18 December, 2017

Hope Floats

There are so many parts to grief.  Although I believe Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages is accurate and helpful-  when one looks at just the stages they are  a simplification of the process as a whole.  I have been through each stage-  some visit and revisit.

It can take a long time to sort it all out.
It is hard to believe it has been 3 years since my baby died.   She would be in Kindergarten this year. 
And as much as I long to see her bright eyes and hug her, I can not.
Today I am struck by a photo I took on her last Christmas.  Two little girls in their Christmas dresses.  Oh how I loved dressing my girls up. 
Today I am missing seeing my children together- playing, being silly,  running around being kids.  I often wonder what life would be like if she were still with us-  Today I am thinking specifically about how RubyCatherine and Elias’s life might be different?   And again I am reminded (by myself) to breathe. Love. Be mindful.  Live this moment... pain and all.    Joy will follow.

I wrote this tonight... I write the same poem over and over and over.  I just use different words. :)

sinking in pain.
I must pass through this shadow to gain…

To gain peace
To gain light
All my love uncovering
I brave the dark times
To expose my soul to the suffering

Experiencing All there is
I gain depth and compassion
A cup full of heartache was only part my ration

For, before I could suffer
A pain of this weight
I had to know,
Something {that} great.

My heart is full
And I love to its depth
This means a deep and wide breadth

I have my memories
I honor my bestowment
I don’t need much more…

For, I have THIS moment.

01 December, 2017

Share Kindness and Compassion this Season


n April 2013, I lost my wedding ring. It had been my grandmothers wedding ring- and she passed it to my husband Eric just before we were engaged. There were many repairs and new stones needed. Eric had the ring fixed up and sparkling like new when he proposed at Bridal Veil Falls in April 2001. 
To others my ring might not be something special, but to me it was magnificent. It symbolized very important people and meaning in my life. 
My grandmother, who I call SGA, Sweet Grandma Ardy. I remember seeing the silvery sparkle of her ring as we washed dishes. She always whistled as she worked. 
My husband, best friend, life partner. Eric Castle. I love that he cared enough to listen and know how special that ring was to me, that he took the time to drive to Idaho, get it and have it fixed up for me- all with out me knowing. A symbol of his love. 
About a month before I lost my treasured ring I was preparing for a 12 day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I had a dream just before my trip. 
I dreamt I saw my ring slowly sinking in the green glacial waters of the Colorado. Bubbles, silt and icy green waters all around as it settled through the rough water. I can still see the powerful image in my mind. Yet, most significantly in this dream was the deep felt emotion. 
Interestingly enough, the emotion was an overwhelming peace. It was the feeling that everything is okay. Even if my treasured ring is gone, I have the most important part of the ring with me already, a kind loving partner with whom I can share life and beyond. For that I am so grateful. It gave me a chance to reflect on the symbolism of the ring. Love. Commitment. Those are two things that I still had- even if my ring was at the bottom of the river. 
But alas, it was just a dream. I still had the ring on my finger. The Grand Canyon trip went off with out a hitch- I loved spending time with my brothers on the river. On my way home to Minnesota I stayed with my parents in Idaho. My hands were very dry after nearly two weeks on the River. I took my ring off to put on lotion and walked away. I never saw the ring again. I had a theory that Ruby Catherine flushed it- because I turned the house upside down looking for it. It was gone. 
Of course I remembered the dream. And again I was at peace. It is not the heirloom jewelry that mattered. Its people, experiences, love, compassion that matter. I loaded up my two precious girls in the car, Elizabeth and Ruby Catherine and we drove back home across the country to Crookston, Minnesota. 
Much has happened in the space of the nearly 2 years in between then and now. Including the greatest loss of my life. My sweet Elizabeth passed away unexpectedly in her sleep just 3 weeks before her 2nd birthday in May 2014. Losing a child is something no parent should have to face. Pain profound. I miss her so much it hurts. I long to cuddle her little body and kiss her cheeks- I want to read her stories and teach her big vocabulary words and then proudly smile when she uses them. 
This holiday season has been a challenge, painful, yet peaceful. Christmas morning I just wanted to hold my Elizabeth as the magic unfolded under the Christmas tree. All season I have had the strong urge to give Lizzy a gift. In her short life she gave me so much. 
As the kids were playing with their new treasures I noticed a little note near the stockings, a clue, which led to a series of clues which lead me to a tiny box.
No! It couldn’t be. No, I thought. No. 
But it was! I opened the box to find my wedding ring. I slid it back on to my finger after nearly two years of its absence. 
Things are a lot different now. A lot. Yet, I still love Eric and am glad to be sharing my life with him. I have 3 beautiful children- one who is on the other side of the veil guiding me and bringing peace to my heart. 
So this year, my gift to Lizzy is the gift of kindness & compassion. To be given through acts of service and compassion. 
But I need help. I need help giving kindness, service, and compassion. I want it to spread and grow. So, I am asking friends, colleagues, neighbors, loved ones and strangers alike to help me. You. I am asking you! Help me spread Lizzy’s gift. Pay it forward. Lizzy’s most consequential gift to me is the profound peace she continues to bring to my heart. 
Let Lizzy’s Peace enter your heart. Please write to me about a kind act you did or someone did for you. Spread Lizzy’s Peace. 
I am a mother, a poet, a counselor, a teacher, a woman, an ordinary person striving to live in the moment. My youngest daughter, Elizabeth, brought a sweet peace to my heart from the moment I first laid eyes on her. In May 2014, just shy of her second birthday, my Lizzy died unexpectedly in her sleep. As difficult as the following months have been, Lizzy continues to bring me the peace that I need. Her spirit lives on. She is teaching me to live in the moment, to soak up the light when it shines. To brave the darkness allow the hurt to let my little light shine. She is teaching me to be more compassionate. To honor each moment I’m given. To bring out the best in myself and others. I believe all good things come from God. And Lizzy was certainly heaven sent. The purpose of this column is to spread Lizzy’s Peace, to take time to be present, compassionate and kind to bring out the best side of YOU. Please share your experience of spreading compassion and kindness or of your experience receiving kindness and compassion. Write to me at: thelambcastle@gmail.com

