Be the Solution

Finding your warrior spirit can be a difficult journey when faced with the daily drama of life and given what we see these days on the news and in social media.  Outside factors can be such strong distractions that they often make us forget how to look within, utilize our skills and talents to grow, prosper and serve the needs of others in our communities.

I believe that you can write your fate with your own hands when the rest of the world is sleeping or busy participating in the drama. Problems can be solved in many ways, including finding someone else’s experience and copying what they did, changing a limiting belief or attitude, or by joining a network dedicated to solving that particular problem. Being the solution is a great way to come out of the problem.

The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities (ACHC) has encouraged and inspired individuals, families and communities to do just that – to be the solution. They’ve created numerous programs that help shape how well our communities live. This is especially important now since we live in a culture where every day, over 2000 teens begin abusing prescription drugs. 

I interviewed Julie Brenner, CEO of ACHC about their programs. With over twenty years of service in marketing, alliance and partnership development, Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a degree in Corporate Communications from Sheridan College, both in Ontario, Canada. She is a Certified Prevention Consultant (CPC-R), and is a graduate of Leadership Oakland XXVIII and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Executive Program for Non Profit Leaders.


Julie shared their wealth of services. The Bear Truth is ACHC’s college outreach program which collaborates with Oakland University to reduce high risk drinking and misuse of other substances while integrating wellness practices and relevant resources. Their Greater Urban Community Coalition Initiative supports local experts and residents to ensure each child in every school has the necessary resources to live a safe, healthy and long life. A key component is to reduce and prevent underage drinking, prescription and opiate drug misuse, illicit marijuana and tobacco use among youth and adults in highly minority populated communities across Oakland County.

Pioneering social change in the realm of health and wellness, the Alliance strives, through their Integrative Wellness program, to reduce the fear of complimentary therapies. They want to empower individuals and families to take care of their health in holistic and sustainable ways.


Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Healthy! is another program that strengthens families by building curriculum for families who have youth ages 10 to 14 years of age in the home. A compliment to that program is Life is Your Playbook led by former NFL linebacker for the New York Giants, and 2011 Super Bowl Champion, Greg Jones. He imparts knowledge and skills needed for today’s youth using several different “life plays.” These dynamic experiences are for youth of all ages so that they gain protective factors that will help them avoid destructive behaviors, including substance use, by helping them know their value, think about what they want for their futures and what they need to do to get there.

Love a Child is a year round program focusing on areas of mentoring for children, youth and young adults challenged by circumstances of abuse, neglect, and behavioral issues through one-on-one mentoring, home visitation, camps and special events.

With 5-10 meetings held every month in Oakland County, the Alliance serves as the Oakland County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics (FAN). A partnership was formed with FAN to increase prevention, recovery and support connections. This partnership encourages strong ties to all community sectors including parents affected by addiction, concerned citizens, law enforcement, judges, leaders in education, business, and healthcare and the recovery community. 

PEEPs (Peers Educating and Empowering Peers) is a unique group that brings together coalition youth members to promote healthy lifestyles through prevention education across Oakland County. And there’s Resolve, a 16-week comprehensive life skills training program designed and developed for individuals in recovery who are 18+. The purpose of this program is to empower individuals in recovery to move forward in their life skill development targeted specifically to areas of need, whereby addressing the health and well-being of the whole person.


Through my extensive travels around the world and my journalism of over ten years, I discovered that what we do at home, in our own little corners, creates the environment we dream for ourselves and future generations. I love watching individuals, families, businesses, and corporations who understand the power of that. They make conscious decisions, placing their focus on the solution within their scope, spreading it to those in their proximity, then naturally expanding to larger circles. They take a proactive role in shaping their lives and helping those around them. They help make the world a better place. 

Here’s a wonderful and informative video about their Integrative Wellness Program, which is a sponsor of the Spiritual & Writing Conference & Retreat  Click Here

For more information, visit

Treasure Chest of Memories

Our stories don’t start the day we are born but long before that. The decisions made by our parents and their parents, whether biological or adopted, have an impact on our lives. Their legacy, their dreams and ideas influence our childhood experiences and the choices we make as adults. Understanding who they were helps us recognize certain patterns in ourselves, and gives us a sense of love and belonging. It also brings us closer to them, especially if they are no longer on this beautiful earth.

