Gardening as a healing tool


I love inviting butterflies into my garden. I love the way they float on the air

I love inviting butterflies into my garden. I love the way they float on the air

Gardening is one of the most effective healing tools I have ever discovered.

It’s interesting in a way that I love to garden, because my father acted like a prison guard regarding gardening.  I grew up on a half-acre lot in the San Fernando Valley. My father loved to garden, and he loved having his own unpaid work force (me and my siblings) to work for him.  We were required to dig, hoe, weed, mulch and water the garden, but he was the only one who had the priveledge of picking any of the fruit and vegetables.  My mother loved to make lemonade, and I would go to the lemon tree and look for fruit on the interior that he might not notice me picking for her. This was done right after school before he came home. For decades I hated Brussels Sprouts because my father would let them grow until they were large and tough, and then my mother would boil them. Blech.  It was only a year or so ago I learned about the delicious nuttiness of roasted Brussels Sprouts with garlic.

Imagine rows and rows and rows of these and having to eat them boiled. Blech

Imagine rows and rows and rows of these and having to eat them boiled. Blech

Other parents take their children to soccer, ballet or karate practice, watch them play little league or their first piano recital. My father would wake us up just after dawn, feed us breakfast, and then put us to work in the garden all day on the weekends.  It wasn’t that we needed food and we were saving money; my father owned 5 houses and had two paid-for Mercedes in the driveway.  He wanted to garden and he demanded we help him.

 This is the kind of garden I worked in during childhood. photo courtesy

This is the kind of garden I worked in during childhood. photo courtesy

I can remember working in the garden in the overwhelming 110-120 degree heat of the valley. I would be so tired and dehydrated but would keep pulling weeds and watering. So I really am surprised that I enjoy gardening to this day.

I’ve heard it said that gardeners are optimists.  Who else would put a seed in the cold spring soil, anticipating lush flowers or delicious vegetables?  Some small part of me that refused to be destroyed by the other abuse he and my mother inflicted on me found solace in the garden.

My backyard explodes in color in summertime

My backyard explodes in color in summertime


I love finding caterpillars in my plants. They can eat all they want, there’s plenty to share


Catanache is one of my absolutely favorite flowers. They bloom and bloom and bloom!

I found a certain peace working with the soil and tending the plants. I enjoyed the weeding, enjoyed seeing cleared space and a blank canvas to paint with plants on. Today I can choose what to plant.  I plant tomatoes because my husband loves them, and I love to rub my fingers on the leaves to release their scent.  That scent kicks me back to some of my happiest days of childhood. I plant flowers for their beauty (we never had flower gardens as a kid, only vegetables) and plants that attract hummingbirds, butterflies and orioles.

in 2014 we had Orioles visit for the first time. They are very shy.

in 2014 we had Orioles visit for the first time. They are very shy.

I added a small fountain and wind chimes to my garden for sound, and hang Christmas lights and firefly lights amongst the plants.  I also have solar tikki torches and a firepit.  This garden has helped heal me and helps calm me when I am stressed or my depressive rage kicks in.

What part of gardening do you like best? [contact_form]

Finding Myself

I love seeing new things and places

I love seeing new things and places

Every new experience shifts my center, expanding my understanding of life and enchanting me with a new appreciation for life.

Like many people, I was abused by my parents.  It was largely emotional abuse; my parents loved to belittle me and my mother was a schizophrenic, so I never knew who I would be coming home to.  I was frightened my entire childhood.

I used to live a small, interior life.  I never tried anything new, for fear of making mistakes.  I was always anxious, didn’t want to offend anyone, and morphed into what others wanted me to be.  At some point the real me ceased to exist, it was so smothered under the expectations of others.  I lived this way until my late 30s.

It was not easy to find myself again.  I had to chip away at the shell I had covered myself in.  I was afraid to think of my secret desires because I had accepted the belief that they were either worthless or unattainable.  I had accepted those beliefs because I had been taught that artists and writers starve, so go to business school and get a ‘real job’.

I was afraid to be a photographer and now have a small note card business

I was afraid to be a photographer and now have a small note card business

With those thoughts I packed up my dreams and closeted them away.  They fought for release and I expended large amounts of energy keeping them hiding from my ‘real life’ thoughts.  I went into the business world and faced rejection on a daily basis.

