Guest Writers

I am excited to bring you wise words & inspiration from people that have learned from their own experiences, pain & professions.

Christmas Letter

By Rachel Canella

I haven’t sent a Christmas letter in years.  The fact that this is an emailed one shows that technology and laziness sometimes really are WINNING.

I decided to send this to a small group of people who have walked with me this last year. A co-worker and I were joking that we should write a REAL Christmas letter that paints life a little more realistically and I thought, “Why not?”  So….here goes.

Hello friends!

Merry Christmas!  I wanted to take a moment to set down my steaming hot cup of cocoa while simultaneously giving myself a pedicure to tell you all about our amazing year of winning the lottery, eating Kit Kats every day, and creating an honor roll just for my own children which happens to be called “We’re the Smartest Kids Ever Birthed.”  “Honor Roll” just didn’t do them justice!

Besides recycling, helping the poor, and only eating non-GMO food and grass fed-beef, it’s been a pretty quiet year of relaxation and pool hopping.  It’s amazing to constantly have a clean house—in fact we frequently eat off of the sparkling clean floors so as not to spill onto our organic cotton table cloth—and to have a yard that is never overgrown or dried out.  That Colorado sun won’t get us!  We can always splash some water onto the grass from the moat we built on a lazy afternoon in order to keep it green and growing at all times.

Since we never fight or have disagreements, the kids and I spend all day affirming one another and creating love notes.  It’s amazing that the glitter never spills nor does the glue run onto the kitchen table!  Just love, love, love all around.

And, since I never raise my voice or hear any whining, it’s been fun using all that free time to learn French and to memorize the Canterbury Tales. 


And so.  Here’s what 2014 has really been like.

After a difficult transition to college, Eli (19) came home to live with us for a while after an almost two week hospitalization in the fall of 2013.  Things were getting better until last spring, when Eli tried to buy an Audi and an apartment and secure a record deal all in one day.  Oh, and then had to go to the hospital because some substances were involved.  Rehab came next…a better rock climbing wall I had never seen, nor so many tears from grieved parents and loved ones who were in the dance of shame, denial, and self-loathing.  Learned so much.  A bigger battle was at hand.  Still is.  And, we all battle, my friends.  One lesson of 2014.

Eli made the brave choice to move into a sober living house in Colorado Springs.  Instead of moving boxes into a dorm room, I remember stuffing my car with his precious things, like his guitar, remembering his long fingers stroking chords effortlessly as I would beg him to play Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” just ONE MORE TIME.  Also, a gorilla suit!  Boxes of sweatshirts that smelled of his Old Spice deodorant, given to a boy trying to become a man.

Divorce continues to be a mixed bag.  Dan and I really have let the past settle, thankful for the years to do so.  Embracing a different life for both of us has been the new normal.  I am grateful the girls have another family that loves them.  I am blessed they have another “person,” an involved stepmother.  My people need their people too.  And, sometimes those people show up as people I really never thought I wanted but am grateful to have in the end.  Another lesson.

Eva and Juliet (11 and 8) continue to play soccer and while I don’t think the Olympics are on the horizon, it has been a joy to watch them play and sweat and if I’m being totally honest, push around girls that are twice their size and never seem to get penalty cards. Go, girls, go!

Some hard things happened for me this year. I would use the amazing descriptor WHOA WHOA WHOA! to describe it (I was an English major after all).  I would also use words like GRACE, LOVE, AND FORGIVENESS.  And fear. It’s hard to admit to being scared, but I’ve learned I can’t be brave if there’s nothing to be afraid of.  Yes, another lesson (there’s lots!)

I have worked to sell a LOT of clothes but still find it difficult to figure out if I should buy a new pair of boots or pay the electric bill.  The bill usually wins, but more boots next year!  Work is fun and exhausting and has even included an occasional TV spot that hasn’t done much for me so far except confirm the CAMERA DEFINITELY ADDS AN 10 EXTRA POUNDS.  I have learned being the bread winner isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and doesn’t even include actual bread, which are carbs, which I love, and which I’m pretty sure is everywhere in heaven.  I try to be super spiritual so I know that MANNA CAME FROM HEAVEN=GOD LIKES BREAD.  Listen to me friends, when I tell you that heaven is NOT PALEO.  There will be bread.  Another lesson.

