Doing it Differently

Nothing can compare with the mind blowing, life altering, holy shifting words “You have cancer.”   Or in my case, “it’s back again.”   And while the numbers are low enough that I can continue to pretend I am in the clear and healthy, the ever present gift is knowing that I may not be here for long.

So how then shall I live? Do I live for today and create/embrace joy wherever I can?

Acting as if life is short, makes me want to dance and sing, meditate, eat good food, love and laugh with friends and sing and dance. Did I mention sing and dance?  Acting as if life is short makes me want to gather all of the loose threads of unfinished songs and record them with lush and magnificent harmony! Acting as if life is short makes me  want to write about all I have learned this lifetime and impart the information with as much passion as I can muster!  Acting as if life is short makes me want to clean my closets, give away a bunch of once loved stuff, and make simple what I leave behind.

On the other hand,  acting as if I have another 10 or 20 years ahead of me, I would develop a business plan.  I would start looking for gigs, concert opportunities, book signings and  speaking engagements. Acting as if I have another 10 or 20 years ahead of me, I would be learning all I can about marketing  myself and my work in new ways. I would be working hard at making a living.

What occurs to me of course is that none of us knows when we will make our transition. I get that. But dancing with cancer for five years has been such an incredible Holy Shift,  that the questions I have remain deliciously unanswered.  However, living for today… Whatever that means and all that that means, is very different than making a living and marketing oneself.

Maybe singing  and dancing, meditating and eating well, loving and laughing with friends will be all the “business planning” and “marketing” I will need to sustain a healthy happy life for as long as I do live!?  And maybe by acting  as if life is short, I will add years to my life! Hmmmm!!?



Firstly, Happy New Year. Secondly I’m OK.


Since before Mom’s death in April, I’ve been riding the waves of grief. Sometimes that feels like standing on top of the surf-board of balance and enjoying the love, joy, song and laughter that was… is my mother. Other times I hang on with both arms and legs wrapped around it as we plummet to new depths.  As time unfolds, I practice being a witness to myself, as I learned to be decades ago. I watch the ride and notice…  Different facets of grief shine through with each descent.  When I bring gratitude with me, it provides more space for the expanse of the dance.

I’ve watched with pleasant amazement as I sang my way through the Holidays. I decided to embrace whatever I could and call it good, so my husband and I went to Unity for a community Thanksgiving feast; we went Christmas caroling; I recorded many songs I had written over the past year; we took part in the candle lighting ceremony on Christmas Eve; we had friends over on Christmas day; I will have performed 2 Burning Bowl ceremonies after tomorrow. When friends ask me how I am, I look into their eyes and honestly say, “I’m really OK!” which means I’m awesome by anyone else’s standards.

This morning in my hot-soaky, I think I was relaxed enough to feel Mom’s presence. As the tears began to well up, she went away but then I smiled and purposefully felt joy and she was back. I think I heard/felt her say, “Little Darlin’ nothing could keep us apart! We are more together now than ever before.” I lifted my chin toward the ceiling light. I almost felt her ever-soft hands on my cheeks. I almost smelled her lotion. Then I felt, “I am SO proud of you and how you are grieving on purpose. You learned well. I love you! Feel me loving you…” Almost… I cried. She was gone.

But something else happened. This time as I descended into the dark, deep hole that is my grief, I saw at the bottom, the black slime had turned to a rich forest green foam and the walls of the hole had a comforting mossy fuzz. As I looked around and felt the feelings that brought me there, all at once I was out of the hole and back in the sun. WOW!

Then, I almost saw Mommy smiling!

Yeah, I’m really OK.  I’m growing more and more OK by the minute. Thanks Mom!

Purging Past Pain

The only way out is through!

The Primal Purge at Holiday time is a seasonal tradition that has a mind of it’s own. When grief gets overwhelming and longing starts to fit like a second skin, my highest self knows my being is ready to release more of what no longer serves me. This morning I got that swift kick from Spirit to to get on with it. I positioned my singing bowl and went to work to meditate. I was still reeling from the movie we saw 3 nights ago… August: Osage County. Meryl Streep played a bitch of a mother who made “Mommy Dearest” look like Mary Poppins.