If you have had the opportunity to read Don Miguel Ruiz’ amazing book The Four Agreements, you will understand when I say that I had been so well trained as an emotionally abandoned child that it was no surprise I chose sales as my occupation.  What better way to continue my parents’ abuse than to face multiple doses of daily rejection?

Rumi says “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” I kept chipping away at my outward persona until something cracked opened and light could not only enter but also flow out.  I started reclaiming my life in small steps.

I have always had an urgent desire to write.  I wrote a novel as a teenager that my father trampled on, so I had buried that dream extremely deeply within my soul.

I love the energy in handwriting. I think it's sad it's no longer being taught in school.

I love the energy in handwriting. I think it’s sad it’s no longer being taught in school.

I started reclaiming myself as a writer by journaling.  Daily pages that were sometimes thought-provoking, other times gibberish.  But they allowed me to get my words out of my soul and onto the page.  As I continued to write, my soul blossomed, and I found it easier and easier to claim myself as a writer. I made a new agreement with myself (back to The Four Agreements) Yes, I AM a writer, who happens to work in the business world.

It was not easy to change myself and I had to get used to the new internal me. Change, even if self-imposed, is not easy. But it’s worth it.  Each step I took forward allowed me to come further into my real self.  I also that claiming my real self allowed me to forgive my parents for their abuse, and also to forgive myself for continuing their abuse by my own actions.

I’d love to hear from you. What have you done that has helped you discover yourself?[contact_form]




Children’s Holiday Magic CD

Jeff Gelder Children's Holiday Magic CD

Jeff Gelder delivering Children’s Holiday Magic CDs. Photo courtesy of

Children’s Holiday Magic CD is a program created 12 years ago by a dear friend of mine, Jeff Gelder. He was tasked to create something that would help the world and live past him, and he has succeeded!

Children’s Holiday Magic CD is a music and story CD that Jeff puts together with help from Phillip Tanzilo, masses of volunteers, and caring musical talent such as Ashley Fox Linton, Jennifer Knight, Kurt Michael, Lele Rose and Jordan Lamoureux, to name just a few. His generous supporters include Team Kia El Cajon, Welk Resorts, Evelyn Ascough DDS and Mance Creative.

Ashley Fox Linton Children's Holiday Magic CD

The talented Ashley Fox Linton shares her gifts with Children’s Holiday Magic CD Photo Courtesy of









Jeff delivers his Children’s Holiday Magic CDs to local children’s hospitals over the holidays and delivers them to bedridden children and their siblings.  He and his band of elves sing songs, tell stories, and bring joy to families who are struggling with horrible diseases in what should be a joyous time of the year.

Terri Wilder Children's Holiday Magic CD
Terri Wilder is one of the voiceover talents in the Children’s Holiday Magic CD












I had the pleasure of being at the Children’s Holiday Magic CD fundraiser this year.  It was held at Martinis Above Fourth in the Hillcrest area of San Diego. There was a raffle, a silent auction, delicious martinis and wonderful people who came together to support Jeff’s cause.  There was fantastic music, a fun, free photo booth, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were there to help raise money for Jeff.

We all throw $5 away on coffee, snacks, jewelry, tchotckis we don’t really need and may forget we have until it’s time to clear our closets for charity or we are moving.  How much better to take that $5 and give it to a cause that helps children in our own neighborhoods? $10 buys four CDs. Now there’s a great Secret Santa gift!

Children's Holiday Magic CD

Children’s Holiday Magic CD

Children’s Holiday Magic CD started out as a grass-roots San Diego project, but it has grown to cities all across America.  The more donations Children’s Holiday Magic receives, the more children can have their holidays brightened.  Please consider a small donation to Children’s Holiday Magic CD. You can donate at

About the Children’s Holiday Magic Project: Since 2003, the Children’s Holiday Magic Project has created an annual compilation CD of unique songs and stories that feature characters. It is handed out free-of-charge to children who are hospitalized during the Holiday season. Generous contributions from singers and actors providing the custom songs and stories have made the task possible, along with the support of sponsors and non-profit partners. The reach for the project increases each year with over 7,000 CDs supplied to children in U.S. cities, London and Singapore in 2013. The goal is to produce and deliver 10,000 CDs to children’s hospitals this year. (619) 795-1740

Now it’s Your Turn! Tell us how Children’s Holiday Magic CD has helped your family.