Laura Hedgecock, a freelance writer, blogger, and speaker, has a passion for helping others share their stories. This stems from a gift left by her grandmother. Shortly before her death, Hazel Crymes passed on an old spiral notebook filled with a lifetime of memories, which she dubbed her “Treasure Chest of Memories.”  Her writings included childhood memories, stories of her children as they grew, good recipes, and wisdom she had gathered along the way.

So Laura wrote a book to guide hobbyists with writing prompts, exercises, and varied examples. The book is called Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life. Using this guide, even beginning writers will find that they too are capable of sharing their memories and compiling a legacy for their loved ones.

Drawing on her grandmother’s “Treasure Chest,” as well as her experience in genealogy, photography, scrapbooking, writing, and blogging, and her own journey compiling such a “Treasure Chest,” Laura empowers memory collectors with down-to-earth, practical advice and creative ideas. Similarly, her second book, Blogging for Family History: How to Launch a Blog and Make it Successfulprovides a road map for family historians to launch a professional blog.

The process of collecting memories can be quite fun and adventurous.  One of Laura’s blog posts, for instance, talks about how to identify emotional family heirlooms. She writes, “Heirlooms can be a bit like flowers. One person’s flowers are another person’s weeds.” To figure out what one should pull and what they should fertilize, she advises to look around and start asking questions. To look for objects you’ve always taken for granted, travel treasures, such as items brought back from military or business travel overseas, and even furniture. To explore the attic, basement, or garage for long-sealed boxes.

For immigrants or refugees, or people who lost their homes to fires or disasters, the items might be few in number but the story behind it could fill hundreds of pages. The process could be therapeutic. For me, it was very healing to write a memoir series which helped me discover the powerful women in my lineage and to recognize the affects our departure from my birth country of Iraq had left on me.

The day we left Iraq was so hush-hush I didn’t even know about it. One day I was in Baghdad, and the next day – poof! – I was in Amman, Jordan. I have no recollection of our actual departure, which type of transportation carried us across the border or what happened when we arrived. Everything happened so fast and in secrecy, because we couldn’t let anyone know we were heading for America. We disappeared as quickly as sugar in a cup of hot tea, and then we began a new life.

We spent almost a year in Amman awaiting our visa to the United States. Until we arrived to Michigan, I had no idea that I would never again enter the home, school, and neighborhood where I grew up. Suddenly, I discovered I was no longer going to see my friends. We never even said goodbye.

I spent years wanting to ask my family, “Why have you uprooted me from my birthplace and brought me here?” I felt like a plant taken out of the soil. After repotting, plants often enter a state of shock as they adapt to the new environment and struggle to get over the shock of being uprooted and moved.  But my family was so busy acclimating and surviving, I could not express how I felt – until decades later, when I began writing my memoir. I was able to share story now and for future generations.

You too can start sharing your memories, ideas and stories through journaling, blogging, or a book. It might be difficult to be honest about your discovery and finding a loving and authentic way to share it, but this would be an opportunity to write what you’re most passionate about – you and your loved ones.

Visit Laura’s website to learn more

The Life of a Writer

The life of a writer can be magical and adventurous, but it’s also a lot of hard work. Aside from the year(s) it takes to write a book and the revision and editing process associated with it, there’s the business aspect. Some writers can afford to write full time but most have full or part-time jobs to help support that lifestyle.

Even some of the most successful writers hustle to maintain a balance between their writing, speaking gigs, and family life. I remember reading that after their success, Gone With the Wind’s author Margaret Mitchell and Harry Potter’s JK Rowling had difficulty finding time to write with the nonstop phone calls from the media and people making numerous requests or offering them dozens of opportunities. The hard work and unsteady income could cause a person to want to quit. For the dedicated, however, when they try to stop, the art always wins. Over time, they learn to simply surrender to it. They persist, despite the instability of it all.

Author Laura Bernstein-Machlay is a good example of persistence. Rejection letters never deterred her from doing the work, at one point repeatedly and boldly but politely sending to the same magazine until they accepted her piece. Laura teaches literature and writing at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit where she also lives. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and magazines including The American Scholar, Georgia Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Madrid, Poetry Northwest, Redivider, Southern Humanities Review, and so on. She’s been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes in both the nonfiction and poetry categories (including one this year).