15 November, 2017


Today I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on  Mindfulness and Yoga for Children by Crystal McCreary.  Amazing workshop in Fargo, ND.

Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness  and curiosity.  Dr. Amy Saltzman

And again I remind myself...   striving to live each moment. The good, the bad, the ugly.

11 August, 2017

Pockets of Light

Pockets of Light

In the forest
Sun beaming down
Yet only pockets of light appear

As in life
Love transcends
Yet we see only hurt and fear

Opening windows
Opening doors
Allowing light to flow in

When the light reflects
In our hearts
Only then may the love begin

22 July, 2017


After months of house hunting and still living in our trailer, Eric and I walked into a home we love.  We loved it so much we didn’t want to leave.  It is right by University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
We scheduled a 2nd showing.  And before we could go inside we decided to take the kids by to look at the yard.  The owners were home, so I knocked to see if it would be okay to take a peek in the back yard.   The owners are a recently retired professor couple.  Carl answered the door.

We visited a bit, and he invited us inside.  Again we loved the home… and our kids loved their cat! We talked for sometime.  And when we were leaving I asked “Carl, what is your last name?”
“Barrentine”, he replied.

“I know a Barrentine”.

Carl looked at me quizzically.  “There are not many Barrentines”, he said.

“She was my first grade teacher back in Idaho”.

A moment of silence passed.

Carl's kind eyes became serious as he looked right into mine and asked, “Did you go to Indian Hills Elementary”?
Chills shot up my spine and tears filled my eyes.  We had not spoken at all of living outside of North Dakota/Minnesota.  How could he know?  With a quiver in my voice I asked “Is this Mrs. Barrentine's house?”

Indeed it was.  And we are buying the Barrentine residence.  I could not be more thrilled. 
Mrs. Barrentine was my Angel in first grade.  How I loved her!  She had long brunette curls and smiling eyes.  Her classroom was a happy and safe place for all who entered.  Her positive energy permeated her classroom.