It hurt me deeply to see her meanness turn her daughter, played by Julia Roberts, into someone just like her! There have been mean people in my life. But there was another reason that movie effected me. When I was  8 or 9 until I was 14, my own mom was that volatile. Not all the time, of course. There was laughter and singing much of the time, but she was so young when she married Dad. Who knows who they are or why they’re here at age 18? To find out early it was NOT to cater to a self-absorbed creative genius that was my dad, made her a failure in her own mind for a long time. She lost her own daddy when was 8 and her mom had to go to work. Dad couldn’t fill all her holes.

My dad’s father ridiculed him growing up and beat up his mom often in front of him. Mom couldn’t fill all his holes. 2 wounded people never make a whole. They make … 2 wounded people with lots of empty holes!

I remember the fights. Mom once seethed at dad and called him a “crumb” under her breath. Something inside me smoldered hot and burned out cold when I learned how to be that hateful.

Hateful and hurtful, painful lashings out, jagged edged glass inflict wounds that grew both ways.  Held in clinched fists, the shards lacerated the warrior as she dashed about trying to cut out the pain she thought was outside herself.

This morning I purged “MEANNESS.”

Before I continue, may I remind you of my favorite healing tool. I call it the “Primal Purge.” In a meditative state, a peaceful place, I allow my body to hate the hate, basically.

As a kid, we don’t have discernment between fear, abandonment, anger, etc…  what we feel when we are wounded is  “I hate you!”  It’s a natural release that, when encouraged to express, appropriately and in private, is then gone, dissipated, expelled. When NOT allowed to express ourselves, those same feelings are shoved into the body and can become toxic!  Unresolved anger can turn into cancer!  All the more reason to get to poison out!!

So I played the singing bowl, breathed deeply and went within.  As I allowed myself to HATE my beloved mommy for being so mean… once upon a time, her face morphed with mine and I saw how I treated my little sister… once upon a time. So I allowed myself to HATE myself for being so mean… once upon a time.

Then what came up, was last year at this time, when mom was so mean… out of her head from the meds and/or the cancer, I know now… but some broken glass gouges, hateful-hurtful encounters that took me by surprise, opened some old wounds I didn’t even know I had and introduced fresh, new, deep incisions. In healthier times, mom and I could talk about it and cry together, embracing one another and inviting the pain to cure us, like intense heat cures glaze to pottery.

But now, being her caretaker and knowing she was not always in her right mind, I could not deal with the pain at the time and we could not deal with it together. So when I asked for healing today, when I asked to feel a connection with mom, when I asked asked to be shown what to do next… THIS came up to heal!     …MEANNESS

Mom’s meanness, my meanness, society’s meanness… I HATE meanness!! I railed for awhile. As long as it took to feel the pain I felt and and inflicted and hate it all!!   THEN finally…  I FORGAVE MEANNESS.

I forgave all that I could remember that connected Mommy to meanness. “I forgive you, Mommy for being so mean!  I forgive you for being to hurtful! I forgive you for saying… doing…” Everything I could remember. More came up!

Then I  forgave all that I could remember that connected myself to meanness. “I forgive you, Laurie (that’s what I was called as a child)  for being so mean!  I forgive you for being to hurtful! I forgive you for saying… doing…” Everything I could remember. More came up!

Then, I forgave all that I could think of that connected society to meanness.  “I forgive you, society for being so mean!  I forgive you all for being to hurtful! I forgive you for saying… doing…” Everything I could think of. More came up!


As I rest in that new vibration, my mind and heart are opened. I feel rejuvenated with a new understanding of a deeper layer of forgiveness. I feel Mommy smile and whisper, “Way to go baby doll!”  All at once the sweetness that is the thoughtful counselor, nurturing teacher, cherished friend that is my mom, ascends out of the ashes of my tears. “I’m right here Little Darlin. You just had to burn out the bullshit!”

Forgiveness 101

Thanks Mom. I get it. Happy Forgiving… I mean Thanksgiving!