Last summer, Laura completed a multi-essay series on Detroit for The American Scholar. Her full-length collection of creative-nonfiction essays, Travelers, was published on May 1st of 2018.  The essays map her journey as she makes sense of her recovering city, Detroit, the generations that preceded her, and her own definition of wife, mother and home. The intimate, humorous and heartfelt essays offer an honest and discerning look at the moments which both challenge and redeem us; the shaping of our lineage; and the profound necessity of hope.

Deftly observed and thoughtfully crafted, Laura’s lyrical prose brings to life Detroit’s survivor spirit and the indefatigable nature of family. This collection discovers the inherent grace and defining necessity of place, heritage and the search for our own footing within the vast world we inhabit. Travelers examines the intersection of the connections we form and those we inherit and how, with distance and trust, and a little luck, we might find more than just our way home.

At the Detroit Working Writers (Nov. 10, 2018), Laura will lead a workshop called “The Tinkertoy Essay” which is a form of creative nonfiction that eschews conventional transition devices and instead utilizes short, vivid scenes “to tell stories in artfully arranged fragments rather than in one specific narrative line.” (Elena Passarello). By throwing away the restrains of rigid, often chronological, plot structures such as conflict and rising action, the writer is freed to focus on voice and image to surprising and powerful results.

Laura’s story is inspirational!

Through my decades of writing, I’ve met and worked with hundreds of writers from different backgrounds and “success” levels, from emerging writers to award-winners and bestsellers. I was most impressed with those who have found a balance in their lives, who enjoyed a “success” that was based on their terms and not everyone else’s.

When we take ourselves too seriously, we tend to also take the joy and creativity out of the writing process, even take it out of our lives. Our egos can get in the way of our authenticity, causing us to forget why we became writers in the first place. Our light becomes absorbed by pain and a sense of failure. As long as we don’t get ourselves stuck in that state too long, pain and darkness can be good in that they raise us to new awareness and create more depth in our writing.

So much happens in the writing process. You become informed of the subject you’re writing about. If the subject is close to your heart, you heal and transform as a person. After you release the story into the universe, you may touch someone in a way you’ll never know about. Then you have, knowingly or unknowingly, served yourself and others. You have come full circle.

To learn more about the DWW Conference, click here

To read more about Laura’s book, visit this link:

Healer’s Almanac: Journey into Health

Alternative medicine has become popular because treatments such as acupuncture, massage, osteopathy, yoga, meditation and nutritional therapy treat the whole person –  body, mind, emotions, and spirit — with the focus on staying balanced and well. Patients are seeking less invasive, non-drug, low-cost methods to strengthen their good health.

In her search for a way to heal her family and herself, Patty Shaw learned that there are many alternative therapies available to treat a variety of illnesses of the body, mind, and emotions. Her discoveries led her to write a book called Healer’s Almanac: Journey into Health with Wisdom from the 21st Century Goddesses. In it, she defines the many alternative therapies available and introduces you to health practitioners that provide those treatments.

“My advice is to keep an open mind, keep searching for something that works for you, and remember no therapy is a cure all,” she said. “A healthy approach to healing is balance and treating the body as a whole, not a sum of parts to be fixed or replaced individually.”

Patty stresses that prevention is the best medicine, so “start early, and never stop healing yourself.”

“I believe that within our bodies is the wisdom needed to bring us buoyant health,” she said. “Learn to ask and then listen to your body. It will guide you and be your path to healthy living.”

In her book, Patty offers meditations, inspiration and humor, journal pages with insightful daily inspirations, creative ways to work with moon energy, and much more. The co-owner of Coventry Creations, who are the creators of the Original Blessed Herbal Candles, Patty is devoted to her spiritual path, and offers her clients support as a spiritual counselor and Reiki Master. She’d leading a nature walk called “Wake Up Your Senses” at the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat (Oct. 5-7).

Healer's Almanac                                                                   Click here to order

Why 21st Century Goddesses? Patty writes that feminine energy has been re-emerging for decades and is present everywhere we look. It is waiting to be harnessed and brought to its fullest potential within our own lives. Realizing that empowerment means acting like a goddess, we can express our feminine energy in a mature and fully actualized way. She adds that, in the past, goddesses represented the creation of life and its continuation. Those found in our history are varied and versatile and not limited to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, unless they chose to be.

I found these parts of Patty’s book quite intriguing, given that I’m currently revising the manuscript of my next book, Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power. In writing my book, I came upon a great deal of research that illustrates much of what Patty talks about regarding feminine power and why the world today needs the goddesses’ wisdom. As she says, “We’re taking steps toward our own empowerment and they are our guides.”

