow
  • dig a hole into the bale. I use a trowel that allows me to hack into the straw
  • once the hole is dug,  fill it with dirt and compost just as you would do in a container
  • then, plant your starters and water as normal.
  • you will want to make sure your bales do not dry out, so water regularly
  • plan to add fertilizer every week or two to keep the bales decomposing


This yellow squash started budding right away in my bale garden.









So did my tomatillos!













At harvest time

  • harvesting is the same as for other gardens.
  • in my garden, I allow the bales to keep on decomposing over the winter.  come spring, I use it as a great compost for other plants.
  • the picture shows flowers planted into soil that is rich with last year’s decomposed bales.  they look happy!






There are several websites that can give you other tips or methods. Just search “straw bale gardening. ”   I hope you have abundant growth, budding success, and find your happy place in the process.

Let me know how it goes!



healing and the art of resiliency

my inner wolf

Wolf is a teacher, meant to come back to the pack with life lessons and insights.

Life, as a force or energy, has its own rhythm, ebbs, and flows. Our individual lives follow a subtle, circadian beat. Our days unfold in predictable patterns of space and time. Many of us, without knowing or meaning to, grow complacent, dispassionate in our course.

Then it happens. A split moment, or emotional jolt blast us out of our orbits. 

An accident, a death, an illness throw us into a tailspin. Traumas and tragedies take center stage. There is just no way life could be sustained as we know it. Borrowing from the wisdom of Breñe Brown, we fall with our face on the arena floor. The challenge is finding the courage to pick ourselves up, through the daze and hurt and unknown.

My split moment was when the doctor said, “stage 4, treatable but not curable.”

For the next full year, my primary focus was getting through surgery, enduring chemotherapy, and wrapping my head around what appeared to be a predictable, inevitable, statistical demise.

I didn’t know two years ago that I would be alive today.

As I picked myself off the “arena floor”, it became quite evident that life had changed forever. I was determined to make meaning out of the trauma. For a year, my loved ones gathered. Their familiar warmth and laughter was all part of the healing. I allowed myself my every heart’s desire.

As it turned out, the first year of my diagnosis was so full of love and life; it had left me searching in its wake. I hadn’t considered that I would be so healthy. I kept gearing up for the sucker punch that hadn’t come. I soon realized that I caught myself between living my life and waiting for something to happen.

It was time to re-examine my life.

Stripped of my daily routines, patterns, and identities, I found myself staring in the mirror, searching. There, reflecting back was what I had always known. I was so much more than my profession. I was worthy beyond all the roles I play, and richer than the things I own. As each day ticked by, my remission lingered, like a long expansive plateau, where the drop off is seemingly way off in the horizon.

From up on the plateau, I was reminded that true healing was not only of body, but especially of mind and spirit. If I was to heal in all ways possible, it required “medicine” that connected me back to my truest essence. I also knew that healing was much more enduring that any cure.

I have often drawn insight from symbols, visions, and dreams. They have been a path to my own inner wisdom. On this journey of healing, I instinctually knew that integrating my intellectual mind with my creative self was essential. Among the wealth of creative expressions available to me, I dabbled in music, felting, and clay forms.

But, what took me by surprise has been the emergence of the art of drawing. Drawing has been the medicine that has resonated deep within my core. This medicine required as much faith as my weekly chemotherapy treatments, perhaps more. I had to trust that the medicine would be effective and cumulative in its affect.

I started by drawing stick figures. Then I would copy simple drawings, line for line. Just as the chemo, I had to persevere. I had to keep at it, giving myself time to practice and refine the skill of putting pencil to paper. Most of all, I had to let go of my tendency to compare myself to others. The medicine required that I allow the drawings to evolve and emerge.

Then the magic happened. The gift of pyrography came into my life. I picked up the burning tool as if my soul had been reborn, restored. Trusting in this medicine, it touched a very deep part of me. I opened a window to my inner self.

So, there, emerging in the grain of the wood, I found my “inner wolf.  Wolf empowers the teacher within me to share medicine with others. This is what I had learned:

Re-examining my life has, and still is, an exercise in trust, persistence, practice, allowing.

Re-examination enables me to dust myself off and pursue life from this step forward.

Re-examining has helped me to emerge from the grief and loss.

Re-examination has enabled me to find the courage to trust my instincts, to take new paths, redirect from dead ends, and learn by discovery.

I am grateful for this journey, sucker punches and all. I have come to realize that resiliency does not always mean a return to how things have been. It’s about my capacity to move forward. Although my body may one day succumb to disease, I am most definitely healing.

