The Work of Healing

Some of us are experiencing life-altering twists, and things are far from the hum-drum routine. My dear friend Leslie is one of those people. A Utah native, Leslie traveled to Chicago to become a teacher. I had the pleasure of working alongside her. It has been about five years since we last saw each other, but she has left a footprint in my heart. I especially feel very connected with her since she has shared her heartbreaking, truly inspiring story on A Sunday Kinda Love.  Without further ado, here is Leslie’s story…

The Work of Healing

I told one of my friends the other day that I feel like I’ve aged 100 years in the past few months. I’m only 29, so why do I feel like this wise old grandma these days? In one word: Loss. You see, my daughter passed away this summer. It’s a long story, one in which I document on my blog, but my daughter, Hadley Grace, was born 10 weeks premature with a very serious blood infection due to Group B Strep. To say it has been a shock is an understatement. This week was my due date, I had plans to take maternity leave at work, a room in our home is a beautiful coral and aqua nursery created just for our baby girl, she had a closet full of clothes, drawers full of diapers, and a prominent space smack in the middle of my heart. I’ve always been a woman of faith: a lapsed Episcopalian who attended Catholic school for 10 years, I now consider myself a non-dominational Christian. I believe in grace, love, and faith. I believe following Christ impacts one’s life on a daily basis in the form of thousands of little decisions that say “yes” to God. But on June 18, 2016, when my sweet baby girl died in my arms, suddenly that beautiful, peaceful, often convenient faith become raw, distorted, and precarious. My heart and mind repeated the questions “how?” and “why?” over and over again. We believed in the power of prayer. We believed in miracles. But our prayers weren’t answered. We didn’t get our miracle. How do you sit comfortably with that type of pain?
 In the days and weeks following Hadley’s death I began to furiously study loss, grief, faith, and prayer. I read countless books, spoke with wise people of faith, attended counseling, and most of all, I talked to God myself. Why didn’t you listen to me? The truth is, He did listen to me and He still does. But listening doesn’t always imply that God will be doing exactly what I ask. I’ve gone back and forth over whether God has a “plan,” if it all “fits together”. I’d be lying if I told you I had it all figured out. I cried out on the way home from her funeral, “I will never ever understand.” That still holds true and it always will be. What I have discovered, though, is great wisdom and the pockets of grace that emerge in the wake of great loss. Jerry Sittser writes in his book “A Grace Disguised,” that “The screaming pain I feel over loss reflects the pure pleasure I felt in knowing her presence.” Being a mom was my greatest joy and unlocked a well of happiness I didn’t know I had in me. But even in sorrow, I know I will feel that again one day. I received my gift: I just didn’t get to keep it. I have found that life is short and wildly precious. I hope I always have a strong sense of life’s fleeting nature and what that means for my daily life. 
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One of the most significant things I have learned is that you have to put in the hard work of grief by being proactive. The following are some steps I have taken (along with my husband) to keep Hadley’s memory alive and help heal our hearts. The wisdom that accompanies loss can be accessed fully if one is active in the process. You must take responsibility for grief and healing and channel it in your life. If you let the pain simply happen to you, it will knock you off your feet. You must, instead, relentlessly pursue healing and wholeness. That cannot occur, I have discovered, by running from the pain, but by diving in and working with it. 

1) In our home: We have a vase of flowers on our dresser and in the bunch of flowers, there is a single pink lily that represents our sweet girl. Another item is a beautiful blanket with her name crocheted on it. I slept with this blanket during my whole ten day hospital stay before Hadley was born. Once she arrived, she had the blanket with her. We keep this laid out on her nursery rocking chair which we have moved into our master bedroom. It’s one of my favorite reading and journaling spots. We also have a printed canvas of her hand stacked on ours and it hangs prominently in our bedroom. It’s the first thing I see when I get up in the morning.
2) Jewelry: I love wearing jewelry to remind me of my sweet girl. I have an “H” necklace from Kate Spade I wear everyday that my husband bought me after we returned home from the hospital. On the back it reads “One in a million.” She never got to wear her monogram so I wear it proudly for her. It makes me think if each word I speak, action I take would make Hadley proud. I also have some angel wing necklaces and a cherub Alex and Ani bracelet I wear sometimes.
3) Photo Album: Looking at pictures of my angel baby is such a comfort to me. I made a Shutterfly photo album for all members of our family. I truly think I healed in the creation of it. I poured over every picture and carefully selected the perfect images and words. I treasure this book and I am so looking forward to sharing it with our future children one day.
4) Good words as decor: Good, soulful words have really soothed my heart this summer. Just as everything I see reminds me of Hadley,  it seems everything I read can connect to our experience. I found two of my favorites this summer in small shops and both are featured in our home. One reads, “I believe hope rises up to meet our biggest struggles” The other is a quote from L.R. Knost that says, “Life is amazing and awful and then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living: heart-breaking, soul-healing, awful, ordinary life and it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” I connected with this quote instantly!
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5) Books: I have poured over many books about grief and loss. They have been tremendously helpful to me. They include, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Kushner (this was a gift from my incredible doctor who delivered Hadley and it has flipped my faith life upside down in a good way. I cannot sing its praises enough), “Through the Eyes of a Lion” by Levi Lusko, “Ended Beginnings” by Claudia Panuthos, “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser, “Tear Soup” by Pat Schwiebert,  and “Fight Back with Joy” by Margaret Feinberg. This loss thing was so very new to me and I have loved relying on the wisdom of those who have forged this path before me.
6) Talking: Whether going on a long trail walk with my husband, crying my eyes out in counseling, or sharing our story with a college friend over the phone, talking has been greatly beneficial for me. My husband and I have reached out to two different families who have experienced the loss of a child. These meetings and conversations have been life changing and have helped to stitch up my broken heart. I have discovered new realizations and connections through conversation.

