September 30, 2010

restoration: taking a moment

childs pose, originally uploaded by AnnieLaurel.

After my hospital release last november for meningitis, the very first thing I did when I entered the house where I was to recuperate for a few days was walk over to the corner of the room and get into child's pose. no more cold, sterile linoleum- a carpet never felt so inviting. in that moment what had felt like the easiest of poses for years was painfully challenging and deeply cathartic. I knew that body was suffering and needed the deepest of restorative care.

I will never forget that child's pose because I feel like for the first time in 10 years of practicing I came to know the true essence of yoga. it has become the main thing in my life that serves as a way to check in with myself and will always meet me just where I am at on any given day. all that is required of me is that I show up and be prepared to listen. my practice guides me to where I need to go and where I need to stay.

I took this picture on timer a couple of weeks ago as a way of honor ing this pose and to serve as a reminder of how it continues to serve me. At first I was tempted to edit out the baby stroller and the dog butt, but upon second glance I liked what I saw, an image of me taking a moment for restoration amidst the swirling of my everyday life. what would your snapshot look like if you ceased the swirling around you and succumbed to a moment just with yourself and for yourself?

sweet sweet surrender.

September 28, 2010

reflection: tuna the messenger

The first step towards moments of self discovery is to slow down, way way down. this past weekend at the beach I wandered off for some time alone with surf and spirit. after a few deep breaths I noticed that a friend's dog who I had just met that day was following alongside me. I looked back to see if anyone was joining her but she had set out on her own. we walked along together at a sizeable parallel distance- I reveled in the space in our companionship and the companionship in our space.

I then began to hear her speak to me, though she wasn't speaking on her own behalf but on her fellow canine Ollie's behalf, our five year old golden retriever that was at home. I heard her say, "give him a break, he loves you and he really misses you".

Whoosh. in that moment I felt a huge surge of compassion and sorrow and self-admittance. I have been gaining emotional distance from Ollie for awhile now, what truthfully may have started the moment that we brought our daughter home from the hospital almost 2.5 years ago. But lately it has been compounding by the week. the incessant mountain of dog hair, his horrible middle-of-the-night habits of scratching, thumping, panting, and sometimes even peeing on the floor. When he shakes his oversized body in any sort of sunlight i shudder at the cloud of hair and dust that releases from him. his sprinting off to bark at the neighbors and the weight of the task to reel him back in.

he had begun to drive me batty and to be honest i just began to disconnect. but in that moment with tuna on the beach i longed for ollie to be there with me. in all of his glory, with an open expanse of sand and waves and birds to chase. he is currently slave to the moments when we throw the tennis ball and because of his occassional aggression towards other dogs we hardly ever find opportunities for him to run free without fear. but yet he loves. and forgives. and loves and bumbles along some more.

i know that my day to day life frustrations with him will continue but i came home after this weekend with renewed faith in our relationship and a commitment to honoring and being a little gentler with this member of our family. it has been a painful past week for my family and to return to the unconditional love of Ollie is a reminder to me of what sometimes defines family. I have learned by his example that sometimes we have to learn to love from afar, trust in the bonds created over time, and go about our days the best we can, until an unsuspected messenger comes and calls us back together.

we'll see what happens. but mainly i just want to say thank you tuna. and ollie thanks you too.

September 27, 2010

porch toes

porch toes, originally uploaded by AnnieLaurel.

how i wish i was spending this rainy afternoon still rocking on the ocean front porch in pajamas with all of the wonderful women who gathered at papa's palace this past weekend. what a true gift of restoration it was.

September 22, 2010

mourn. revel. release

image from

In honor of the full moon and of the turning of the season this evening, here are a few Autumnal Poems from The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. These were sent to me by my acupuncturist, Sally Robinson. Thank you Sally. You are a tremendous blessing to all.

By the wide ocean, roasting salt,
The fisherwoman's heart burns as
She piles up her grief like firewood.

Think of me in the forgotten sadness of Autumn,
Even though your heart be captured by the moon.

Winds of Autumn,
Saddest season of all,
Scattered the remaining leaves from the trees.

Lying awake,
I heard the cry of the little night owl
As chill moonlight poured through
Bare branches in an ancient image of Autumnal sadness.

Nothing awakens old
Like the Moon.

Click here for an article about the gift from mother nature that we are all in for this evening- the full moon combined with the season turn combined with the sight of jupiter.

Tomorrow I head to the beach with many inspiring women and plan to be casting off alot of cares to the sea. I will be back here next week with pictures and reflections.

11:23pm tonight. go outside. mourn. revel. release.