Two fish were purchased this year for two daughters.  Enough said there. 

A lot of green tea was consumed in 2014, enough for my local Starbucks to continue to keep its doors open and serve the milkshakes we all call “Frappucinos” for those unfamiliar with dairy and sugar combined with artificial flavoring.  IT’S A MILKSHAKE. 

I’ve decided that while I love fitness, I might be backing off a bit. My whole body hurts and I’m cutting back to only 500 burpees a week.  Kidding aside, I do hope to incorporate yoga into this next year.  The problem is yoga usually involves silence, and that is a hard practice when your laugh reverberates to the Amish of Pennsylvania.  They just think the rapture is coming, but nope, it’s just me.

I have had friends and family grapple with the monsters of physical ailments, cancer, and death this year.  I have had friends and family get married, re-married, and have babies.  I have had a child in the lowest of places, and daughters who keep learning more about compassion and faith as we have wrestled through things as a family.

I have been reminded of this grace through a daughter who told me her $5 recorder was a flute, a son who wrote songs with crayons while hospitalized because art and hope lives deeply inside of him, and another girl who left a note on my pillow one day that said, “I don’t know where I’d be without you.”

Friends, I don’t know where I’d be without you.  You’re grace made alive to me, and as my favorite author says so simply “The grace of God is glue.” (Anne Lamott)

I know this is a strange Christmas letter, but I shared these stories because I have recently been reminded of the importance of letting others in.  We’re all in this together.  As a wise friend reminded me recently, we are each other’s life boats.  I hope to be in yours also!

One of the most baffling stories of all, a tiny helpless baby born into filth and the brokenness of this world, inspires me this season, buoying me with hope that in the most mundane and confusing of circumstances, there is life beyond the stable.

I love you all and thank you for walking this road with me, “the daughters,” and my son.

I hope this Christmas includes rest for the weary, and much of the merry.





Check out this article from Mind Body Green

I Dare You To Start Doing What You Really Want In Life

BY ASHLEY CEBULKA posted on Mind Body Green



Want to break the rules a bit? Start doing what you really want, rather than what you think you should do. I dare you to be a rebel.

First, let’s get clear on the kind of rebel we’re talking about here.

Rebel: One who stands up for what they believe in, despite the good opinions of others. One who takes action based on what feels good to their intuition and makes decisions based on their unique purpose in life.

It’s different from most definitions, I know. Yet I really think we can’t afford to not take this risk.

I believe it’s safe to say we’ve all been there, where we’ve fallen pray to a massive case of should bombs: I should go to an hour spin class and get my booty in shape, or I should go after this job, my family thinks it’s the best next step for my career, or I should be able to land that yoga pose. (Ahem, this is not what yoga’s about!) Or how about this one: I should love it here, but I’m miserable.

Feel the guilt?

WARNING: When should bombs are falling, pay attention. They can get real messy. Suddenly we find ourselves basing decisions and the direction of our life on what we believe other people expect of us, or what we think is the “right” thing to do.

So we now have a strong cocktail of 1 ounce fear and 1 ounce regret with a splash of guilt. Then, quite frankly, we feel like shit. This ends up taking us far away from listening to our intuition aka, our internal pot of gold.

Now, we’re aching for freedom, the world’s longest vacation on a tropical island, and the winning lottery ticket. Sound familiar? Let’s change it up!

How about we create a life filled with what makes us feel alive and see where we end up?

Sound a little scary yet liberating? Like you’re going on an adventure you’ve dreamed of? Fantastic! Let’s get started, shall we? It begins with Creating Your Own Rules.

Yep, go ahead, get deep with yourself for a hot minute and figure out what’s really important to you, not what society, your parents, or even your friends have told you is important.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What makes me feel free and most alive?
  2. How do I like to spend time with people I care about?
  3. What sparks my passion and revs up my enthusiasm? How could I could spend hours (if not days) doing ____ and actually lose track of time?
  4. How would I ideally like to spend my week, days, and weekends?
  5. What would my ideal work place be? Who would I work with (if anyone)?
  6. What ways do I actually enjoy moving my body?
  7. What helps me feel relaxed and joyful?
  8. How do I most enjoy helping others?

