It’s Not Easy Being Teen

September 26, 2013


Sometimes I just cannot believe I have a teenager. I’ve always kind of felt like being a parent in general was surreal but, as time passes, the feeling only intensifies. I often find myself wondering how the heck I got here, how does time move so fast and how it’s possible that my child will soon be off to college. It just doesn’t seem real. And yet, here I am. Here we are.

With all the scary messages out there about how horrible, trying, difficult teenagers can be, I guess I was expecting the worst. I feel fortunate that it really hasn’t been much like what I had heard (knocking on wood). That’s not to say parenting at this stage doesn’t have challenges. But still, it’s not what I was anticipating. In fact, it’s way cooler than I ever thought it would be. And, I think my daughter feels the same way about her teenage years. Sure there’s the quintessential “issues” that are somewhat Universal to the teen experience, but I think she’s putting those into a healthy perspective as she pans out to the bigger picture of  her life’s journey. Not an easy thing to do for anyone, let along a teenager. I give her major props for that!

Last night, at yet another back to school night, my husband and I traipsed around her high school stomping grounds getting the scoop on what is her daily life. It was the 3rd time we’ve attended as my daughter is a junior now (see? I have no idea how that happened) but even as high school veterans, it still totally amazes/bewilders/eludes me. Tracing her steps from building to building, walking the paths, passing through the architecture, sitting in the seats and staring at the walls of her life outside of home is never lost on me. As I listened to each teacher’s jam-packed presentation, tried to keep up with the power points, and took notes of anything I felt like might be of importance for future reference, I couldn’t help but think how hard it must be to be in high school now. With so much academic pressure, so many extra-curricular expectations , and so much  responsibility to keep it all together. They are having to live in the present while focusing on the future, all the time. And that’s not even mentioning the social pressures. We all remember that. From navigating friends to communicating with teachers to hyper-active hormones, it just can’t be easy.

It’s really no wonder then that things can get dicey at home. I get stressed out just watching my teen live her life. True, I might be a little more involved than I have to be (my husband tries to remind me to take a step back for my sake and hers) but even still, I can hardly keep up with her and everything that she’s got to squeeze in every day,  and it’s not even my life. I know that she’s exhausted and often pushed over-capacity. I know that when I get frustrated with her for forgetting things, staying up late, waking up late, wasting her time, it doesn’t help. At all. I know she is doing the best she can under overwhelming expectations.  Which is why that even when I’m fuming mad at 11pm waiting for her to get released from musical theater rehearsal, I try to remember that she needs me. When she calls in the middle of the day in a panic that she forgot her homework on the printer, she needs me. When wakes me, home late from an evening with friends and she wants to tell me all about it over tea, she needs me. For help, for support, for understanding, for guidance, for companionship, for unconditional love. And no matter how fast the time passes, no matter where her wings take her, no matter how grown up she gets,  I am so hoping she will keep needing me for all of that. Today, tomorrow and for always.

I recently shared a story and a project on my Babble Voices blog Reframed that relates to the subject of my daughter and how hard I know it is growing up and being a teenager. If I can continually repeat the uplifting, inspiring and encouraging messages I believe she needs to hear, then I know I’m being the best advocate I can be for her. Plus, I know (and she knows) that these messages ring true even when I’m unable to keep my cool on the tough days. Thankfully, the Rhonna Designs app offers all of these amazing messages and more. It’s a photo app dream come true and helped me say the things I always want to say to my daughter. The collection of cards I made for her (and the ‘how-to” part) can be found at Babble. I also made cards for her that are OF her. using pictures of her that I love, paired with words that I know fit her to a T. These few probably mean the most to her. And to me. Sniff sniff.



Traveling Along The Pursuit of Happiness Path

September 4, 2013

 The Pursuit of Happiness

Have you ever gone through a period of time in your life when everything that’s put in your path seems to somehow correlate or connect with something else on your path? Like all of the things that you’re going through, dealing with, meditating on, wondering about, struggling with are all tied together with an invisible string? I’m in that kind of period right now and there hasn’t been a day that’s passed over the past few weeks that hasn’t given me this overwhelming feeling that there are important messages being whispered, truths being revealed, breakthroughs being made, transformations occurring.

I have had this sort of thing happen a number of times throughout my life. I have actually had times when I felt like I was moving through my days in slow motion, acknowledging that when I moved slow enough with heightened awareness that I could actually hear the Universe dictating my next move to me before I made it. I know, crazy, right?