“I no longer pray like I used to…”

 

7) Praying: I no longer pray like I used to. I do not ask God for specific actions to be performed outside of myself. Rather, I pray for God to be with me and for my spirit and attitude to be positive and enriching for myself and others. For example, I would not pray “Please let me stay healthy this school year.” I would instead now pray, “Please be with me and give me grace to endure your will with courage.”
I am no expert on healing after loss. This is a whole new world for me but I have found the above items helpful to me as I navigate a world of questioning God’s plan, discovering a new sense of faith, and healing my spirit after profound loss. It is possible to have an aching, longing heart and a deep well of wisdom at the same time. Pain and wisdom go hand in hand. It takes work, though–tear-filled, gut-wrenching, mind-numbing work to make connections and achieve wisdom. But it is so very worth it, my work of grief will never end. My dream in life now is to rise from this experience and help others heal. 
There are no words that can express my gratitude to Leslie for gracing us with the greatest gift of all, Hadley’s story.  If you would like to know more about Leslie’s journey, you can connect with her on her blog A Sunday Kinda Love or follow Leslie Steele on Facebook.  My heart goes out to you Leslie and AJ. I will never understand why either…
Until Next time,
Namaste!

Back to School: Get Your Feng Shui On!

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Today was the first day back in my classroom after the summer break. I walked into a room with chairs piled on the counter and the students’ desks clustered in the center of the room. My floors were glistening, so I am not complaining.  I was looking at a clean slate, and it was time to reconsider the layout of my classroom. It had been in the same general formation for years, with the exception of the students’ desks.  Like many teachers, I would play around with different seating arrangements.  For the first time, I decided to use all that I knew about energy flow when designing my classroom.

I laid the  bagua map (see image below) on my classroom as my guide. Now, when you walk in my room, you will see a round kidney table in the Children/Creativity section which is enhanced by circular figures to represent the Metal Element.  Imagine all the creative ideas the students will have working together in this area! A large rectangular (horizontal) table is in the relationship corner with an even number of chairs to promote partnership and collaboration. My desk is located in the wealth corner.  Since the wealth and relationship guas are the “power positions” on the bagua map, these are great spaces for the teacher’s desk.  Although I spend little time at my desk, it will be good to occupy the wealth area and welcome in abundance in all of its many forms!

Bagua Map (BTB Feng Shui)

Wealth

Element: Wood

Shape: Vertical Rectangle

Colors: Green, Gold, or Purple

Fame/Reputation

Element: Fire

Shape: Triangle

Colors: Red, Bright Orange

Relationship

Element: Earth

Shape: Square or horizontal rectangle

Colors: Pink, Skin tones, Earth tones

Family

Element: Wood

Shape: Vertical Rectangle

Colors: Green, Brown, Gold or Purple

Health

Element: Earth

Shape: Square or horizontal rectangle

Colors: Yellow, Earth Tones

Children/Creativity

Element: Metal

Shape: Circle

Colors: White, Bright And Pastel Colors, Grey

Knowledge

Element: Earth

Shape: Square or horizontal rectangle

Colors: Blue, Green, or Earth tones

Career

Element: Water

Shape: Wavy/Odd

Colors: Blue, Black or mirrors to represent water

Helpful People/Travel

Element: Metal

Shape: Circle

Colors: White, Bright And Pastel Colors, Gray

FRONT DOOR ENTRANCE LOCATED ON THIS WALL

 

In addition to placing the furniture with intention, I used my bulletin boards to enhance the different guas.  Purple paper covers the large board in the Wealth Gua, while a calming blue takes over the board in the Career Gua. Since there are boards all around the room, and all the guas are represented by different colors, it makes for a very colorful classroom with variety and, most importantly, balance.