Carl, dialed Mrs. Barrentine on his phone and soon we were speaking.  We met as soon as we could.  Picture albums,  memories, hugs and more tears.

It was a glorious reunion with my favorite teacher.
She shared her photo album of 1981-82 first grade class.  She is amazing.  She remembers names and told me stories.  We laughed and cried over these decades old memories.  What a treat to be in touch with such an amazing person.  What an impact she has had on so many lives.

Thank you Mrs. Barrentine (Now Dr. Barrentine).  What an a amazing legacy you leave.  

From top left:  Heather Christensen, Steven Rock, Jenny Anderson, Heidi Lamb, Heather Rademacher, Michael Lenroot, Lynisa Nalder, Rachel Benson, Jarrod Matthews, Nancy Grail, Jimmy Riley, Matthew Ormond, Ryan Grayson,
Next Row:  Joshua Fichel, Phillip Redd, Lance Berry, Benji Souza,
Front Row: Marc Schmidt, Michelle Gayhart, Whitney Gaved, Kristopher McGee, David Jensen, 

10 June, 2017

Ketichikan, Alaska

Creek Street
Totum bight
Banana slugs longer than
My child's height.
Saxman Village,
City park
Lake Perseverance
Hiked 5 miles
Before she made her appearance
Salmon berries,
Temperate Rain forrest
Ketichikans is where earths green is harnessed.

Our last day in Ketchikan was bittersweet. We love this rainforest city in Alaska. The salmon capital of the world.

28 April, 2017

Alley Alive- Grand Forks, North Dakota

Alley Alive was an evening of music, friends and fun.  I think it is a must do every spring.
Good Friends.  Good Times.

06 February, 2017

True Pain knows True Joy

I miss her everyday.
Sunrise beach clean up with my son Elias today was,  well…  Beautiful sunrise, amazing waves, and the remnants of yesterdays celebrations scattered for miles.  It is constitution day in Mexico.  We gathered 3 bags of discarded plastic and styrofoam.   It was an amazing, disheartening, beautiful, difficult, joyful, challenging experience.  For many reasons.

So, Ive been reflecting and asking.  How does one survive the tragedies of life?  How do we get through times of utter pain, despair, hurt beyond knowledge?

The thing is… pain is real.  Deep suffering occurs because something happened to you.  And you have choices.  You can choose how you deal with your suffering.  However, there are wrong ways to suffer.  Or maybe I should say there are ways to suffer that only lead to more suffering.

We all suffer.  We all experience pain.   And when we push the pain away, distract ourselves, pretend that it didn’t happen, we only create an underlying anxiety.  The pain doesn’t go away if you simply cover it up.  It remains unseen.  And the anxiety of hiding the pain is often more painful than the pain itself.

So, I do my very best to brave the darkness, allow the hurt and let my little light shine. Moment by moment by moment, Feeling it.  I’ve said it before… and I’ll say it again.  To know true joy, you must experience pain (we all experience pain).  So don’t cover it up- brave those dark moments. Cry.  Hurt. Allow.  Be.   If everything in life was rainbows and roses…  we wouldn’t appreciate it.  We wouldn’t know that rainbows are promising and special. And roses smell sweet and hold color and beauty.   We know this because we have seen stinky trash, land fills, pollution and more.

I am going to make some a bold statements here.  There is joy in pain.  There is pleasure in displeasure.  There is good in bad.  There is beauty in ugliness.
To know the good is to know the bad.
Love hurts.

As a parent who lost a child, as a woman who has suffered through an abusive marriage, as a mother of living children that I hurt for daily, I know pain.  And I have the wonderful, beautiful, amazing gift of knowing love.

And I conclude, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is allowing them to suffer.  To suffer the natural consequences of ones own choices is part of the process to finding true joy.  

23 January, 2017

Disney Alaska~

I met my husband in Alaska back in the summer of 2000.  He on break from BYU and I, hitch hiking around the state finding adventures.