September 20, 2010

restoration: the front porch

yoga dog, originally uploaded by AnnieLaurel.

for the next week or so my posts will be circling around restoration. as the changing of seasons is upon us, and the coming of the autumnal full moon, i am finding myself agitated by allergies and insomnia- things are all stirred up around and within. I was grateful to read an email from my acupuncturist today that states that in chinese medicine it is regarded as a time that brings up "the breath, letting go (as witnessed by the falling leaves), grief, nostalgia, and connection to Spirit." yes. yes. yes. each of those words rings truer than ever.

my front porch is the place I go to unroll the yoga mat, and restore amidst the trees. however, if I turn around for just a second this furry friend will take over my spot.

September 16, 2010

connection: molly milroy with invisible children

Periodically, as a way to connect with some of the great work and wanderings of folks I admire, I will be posting interviews here. I ask interviewees to view their lives, or a particular experience, through the four realms of restoration, reflection, creation, and connection.

To kick this process off, here is an interview with my beloved little sister Molly Milroy.

r & g: What is your name and your role at Invisible Children?

Molly Milroy, Communications Assistant Intern at Invisible Children.

r&g: What is the mission of the organization?

Invisible Children’s focus is developing a new generation of leaders in northern Uganda (see map above to locate Gulu). This is accomplished through the provision of educational scholarships, mentorship, the rebuilding of secondary academic institutions and other projects. The hope is that, by focusing partially on immediate relief in northern Uganda as well as long-term change in the region, they can have the most positive effect with the resources provided.

r&g: Please describe a typical day in your life there.

I wake up every morning at 6:43 am to the clanging of a bell SOMEWHERE near our compound paired with the crowing of roosters. I usually crawl out of bed around 7, get dressed for the day, and head to the main house for breakfast with the 6 other international IC staff. We drink coffee, eat and talk for about 20 minutes and then leave the compound for the day. We catch “bodas” or motorcycle taxis to work and arrive at the IC office around 8 every morning. In Uganda, it is customary to greet every staff member in every department, so we walk around the office the first 10 minutes of work, peeking out heads in different departments and saying good morning, greeted with beautiful Ugandan smiles and friendly waves.

The work: My first couple weeks were spent working on the Annual Report for IC, doing layout and design. Recently, have been working alongside the “Schools 4 Schools” team, working to photograph every building at the 11 of our partner school’s in Uganda for the new Schools for Schools website, which will be launching soon. It’s a huge project, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far because I get to be out in the field, stomping around with the engineers and seeing projects IC works on.

If I am not out in the field during lunch, myself and the other IC staff typically frequent the Ethiopian Restaurant, Abyssinia, which is next door to the IC office. For $2 you can get a huge plate of ingeera with 6 different vegetable dishes. Amazing! I have become good friends with the folks who run Abyssinia and I am hoping they will teach me the secret of cooking Ethiopian food before I leave. It has been really interesting and devastating to talk to them after the recent bombings that happened in Kampala, as they were targeted at Ethiopians. They expressed to me that this has been very hard for their families and friends, as people now fear going to their businesses.

We head back to the office around 2 pm and the day finishes up around 5. After work, I go for a walk or run around the outskirts of Gulu, chat with our guard (who was in the LRA for many years and has intense stories), and hang out with roommates. Dinner is usually around 7. We are spoiled and have a cook at the house, Doreen, who makes delicious food. It’s been hard, because I love and miss cooking, but it’s nice not to have to worry about buying food and also know that we are providing someone with a good job. Evenings are pretty uneventful. The power is off many nights, so we sit around in candlelight and talk, watch movies on laptops, and usually head to bed pretty early.

r&g: Looking through the four lenses of restoration, reflection, creation, and connection, can you give examples of the work being done by Invisible Children or experiences you have had with the organization?

restoration: IC has helped to restore balance to many people in Uganda. Whether it be through providing school fees and a mentor to beneficiaries, providing a job at the MEND center, a handbag making facility, or teaching microenterprise solutions, IC is creating restoration through programs and interactions.

reflection: This is a hard one. I think reflection is a hard undertaking for many people here. Every person in Northern Uganda has been heavily affected by the conflict and the vibe I have experienced is that many people want to forget about that part of their lives. I was recently talking with someone who was abducted by the LRA when he was 10; I realized that he does not WANT to reflect. It may not be the healthiest way to deal with the situation, but in many ways, it makes sense. He is embarrassed and ashamed about the things he was forced to do and want to extinguish that life from his memories.