I have discovered the freedom that wolf inspires.

As your coach, I would be honored to help you re-examine your life. Please contact me at

life and death – where science and spirit collide

exploringFor much of my life, I have been exploring how life works…the source of our lives and how we express it through our bodies. This exploration presses me to search beyond the physical into an energetic realm beyond what seems tangible or acceptable.

I feel like a closeted student of the universe. But here it is, out in the open…

I believe we are energetic non-physical beings playing in physical form!  

This is the stuff philosophy and religions attempt to interpret.  I have always approached this from a spiritual perspective.

So, why the closet?  As a baby boomer, I lived through the rising of the “new age” which many labeled as for “kooks” and “weirdos.”  It was a time of resistance to anything that didn’t fit in society’s controlled and well-protected paradigm.  Although I was certainly not alone in poking around in the astral, it felt especially taboo.  Back then, it was easier to keep these explorations to myself. Now it’s out of the closet and into the streets!

So, why now?  Well, if something like stage 4 cancer doesn’t shake things up, nothing will.  Being told that the cancer in my body is incurable has kicked me into high gear. The obvious issue here is what happens when we die?

What I have come to appreciate over my many years as a student of life is that death is a perspective. Death is a concept. Going in and out of physical form is what we globally and collectively have called “death”.  Most of us were taught to perceive and perpetuate death as the end of our existence.  But I have come to believe it is a transition – not a disconnection from others – merely a change out of physical form.

My grappling with death started long before my terminal diagnosis. I have experienced the loss of loved ones since I was quite young.  In my adult years, I have been honored to witness others dying. In hindsight, I realize some have been mentors with awareness and openness in their transitions.  I found deep appreciation in observing their conscious process.

There have been many teachers over my years that have spoken about our existence in body and in spirit. I listened to them repeatedly as if absorbing every word would enhance my understanding.  I sat and studied with Stephen and Ondrea Levine, Ram Dass, Gary Zucker, and Carolyn Myss.  I have been a student of many western and a few eastern Buddhist teachers such as Sogyal Rinpoche, Pema Chodron, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Gil Fronsdal, Jack Kornfield, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama.  Admittedly, I have been moved by the teachings from non-physical intelligence, starting with Jane Roberts and the Seth Materials, and more recently with Abraham Hicks.  Regardless of the non-orthodox means that their messages have been shared, there is some profound wisdom being expressed.  It resonates with me deeply.

Perhaps what has encouraged me most of all has been science.  I have long been a big fan of quantum theory.  Without fully understanding this academically, I truly appreciate how the nature of our physical world can be explained through this scientific framework. All objects are made of molecules, which are formed from atoms, which are made of bundles called quanta – energy.

We know that energy never dies!  Looks like quantum theory saved my life 🙂

Scientists, like Professor Robert Lanza, have helped to translate how quantum theory relates to the concept of death.  He teaches us to view life and death differently.  He claims that death is an illusion created by our consciousness.  Biocentrism turns our thinking around to realize that it is our consciousness that creates the universe, not the other way around.  Dr. Lanza says about death, “we’ve been taught we die, or more specifically, our consciousness associates life with bodies and we know that bodies die.”  I get giddy with excitement when my spiritual teachings and my respect for quantum theory overlap.

Today’s science has set us  free to embrace that which we know deep down to be true.

We now know through studies and research the big role energy plays in our lives.  We can measure the effects of meditation on the brain.  We can detect the impact of positive energy on our immune system.  Our nervous system can be soothed by consciously focusing on positive emotions.  We can change our beliefs and habits through consciously altering our brain activities. Death is a not an end of life, but an energetic shift from physical form.

I am not afraid of death. I know it to be a transition. I exist as non-physical energy and use my physical body as a tool to experience life through the stimulus of senses… taste – sight – hearing – touch – smell.  When I “die” I will no longer use my Bridgett body, but will continue to “live” as the energy-based consciousness that I am.

These are no longer the ideas of a kook, eccentric, new-age weirdo. My worlds of spirituality and science have collided.

you mustn’t be afraid of death
you’re a deathless soul
you can’t be kept in a dark grave
you’re filled with God’s glow

– Rumi


If you, or someone you know, would like guidance along life’s journey, I would be honored to help. Contact me for personal coaching at

World’s Best STEM CELL SCIENTIST talks SPIRIT (Robert Lanza)


What Science Is Telling Us About The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence



a simple path to change

There is a simple path to making change in our lives.

From our mood to our inner core beliefs, it is possible to create the life you want…really!

It’s about awareness – choice – taking action.

Thanks for watching…your comments are welcome!