Holy Shift! I’m reading Sharlette Pumpfry’s book- Heart Connections- In it she says-“Oswald Chambers, a prominent early 20th century Scottish Protestant Christian minister and teacher, best known as the author of the widely read devotional, my utmost for his highest, said, ‘prayer is not only asking, it is an attitude of heart that produces an atmosphere in which asking is perfectly normal, and Jesus says “everyone that asketh, receiveth.'”

“An attitude of heart that produces an atmosphere in which asking is perfectly normal…”
That’s a shift!
Where is asking perfectly normal? I asked this question as I breathed into stillness.

“As a child!” was the answer. As a child I asked “can I have this?” Not in a selfish, greedy way, but in a way to be assured that I deserve to have all the good I see! With that sweet remembering, I became 5 again. “Can I have this?” I asked of many visions of myself, with wide eyed, ear to ear, open- hearted wonder!

“Can I have that?”LauRedBallWtrEdge63Enthusiasm and pure, unrestricted potential bubbled up from a deep, old, happy well. My face was surrounded by my smile in an inside out understanding. Asking IS natural! Asking like a child asks with no holes barred, expecting to receive because that’s who we are! Receivers! And because it feels so good to receive, it feels as good if not better to give, and watch others receive from us! We learn that too as children! Givers!

“…an attitude of heart that produces an atmosphere in which asking is perfectly normal.”

We are givers and receivers of JOY and that’s why we are here! Ask-Receive.  Give- Enjoy.  In Joy.  Mmmm!

End of story! Beginning of Glory!

Embracing Impermanence

A year ago, on the 26th, the day before Thanksgiving, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cAnswer. I will still in chemo myself for a recurrence of ovarian cAnswer. My sister, Kristen and I agreed that one of us would be with her at all times until she healed or died. I stopped chemo 3 treatments short of the protocol so I could stay healthy.

 The following months were beautiful, tender, painful, horrific, desperately sad, filled with joy and love all at the same time. Kristen believes as I do- that death is a part of life, that our experiences can be embraced and that our perception changes everything. I found a clinical study for her which gave her hope. We walked with her through so many examinations and procedures that numbness would have been welcome. But no, I chose to be fully present. And when it got worse than we could ever have imagined it could be, something shifted.

Christmas Eve I heard noise in the kitchen at 3:30 in the morning. I came downstairs to find mom doing a laundry with no clothes in the machine. She had started the coffee pot but had spilled water all over the floor. She wasn’t making sense. I cajoled, then argued with her to get her back into bed. I slept on the couch next to her bed. Christmas day she still was not herself. It was painful to witness, not knowing if these “crazies” were medication induced, a chemical imbalance- her sodium and potassium levels were always wacked, or if the cAnswer had gone into the brian, or she was dehydrated. Then she’d be fine for days and not remember what she did or said.

New Years eve Kristen was with her and dreamt about mom being near her. She got up find mom had climbed the flight of stairs with an empty laundry basket and was now collapsed in a heap in the hallway. All the love in the world had not prepared us for this. We began looking for a respite place to take care of mom for a week so Kristen and I could take a break. There was nothing, nothing, nothing. We stayed in contact and in prayer. Neither of us slept when we were with her. Every other week or two we would go home and try to regroup while the other one stayed with mom.

The clinical study and her oncologist was in Goshen, an hour drive on a good day. In January, in 20 degree, snowy, blustery weather, I bundled up my, now tiny, mommy and poured her into her car. My van was too much of a struggle. She had 3 rounds of injections for the study each a week apart. She then had 1 chemo treatment. It knocked her on her ass. She was already weak. Her hair started falling out two days later. Kristen and I knew to look forward to to mommy’s passing, to come to grips with, as best we could, losing her. But we didn’t speak it to mom as long as she wanted to do the study. We supported her in her choices, as best we could. If that meant letting her have her cocktails and eat desserts, plural, then so be it.