To assist with dealing with this trauma, IC provides mentors who help adolescents work through these emotions. They recently implemented a program called KOBS, Knowledge of Behavior and Self. This program addresses the emotional complications students face as a result of trauma. KOBS is a two-year, fifty-class curriculum that aims to help students at our partner schools become more emotionally literate. Because KOBS touches on high-value issues relating to emotional intelligence—all students benefit from being able to read their emotions—it satisfies a compulsory component of the Ministry of Education’s guidance and counseling curricula. A pilot initiative, KOBS could be adopted at secondary schools across the region if it proves to be transformative for students. The class targets students in grades S1 and S2. Over the course of two years, a leading educational psychologist with a teaching background worked on creating the KOBS’ content. As of now, no similar curriculum for secondary students exists in Uganda.

creation: The Invisible Children MEND program is a great example of creation. MEND is an IC program that employs women who are ex-abductees. MEND teaches how to create high-quality handbags and is an opportunity for these women to learn a sustainable skill and earn a steady income for themselves and their families. Started almost three years ago, MEND currently employees 13 women and has provided them with the knowledge and resources necessary to become successful seamstresses. I recently got a change to visit the MEND center, and it was amazing. To be able to witness these women creating beautiful purses, laughing, and connecting with each other was a joy to behold. I couldn’t help but wonder where they would be if it was not for this program. Currently, IC is working to build a new MEND center, that will be able to hold 50-100 seamstresses.

connection: One of IC’s strongest driving forces is the roadie tour, groups of young volunteers who raise awareness about IC by driving around in vans all over the US, showing screenings of the IC movie and answering questions about IC. The tour this year (which is probably coming to a town near you! Check the IC site for details) is called the Face-to-Face tour and features Ugandan advocates telling their stories. The IC website, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media are huge reasons why there is such a strong turnout at many of the events.

About the Face to Face Tour: “When Jolly Okot (Invisible Children’s Country Director in Uganda) pitched us the idea of being her own advocate and going on tour with the Roadies, The Legacy Tour was born. It became a tour of unparalleled authenticity – allowing the people of northern Uganda to tell their stories face-to-face at screenings across North America.And now, in the Fall of 2010, The Face-to-Face Tour is the next stage of her dream to have Ugandans advocating for themselves.The top students from our Legacy Scholarship Program are embarking on 11 different tours across North America with our Roadie teams. They will be sharing how Invisible Children’s programs are rebuilding education for a region recovering from over 20 years of war.These students have overcome all odds. They are night commuters, child mothers, displaced persons, orphans by war. They refuse to be defined by their past, pushing forward to define their own futures.Now, you can attend a screening, watch our films and hear directly from those who have overcome unimaginable odds to represent peace, justice and hope for the people of northern Uganda.Book a screening. And meet the Advocates Face-to-Face.”

r&g: Final question, please tell us about an instance or experience in which you felt grateful to be where you are.

I feel like the past few years, since college, I have been running full force forward, working at a PR firm, learning about the corporate world, and not giving myself time to breath. Since moving here, aside from work, I have allowed myself to relish in the pleasure of reading books, exploring, writing letters, and just being alone. Many times since I have been here, I have revisited the quote: “never forget, that once, in an unguarded moment, you considered yourself a friend.” That has been my saving grace while in Gulu.

Another instance comes to mind that I recently described on my blog. Not long ago I was on a jog in the outskirts of Gulu. On the final stretch home, it seemed that everyone I passed greeted me with the most genuine smile and wave, or even words of support, in their beautiful accents: “You have completed your exercise, well done!” or “Congratulations my friend! You have won the race! Good Evening!” There are times when I have felt out of place here, wondered what I am doing here, but that day reaffirmed why I am here. I am surrounded by incredible human beings, beings who have all survived an awful war, who have experienced more death, hurt, sacrifice and sadness than any of us will ever experience, beings who sustain the will to continue after such destruction, and they are the most welcoming, caring people I have ever been around. That jog made me feel truly grateful to be where I am."

to keep up with Molly's adventures in Uganda and learn about ways you can help support her work you can go to her blog at:

you can also learn more about invisible children at:

September 14, 2010

creation: the art of an album

It has been awhile since I have come across an album that has the ability to take me places from start to finish, and invites me deeper into its folds each time I listen to it. these days it appears to be all about singles, and the art of crafting an album experience seems to be dying out a bit. i love how the journey of listening to a complete album can take you down the meandering roads of restoration and reflection and can connect us to the kindred spirits of music lovers that we miss in our day-to-day lives.

a few of the albums that quickly pop into mind when thinking about these types of albums are: Joni Mitchell's Blue, Bob Dylan's Blood On the Tracks, Paul Simon's Graceland, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, Gillian Welch's Soul Journey, Avett Brothers' Emotionalism. and my husband may argue The Best of Bread. :) This year, for me, it is Mumford and Sons Sigh No More. they maybe aren't of the same caliber as some of the albums I mentioned but their album is solid- all the way through.