This time though, it’s different. Instead of hearing the instructions before I make a move, it’s more like I’m getting signs of affirmations after my steps forward. On one day I’ll start cleaning out my closet and the next my horoscope reads that my well-being depends on my ability to create space. Or soon after having a conversation with a friend about longing for more childlike play in my life, I get an invitation to an amusement park. These simplified examples might seem like insignificant coincidences but I consider them synchronicities; nods of encouragement from the Universe, Yes, Tracey, keep walking. You do know the way.

This is exactly how I felt reading every chapter of Britt Reints’ new book An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness. Through Britt’s bravely honest stories and her refreshingly crystalline insights I am reminded that I am indeed, moving in the right direction in my daily journey into my best and happiest life. Britt’s delivery is much like that of a trusted friend; someone wise who speaks earnestly from experience, someone kind who only wants the best for you (but doesn’t sugar coat the truth), someone comforting who assures you there is nothing wrong with you and reminds you that everything really is going to be OK, even when it’s hard. And you know what? I totally believe her.

I finished the book with tears in my eyes feeling like someone had just wrapped me in a warm blanket and kissed my forehead which is exactly what I needed because, let me tell you, the path can really take a toll. But, I will continue to forge ahead, grateful for respites like this book that nurture and renew my spirit along the way. Britt reminds and reassures us that “happiness is not a linear path, but rather a circular journey along which we are constantly learning”. Indeed.

Let’s walk on.


Amateurs Guide to the Pursuit of HappinessI’m thrilled to be offering up a signed copy of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness by Britt Reints today to one lucky person! It’ll be a random drawing. Leave a comment on this post between now and Sunday 9/8 at midnight ET for your chance to win. This is an awesome book so you are going to want to win!

And speaking of winners, want a chance to win a class registration in Picture Everyday? Britt’s giving one away on her blog In Pursuit of Happiness. YAY!

Daredevil Sikha Patra

February 18, 2013


Before the election my daughter’s World History teacher asked her class to share what issues they would present the President with if they had the chance. My daughter eagerly shared her passion for eradicating Polio and said that, if given the chance she would urge the President to help us with the support and final financial push needed to end the disease. He teacher questioned her issue coming back with, “Polio? Really? Aren’t we done with that? I think there are far more pressing issues.” Needless to say she was deflated, not to mention frustrated because she knows better.

And so does Sikha Patra. Sikha and her friends are so vigilant about the issue of Polio in their own village that on scheduled health days, they spend their free time wielding their handmade megaphones through the streets of their village and walking from house to house to remind each family to get their children their Polio vaccines. In fact, in a soon-coming and highly-anticipated documentary film The Revolutionary Optimists (of which I had the honor of screening at The Shot@Life Champion Summit) you’ll see Sikha and her friends rally around the cause and help mothers by taking their babies in to get thier Polio drops because the mothers couldn’t. Did I mention that Sikha was 13 at the time? Watching children advocating oh behalf of other children like this might be one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen.

18_Sikha Patra_Tracey ClarkSikha is a member of the group Daredevils (how awesome is that for a name?); a group that helps collect health data and rallies the community around important health issues like vaccines. The passionate and committed group divides the block, makes cartoon posters, and does puppet shows to get kids and families to come to the health days. Sikha also helps survey the neighborhoods and track how many kids have been vaccinated. She believes in the United Nations’ Children’s Rights Charter right to live and that is why she is so passionate about bringing people to polio days.

I know, right? Crazy awesome stuff.

If this is the first time you have heard the story of Sikha and the Daredevils, I promise you, it won’t be the last. That being said, I am bursting at the seams to share this clip with you from the documentary where she and other equally inspirational children from Kolkata (Calcutta) India are brought to light. It’s my privilege to share this with you. I promise, you will be totally inspired!

I can only hope to be as brave and committed as Sikha Pertra in my life. She is such an inspiration.

Thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and people like Sikha, the number of new cases of polio has dropped 99 percent. We are  *this close* but, we still have work to do to eradicate Polio. Please use your voice, like Sikha does and help the fight. Imagine the impact we could have if we would all act like Daredevils?


The impact of vaccines on the lives of children around the world is incredible. Now, you can help sustain the impact by sending an email to your member of congress. Welcome your members to the 113th Congress and ask them to make sure that global health and vaccines are a priority in the new Congress. Take action and make an impact!

This story comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss Maggie Carter’s post! Go to to learn more.  