In March Mom’s best friend was visiting. Kristen had just left as I arrived. Mom was just sleeping and sleeping. When we realized she was non-responsive and crazy talking when she was responsive, we had an ambulance take to the ER. It was 3 days before coherency came back. In those 3 days Kristen and I were praying for alternative care-taking. It was just too much and we hated to admit that to each other and ourselves, but we just couldn’t do it. The evening she started making sense again I had the urge to paint her toenails. I had removed the old polish weeks before but just hadn’t gotten around to finishing the pedicure. We giggled while she wiggled her toes and we sang. At last they were done. China Red. Perfect! That night at 3:30 in the morning, she called for help to go to the bathroom. She asked to be left alone while she did her business. Instead of calling the tech back to help her into bed, she stands, leans to get something and falls.

Everyone who examined her leg, or who just walked by, commented on her beautiful toenails! Go figure! Her ankle twisted so violently it broke the phibea, her shin bone. There was no going home. They put her in rehab to get her strong enough for chemo…  A weird answer to our need of rest. And while she was not as happy, she couldn’t have her cocktails or her kitties, Kristen and I found this new normal to be more breathable at least. We realized that NOT tending to everything would allow us to be more loving and we could sleep through the night.

By the fifth week mom started to admit that she was not getting stronger but weaker. The last chance to continue the treatments were pulled by the surgeon who told her she was just too weak to continue. That was on a Thursday. The next Monday was Kristen’s 50th birthday. She was in Nashville for her business where they were honoring her. Than morning I white tornadoed Mom’s apartment. I meant to bring her home on hospice in a couple more days. When I went to pick her up for another peracenthesis she couldn’t stand. The rehab nurse called a transport. While they worked to drain her swollen tummy as they did every week for the past 7 weeks or more, I called hospice. I packed up her things at rehab and cleaned her room. I had the ambulance bring her to her apartment where her kitties greeted her.

I avoided calling my sister. I wanted her to have a good birthday memory with nothing tainting it like “Come home. Mommy is dying.” But the next day, that’s what I did…

Mom knew for one week that she was dying. That’s very different than knowing for 5 months. Ten days after she learned chemo and the clinical study were no longer options, one week after I moved her back into her apartment and one week after my sister’s birthday she was no longer coherent. With the help of hospice we tried to keep her comfortable. My husband Phil and come and gone back home to tend to our animals. Kristen’s husband had come. Mom’s last words were recognizing him with a big smile then no more. Just labored breathing. Kristen slept beside her the night before expecting each breath to be her last.

When Jeff came in from the patio in tears, we thought he had been talking about mom to someone on the phone. A young family friend had died that morning. I felt shock waves as I watched my sister and her beloved reel from the news that the 30 year old had taken his own life.  An athlete in his 20s, he had an accident that hurt his back so badly that he lived on pain pills but was still debilitated. My nephews were his friends. Jeff needed to be there, with his boys.

Kristen and I were again, alone with Mom.  We sat on either side of her and held hands over her. Kristen spoke to her directly. “Mom, I don’t know if you have an agenda over there, but someone may need your help. Our friend might be in a dark place. Could you take his hand and show him to the light? Let him know that it’s all ok and that he is deeply loved no matter what. Thank you Mommy”

We sang Angel Flying, one of her favorite songs. “When I’m old woman preparing for my rest, will I see my family of angels from the past? Smiling faces tell me that I’ll not be alone. Winged graces beckoning, they’ll come to take me home…” And she gave us her last breath. We kept singing.

(Click below to hear the song)

Featured image

Angel Flying

There is always more to the story and now that I vow to blog regularly, I’ll share more with you soon. Just know that the gift of those 5 months with Mom, walking her home is one of the most breathtakingly memorable experiences of my life. I feel so honored to have spent so much qualtiy time with her, for her. I know for sure that love never dies and I say I love her now in the present tense and feel her loving me back.  Thank you Mommy!

 The hills are alive with the sounds of Mommy.