If you, or someone you know, would like guidance down this simple path, I would be honored to help. Contact me for personal coaching at





well-being in the face of hard times

live like someone left the gate openHow do you hang onto your well-being when life hands out hard stuff?

Since my cancer diagnosis, I have become keenly aware of how much my attitude shapes my life.  You don’t have to have cancer to know this. There are plenty of life challenges to go around.  No matter what difficulty comes your way, it’s attitude that determine how well you manage and retain your well-being.

It’s not what you are handed, it’s how you handle it.

Perspective is how we view life and interpret experiences. Perspective is influenced by culture, age, genetics, social norms gender, and environment…many other factors. We tend to think of it as the cup half empty, half full concept.

I appreciate what I learned about perspective from an article on Someone might delight in finding the cup half-full.  That’s the universal sign of an optimist.  However, here is what I hadn’t considered. It is possible that someone could find meaning in a half-empty cup.  Rather than assuming they are pessimistic, it’s possible they prefer to find a cup that needs to be filled. That’s fulfilling to them.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

Our attitudes are how we respond to life’s perceptions. We learn attitudes from people in our lives, and develop them from our life experiences. Our attitudes can be positive, negative, rational, unreasonable, conscious, or unknown.  Attitudes influence the beliefs we hold, the assumptions we make, and the thoughts we form.

In other words, attitude is how we create our own reality.

Ok, so you don’t need cancer to become consciously aware of our attitudes. But, for me, living with cancer was when my attitude became so damn obvious.

Here’s the thing… “health” is not only about the presence or absence of disease.  It is also about our well-being.  I discovered that true well-being is all wrapped up in my attitude.

I think of my true well-being as something cancer can’t take from me.  Cancer cannot take away my thoughts, beliefs, or motivation for life.

My attitudes have shaped how I respond to the world. When my attitudes are in alignment with my values, I have my well-being. Life is good…cancer or no cancer.

Recently, I have thought about what attitudes bring to my well-being.  I want to share a few:

Life is about people and what we do together…the exceptional moments along with the ordinary. It’s the sharing of a meal and simple conversation.  It’s being vulnerable in laughter and as well as our tears.  It’s about delighting in each other’s creations.  It’s discovering and observing the world together.

Nurturing relationships is a blessing.  We nurture when we engage in our friend’s lives, show up to support a neighbor, find a way to contribute to community.  Nurturing relationships makes our bonds strong, even in small ways. Relationships are how we go on when the going gets tough.

We can break free of the thoughts and beliefs that hold us back.  This is the gift of conscious living. We become aware of which thoughts we breathe life into and which we let go. We can break down beliefs that don’t serve us.  We make choices and decisions based on our values.  When we live with awareness aligned with our values, we experience well-being, no matter what life is handing out.

It all comes down to this. I am living like someone left the gate open!

How about you?


you’ve got to accentuate the positive

unstuckSo many of us are stuck in our ways.  We get stuck with habits that don’t serve us.  We get stuck in the rut of routines. We get stuck in emotions that high-jack our lives.

Negativity and fear tend to hold us back – keep us stuck.

But it doesn’t have to work that way…really!

I found it helpful to know that it’s a tendency in human nature to focus on the negative. It turns out that we are wired to pay more attention to negative events or experiences as a way to stay alert to potential threat. So, even if there were 20 wonderful things going on, most of us would hone in on the one negative.  It’s primal…do you feel better yet?

Likewise, our reptilian brain alerts us for fear.  There is a hardwired stimulus – response thing going on in our brains.  We hear a loud noise and we jump. We see a snake and we freeze. It’s primal.

The problem is that many of us get stuck in these primal responses.  We become paralyzed by the fear and locked in on the negative.  We perpetuate these natural responses by living them over and over.  We give the negative center stage and fear a longer life span than it was intended.

 So how do we get unstuck?

You’ve got to accentuate the positive – eliminate the negative – latch on to the affirmative! 

Long before this 1940’s tune hit the airwaves, this was true!  Oh…you don’t know this song?  Here ya go…

They make it sounds so easy, don’t they?

Of course, many us us experience difficulties in life and some of us endure horrific experiences.  But, we are not chained to these events.  We don’t have to live them on and on.  Even if the negative is our default primal focus, it isn’t necessary for us to keep our attention there. We can choose to move on to the things in life that are good, enjoyable, and worthy of our attention.

Awareness of the good things in our life really does balance our natural negative focus.  With deliberate effort, we can switch our focus to the good things. It can make a difference in our day and make long term effects on our health and well being. Awareness and deliberate effort are essential in fostering happiness and well being.

