5 Free Mother’s Day Gifts for Yourself (whether or not you are or have a mother)

Catch a Smile: Build your positive emotions!

You know when someone smiles at you in such a way that you catch it and smile back without even thinking? That feeling of connection that lights you up? It can be sharing a funny story with the check out person at Trader Joe’s, getting together with a friend, or smiling at a neighbor on the street.

Creating moments of connection with another person creates what researcher Barbara Fredrickson calls “positive resonance” that can boost your positive emotions which contribute to your overall health and well being. “Under the influence of positive emotions, your sense of self actually expands to include others to greater degrees.”

Collect Hugs: Give yourself a big dose of Oxytocin!

One young woman has her arms around another. They lean into each other with their cheeks touching.

Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle” or “love hormone.” It is a key player in establishing our attachments and bonds to other people, but it also has immediate benefits for hugging. It calms anxiety and stress, increases trust and connection. It’s what makes holding a baby and cuddling with someone we love so relaxing.

Do something playful, silly or funny!


According to the National Institute of Play, play relieves stress and builds resilience. “It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.” So, you’re never too old to play.  Let loose a little, play pretend, tell jokes, and make people laugh!

Find the flow!

hannah-olinger-549282-unsplashDo something you love at just the right amount of challenge so that it captures your attention, time disappears and you get lost in it.  Research shows that this state of “flow” improves your emotional regulation and your productivity. You may experience more confidence, self esteem and find more meaning in life.

Experience Awe

hans-veth-402052-unsplashWe experience awe when we encounter something so vast and exceptional that we struggle to comprehend it. It can be seeing the starry sky from the desert on a clear night, watching Niagra Falls, standing on a mountaintop, encountering a breathtaking work of art, or watching someone display Olympian skills that surpass our imagination. The positive emotions experienced through awe can promote health and well being. 

Whether or not we are moms, many of us are caregivers of some sort and could derive happiness and long term benefits from these five experiences.




Parenting by Heart

Inside a heart the words love 24 hrs
Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

How do the choices you make every day as a parent align with your goals for your child, for your family life?

I was still in the parking lot when my distressed daughter called me. One of her costumes had not made the trip with her to the theater for the final dress rehearsal of her upcoming dance recital. We lived 30 miles away, and had just slogged our way through rush hour traffic to get there. I had plans to eat dinner with local friends and didn’t want to cancel for this.

Inventorying the choices, I couldn’t help but register the various parent voices and opinions that exist in the parent-sphere. I thought about the parenting paradigm of not helping, letting the child deal with the consequences as a learning experience.

What am I enabling if I go home and get her costume?

Why not let the child learn to remember by negative example?

Was I hovering and protecting too much if I got her costume for her?

Road sign showing a choice of left or right turns
Photo by Pablo García Saldaña via Unsplash

Years ago, as a new mom holding my infant daughter, I had the realization that what I most wanted for her was to learn to trust herself. I knew that meant cultivating that trait or skill within myself first.

So, that’s what I did.

After some disappointment, heavy sighing, and hearing all the arguments in my head, I decided to follow my instinct. I told my friends I’d be late for dinner, and got back on the highway. (Thank you friends for waiting for me!)

Later that evening, in the car ride home, my daughter thanked me and said that it made her feel good that I had helped her. It made her want to reciprocate.

That’s when I understood what my instinct had meant. I had lived my values of kindness and compassion in the way I treated my distressed daughter. Listening to her, I knew that for who my daughter is at this moment, for who I am right now, I did what felt right. Hopefully, she will remember the event as a positive example of caring and kindness.

By now, you probably have an idea of what you would done in a similar scenario with your child.

How would your choice have aligned with your goals for your child, your self, your family? What would feel right to you?

Would you like an opportunity to reflect on your values, and how to align your parenting goals with them? Join us for our next webinar, or contact me for a complimentary coaching session.  


Holy Work

Image of a detail from the painting Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam that shows their forefingers almost touching. God's finger is reaching forward, Adam's seems to be a little bit lifted, but the wrist is limp.


Do you experience moments that transcend the normal every day and could be considered holy in their own kind of way? Where? How?

The ancient tabernacle as described in the Bible had an outer courtyard, then a structure that had within it the smaller Holy of Holies.

The Israelites gathered in the courtyard, the priests could enter the structure and only the High Priest could enter the holy of holies on Yom Kippur. The more intimate the space, the holier the space. And the holiest of holies was the priest alone with God.

I’ve been wondering if the Biblical tabernacle could be a metaphor for our body and the holy of holies the intimacy of our own heart. Our outer surfaces, like the outer courtyard, interact with our environment and the people we meet and greet each day. They are our first step of interaction. Within us we have the torso that houses all of the important organs. Could this be like the structure inside the courtyard? Then within the structure, there is an ark, within that ark God’s word. Could our heart be that core within the ribcage within the torso?