The Healer’s Almanac is quite interactive. As you read through the information, you’re invited to participate in the meditations, follow the rituals, and record your feelings and experiences on the blank journal pages.

Another book that Patty Shaw authored, along with her sister Jacki Smith, is Do it Yourself Akashic Wisdom: Access the Library of Your Soul. It’s a guide to understanding your life and its lessons. Akasha is a Sanskrit word which means ether. The Akashic Records have existed from the beginning of time. They are the record of your soul’s journey. Each soul has its Akashic Records, like a series of books each book representing one lifetime. The wisdom of the Akashic records is very transcendent and for centuries was only accessible to seers, saints, and highly evolved souls. In the Age of Aquarius, as humanity is growing, we have come from a condition of dependency to one of responsibility. We are now taking conscious ownership for our spiritual development.

To learn more about Patty Shaw’s work, visit

Books, Writers and Lavender Lovers

Surrounded by the pleasant and healing aroma of lavender, over a hundred book and lavender lovers, many who are writers, sat outside and enjoyed a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the Yule Love it Lavender Farm to celebrate the publication of Iris Lee Underwood’s first novel, The Mantle, which took over 20 years to write. We drank lavender lemonade and ice tea and were close enough to the hen house to pay them occasional visits.

“The past twenty years, people have asked, ‘What’s your book about?'” Iris said. “If you approached a member in my Monday night critique group, you’d most likely hear various replies. Forgiveness. Fidelity. Redemption. Love. Faith. Resilience. Home.”

A woman of letters and a graduate of Oakland University, Iris writes an award-winning weekly column titled “Honest Living” for the Tri City Times in Imlay City, Michigan. She is a contributor to the Detroit Institute of Arts Art & Sole Newsletter. As a freelancer she has written profiles and feature stories for major publications and is a past president of the Detroit Working Writers (currently Historian and New Membership Chair). She serves as a volunteer at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and as a docent for the “Discover the Wonders” tour at the Detroit Public Library. She also volunteers for Seven Ponds of Nature Center in Dryden with fellow Friends of Herbs. As if that doesn’t keep Iris’ schedule busy enough, she is also a lavender farmer. She lives in a rural community with her husband, Mel, cat Mo, and five hens. They have two surviving daughters and a grandson.

After a short talk, Iris introduced the day’s lunch menu – “You’re going to have lavender in everything,” she said.

We were then served currant lemon lavender scones with Yule Love It cream and strawberry preserves; mixed greens with cantaloupe, pumpkin seeds, red onions, and ginger sesame dressing; lavender brownies with lavender lemon zest honey ice cream. The organic meal was delicious and it certainly made us mellow for the rest of the day.

Later in the day, before the book signing, Iris gave a speech where she quoted Madelleine L’Engle, author of Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith & Art, “We are to be in this world as healers, as listeners, and as servants. In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars. We write, we make music, we draw pictures, because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing. And during the writing of the story, or the painting, we are returned to that open creativity which was ours when we were children. We cannot be mature artists if we have lost the ability to believe which we had as children. An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith.”

How did Iris stay true to her story for over two decades and made sure to manifest it?

“It was by faith and frugality I traveled to Ireland, traversed a sea cave in search of verisimilitude, to test the believability of the Mahari’s legend of the Weeping Wind. “There I heard Prince Rahabem’s voice. It was by faith I sat in my writing chair and did just that, in Ireland and home in my study. An Irish-Scot-German Appalachian, word by word, I trusted my inheritance to foster the way of the storyteller within me, the patient process that proclaims, ‘life is a miracle.'”

Lavender Farm

The Mantle is Iris’ third book. In it are color illustrations by Joyce Harlukowicz who gave an inspiring talk about how, as an artist, she serves the work, which led her to the creation of the paintings.

“In the creative process, the artist is the servant, a giver of visual life,” said Joyce.

“We can’t be artists if we lost the belief we once had as children. We are all storytellers, and we must risk revealing what matters to us.” said Iris. “To be whole and live in peace we must risk revealing what matters to us. We must listen to one another, seek understanding. So, I thank you for listening to words from my heart, the greatest gift you can give.”