Travel as a Healing Tool

When I first saw a metro map I was terrified

When I first saw a metro map I was terrified

Travel can be an incredible healing tool. I was afraid my entire childhood, and long into my young adulthood.  I wanted to see the world, but I was afraid of making mistakes, taking wrong turns, missing planes.  I wanted to be an archeologist or travel writer, but I was terrified I would get on the wrong train, would get lost somewhere in the outback, that I would forget my tickets, my passport, my house keys.

Dupont Circle is lovely. Amazing row houses.

Dupont Circle is lovely. Amazing row houses. Travel is amazing

All this fear stemmed from an extremely abusive childhood.  My mother used to tell me “I wish you had never been born.” She was a paranoid schizophrenic, so I was never sure “which” mother I was coming home to.  One day she was the loving, cupcake-baking mother; the other she was the angry mother taking a butcher knife to my father. My father was no prize either.  Let’s just say he was an incestuous sadist and leave it at that.

Safely at the Washington DC Union Station. Now, where is the Metro?

Safely at the Washington DC Union Station. Now, where is the Metro? Travel adventures!

Stability was not a keyword in my childhood, and that fear bled into my adulthood.  I so desperately wanted to backpack across Europe, take a road trip across America, visit Africa. The furthest I ever travelled until I was 37 was the United States, Canada and Mexico.  Mostly by car.  I was terrified to go to an airport because I was afraid to get lost and miss my plane.

I used to be terrified to fly.  I don't particularly like it now but I'm used to it.

I used to be terrified to fly. I don’t particularly like it now but I’m used to it.

So how has travel become a healing tool for me? The simple answer is I just started traveling.  The more complex answer is I learned to make wrong turns, learned that the world doesn’t end if you miss a connecting flight, or you have to ask someone how to get onto a train (where do you wait? In the depot? At the train track?) My most recent trip to Baltimore and Washington DC testi my travel healing to the absolute maximum.  In order to save money and to feel more like a traveler and not a tourist, I didn’t rent a car.  I looked online and tried to figure out how to get from the BWI airport to Baltimore, and then from Baltimore to Penn Station, and from Penn Station to the MARC train that took me to Washington DC.  From there I hopped on the Washington DC Metro and used that for a week. I was terrified.  But I was also exhilarated.

travel as a healing tool

I waited on the tracks until Ernie asked and we went back upstairs to sit in comfort in the train lobby

I have learned the easiest way to minimize fears is to ask strangers for help. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive.  Especially for someone like me who couldn’t trust her own parents, approaching strangers should be hard.  And once it was.  But I have learned that most strangers are very kind, especially if you appear lost. I learned that instead of taking a $30 taxi ride from BWI airport to the Embassy Suites in Baltimore Harbor, I could spend $3 and take the light rail from the airport. It dropped me off about 4 blocks from my hotel.  Easy-peasy. To navigate Baltimore harbor, I asked the concierge at our hotel, and he encouraged me to use the Baltimore free Circulator. Nice.  Leaving the hotel I was told to take the same circulator to Penn Station. At Penn station I went to the train track but then learned you had to wait upstairs in the lobby.  Okay, I can do that.  Once on the train my fears kicked in and I stood up for the length of the entire stop instead of sitting.  As if no one else was getting off! LMAO.  I shrugged at the other passengers and freely admitted “This is my first train ride here.” They smiled. The Washington Metro is a simple system. You just look for the station the train ends at, and your stop is somewhere along the way.

Travel Selfie in front of the White House....the secret service said "Ma'am, no photos!" Glad we didn't end up in jail!

Selfie in front of the White House….the secret service said “Ma’am, no photos!” Glad we didn’t end up in jail!

I have learned that being afraid is okay.  It’s staying afraid that stops me from living life. I encourage you to make wrong turns, miss airplane connections, take the wrong bus for a stop or two….and live life.

How has travel changed your life? What are your favorite travel mishaps that in retrospect made for great stories? I’d love to hear from you! [contact_form] or [contact_form lang=en]