April 20th at 5pm, daughters Lauren and Kristen sang their mom home. Her singing and piano playing created the foundation of much of their lives. Countless people will carry the memory of singing around her piano. Sandra Lane Powell, known to friends as Sam, was born in San Angelo, Texas, February 12, 1940. She was married to Larry Powell for 16 years. She got her degree in Political Science from Indiana University in South Bend. Living a life of service and social action, she marched with Cesar Chavez, helping shine the light on the unfair treatment of farm workers. She was a social worker and hearing specialist for the Welfare Department and Vocational Rehabilitation, giving of herself tirelessly and touching the lives of thousands. She will be celebrated and missed. Survived by daughter, Lauren Lane Powell, and her husband, Phil Long, and daughter, Kristen Lee Hartnagel, and her husband, Jeff, and their two sons, Ryan and Steven. She donated her body to the Indiana School of Medicine for medical research. Thanks to all who love her.     Sandra Lane Powell   Feb.12, 1940 – April 20, 201511174935_10153304264958293_7184530466803845099_n

Angel Flying

Angel Flying

Hear the song!

Angel Flying is one of my very first compositions. Written in 1996, it is a song that actually wrote me! IT flowed through me with much ease and grace, so ready to be born! I love the double melody in the chorus. Inner weaving strands of melody is a favorite song writing tool of mine. Each melody stands alone but when combined create magic in motion!

The lyrics came from a childhood memory. When I was six years old, I used to hover above my bed. I remember floating about 6-8 inches over the sheets and looking down at the indentation of where my head used to be. Then I’d be gone! Never alone though, I always have company. My companion was an Angel. An enormous figure of golden light, shimmering and glowing, illuminating our way. I was never a bit frightened. I was often overwhelmed by the beauty all around me as we traveled. It was in this place of peace that I learned to look for and see the magnificence of all things!  And the love ! The love was tangible. I could touch it, t hold it, spin it around, wear it, swallow it and then become it.

One time we didn’t fly. We just sat on the fence in my back yard. We didn’t speak. We didn’t have to. If felt good just to be. So normal. I didn’t have to do anything. That presence felt so warm and wonderful. A few years ago my dad and I took an 8 hour road trip. He was just getting over a sore throat so we opted not to speak for the duration. It was one of the holiest communions we’ve ever shared. Just being with one another with no words to get in the way was precious! That is how I felt as I child, sitting on the fence in the backyard with the angel. Held in light of love.

One day I told someone I flew with angels. She told me that was impossible. She was a grown up after all. She must be right, right? I never flew again…until the day I danced with you all, one twirl at a time, during treatment to this song. It felt new and fresh and at the same time comfortably familiar to dance with all the people I love and allow them to love me back to health. I can still feel the light breeze we create as we waltz! Can you feel it!?

The Magic of Music

DSC_8107 (2)I have had a lot of good response to my meditation CD called Chants to HEAL. One such response came from Claudell Hefner County. We connected on facebook. She ordered a CD and offered to send me a song she had written. I accepted. She wrote: By the way, I love your CD. The songs, your voices - strong high, soft, gentle, multiple and overtone chanting. How fun! I hope we get to meet someday. Many blessings, Claudell I finally got a chance to read her email and look her attached song. Gratefully I can sightread and I recognized it immediately. It is called My Dedication subtitled "Here I am, Lord, Use me." It was copyrighted 1984...the year I found Unity. Tears filled my eyes when the melody naturally filled the room and the lyrics projected themselves from inside upon a blank screen before me. I sang this song early on in my Spiritual Journey, having no idea how deep surrender could go at that time. I've sung her song many time since! When I first heard it, I remember trying to embrace the meaning of the words. I yearned to know what God had planned for me. Claudia's chord progression left an uneasy opening in me...an opportunity to see where next I needed to grow... I was 22 years old. Thirty years later the song still sparks a flame. And now I meet the composer of the song! How cool is that!!? I just love the way God works!! The declaration “Here I am, Lord, Use me.” needs to be at the very vortex of prayer. It allows every experience to unfold in full color, ripening and at last, providing nourishment for the good of all. Many Blessings Claudia and thank you for a beautiful, timeless song of surrender! Glad to meet you! I am honored!

Who Am I Really??