But what about fear? 

We know all too well that there are plenty of things to be afraid of in this world.  There’s terrorists, poverty, cancer…all sorts of doom and gloom. But it’s important to know that fear, once triggered, runs it’s course. Once the stimulus has passed, we are supposed to let the fear pass too.

The way I see it is that fear becomes a steady state of being because we sustain it beyond what happened in the past or we spin off to what might happen in our future.

If the actual stimulus of the fear is not happening in the moment, but the fear still consumes us, we have been emotionally hijacked.  It’s up to us to bring awareness to our residual fear.  It’s up to us to use deliberate effort to bring gloom down to the minimum.

Easier said than done for certain, but quite possible. It takes practice.

So today’s question is, how do YOU get unstuck?  No, really!  

What are ways that you get beyond the negative?  How do you deal with fear?

Share with us here…Tell us how YOU spread joy up to the maximum!  You just might give someone new hope.



on the other side of stuck


My first hint that my life would be unique came on the path of my career.  Women weren’t known for being auto mechanics in the 70’s.  But, I was.

I saw that path as a possibility and when opportunity knocked, I swung that door wide open.

Armed with my new awareness of mechanics – sockets and wrenches – a 12 mm or a 1/2″ – jacks and vises – my world got a whole lot more exciting.  After all, how many women auto mechanics do you know?

Learning that I was mechanically inclined opened doors for me.  Just on the other side of social expectations was where I found my next pathway.  It happens that I had several friends who rode wheelchairs to go about their day.  I realized that someone must be repairing those wheelchairs and it might as well be me.  There I was, in 1980, the one and only women wheelchair mechanic west of the Mississippi…probably beyond.

I was so happy playing road ranger; driving a van full of wheelchair parts and tools.  Hundreds of power chairs hummed again under my adept troubleshooting skills.  I could break down a sport chair and rebuild it in the course of an afternoon.  Adapting brakes, re-configuring joysticks, modifying seating, meant independence for many.  I loved being a part of all that.

It happens that, in 1986, an Apple II E computer could be adapted with much of the same gizmos and gadgets as wheelchairs were equipped.  Somebody without arm or hand movement could control a computer with the sip or puff of a straw, or the tip or tap of a switch. Independence on a computer would mean the ability to write, read, communicate, interact.  I soon realized that someone must be adapting these computers and it might as well be me.  I became skilled as an assistive technology specialist and played along this life path from Berkeley to Seattle, from Mexico to Ecuador.

I absolutely know these opportunities happened because I was willing to take the path that was different, interesting, exciting, and meaningful.  I choose a unique life path that was in line with my values.  I might have let my fear stop me.

Fear has a way of stopping us in our tracks.  Fear gnaws away at our choices.  Fear keeps us from making our own unique path.

Through self awareness, I stop following with my head and start leading with my heart.  Following my heart got me unstuck!

How cool is that!


Want to get unstuck? I offer personal coaching and would be happy to guide your exploration.  Contact me at

change the things you can


enduring the hard stuff

exploringHumor infused…

Here in this New Year I have been thinking a lot about life’s challenges and transformations.  The challenges come to all of us in many forms…relationship struggles, job problems, grieving loss, managing difficult emotions, health issues…the list goes on.

We all want to know it’s possible to endure the hard stuff. 


Speaking from experience, I can tell you it IS possible.  Not only can we endure, but we can thrive.  We can find significant, meaningful, life altering change that pushes and stretches us beyond our comfort zone.   If we choose to hang out there… beyond our comfort zone… transformation can happen.

One way I have endured the hard stuff is sharing with others my heart felt honesty and humor.  The entry below was taken from one of my CaringBridge posts last year while I was healing from surgery and going through chemotherapy. Transformation begins with fully knowing the challenge.

The Challenge and the Cancer Card

In our house, we use the 4 Agreements as rules to live by… Don’t take it personal. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. It is with these guideposts I attempt equanimity. They become especially important when facing life’s challenges.

If you look up the word “challenge”, it can mean a competition or contest, as if someone might face a challenge “better” than someone else might. Some definitions of challenge imply that we pick and choose what we face. A definition that works better for me these days is that challenge is “something that needs a lot of skill, energy, and determination to deal with.”

Having cancer is certainly a challenge…something I need to deal with head on. You have heard about my my intense surgery and how many staples they used to sew me up. You have been privy to my TMI reports! Perhaps you have read your way through the longer entries sharing the good, bad, and ugly of my journey. The reality of cancer has caused me to break down and sob like the rest of ‘em.