Photos courtesy of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Putting Words to Creative Joy

February 4, 2013

I’m a firm believer that things come to you when you need them most. Although experiences, messages, opportunities often seem to come out of nowhere sometimes, I have learned better. Just over 6 months ago I was given the opportunity to participate in The Creative Joy Retreat as one of three hosts. It was a very unexpected prospect which made it such a twist of fate but as trite as it may sound, things usually happen for a reason. I went in with a willing heart, an open mind, and an inner-knowing that The Creative Joy Retreat was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Needless to say, the experience was transcendent—not to mention surreal—as I found myself in a gorgeous old monastery on the Hudson River side by side with Jen Louden and Marianne Elliott sharing stories,  songs, stretches and sacred space with 65 amazing women, most of whom I had never met (on the internet or otherwise); bodies, souls, and spirits all there to explore and experience their own Creative Joy.  I know that each of the women there, myself include came for unique and diverse reasons and also left with unique and diverse gifts—no  two experiences alike—but each one deep, meaningful and transformative in ways that can be so hard to put into words.

Marianne took a little time to chat with some of the women who attended last year’s Creative Joy Retreat to seek out some answers as to what exactly went down in Garrison over those 5 days and what some of these amazing women took home with them. I know personally, it’s been awesome to read these interviews from Amy and Mary as it has helped me to process my own experience and also give you the opportunity to better understand what The Creative Joy is all about in hopes that you too might step into the light of creating your own joy with us and the sisterhood of women looking to do the same.

Sue Ann_red_2943-200x300As synchronicity would have it, I will be sharing Marianne’s interview with the lovely Sue Ann Gleason of Chocolate for Breakfast whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year’s retreat and whom recently invited me to share my story with her Well-Nourished Woman Inner Circle soon (such an honor). What really resonates with me about what Sue Ann shares with Marianne is how much unplugging at the retreat last year gave her some much-needed clarity. I won’t paraphrase; I’ll let Marianne and Sue Ann do the talking. It’s good stuff!

Marianne Elliott: So, Sue Ann – what, if anything, did you take away from Creative Joy? What has stayed with you over the past six months?

Sue Ann: Wow, six months later. Where does the time go? I left our Creative Joy Retreat with such a clear sense of what it means to truly unplug and rejuvenate. I took that energy with me into my entrepreneurial world and gave my Well-Nourished Woman program a facelift with creative JOY front and center. Along with ARTful eating, my Inner Circle is exploring what it means to be fully expressed in their creative lives. I’m leaning toward spaciousness…and tending my creative joy space…and bringing my tribe along for the ride. And it feels so RIGHT.

Marianne: You say you left the Creative Joy retreat with a clear sense of what it means to truly unplug and rejuvenate. And that is such a rare experience these days for so many of us, so I’m really interested, what was your clear sense of what it truly means to unplug and rejuvenate?

Sue Ann: Well, Jen called it our shadow comforts – and it became really clear to me how plugged in I am to my business and my little noble devices. I realized in that space, in that really quiet space, that it was going to take great effort for me to give up those shadow comforts and to really understand that unplugged means without devices. And I came home and really made an effort to stop spending as much time on my devices. I gave myself permission to schedule Facebook posts on my page from time to time; to take great blocks of time for me and my muse and my writing. So that’s what I took with me in terms of really unplugging.

Marianne: I surprise myself when I put myself in the situation of unplugging how challenging it is, and that makes me realize how plugged I am.

Sue Ann:. That was for me as well. Yeah.

Marianne: And so the connection between unplugging and rejuvenating, how are they connected do you think?

Sue Ann: I was realizing that in order for me to truly restore and rejuvenate, I have to let go of this need to constantly be plugged in and interacting either with my business or my colleagues or my clients. And that I can’t do that, right? I can’t restore, I can’t rejuvenate if I choose to keep that intensity about me in my world, in my plugged-in world.

Marianne: So there are two interesting things I’m hearing. One is the kind of shadow comfort side of it, which I think is a big part of my relationship to being plugged in, is that it becomes a way that I occupy myself when my alternative might be to go into the perhaps less comfortable, but I know ultimately more fruitful territory of creative stillness. So the checking, the constant checking and refreshing, I justify it for my business, but I think it sometimes is for me a way of avoiding the space where my creative work happens.

But also what I was hearing is it takes energy, it’s a giving out to be constantly plugged and what you were saying is we need that time when we are actually not giving out in that way. Is that what—did I hear that correctly?

Sue Ann: Yes. I can’t access my muse when my life is cluttered and so some of the noise that occurs for me around being plugged in to my clients, to my colleagues, is that I don’t give myself quiet. And so my goal has been to create more spaciousness in my life, and I have to unplug from all these groups and all of these wonderful places in order to sit with that stillness. I too, I say ‘Oh, I’m doing this for my business because if I didn’t interact this intensely, my business would fail or it would go dormant.’ And I’m discovering that it’s not such a bad thing, so I’ve actually consciously not taken clients, not taken contracts because I want to see what spaciousness feels like.