There are many people I enjoy seeing and who see my outer surfaces. A smaller number of people who hear more of my inner thoughts and feelings, then a unique few with whom I open the intimacy of my heart. When there is someone with me listening, present and caring as I open the depths of my heart, it can feel quite divine. I transcend the everyday, when I connect with another person one heart to another.

As a coach, I have the honor of being present with people as they move through the layers of their own being towards discovery and shifts that open the world for them, empowering them and enabling them to see new possibilities. Inevitably, it moves me as well closer to my own Holy of Holies.

It is a holy moment to be in the space with someone when they have such huge revelations about things that are so intimate to them.

Can you imagine an intimate space that feels sacred to you?

What Drives You?

Damn Yankee's Joe Hardy singing Good Bye, Old Girl

What choices have you made that followed your deepest desires?

How does that effect the way that you live?

When I was a young child, my dad took us to see Damn Yankees at the dinner theater just a few miles from our home. It was the first live show I ever saw, and one that launched a life of longing for the stage.

The show gave me a feeling of floating and soaring and I distinctly remember the private elated feeling I had humming to myself while walking along the wall of the lobby in my white knitted poncho with stripes at the bottom that my great Aunt Mary had made for me.

The songs still evoke vivid memories from seeing the show. Echoes of images from seeing the show then have lingered longer than any memory of seeing the 1994 revival on Broadway have.

More than any images, I have physical, visceral emotional memories of how certain songs, or energies made me feel.

Decades later, cast in a local production, I make sure to be back stage when Joe transforms from middle aged man to young baseball hero and rushes onto stage singing the end of “Goodbye Old Girl.” He has sold his soul to the devil for a chance to live his dream as a baseball hero and bring his team to victory against the legendary Yankees of the 1950’s. The rush of youthful energy full of anticipation and possibilities that young Joe brings on stage with him touches the 7 year old child in me whose heart opened wider that it ever had hearing that song for the first time.

Middle aged Joe Boyd as young Joe Hardy, gets to live his dream. He in facts finds a way to live his dream and reunite with his wife, safe from the devil’s domain. Listening backstage again to this song, I felt a kinship with the longing and the dream, and this time, a deep affinity with Joe Boyd and his commitment to his wife. My life has always been a tug of war between my visceral need to connect with people through the arts to express myself on stage in song, dance and theater, and my need to feel connected and close to family, friends, and communities.

Only in a work of fiction does a character get to live the different drives in such a way that finishes neatly like a present with a bow on top or with a big heartwarming finale.

In life, we feel tension between our desires, our sense of responsibility, our wants and all the “should’s” that we learn.

How many of us suppress our dreams and desires and do what we are supposed to do instead?

What would it look like if we could feel as free as Joe Hardy when he finishes that song to bring our energy, enthusiasm and desires into the way we live our lives?

How might following our desires change the way that we live?

You Gotta Have Heart

Damn YankeesA few days ago, I opened in a featured character role in the show, Damn Yankees.  The premise of the show, a musical version of the book, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, is that an athlete who has devil granted powerful hitting, can change everything. A lackluster baseball team goes from being the lowest ranked baseball team to winning the pennant when a middle aged man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for being a baseball hero who can raise his team to the top. The team’s changeover uplifts a whole community of people thrilled to see their home team finally winning.

It’s a wonderful fantasy, but can one great ball player change a team that much? According to the song, “You’ve Gotta Have Heart,” the star baseball player Joe Hardy is a hero because he has “heart.” Can having “heart” really change one’s life so dramatically?

Yes! If having heart can mean having positive emotions, then it’s true. Research shows that positive emotions expand us. When we are experiencing positivity, we open to possibilities.

The more I coach, the clearer I see how the biggest obstacles we face in the way of getting what we most want in life are ourselves. When we can open and see possibilities beyond our limiting beliefs, we maximize our own potential. It’s the most beautiful moment when someone lights up with a new insight, a spark of creativity or small ideas that begins a chain of “Yes!”

Barbara Fredrickson researches the impact of positive emotions on our wellbeing. She says, “they literally change the boundaries of our minds and our hearts and change our outlook on our environments.”

Just before starting this piece, I was a little stuck with a bunch of starts and unfinished pieces. As the rehearsal process for Damn Yankees built towards performance, as the cast grew more connected working towards a common goals, as we saw improvements, exciting costume and scenery additions, the exchanges of smiles increased. Each smile and connection, boosted our spirits and spread the excitement around.

With a heart full of love for my cast mates and what we were creating together, the inspiration to finish this piece flowed and much of this piece wrote itself while I sat backstage opening night in between stage appearances. In the midst of enthusiastic show energy, I felt empowered and knew just what to write.