What you may not know is that, along the way, I was issued a “cancer card!” It’s like an E ticket at Disneyland (Google it.) It’s privileges on steroids. It’s the “collect $200, get out of jail free card.” You get gifts in the mail. Generous offers. Random kindness. Unlimited forgiveness. I have always known people who had cancer cards but never knew the giddy power of having one, until now!

The cancer card comes with its special benefits, but simply having one has not made me courageous. I believe courage has to do with how willing I am to take risks and to be vulnerable. For me, being courageous is “to love like I’ve never been hurt, and to dance like nobody’s looking.” These kinds of challenges reward me beyond measure…with or without the cancer card.

The cancer card also hasn’t changed what it means for me to take risks. Reaching out to someone might be a dead end or rekindle a friendship. It’s a risk. Picking up my guitar after 30 years could result in my rejecting or embracing the music. I would never know unless I risked trying. Sharing with you what I am thinking might be too much, but it’s a risk I feel compelled to take. Just having cancer hasn’t changed any of these challenges. What cancer brings to the table is yet another reason to either stop myself from facing risks or motivate myself to take them.

But, I’m puzzled. Having been a recipient of the cancer card, I will tell you, cancer alone does not trump the many challenges people survive. Yes, cancer can be life threatening and scary, but, I have experienced threatening and scary challenges more difficult than cancer. (Yikes…did I say that out loud?) What I am saying is that there are all kinds of challenges… disasters, hardship, and abuses, that run parallel. When I have faced some of these, I don’t recall getting a card! I am challenged how to give cancer its due respect but not beyond all other issues that people face. I’m handing in my cancer card!

But then again, what if I miss out on all the privileges? Now that I think about it, I might be smart to hang onto my card for a while. It’s likely to get a whole lot more threatening and way more scary before this is over.

Never mind 🙂

Are you, or someone you know, struggling with change, a shift in life experience, new circumstances, or unfamiliar situations?  I offer personal coaching through all life’s transitions and challenges. I would be honored to be of help.  Contact me at


the intrinsic power of change

bridgett and john deere“Hey, you look good,” has been the greeting du jour following my long ordeal of surgery and chemotherapy. I suspect “you look good” reflects so much more than a warm salutation. It’s certainly is not my looks. My typical attire is a t-shirt and baggy jeans. I am pretty sure friends are expressing, with all good intention, a hint of surprise and relief, that I don’t look like someone with advanced cancer.  It helps to have my hair back.

Some change can be rather apparent, while other can stealthily creep into our lives.

I don’t doubt that my friends have noticed changes in me. Some may have witnessed that I am not walking as robust as I used to and need to stop and catch my breath. I am certain some are aware that I speak my mind more candidly than before. Possibly friends noticed I no longer endure people, places, or situations I find unbearable. I notice which friends can look at me in my eyes and who glance away. A select few have witnessed my tears of love, grief, and overwhelm.

Then there are the changes that altered me to the core. Recently, I took a month long trip to the west coast. It was so much more than a visit. It was a pilgrimage. It was a return to the place of my coming-of-age. A reunion with all that had nurtured and sustained me. The places where my life work emerged, relationships bonded, where my beliefs evolved and defined me.

A flood of “first times” abounded.  The old familiar places reminded me of my firsts: my first job, first house, first date with spouse, first moments I held my nieces. I breathed these in as if to resuscitate the years. Yet, the deeper I breathed, the more I felt the grief and loss of who I have been.

I know I might live with this terminal illness for several years to come, but already, there are so many “last times” lurking about. Their existence is a bit more elusive than “my firsts.”  Will this be the last time I walk on the beach? Will this be the last holiday I am well enough to cook? Will this be the last time I travel across country? Will this be the last season I ride on my beloved John Deere? These examples are actually a bit easier to digest than considering the angst of a last hug.

I ask myself why this is important. None of us will ever know if an experience is our first or last time. Ambiguity is the nature of life itself.  Change is to be expected and suffering is unavoidable.

Ultimately, what really matters is what I do with my experiences.  It all comes down to honoring the person I want to be.

Do I dwell on my emotions, disappointments, first memories, or last dreams?

Or, do I harness the intrinsic power of change?

Intuition had guided my pilgrimage.  Curiosity had me asking about “last times.”  Choice allows me to think of cancer as an experience rather than something I have to fight. Creativity inspires me to share my life experiences in as many ways as I can.

Life is full of changes.  I can meet change with resistance or use it to empower my life.  It’s not what the changes are, it’s what I do with them. It’s a slippery slope but I am making progress…I just keep living from my heart.