This was one of the loveliest book launch parties I’ve been to, not only because it served a delicious lavender lunch and I ran into a wonderful woman I hadn’t seen for over 18 years, but because it was personalized and authentic. In today’s busy world where talent and creativity sometimes gets diminished by hype and competition, it was refreshing to enjoy a wholesome down-to-earth literary celebration.

Iris' Book

To learn more about Iris’ work, visit


A Walk Through Time

“Memories play a pivotal role in storytelling whether you’re interested in writing short stories, children’s books, creative non-fiction, a memoir, or a novel,” says Cheryl Crabb. “Memories can provide backstory and help reveal and develop character, but they also have the power to propel your narrative forward in interesting ways. That said, for many writers, manipulating memories by moving between then and now and into the future can often be a difficult path to navigate.”

I couldn’t agree more. All my 12 books – from fiction to nonfiction, poetry and memoir – I’ve called upon the past to guide me into formulating words on paper. Our favorite and least favorite memories can provide a treasure of good literary ideas.  

Cheryl says that in his craft book, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, author Umberto Eco invites us as his companions to: “Come stroll with me through the leafy glades of narrative …”  He also asks us to consider: How does the narrative lead us on, [AND] persuade us to lose ourselves in its depths?

“I don’t know about you, but when I first began to ponder this question, I started to get afraid,” she says. “I felt like I was alone in the woods without direction. And for me, few things are more terrifying than getting lost, especially in the woods. It makes me want to turn around and run home. I suspect I’m not alone in this fear, which often is so intense that it prevents us as writers from entering the woods in the first place.”

She adds that, instead, we choose to stay within the safe confines and comfort of more familiar territory. She encourages people to journey “deep into the woods and beyond” and will be leading a workshop for the Detroit Working Writers Conference on November 10 that will help writers explore how memories can help shape our stories and perhaps even change our lives.

A Wisconsin native, Cheryl Crabb is a long-time journalist and emerging fiction writer. She has worked for fifteen years in newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Hartford Courant, and been a guest columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She lives with her husband and their three daughters in Northville and enjoys volunteering for 826michigan, which provides writing programs to school-age students. She recently received her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and is currently seeking representation for her novel, The Other Side of Sanctuary

Her novel  is based on the premise that everyone needs a sanctuary, but what happens when there is no longer a place for refuge? Set in the fictional village of Sanctuary along the Sleeping Bear Dunes of northern Michigan, it’s a dual-narrative, literary thriller about a young couple’s troubled marriage and the spooling tensions that arise as a dark series of events unfolds.

“Time draws the shapes of stories.” Joan Silber asserts in the introduction to The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes.   “… all fiction has to contend with the experience of time passing. … A story can arrange events in any order it finds useful, but it does have to move between then and now and later.”  So, as Silber interprets it: “A story is already over before we hear it. That is how the teller knows what it means.”

Memories are a rich source for writers. When we bring them to life, we learn a new lesson, see a different perspective. My fondest memories are of the wonderful magic I experienced when, as a child, I walked to school in Baghdad, wearing a custom-made uniform, my hair in braids, tied by bright white imitation silk ribbons. I remember those walks so well: the frosty grass in the winter, birds chirping in spring, the sounds of my shoes click-clacking against an ancient surface that once was famed as the wealthiest and richest city in the world. On my way home from school, I could tell from the aroma what my mother had cooked. Various vegetable stews served over rice are a major part of Iraqi cuisine. The vegetables range from eggplant to cucumber. My favorites were okra stew and northern white bean stew.

Drawing from your favorable and not so favorable memories is a way to help you celebrate your life and those who have shared your journey. It’s a luxury to sit and reflect on the past, to evaluate it, recognize certain patterns and learn along the way. You come to learn that experiences, your stories, are much more fascinating and interesting than those of celebrities. Writing from your memories is transformational.

Watch the half-hour interview with Cheryl and check out the upcoming Detroit Working Writers Conference, visit

Cheryl's Book
Cheryl Crabb contributed to this children’s book


Love Is Where You Find It

By Guest Blogger Patty Shaw

About 17 years ago my Mother had a stroke that left her paralyzed from the waist down. She had succumb to an autoimmune illness that attacked her spine and broke her nervous system and nearly broke her spirit.  It was hard enough to see my mother tubed up and wired up, but what added to my fear, all of our fear, was that this illness that broke my mother was a like a phantom.  There was no definitive diagnosis, which meant, no specific treatment and outcome.  The doctors did their best to not sound mystified.  It was the nurses who kept us informed and hopeful, and I guess that is really their job.  Doctors seem to choose to stay detached, possibly out of self-preservation.  I can’t imagine being personally engaged with that many suffering people and not fall apart.  