It was a surreal time in my life.  A time of new found hope and healing for me.  It is an amazing gift to return to AK each summer as a family.  Still, a place of healing, heart healing.  Now watching my children enjoy this magnificent green land is truly a gift.

The Disney Wonder will be our home for a month this summer.  It is an amazing ship.  It was remodeled since we were last on board.  I am especially excite to try Tiana's Place- the new restaurant.

17 January, 2017

7 Years on the planet- Happy Birthday Ruby Catherine

I am a little surprised at how much they love school here in Mexico.
Friendships have come easily and naturally.

Ruby Catherine wanted a horse riding birthday party. 
It was a very fun day in Mexico, and it wouldn't be complete with out a piƱata.

12 January, 2017

Local Schools

I'm volunteering at a local school for a few hours each morning.  It has been a wonderful learning experience, both for me and my kids.  
Only Spanish is spoken at school.  
We are all increasing our vocabulary.

The best part though, is the FRIENDS! We have met so many wonderful kids and teachers.

So, as a special educator I have made several observations in this school here in Isle de la Piedre, Mexico.  It is interesting to me to see how other countries and cultures work with children, including those with special needs. 

There are a number of children with special needs at the school, some with physical disabilities and some with other challenges.  Just as in the states, some of the children need/benefit from having a paraprofessional in the classroom.   At this school most of the paraprofessionals are the parent or relative of the child with special needs, and if they are not, they are paid by the family of the child with special needs.  I am not writing to place judgement on their system in any way.  

I see pros and cons to this kind of system.  Pro: the child is working with someone who knows them and their specific needs well.  Con:  The child's parent is unable to get income during their time spent at the school which can lead to financial struggle.  The list could go on...   I just observe.  And the more time I spend in these classrooms the more I love the people.  

06 January, 2017

Here's to Adventures in 2017

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.  -Buddha

Our adventure continues.  We love Mexico.  Living in an RV has its pros and cons.  Overall we are pleased with our situation.  I really miss having a bath tub, but seeing the ocean from my kitchen table is truly a gift. 

The kids have met some friends.  At our trailer park there are kids who to attend the local school, so we decided to give it a try for a month.  Awesomeness.  I volunteer every day, helping with reading and English, and I also get to spend 1:1 time at the school reading with my kids.  It creates a nice structure in our daily routine. (one of the cons of our last location).  Life is good.  

In all situations there is opportunity for joy.  I hope I can focus my lens on the abounding joy around me.  We live on a little island somewhat isolated.  We ride a boat to town if we need something the market here doesn't have-  Or if we need Urgent Care because we just got stung by a Sting Ray.  The boat ride is about 8 minutes and costs 8 pesos.

The island is indigenous- owned by the native tribe.  No one can buy land on the island-  only rent or if you build a structure (ie house, restaurant, laudria) you do not own it..  The tribe owns it.  It is actually very interesting.   No one owns anything here unless they are native.  Most of the island is 3rd world living.  As I drove the kids to school this morning we passed a mother hen with a cluck of new baby chicks.  I ride my bike around a lot more here than I did in Mazatlan.  It is amazingly beautiful.  Definitely my favorite location so far.

Ruby Catherine was stung by a Sting Ray.
It was traumatic and painful.  The venom can cause serious reactions depending on the location of the sting, how deep the barb went it etc...  Ruby Catherine is fine.  We were at Urgent Care for several hours as she received an IV to counter act the venom.  Apparently this is a little more common here than in Minnesota.  Ha.  The doctor was a young (yet quite skilled) woman.  And health care here is incredibly cheap when compared to the US.

03 January, 2017

Villa del Mar

We said goodbye to this lovely little Villa today.  We really enjoyed our time here.  Alfredo the owner was kind and helpful.  The showers were always clean and had hot water.  I could hear the ocean waves from my bedroom window.  What more can a girl want?

Enrique Nacho Tigre Fernandez Castillo de Jesus

I love this cat.  So much.   He is our family therapist, our entertainment, and my mid-life motherhood fulfillment.  And he is naughty... ...