Jot down your answers. Elaborate as much as you’d like, create more questions, dig deeper. Note whatever helps you gain more clarity about your joys in life.

Next, let’s focus on the contrast.

  1. What am I willing to say no to in life, in order to say yes to what I do want?
  2. What guilt am I willing to let go of in order to thrive?

Write it out. Now I encourage you to put that list of “‘what makes me come alive” somewhere you can see it regularly throughout your day. (It makes great fridge art.)

Now, start integrating. Baby steps. It’s the subtle shifts that create radical change.

Start with one thing you can do during the week that will help you feel more joyful.

Does it seem too scary? I’m going to give you a little nudge here. The world needs you, your unique gifts, your unique personality, your unique laugh, your unique quirks, all of it. And the more you give yourself permission to be more you, the more you inspire others to do the same.

BREAKING NEWS! Authenticity and passion are contagious.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman

So let’s stop trying to fit into the Tiffany Blue box we’ve created for ourselves and be rebels.

Start today. One baby step at a time. Let’s not over complicate this, it begins with the decision to try.






  1. What I am seeing is that some people don’t want to recognize others for what they are because they are in denial of their own issues. As if recognizing an individual and their feelings will somehow jeopardize the false foundation upon which their own lives have been structured. We must never allow ourselves to be intimidated by someone else’s bold and brazen behavior. After all, who are they to set the world straight?
    For those of us that were trained at an early age not to reveal our true feelings (or face ridicule and punishment if we do so) interacting with bold and brazen people can be devastating. We already have a tendency to “internalize” our thoughts and feelings and this “internalization” brings stress into our bodies. This stress manifests itself in the form of anxieties, suppressed anger, depression and hopelessness. We each must find a healthy way to express our true feelings and thoughts to others. We must overcome the fear and reluctance.
    We can do this by keeping our minds and bodies fit, joining support groups and seeking individual counseling. It is definitely an uphill battle and we have to fight for our health and sanity.
    Sometimes its so hard to see a path to recovery. Especially for those of us that have been suppressed for a long time and do not have supportive friends and family.
    Personally, I have been to alot of counseling lately and somehow it falls short of meeting my needs because the counselors have their own issues and just don’t get it. One behavioral therapy source I went to in Ashburn was downright emotionally abusive. I thought it was just me and then I saw the online reviews from other patients and the comments were very similar to what happened to
    me. The road to learning to trust and believe in my own feelings is rocky and bumpy yet I know I will survive and thrive.
    One thing that has really helped me is exercise….yoga….pilates….that inner core strength can send waves of confidence and strength to every crevice in our bodies. Its amazing how quickly the human brain and body adjust and react to exercise. I can do this! I will do this!
    God bless all of you and thank you for this “safe nest”

  2. The quote I try to remember always is
    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
    ― Plato

  3. Taken from the book, “Random Acts of Kindness”: “When I was in high school, I had a friend who asked me to help him plant some weeping willow trees down by a creek. It seems that he had watched every year as the banks of this creek had been increasingly eaten away. It had gotten to the point where the water was threatening to overflow into the nearby housing development. My friend had obviously done his research; he found out that willows grew quickly, easily, and with a great spreading root system that drinks up lots of water which would stabilize the creek bank. When I met him at the creek, he had a huge bundle of willow branches in his arms. We spent most of the day planting these willow cuttings up and down the endangered curve. Many years later, I was home visiting and found myself walking down that creek. Where we spent that afternoon is now a beautiful idyllic bend with a long curving row of large graceful willows bending out over the water.”
    What you do today may not have much effect today, but may make a big difference in the future. Let’s all plant more trees…

  4. If you ever are feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders and that no one cares, or if you just need a pick-me-up, purchase the book “Random Acts of Kindness”. This wonderful book is a compilation of real stories of how people have helped or inspired one another, anonymously or not. I find it so inspiring and heart-warming! Just make sure you have a box of tissues handy…;-)

  5. I love these and would like to add a favorite about just being loved for who we are:
    All this time
    The Sun never says to the Earth,

    “You owe me.”

    What happens
    With a love like that,
    It lights the whole sky.”-Hafiz

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