As family and friends gathered around sharing our grief, we were rendered helpless to watch the phantom wreak havoc on my mother’s body.  Like a forest fire, all we could do is wait for it to burn out. This was our family’s first experience with a debilitating disease.  Anyone would agree it was life changing for her, what we weren’t prepared for was how life changing it was for everyone else, especially my father.  It wasn’t just about the logistics, it was also about the feelings and the beliefs and the psychological drama that played out.  Each member of the family had their own personal reaction.  Her illness and subsequent confinement to a wheel chair rocked each and every one of our worlds both collectively and individually.  When she finally came home, after 3 months in hospital and rehabilitation, we all had to learn how to relate to our mother in a new and unwelcome way.  She was now the child and we were the parent. 

Our first response was denial.  We all cleaved to what was and kept our focus and efforts on getting back there as soon as possible.  She did her physical therapy and we cheered her on and gave her hope that this nightmare was temporary.  We all did research and scoured the internet and medical books for a cure or pathway to rehabilitation.  Ultimately we got better educated, but mom stayed in her wheel chair. It was not a pretty sight and the reality of her situation just brought more darkness.  As her body fought to survive, my mother’s will to live started to dwindle.  We all felt her feelings of defeat and depression and we grieved with her.  My father, on the other hand, refused to let her give up and the quiet battles that waged between them were heart wrenching.  Over time, a long time, softness bloomed and the horror turned into compassion and gentleness that acceptance can bring.  The love they have for each other was what brought them through it.  Miracles happen in spaces filled with love.

It happened to be an Easter miracle.  That morning, I found a very different woman waiting for her family to gather around the table for brunch.  The vacant stare was replaced with a determined glint in her eyes as she wheeled around the table throwing silver ware close to the plates.  She was setting the table!  She was back to barking orders and making sure my father didn’t let the rolls burn.  I tried to help, believe me, but she’d just as soon run me over than let me take over.  So I loved her.  I loved her as she struggled to open a box of candles and I didn’t butt in once to do it for her.  I loved her as she rammed into the coveted buffet and nicked it and I didn’t tell Dad.  I loved her as she ordered me around as if I was a child; I didn’t rebel, I did what she told me to do.  It felt so good to just be with her and let her be with me.  Not as mother and child, or invalid and caretaker, but as two women, getting ready for Easter brunch.  My mother passed away many years after that Easter morning.  She had to go through many difficult trials before she left us for good. 

In all of that trauma and drama of her illness, she taught me that love is where you find it.  All I needed to do was to look with an open heart and recognize that what I was seeing was the love I was looking for.

Patty Shaw
Patty Shaw with her mother


Patty Shaw is the author of award winning book Healer’s Almanac – Journey into Health with Wisdom from the 21st Century Goddesses. She is co-owner of Coventry Creations, creators of the Original Blessed Herbal Candles, the Candle Wick Shoppe in Ferndale, and director of CWS Reiki Healing Center. She is a Reiki Master since 1999 and Pranic healing practitioner.

Envision Your Success Using Vision Boards

Long ago, a woman gifted me a book called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. This was my introduction into the science of the subconscious mind, how we can, through habitual thinking, imagery, and the belief in a higher power create our destiny.        

In all his books, Dr. Murphy provides practical methods to help a person redirect their energy and achieve the result they want. Born in 1898, he was educated in Ireland and England in Eastern religion and later became a Minister-Director of the Church of Divine Science in Los Angeles. He spent many years in India and was a scholar of the I-Ching, the Chinese book of divination whose origins are lost in history.

I was fascinated by this subject and began to set clear intentions for what I wanted in my personal and work life. At first, I used only words and feelings to shift my thought process and manifest my dreams. Later, I incorporated pictures. I was young and didn’t know whether this exercise would work, but aligning thoughts and emotions in this way felt really good. It took me away from negativity and gave me clarity and a sense of purpose. Along the way, I read of many people who had practiced these techniques successfully, such as Olympic athletes who have used it for decades to improve performance. Over the years, people that understand and utilize meditation and vision boards for their success became part of my every day circle.