Are you, or someone you know, struggling with change, a shift in life experience, new circumstances, or unfamiliar situations?  I offer personal coaching through all life’s transitions and challenges. I would be honored to be of help.  Contact me at


the powerful language of cancer

wordsMy dear friend Cheryl Jones, shared a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to her mother who died this past week of cancer.  One part stood out for me when she said, “for her, cancer was not a battle. It was an experience. It was her last experience.”

I found these words to describe an incredibly beautiful perception. I wrote to Cheryl –

“Speaking aloud the very notion that it’s ok not to fight cancer is a gift you shared.  May your words land gently into the heart of someone who feels they have to fight because that is what is expected.  May it serve to offer a choice to those of us who wish to live rather than survive.”

Many people automatically say that someone with cancer is a “survivor.”  While I respect this choice, it is an assumption that everyone with cancer identifies in this way.

People have associated the word “survivor” with cancer for so long that it has become a default label.

Personally, I prefer to say I am “living with cancer” than surviving it.  The language helps me to shift my focus on the day to day rather than longevity, as the term survival implies.  Indeed, there are “survivors” who are living day to day as well.  I do not mean to be divisive.  “Living with cancer” is simply the terminology that I prefer. It describes my experience more accurately than survival does.

Language is a powerful thing.  As an advocate for disability rights, I have witnessed the use of respectful, person-first language to create a social shift in the perception of individuals with disabilities and the promotion of disability rights. Similarly, word-choice about cancer influences how people relate to someone with a cancer diagnosis.

Our media is full of intense cancer terms.  “She lost her battle…”, “ After a long fight with cancer…”  The media floods our lives with images and slogans and assumptions that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, they are spending their days fighting. These war terms just do not sit right with me. We can not assume that everyone with cancer uses the same expressions to describe their attitude, perception, or approach.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought fighting was what was expected of me.  I thought I was “doing it all wrong” because I didn’t want to take on the stress and intensity of fighting.  Then I came to realize that fighting cancer was not my only option…it was just the language that made me think this was so.

Once I gave myself permission to not fight cancer, I tapped my inner strength to live with it.  I found strength through surrender.  Not hopelessness.  Not passivity.  But, strength in surrendering to something deep within me.

My truth is that I would prefer to spend my days living life rather than surviving cancer.  The ovarian cancer I have in my body is not currently curable …treatable yes, curable no…at least not today.  Yes, many women have lived beyond the statistics.  This well could be me.

Whether I have 10 months or 10 years, I choose to experience cancer. I may not survive but you can bet I will be living until then.


cheryl jones

I have known Cheryl Jones as a personal friend who has an exceptional gift of wise counsel.  Her online radio show Good Grief features a series of interviews exploring grief and loss as a powerful teacher in life.  I encourage you to listen to Cheryl’s show at VoiceAmerica.

asking ourselves the right questions

What links me to my authenticity?

What is my source of power and potential?

What do I say when a friend is grieving?

How can I serve?

How do I transform my thoughts into right action?

Where in my body do I feel my flow of energy?

Am I trusting my gut?

What kind of day do I want to create?

Who have I called on to cheer me on?

Have I created a peaceful moment today?

What are my building blocks for a good day?

Am I living from my heart?  How do I know?

Do I recognize my genuine self when I see her?

Do I recognize the love being offered to me?

Do I appreciate the enormity of a small simple act?

Do I have unfinished business?

Is there something I need to express today?

Am I true to myself through my actions and my thoughts?

Am I stuck in old patterns and habits?

What commitment am I living up to today?

Am I willing to give up hardship for what is possible?

Did I make a bond with another being today?


Please share the questions that you ask yourself…

4 stages too late

A year ago today, I was tossed into the vortex of our health care system.  A cat scan revealed that I had enlarged lymph nodes in my abdominal cavity.   It took 4 long weeks to get my final diagnosis…stage 4 ovarian cancer.   The five year survival rate for this cancer is less than 10 percent. I’m pissed! 

There is a whole health care system that missed my symptoms for years.  Ovarian cancer typically is not diagnosed in its early stages because it is very difficult to detect.  Pap smears do not catch ovarian cancer.  Most gynecological exams do not catch ovarian cancer.  As a matter of fact, I got a little notice in the mail while I was going through all the various biopsies and diagnostic tests last year that said, “Congratulations, your pap smear results were normal.”  I have been ignorantly wrong about the purpose of these test for all these years.  I am sure I am not alone.  I’m pissed!