Staying Organized

On the first day, the students will proudly unload their brand new folders and sharpened pencils. We will organize their desks and go over everything’s “home” (because “everything has a home.”). Yet sixth graders are bound to throw loose leaf paper in their desk without a folder or leave random capless dried-out pens sitting in their pencil pouch. That is why every Friday we take 10 minutes to clean out our desks, even dust them.  Students who finish early bring out the broom and help sweep the floors.  Others dust the bookshelves and wipe off the surfaces of the countertops and tables.  The students love the extra responsibility, and they feel so much better when their space is organized and well tended to.

classroom library
This Classroom Library would be excellent in the wealth, wisdom/knowledge, or children/creativity guas.  The greens and blues represent abundance and depth of knowledge.  The circular accents bring out the creativity of your students.

Adding Yin Energy

After teaching for a decades, I have learned that it takes a couple of days for the students to warm up and come out of their shell. Once we get into the school year, kids tend to get really comfortable in their home-away-from-home and talk a lot more! This is why I pull out my “feng shui bag of tricks” everyday to keep the classroom calm when it needs to be. Remember the balance of yin and yang.  The classroom already has a lot of yang, or active energy, by nature.  Children, computers, and the fluorescent lights produce a lot of energy that needs to be balanced out.

Add yin, or soft energy, to the environment by playing soft classical or new-age music in the background during work time, especially if the lights are on.  Consider turning the lights off during direct instruction time. If your school allows, use aromatherapy with a diffuser.  Lavender will calm everyone, and citrus scents encourage alertness.  If you don’t have a diffuser, you could place a bowl of fresh orange peels on your desk.  Once they wilt, they not longer have a potent smell and you could replace them.

Sage Spray

Just like  at home, you can conduct mini space clearings in your classroom when the students are out of the room.  Sage lavender spray smells delightful and it clears the energy after any stressful situations.  You can go around the classroom and clap your hands from low to high to break up the stagnant energy.  Open a window to let in fresh air at least once a week.  However, with twenty to thirty pupils in a room everyday, it is probably best to let fresh energy in daily.

Feng shui crystal
Crystals are a great way to deflect negative or harsh energy.   They  will keep teachers  from feeling drained.

Crystals

You can protect your own personal energy and prevent yourself from feeling drained as well.  The feng shui faceted quartz crystal is very powerful.  It can clear any negative energy and deflect harsh energy from computers or people’s negative vibes.  You could carry the crystal in your pocket for protection.  I have even put a crystal on the computer cart in my classroom so that it breaks apart the harsh energy from the tablets.  If you wanted to hang a crystal, cut a nine inch red thread and loop it through the crystal. Hang it in any area of your classroom (or office) that you would like to see improvements.  If you are located near a busy road, you may consider hanging a crystal in the window, or placing it on the ledge of the window, for protection and to calm the energy of the room.

I hope you have a wonderful beginning of the school year!  I will be here all year to answer questions or address any specific concerns that come up throughout the year.  We are entering Mercury Retrograde which means electronics may act up!  Try to have a sense of humor about it, even though this may be the most inconvenient time for your SMART board or e-mail to  go haywire. Join me on facebook for daily tips and positive inspiration!

Until Next Time,

Namaste!

Kristina Hollinger

KristinaHollinger.com

3 Feng Shui Tips for Busy Moms

mommy and abby bwIt is summer again!  For all parents, it means the kids are home from school.  For teachers like me, it means that you are back to being a full-time mom.  I talk about fulfilling your life purpose a lot.  Careers are a very important outlet to serve our communities and give back.  Yet, being a parent is a vocation, or a calling, too.  Some moms or dads are lucky enough to be home with their children full-time. And to you, I tip my hat.  Although parenting is quite possibly the most fulfilling and important job on the planet, it is also challenging and, at times, thankless.  As a teacher, I am preparing myself for the transition of being a working mom, to being a stay-at-home parent.  Here are three ways busy moms can use feng shui to help them embrace parenthood and joyfully live their life purpose as a parent.run to mommy color

Tip One: Mindfulness

It does not matter if you are a working mom or a full-time mom, we forget to live in the present moment all the time!  We need to remind ourselves daily, “She is only going to fit in that 2T top and wear pampers for a short time…” Even though it seems like it will be forever.  The dishes will always be in the sink, and there will always be a pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded. Make it a priority to turn off the TV and just allow your child to lead the way.  All they really want at any given moment is your full attention.