My friend and colleague Sonya Julie, for instance, used a vision book to change her life. Within a few years, she went from a job in the corporate world to being an entrepreneur, facilitating workshops, creating jewelry and writing her memoir. A co-creator of Rochester Writers, Sonya has published freelance content for a variety of publications including The Oakland Press, Michigan Sports Edge and Rochester Media. She is a Reiki Master and Energy Worker and will be leading a workshop at The Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing conference and retreat in October. In this workshop, called Creative Vision Board Workshop: Envision Your Success!, participants will dig deep into this highly effective practice to help one transfer their goals and dreams into reality. She’s doing somewhat of a similar workshop for the Detroit Writing Conference in November.

Sonya’s Jewelry

“Every day we have a choice regarding how we live our lives,” says Sonya. “Society has told us what is expected of us and what the ramifications are if we don’t follow suit. Do you spend many hours each week working on something you don’t believe in or enjoy? Or perhaps you are working towards your dream but don’t know what steps to take? Perhaps you have too much going on and can’t seem to find the time to make anything happen.”

Sonya invites people to think about what they’d want to do if they had no limits.

“If you had enough money and security and could create anything imaginable, what would that look like? And how would you get there?” she asks. “Be specific – don’t just say you want to save the world or learn to paint – think of something more specific. What would you do if you had no limits on your power to create?”

She suggests taking perhaps 15 or 20 minutes to write down your ideas and dreams. Once you have a general idea, take time to further define your ideas. What kinds of steps would you take to get there? You can set aside time to work on this in whatever way works for you. Get a new notebook that you will enjoy using. Start brainstorming, doodling, and finding creative ways to express that which you hold in your heart. What resides in the core of your being? What are you here to do? To enjoy? To create?

Visualization is one of the most powerful mind exercises you can do. For me, looking back, I see that the majority of what I’d focused on has manifested – except it didn’t necessarily happen the way I expected or in the time period I hoped for. Most of us wish that our dreams would come true more quickly or the difficult seasons would pass by more smoothly, but things worth having, including loving relationships, require work and patience. Otherwise, it becomes a continuous fantasizing that leads to frustration. So it’s important that one has a “vision board” and an “action board” to accompany it.

Watch the half-hour interview with Sonya and for more information about Sonya’s work, visit her websites and

She will be presenting at The Path of Consciousness Spiritual & Writing Conference & Retreat Oct. 5-7

She will be presenting at Detroit Working Writers Conference Nov. 10


Meditation as a Creative Tool


The mind of a writer is busy with what they weren’t able to write yesterday, what they need to write today, and what stories they have to complete before their time is up on this earth. Our modern-day lifestyles are filled with lists of to-dos: duties to attend to; places to go; dreams to fulfill; and on and on. Meditation is truly a great tool that can help you become the wonderful writer you’re meant to be.

Meditation has been important to me on the mat and off the mat. It has helped me navigate through my writing career, giving me clarity of thought, and the energy and inspiration necessary for the task of completing a book, then another and another. In some cases, it can be a remedy for writers block.

But meditation, probably as old as human civilization, is not reserved for writers or other creative activities. A 2012 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry followed 114 adults for ten years and showed that those with strong spiritual beliefs had only one-fourth the risk for major depression compared to non-spiritual adults. The researchers behind the study are now looking into how the brain creates spiritual experiences. Yale and Columbia University published their findings in Cerebral Cortex.

Author and neuroscience professor Marc N. Potanza, Ph.D. of Yale University’s Yale Child Study wrote “Spiritual experiences are robust states that may have profound impacts on people’s lives. Understanding the neural bases of spiritual experiences may help us better understand their roles in resilience and recovery from mental health and addictive disorders.”

These studies are taking place in various universities across the United States, including here in Michigan. Heather Rae is a yoga instructor, meditation coach, energy and body worker and ordained minister/priestess. Her meditation practice is being studied at Wayne State Medical School. Heather’s studio, Little Lotus, is in Ferndale, where she teaches her signature style Akasha Yoga along with other traditional styles, meditation, wellness workshops and offers body and energy work one-on-one with clients.

When I was looking for someone to lead the meditation workshop at The Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat, a friend referred me to Heather, said she was great in this field. On her website page,, she writes, “My love of yoga, meditation, magic, and connecting to the Divine led me to create my own style, Akasha yoga – a divine flow centered around nature, with a balance of lunar energy stepping into your grace with fluidity and fiery solar en into your own power. This ritual on your mat works to guide you into your true self – the self that’s luminescent, connected to the entire universe, and where anything is possible.”