Now, I understand more viscerally, how moments of joy and other positive emotions can open us creatively and make striving for a goal feel effortless. The next time I am feeling stuck, I know to make time to smile with a friend, hug my children, do something kind, and do the activities that generally lift my positivity and open my heart.

What will you do to bring more positivity, possibility and creativity into your life?

My Friend, My Teacher

Two women friends taking a selfie. One is a bit older with grey hair, the other with brown hair.
Me with my friend in May 2017

We stood eye to eye in the slight breeze of a perfectly beautiful day. I felt held in her presence and held her in mine. The sounds of cars on the road and conversations floated in the spacious silence. As much as I could hear everything, my attention was entirely on her eyes as she looked at me intently. I broke the gaze, rounded my arms around her neck and gave her a hug.

Even though she can’t identify me by my name or our shared stories, I still feel seen, remembered and appreciated. So often we self consciously wonder if we have impressed someone with our story, if we have made sense, or been misunderstood. We joke with people, hope to make them laugh, and tell stories. Yet, I have learned that what really matters isn’t the social exchange that happens on the surface, but the level of presence containing the relationship itself.

Earlier in our relationship and in her disease, my friend wanted to grieve the life she was losing, to be sad about her predicament, what would happen to her husband and daughter. All she needed from me was to empathize and to keep her company in her sadness. In between talking, laughing and exercising together, we cried, we hugged, and we sat quietly with one another.

Every week I arrived open, ready to receive her, to live in her story with her, to keep her company in a world that was increasingly lonely. When she sensed that something was wrong in my life, she sat attentive, open and ready to listen. Her warm presence itself comforted me. I knew she likely didn’t understand or remember all I told her. But, she offered me her presence and often that was the perfect comfort. Parker Palmer says, “The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.”

As my friend has progressed into the later stages of Alzheimer’s, fewer words pass between us, there is more touching, more eye contact, and more mirrored emotions. The other day when I visited, I played a song that I thought she would recognize and remember. I watched her face as she listened. A single tear formed at the corner of her eye and ran down her cheek. My eyes started to water. I have no idea why or how the song triggered the emotion, yet I could give her a hug offering empathy and support.

Krista Tippett writes about her time working as a chaplain in an Alzheimer’s ward, “They taught me the gravity of nonverbal presence- of eye contact and touch. I learned to accept silence, not to fill it with talk, to respect the immensity of what eyes and hands alone could express.” 

I too have now learned this lesson about communication and intend to honor my friend, my teacher by practicing it in my life as fully as possible. 

What would you change?

What transformation would you like to see in your life?

Almost five years ago towards the end of a particularly challenging school year where I had stress at work, at home, in relationships and in my return to theater, my body just slowed down. Workouts got harder, I felt like I could barely move most of the time. By the summer, I had weakened to where I had trouble walking, tired very quickly, had mysterious sensations throughout my limbs. It took five weeks to rule out the very scary neurological disorders which left me with what we named at home the “Mommy Mystery.”

During that five week period, I couldn’t imagine anything else it could be, but some neurological degenerative disease. So, I made myself a list of all the things important to me that I still could do. I titled the list Awareness.

Create ideas
Receive love
Insight (is there a verb form?)

Listen to music
Listen to podcasts
Memorize Shakespeare

Set goals
Find challenges within my own ability
Find creative outlets within my abilities
Be grateful and appreciative for what I have and what I can do.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone about my journey with Fibromyalgia and how I have managed to live a full life despite the challenges of the mysterious syndrome. As I listened to myself answering questions and telling my story, I noticed how often I used the word “awareness” and how “awareness” had functioned as my compass as I navigated my journey with Fibro. Cultivating “awareness” of what I could do at each stage of my recovery, awareness of my body, of the pain, the fatigue, the just right amount of challenge and enough resting time has enabled me to build myself back to being a fully functioning person.

Wow. What an amazing tool. How else might I use awareness as a tool for transformation?

What awareness of yourself and your life do you have or want to cultivate and how can you leverage that awareness to create change in your life?



What are you missing?

How many bits of acknowledgement, encouragement and empowerment are we missing because we can’t really hear them?

Recently, I shared something on FB that prompted a former elementary teacher to comment “Leah… I’m not at all surprised by your dedication, sensitivity and compassion. I observed these same traits from the time you were ten years old.”

Really, those traits showed when I was ten? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Or did they?

In my early twenties I had such deep yearnings to be an actress, but barely knew how to recognize them or respond to them. I had been a dancer, and that part of me wondered how to become equally alive on stage through words instead of through music. To ease my insecurity, I wanted proof that I was a good actress, that I had talent, and that I could be competent at it.