Marianne: That’s so powerful. And then the other question that came up to me when I heard what you had to say about your experience at Creative Joy six months on was you talked about giving your Well Nourished Woman program a face lift and placing creative joy front and centre. I’m curious, given how we tried to place creative joy front and centre of this retreat, how did it look for you? What was the form that took?

Sue Ann: I think before the Creative Joy retreat I felt compelled in my program to deliver information, to be the source of so much ‘head space’ kind of information. And I came home and I really looked deeply at that program and I shifted it. I changed my registration page. I brought in photographs that I had taken at the Creative Joy retreat. I played with colour. I just completely revamped both the sales page and also the content. So the principles I teach are the same, but what I’ve done is I’ve brought forth the artful eating piece and the creativity, creative expression piece so that that’s getting equal time. It’s not like an aside in my program anymore. It’s taking centre stage, and I think that’s really shifted the energy of this program, which I’ve had for two years now, so it has a completely different feel.

Marianne: That’s wonderful. And it is really interesting because Jen and Tracey and I each have our modalities that we take the lead on at the Creative Joy retreat and that each of us teach outside of it. I teach yoga, Tracey teaches photography and Jen teaches writing. But the way I approach yoga now and what I brought to the Creative Joy retreat and the way that I teach it in my online courses really has – front and centre – this permission to be in the playful process of yoga without limiting your experience of yoga with these external ideas of what the final pose should look like.

So it’s so interesting for me to think in relation to nourishment and food and eating, the same principle applies in relation to writing, in relation to yoga, in relation to photography. It’s transformative in all of those spaces I guess is what I’m hearing when you say that.

Sue Ann: Yes! It’s more than nutrients and how we best support our bodies through an anti-inflammatory diet, right? It’s the experience of how we’re looking at the food, how we’re presenting it on the plate. It’s that whole artful eating piece that emerges when we start looking at it for just the pleasure aspect.

Marianne: And the joy of eating.

Sue Ann: It’s a joy.

Marianne: Which is where chocolate for breakfast comes in.

Sue Ann: Exactly.

Marianne: That’s really very helpful. I’ve just found it so interesting talking to people like yourself, Sue, and a few other people I’ve spoken to to see, firstly, what strikes me over and over again is that it was such a collaboratively creative experience, the Creative Joy retreat, because all these incredible women showed up and didn’t just physically showed up, but they really opened themselves to the experience of Creative Joy.

And when other people are doing that, we all are supported to do it. As I’m having these conversations, I’m being taken back to that memory of how extraordinary the collaboration of the women who showed up was with us as the hosts to create the experience.

And the second thing that’s really striking me in these conversations is how important this work is. When you use language like creative joy to describe your retreat it can sound very light weight. But my sense, and what I’m hearing from you is that though it is light; it is important, and it can change how we do everything, from eating to working.

Sue Ann: I see it as a ripple effect, Marianne. It isn’t like I didn’t have a great program before, right? It isn’t like I’m doing something completely different, but the energy I’m bringing to it is different. The energy that I brought from Creative Joy, and as you said, the collaboration and co-creation with those women is coming into my world in a really powerful way still, six months later.


I hope that if you’re considering taking some time dedicated to YOU in 2013 that you join us at The Creative Joy Retreat; for the rest, for the fun, for the food, for the fresh air, for the space, for the stillness, for the pure JOY.

Early registration opens today. You’ve got to be on the list to get the chance to register early and get a $50 discount too. Creative Joy is yours for the taking!

Starting with Love

January 1, 2013

06-cheer-you-on copy

Now that I’ve poised myself to use this space as a space to share my New Year’s Evolution in real time (and everything that that might entail) I am sitting here in my pajamas on New Year’s Day staring at this blank canvas. Blink blink. What to say? Where to begin? What to reveal, share, show? There’s a lot. And I’m not chickening out, AT ALL. I’ve never felt more committed to a decision, a process, and evolution than I do right now. But, sitting here now, I’m feeling as exhausted as I am encouraged and empowered. I’m ready for this. I’m excited about the idea of giving myself a whole year for this evolution and for giving myself the place and space to expand. But, I AM nervous and feeling a little timid.

As I sit here reading through the love notes that I wrote for my daughters for the New Year and Forever and I am realizing that I need to hear these things as much as they do. So, I begin today with these notes. I begin today, with love…to me, from me. And I thank you all so much for your kind words and support too. So, please read these notes as if they were written for you because, as it turns out, they were.