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You don’t even have to sit down to clear your mind. Taking a mindfulness stroll is just as effective. That’s why I love my daily walks, where I connect with my breathing, listen to the birds, the sound of the wind, the rustling of leaves, occasional barking dogs, children playing, or people quarrelling inside their homes. Each walk, like everything in life, gives much unexpected insight.

Meditation lets you see with a new perception, and helps you address the different areas in your life. Especially in today’s noisy world, it’s really important to unplug from the noise and find ways to go within. Songwriter Naomi Judd said, “Solitude is creativity’s best friend, and solitude is refreshment for our souls.”

Has your soul received its refreshment today?

On her website, Heather lists a number of ways that meditation and other spiritual tools that are beneficial. For instance, she describes how an abundance mentality opens us to new possibilities and leads to creativity. By contract, a mindset grounded in scarcity is restrictive, which can make us feel anxious and fearful Meditation and the use of affirmations help shift the mindset from scarcity to abundance. She also provides free guided meditations so visit her at to find if there’s something there for you. 

Awakening the Dreamer

One day, I was sitting at my desk, staring at my computer, and thinking of various ways that I could take what I’d learned in my four-year shamanic school out into the world. Typing a few words here and there, the Pachamama Alliance website appeared on the computer screen. It defined itself as a global community that offers people the chance to learn, connect, engage, travel, and cherish life for the purpose of creating a sustainable future that works for all.

I read their story. The Pachamama Alliance was born out of an invitation from the Achuar people to work in partnership with them to preserve their land and culture while bringing forth a new worldview that honors and sustains life. The Achuar people have lived and thrived for centuries deep in the Amazon rain forest, spanning borders of modern-day Ecuador and Peru. They kept their sophisticated culture and worldview remarkably intact as late as the mid-20th century. In Achuar culture, dreams are a guiding principle of life, shared each morning before sunrise. Shamans play an important role in the spiritual life of Achuar communities, including interpretation of dreams. But not all dreams are sweet. Dreams can often require facing and transforming that which you most fear.

Intrigued, I looked deeper into the Pachamama Alliance community and learned they offer different ways for people to learn, engage, and connect locally and globally so they can inspire, educate, and empower each other to build a movement working toward an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet. One of these ways is a free, donation based, online eight-week course called the Game Changer Intensive. In this course, people are able to delve into a wealth of carefully-curated resources, including videos, readings, and activities, at the comfort of their own homes and on their own schedule. There’s also an opportunity to interact with others online and on weekly small group calls.

Over the years, I’ve taken the Game Changer Intensive course three times, the last time having finally met someone local from Ann Arbor. Betsy McCabe, a volunteer moderator of the Game Changer Intensive group calls, is a musician, educator, mother and activist of social justice and environmental sustainability. Betsy grew up in Georgia and has lived in Tennessee and Washington. Michigan has been her home for almost 30 years, where she raised two children. Her educational background is in the liberal arts, and she says that in her “first career” she worked as an environmental policy analyst (including 10 years with the US Environmental Protection Agency), and that in her “second career” she was an independent piano teacher.

“Now in my third career, I am performing and teaching music,” she said, “and I’m engaging and acting for social change and transformation with volunteer work through the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), Friends of Restorative Justice (FORJ), and the Pachamama Alliance.”

Like me, Betsy is a facilitator of the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, which explores the challenges facing humanity at this critical moment in time and the opportunities we as a human family have to create a new future. This is a half-day workshop developed by the Pachamama Alliance and has been delivered by skilled facilitators to hundreds of thousands of participants in over 380 countries since 2005. People gather at Symposiums around the world to discover the value of ancient wisdom in addressing our modern crises and their personal role in bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet.

I’ve learned so much from the courses offered by Pachamama Alliance and I’m so happy to have met wonderful people along the way, particularly someone local like Betsy. Now, I’m excited to share what I have learned and am grateful that Betsy will help present the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium at The Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing conference and retreat this October 5-7 at Colombiere Retreat Center. Click here for more info about The Path of Consciousnes conference and retreat and join us to help create a new future for our children, grandchildren, and the seven generations to come. 

For more information about the Pachamama Alliance, click here