Tip Two: Feng Shui Food

I know you are busy, but here is a quick tip that can help you at the grocery store.  Choose a variety of colored foods when you are shopping for your little ones.  In feng shui there are five elements, which are represented by colors.  In order to be balanced and healthy, we need to have an even dose of all the elements. So a plate filled with multi-colored natural foods is very important. Now that I am back to being a full-time mom, I need to get myself mentally prepared to make a variety of lunches!  My daughter’s day care did such a great job of providing the kids with an array of healthy lunches.  She never got bored because her daily “report card” always said she ate “All” (as opposed to “Some” or “None”) of her food.  This summer I am challenging myself to get as many colors on her plate as I can!

Tip Three: Organization in Moderation

Getting the house organized on a daily basis can be really tough.  We could spend the entire day picking up toys and cereal, not to mention cleaning dishes!  So, here is my suggestion.  Clean up the clutter in moderation.  If you are going to be a “mindful parent” as suggested in tip one, you really can’t obsess over having everything neat and tidy 24/7. I know that as parents we are all struggling to find the balance between housework and play. If anyone has any suggestions,  I would actually appreciate some comments or help with this one!  All  I know is that clutter attracts more clutter and creates a “cluttered mind.”  In order to avoid this, my “plan” for the summer is to clean up after breakfast and then head out of the house!  Go to the park.  Visit the library.  Take a trip to the zoo or a friend’s house.  I feel like this will keep my daughter from tearing everything apart and help me think more clearly; in turn being a more present and mindful parent.

Whatever you do this summer, I wish you all much love and light.  I look forward to connecting with you on my Facebook page !

Until Next Time,

Namaste!

Kristina Hollinger

The Feng Shui Mom: 3 Tips that will benefit you & your kids

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I love being the mom of a little toddler girl! But as we all know, kids can be very energetic and, well, tire you out!  So, I believe that feng shui is very necessary when you have kids. Feng shui has helped me so much when it comes to arranging our home and making it more functional, enjoyable, and, most importantly, peaceful. If there were only three feng shui tips that I could give moms and dads that would help make their living environment feel more harmonious, these would be it:

Tip #1: Crib/Child’s Bed Placement

Just like your bed placement is important, so is your child’s.  Let’s face it, if your child is not sleeping well, then neither are you!  So, here is what you need to remember.  Just like you, it is best for the child’s feet to be facing the door (but NOT in line with the door). Also, it is preferable that the crib is NOT under a window.  Windows drain your energy when you sleep, and you need to “recharge” your energy when you sleep, not lose it.  If you cannot avoid putting the bed under a window, I would recommend getting thick curtains that you can draw at night. Finally, just like your bed, it is best that your child’s is not pushed up against a wall.  If the bed can be accessed on both sides it is ideal; this way, the energy can circulate around the bed throughout the night, providing a rejuvenating rest.

Tip #2: De-clutter

Your home is a reflection of your life.  Even your closets tell a story about what is going on inside of you.  So, even though it is tempting just to throw the toys under the bed, and toss the outgrown clothes into garbage bags that pile up in the closets and garage (guilty!), you and your family will feel so much better if you organize.  “Everything has a place.” (And please don’t let that place be under the bed! Remember the energy needs to circulate around the bed. See Tip #1). If you can’t find a place for something, then donate it to Good Will or have a little garage sale.  Don’t let “things” take over your home.  You might not realize it, but the energy of clutter drags you down.  Clutter attracts more clutter and it becomes overwhelming and stressful.  Start with one room at a time, or one closet at a time.  Take out 9 items everyday to organize, throw away, or donate.  If you do a little each day, you will feel better little by little.  I feel like I am ALWAYS de-cluttering.  In a way it is never-ending, but that is how feng shui works. Since life is always changing, we always need to take some time to improve our environment.

Tip #3: Display Artwork Thoughtfully

The third and final tip is one of my favorite!  In feng shui your home is divided into 9 guas, or areas, that represent your life.  One area is designated to “children and creativity.”  It is located all the way to the right and center when you enter your home.  This area is best activated when you decorate using the metal element, circular shapes, colors of grey, white, and pastels.  In addition, since it represents children & creativity, it is an ideal location for a play table and to display artwork and pictures of your children.  My daughter goes to daycare while I teach, and she does at least one art project daily.  There is no way I could display ALL of her artwork (and if I did, it would be covering at least five walls by now).  I recommend selecting a few pieces and rotating them throughout the school year.  Your children feel so much pride when their work is on display, and if placed with intention, you are sure to attract more creative ways of thinking and expression.  And if you want more kids— you can always decorate this area with that intention too!

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As always, I hope these quick tips help you to feel better in your space!

Until next time, namaste!

Kristina Hollinger