This is why, when I found myself sharing a subway ride with the leader of an acting intensive that I was doing over the weekend, I had to ask. Did he think I was any good? He answered that acting was 90% communication, and that I was a natural communicator. His answer left me only slightly encouraged. I translated his words to mean: “Eh, maybe you have some potential”

Only in recent years, I have come to really understand how well he perceived my talents and potential and what a gift that was for me.

Just a few weeks ago, I heard from a former principal of the elementary school where I taught in Texas. She commented: “You were, are and will always be the most amazing kindergarten teacher I ever hired and had the joy to get to work with!” I was floored.

How had I come to think the opposite was true? That we had just learned to respect each other nonetheless?

In all these stories, I had been so busy focusing on what was going wrong, listening for what I wanted to hear, and caught in my own narrative, that I couldn’t recognize the acknowledgement or empowerment around me. I totally missed the recognition of my strengths and the positive reflections of how I was showing up in the world.

What acknowledgement, encouragement and empowerment are you missing because you aren’t really listening?


Coaching can help you listen. Get in touch with me for a complimentary session.

Alien Stories

There is a Star Trek Next Generation episode where Captain Picard is captured by the Borg: an alien group structured like a bee hive with a queen bee and a lot of worker bees. They adopt him into their network of non-specific members. At one point we see the Captain dressed and expressionless like the other Borg, but with a single tear drop on his cheek.

Why and how do we create stories like this? Where do these ideas come from?

I have watched a friend struggle as a disease takes over her brain, shuffling her neural wiring so that she can’t find words, memories or how to navigate herself in space. Somewhere inside she struggles with this sense of loss. Meanwhile, externally, we see fewer signs of the person she used to be. Watching her disappear is like watching the Borg take over Captain Picard.

A couple of months ago, I sat with my friend in a café over lunch. She leaned forward and talked to me in a hushed voice about how her husband was hurrying her towards death. (I can’t believe I just typed that.)

It made no sense. I listened to the words strung through grammatical logic to sound intelligent. They didn’t actually connect with any reality as I understood it. Her stories were not communications from a healthy cognitive mind inferring and interpreting human experience. Yet, to her, the stories were absolutely real. She, like the rest of us, creates stories to explain and interpret her life experience and environment. But, her life no longer follows the rules of logic, so doesn’t it seem to follow that her stories wouldn’t either?

Maybe our stories never do?

I listen harder to what was behind the story. What was she feeling? What was she seeking to describe? I realized that she felt death getting nearer. She was fearful of something related to her husband. Fearful from him or fearful for him? Maybe some of both?

The more I listened, the more I realized that she was composing a movie worthy plot, to make meaning of what she could feel and sense through her damaged neural networks. The story details may not have mirrored any version of reality that I could see, but the story served to communicate her feelings and her understanding of her own world.

Only two months later, my friend has declined quickly and dramatically. It seems she really knew some truth that I couldn’t see.

What other stories might have within them truths that I need to hear?

I now understand how and why we tell stories about aliens taking over our loved ones, our cities, our planet. Things out of our control, that might as well have come from outer space, hijack and our lives and redirect them in ways we could not ever have imagine.

What might the stories we tell reveal to us about our best attempts to describe human life and experience?

How much do our own misperceptions or our own cognitive limitations interpreting our world play into the stories we tell?

What’s your story?

What’s Your Vision?

I was sitting with coffee and my computer at my preferred local Starbucks when a man sitting nearby, wondered how could I see what I was doing on my small electronic screen. This began a conversation about eyesight and the bullet created eye injury he incurred while serving in Afganistan.

For fifteen minutes or so, I listened to this man talk about his life as a policeman, and his service in the military as a Navy SEAL. He described being under fire, and how he has been trained to spot threats. As he explained that anyone could walk into the Starbucks and threaten our safety, I noticed that he was conveniently seated so that he could observe all three entrances.

Having trained so hard and so effectively, he now saw the possibility of threat everywhere and was always on alert.

We all feel threatened by something in the world: ridicule, criticism, embarrassment, failure heartbreak, etc. We keep a watch for potential threats and prepare ourselves to face them. 

If we can use this strategy so effectively as a means to keep ourselves safe, imagine what else this strategy could do for us in life!!

What would happen if instead of noticing what we fear in our lives, we noticed what we want to have in our lives?

What might change if we took time to notice and remember the moments around us that acknowledge, affirm and encourage our life’s purpose?

A number of years ago, at a particularly low point in my life, I started writing down the most meaningful moment of my day.  As I trained myself to notice what was meaningful to me in my life, I started noticing more of these moments appear.

Over time, I took bigger risks with people as I knew it was connections with others that sparked those meaningful moments for me.

Years later, I have rich, deep relationships that I treasure, and a life focused on what is most meaningful to me.

What is your vision? What will you notice?

If you start by noticing every little piece of experience, however tiny, that is what you want, you will find that your vision of what exists in the world will change.

Contact me for a complimentary coaching session to get started!