One of the symptoms in ovarian cancer is frequent urgent need to urinate.   I started talking to doctors about this at least 8 years ago. I would find myself at a grocery store suddenly crossing my legs…these things can get quite embarrassing.  It was finally my general practitioner who thought to send me to an urologist.  He did all kinds of tests, finding blood in my urine but without any explanation.  He checked me inside and out but it apparently did not occur to him that my symptom might be ovarian cancer.  He eventually decided I no longer needed to see him. That was 4 years ago.   I’m pissed!

What bothers me is that doctors in general do not seem to have ovarian cancer symptoms on their radar.  With all the specialist focused on their area of expertise, they tend to miss the tell-tale signs. It was the enlarged lymph nodes under my collar bone that ultimately got their attention.  Four stages too late!

A necessary part of life is to feel ALL our emotions, not just the “good” ones. Today, I feel angry.  As with all emotions, they come and go…ebb and flow.  As Pema Chodron teaches about anger, “ …we can practice patience: wait, experience the anger and investigate its nature”

So, for today, I am noticing the nature of my anger…and boy am I pissed. 🙂


strength through surrender

Aug 2011 398Thinking of gaining strength through surrender must sound paradoxical.  It’s counter intuitive to think of surrender as an asset.  Yet, surrender is more than handing over one’s power.

Surrender, when invoked from deep within, inspires acceptance, creative solutions, and resolution without struggle. 

We all have gone through times of significant change.  Maybe it has manifested as a long distance move, a career change, a break up or new relationship.  Sometimes change comes crashing in as a result of a tragedy or illness. These times can be stressful, yet ripe for growth.  Knowing when and how to surrender is essential.

The first major change came in my life at age 13, with the sudden death of my older brother.  There’s no real understanding how I got through that time. The adults in my life did their best but really had no idea what I went through.  Any of us who have gone through death of a loved one  knows that we tend to drift until we find an anchor. Playing guitar was that for me.  I surrendered to the enormity of creativity.

At 21, I left my childhood home for a new beginning, over 500 miles away.  When I packed my car and took off on my new adventure, I tossed my childhood out the car window. The highway was littered with my past.  I surrendered to the compelling need to become someone new.  

Later in life, my wife and I made a decision to pack up and move across country.  We left the city life in California for country living in upstate New York.  The differences were humongous.  Septic tanks, well water, driving in snow, canning foods, hauling wood. We moved to a place where I was no longer in control. I had no job.  I had to make new friends. I needed help with everything.  I made a choice to start over.  I called it my “big surrender.”

Now, living with cancer, I have had to dig deep in myself to not spend my life in resistance.  In the words of the late Maya Angelou, ““At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.”  I know this to be true.  Surrendering to what is,  has enabled me to live each day in peace.  I have surrendered to my imperfection. I have surrendered to the need to make things happen according to plan.  I have surrendered to trusting in something bigger than myself.

Whether through choice or life’s whims, I have learned to walk through transition with the power of surrender.  Not defeat, passivity, or struggle, but surrender. Not unlike a tree, swaying to the force of the wind, I have learned to yield to life’s challenges with a posture of strength.

May we all find strength in the power of surrender.

chronic and inevitable

I have been trying to put my finger on why I am obsessed with recurrence.  Maybe it’s not so weird for someone with cancer, but, hey…I’m new at this.

But why would I be antsy to have a recurrence come sooner than later?  What’s up with that?  It’s not that I am hopeless, or depressed.  It’s more like wanting to get something difficult to be over with already.

 I think of my inevitable first recurrence like the proverbial band-aid that you just have to rip off even though it’s gonna hurt like hell.

I am living with stage 4 cancer.  It’s chronic.  It will come and go but never leave completely.  While the final outcome sucks, it’s the living with this disease, and it’s imminent symptoms that I can’t help but anticipate.

I have said up to now, I don’t really know what the cancer feels like.  I only know how sick the chemo made me.

It’s been a year since I dove into the “medical vortex” as my doctor named it.  There were the endless tests and biopsies.  Then major surgery made getting my power port feel like a piece of cake!

Three weeks after my surgery, I started weekly chemo for 4 long months.  Today, I am in remission.  By nature of metastasized ovarian cancer, it will return. I’m not being pessimistic here, it’s just what it is. Each time it comes back there will be choices to make, treatments to consider, a push to another remission.

The cancer I have is chronic and recurrence is inevitable.

Recurrence is part of the whole cycle.  Then, with a bit of luck, there will  be a remission again, recurrence, remission, recurrence, remission.  Who knows how long that cycle will go on.  The hope is that it will spin through many rounds.

So, I suppose being fixated on recurrence isn’t so strange from my point of view.  It comes from a curiosity about this disease.  My inquisitive nature wants to Know what I am up against.