I would only roll my eyes when someone told me “Be Yourself.” What did that mean? How could I be myself when I didn’t know who I was? How could I be myself when I didn’t even like me? As a preteen, I resented everyone who spouted that line at me. Being myself was painful. Mom and dad were splitting up. I wasn’t kind to my little sister and I didn’t know why. I wasn’t getting good grades. I wasn’t popular. My teeth were growing faster than the rest of me. I couldn’t keep my long hair clean enough not to look greasy. I was lonely. I was needy. I was not much fun to be around. In short, being myself was no picnic! In fact I’d rather be anyone else but me! It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I learned that “Who I am” is a choice every minute of every day!


Trying on characteristic attributes, smiling more often, being helpful, listening harder, paying attention or staying angry, being judgmental and critical, oversleeping and being lazy were like trying on pieces of clothing. I was comfortable in beat up jeans and ratty old t shirts because dressing down was my norm. Wearing my wounds on my sleeve, so to speak, was also my norm. Dressing up and looking nice on the other hand was so foreign to me that at special events that required better, cleaner clothing I was uncomfortable. Nothing seemed to fit me right and I certainly didn’t “fit” in! But everything I was used to wearing, from my grungies to my distain were only habits borne out of choice! I chose to look like a rag-a-muffin. I chose to be unhappy. Those choices were not always on a conscious level obviously, but they were choices nonetheless. I had had lots of practice!


Practice makes prefect! When I learned that I had been choosing my way of life all my life I was shocked, bewildered and pissed off! I was who I was and how I was because of the divorce, society, TV, school, friends, boyfriends…I had a litany of people and events to blame it on. As I practiced, however, doing it differently, new habits formed. As I observed how kindness begot kindness and how anger begot anger I began to make different choices. As I chose to be a better person, a better person I became! I learned that anger is a valuable emotion that I can express by singing loudly or journaling or moving my body in any physical activity. There are many ways in which to “let it out” without hurting anyone, including me. It just takes a little practice cultivating new habits!


So the next time you hear someone say “Just be yourself,” smile, take a breath and remember that “who you are” is always a choice. It’s always your choice and you can always make another choice!


I get to choose who I am every minute of every day!


Harmonies of Healing


Many lessons on the journey to health not least of which is all about Love. I understand cognitively about detachment. To love without attachment seems to be the goal because to be attached is to set up grief and pain when object of that love is no longer. After years of contemplation and now with a new awareness, I believe that attachment is a part of love. My being passionate and intimate with people, events, animals, my body means to me only that I love everything around and within me deeply. When those things I love disappear, naturally I get to grieve. It is my honor to grieve.

Now I do not feel that way about everything I love. I love every sunset I see and do not grieve its passing. I love the rain. I do not grieve when the sun shines and dries it all up. I have taught to appreciate everything in my life and I do. I have been taught to be grateful for everything and I am.

So now my precious body heals, my hair falls out and my life forever changed. How do I now love what is and not miss what was? I remember practicing loving my body on purpose and as I cherished it, I knew love would make it stronger and healthier. I remember practicing loving my hair on purpose as I brushed it. I knew love would make it stronger and healthier. I remember practicing loving my life on the road on purpose as I embraced it, I knew love would make my life stronger and healthier. I became very adept at loving what is, so much so that’s now that it’s all different I get to grieve…again…some more.

Love without attachment? Not for me! I choose to love even the grief that makes me so incredibly human. I choose to stay passionate and love deeply even if it leads to pain at its loss. I choose to grieve the loss of my beautiful hair. NOW I can embrace my baldness! I choose to grieve the loss of my beautiful body. NOW I can embrace my scars. I choose to grieve the loss of my beautiful life on the road. NOW I can embrace the new adventure!

Today I give myself permission to be fully human and love with attachment knowing full well that other side may be grief and loss. I choose to feel it all because every emotion has its own deliciousness!

Dad and I in Europe

In 1992 when I had finally graduated from college my dad took me on the trip of a lifetime. He and I in Europe. We visited as many countries as possible within a 2 week trip. Notice I found a cat!

My dad is such a great photographer!
What great memories! Enjoy the photos.