Soon enough Bridgett…soon enough.


awakening to vulnerability

I am going to take a risk here. You are likely to see me as vulnerable. Until recently, I didn’t know that vulnerability was a quality to aspire to…now I am so relieved!  My awakening to vulnerability is a gift from Brené Brown. (See below for more about her.)  I am deeply grateful for her down to earth understanding of human nature.   What I learned is that vulnerability is an essential ingredient for living the life I want.

When we are vulnerable, we allow ourselves to feel worthy, believing that we are enough, just the way we are.  When we are vulnerable, we discover we belong.  These qualities are priceless.

For most of us, we must cultivate worthiness and belonging.  Brené talks about the direct connection between these qualities and self-compassion.  She is so brilliant at describing it all, I will not attempt to paraphrase.  Let me just say that she has taught me about letting go…letting go of perfectionism, letting go of comparison, letting go of “not being cool.”

Perhaps most importantly, she helped me to know “if we feel lovable and know we belong, then we are more likely to feel the worthiness we already have.”

We often don’t realize how much we are growing until we witness our own awakening.

Last night, I found myself in tears.  It was one of those times, I just needed to cry.  My wife found me curled up, red-faced,uttering  loud sobs.  As she cuddled up to me, I sunk into her arms.  What came next suprised me.  I heard myself say over and over, “You belong, you are worthy. You belong you are worthy”  As I heard this internal voice, I  took the words in, accepting them deeper and deeper in my heart.  I realized, it was the very first time  I ever allowed myself to fully soak up the love and comfort I was being offered.  I had opened my heart and let her in. I felt the worthiness I already had.

This moment revealed an awareness of my inner growth. I witnessed my own vulnerability.  I felt worthy and I belonged.

It doesn’t get any better than that!



Brené Brown, is a research professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work.  I discovered her incredible work and insights listening to her interview with Tami Simons of Sounds True.  She has also been featured on TEDTalk, and Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays.

trusting my gut

When hard changes come and life’s transitions are in front of me, I gotta trust my gut.

Through trusting my gut, I  have come to know these things to be true…

I am the only one who can create real change in my life –  No other being can change who I really am.  Not my parents, family, friends, teachers, or spiritual mentors.  Their guidance might be valuable and even on target with what I want.  But, ultimately, I am the only one who decides to make change and walks down the path to make them happen.  I choose the values, ethics, and goals that are important to me.  I decide who I am.

The more I practice acceptance, the more I learn my true nature –  Evolving on my life path means accepting my feelings, thoughts, and actions, regardless of my comfort or edginess with them.  I discover that fears, joys, anger, concern, compassion, disgust, surprise,  and every other emotion are part of my journey.  I am learning to sit with a feeling and then move on, letting them go, the good and the bad.  As I awaken, I discover that experiencing all feelings as they arise is my true human nature.

I must make choices consistent with my inner beliefs The decisions I make about transition, changes, choices must be aligned with my values.  Honesty, integrity, service to others, self compassion, open mindedness, diversity,  acceptance…these are just a few I honor. When I am clear about what values are important to me, the decisions become easier to make.

To discover what really drives me, I must be willing to look carefully at the beliefs I hold.  If I truly dig deep,  I can come to observe the beliefs I hold about myself, whether they are beneficial or detrimental to my life. Once I come to know these beliefs, I can change them.  I have worked hard to change my beliefs, my thoughts, and actions, when it clearly benefits me to do so.  This is my basic spiritual practice.  Through this process, I have learned that I am worthy and that I belong.  Now, I strive to live my life accordingly.

What truths have you discovered on your life path?

good can come from hard times

Sometimes life deals us hard stuff.  Changes, transitions, loss, grief. When I tackle these difficult, sometimes painful aspects of life, good things can come of it.

I  don’t mean that it doesn’t hurt to lose a relationship, or it isn’t stressful to make changes in our work or homes.  It doesn’t mean we don’t have fear when illness come knocking on our door.  This is what is involved in being human.

I just spent the last 9 months going through chemo to beat back the cancer discovered in my body.  Talk about change!   Changes in my energy.  Changes in how I am seen in the world.  Changes in how I perceive my strength and determination .  I have changed the ways how I live my days.

Interestingly, really good things have come from these hard times.  

I have learned to open my heart. I take  more risks. I am learning just how strong I am. I have opened to the generosity and kindness of others.  I witness my friends soften in their interactions with other people. These are treasures found deep down in change, tangled in loss, dwelling in grief.

If you choose to dive in,  they are there for the taking and they are exquisite.