Here is a link to a video from a couple of years ago of lead singer Marcus Mumford playing "Roll Away Stone" solo in Amsterdam, I think it is a good introduction to what is behind this quickly rising British group.

"and there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears. and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair. "

- after the storm by mumford and sons

what albums have you been journeying with lately?

September 13, 2010

reflection: the preciousness of open-ended days

childhood photo in lake district

Recently, a friend and I were talking about how much we savor the open-ended nature of our current days with our little ones, but that we have to be honest with ourselves, and others, about how worn out we often find ourselves. we talked about the preciousness of these moments, regardless of how exhausting they can be when actually in the moment. I explained how maybe by looking at our own childhoods we can possibly regain motivation for our current efforts. I believe that the confidence and basic love of life that I developed in my early years gave me the skills I needed to overcome some of the turbulence of later years, and for that i am truly grateful.

These days, while viewing life through the eyes of a two year old, I find myself thinking alot about my own early childhood in scotland and england. my happiest memories generally revolve around the following things: nature, unstructured days, tea time, stories in bed, lazy rainy dark afternoons, kitchen activity, picnics, imaginary play with various inanimate characters, all sorts of people coming in and out, outings to various beautiful sites (lots of stone and places to hide), and a sense of discovery and general playfulness.

The elements of my own early childhood are many of the same ones that I am hoping, and working, to pass on to my little one. today I had the joy of exploring along the parkway and hiking with my father and daughter. it thrilled me to see her pick up on his unique sense of humor on her own and to experience some of the playfulness with him that I held dear as a child.

I know that our road together as parent and child will not always be smooth. however, I hold great hope that she will one day look back at these early days and feel like she knows who she is and kindly regards the people who circled her with love. most of all though, I hope that upon reflection she finds treasures in this time and is able to revive some of these elements as a way to reconnect with herself.

what elements would you like to pass on, or simply reconnect yourself with, from your own childhood?

September 9, 2010

restoration: the shifting of seasons

Here in the mountains, as in many places, folks long for and savor the precious season of fall and all of the nostalgia that comes with it. even though we are not offically there yet, you can already feel its thrill calling: the first time you pull out your favorite jeans and put on your beloved boots (still wearing the same pair of cowgirl boots for 15 years now, don't care what any trend forecasts, they will always be with me). the instant buzz you feel as you inhale the crisp air and look up at the truest of blue skies and exhale the dampness of an overly drippy summer. the promise of upcoming apple crisps,cider, hearty ales, and bluegrass music. and even if you are not necessarily a football fan, a good fall tailgating session can't be beat.

What fall also is, is a time to shed: a shedding of all that won't nourish us in the coming winter months and stocking up on all that will. chopping the wood. preparing the soup. swinging on the porch and feeling kinship to the trees shedding alongside you. drawing in closer to the dearest of friends and family. calling up the library to put the books you have been longing to read on hold.

and finding stillness. by mountain streams. by the ocean expanse. I am always called to be by water in the fall, it is where I often find the ultimate source of nourishment for the soul. I encourage you to find your rock or your spot in the sand sometime during this fall and cast off anything that you don't want to have journey with you into the winter. if it is anything like last year, it is going to be a long one so let's hope this fall is a long one too.

September 7, 2010

what lies ahead in revelry and grace

Following this post, I will begin the process of labeling each post as either a "restoration", "reflection", "creation" or "connection" (hence the tagline) so that the intention of this site can be more clear for myself and others. below is the long-winded story of how this blog came into being and what I hope for it to be.

I needed a place to put all of these thoughts so here goes ( I don't really expect you to read all of this but would of course be honored if you did):

In the fall of 2009 what began as insomnia and a cold, snowballed into a grueling episode of viral meningitis, including hospitalization and a lengthy recovery. as I worked to restore my physical health I also became aware of the inner work that was calling to be done in order to regain balance and recover from profound exhaustion, intense medical therapies, and long term pain.

Serendipitously, during my first ever blog surfing episode, I discovered Susannah Conway’s Unravelling course and through photography, writing, and connecting with others in the journey, I began to peel back the layers, and started the process of reconnecting and honoring myself, and breathing new energy into my creative endeavors.

During this journey, two words began to follow me, their intertwined, all-encompassing spirits continuing to catch my attention as I looked back, within, or forward. I committed them to paper and put them aside. it wasn’t until mid-summer that they knocked on the door again and asked for new life in their union- hence the birth of revelry and grace. parameters undefined, I granted them full access to my heart and mind, and soon afterwards decided that this space would be where their connection would come into light.

For me, what lies at the site of an intersection of "revelry" and "grace" are some of the greatest treasures we can stumble upon. it may happen when looking upon something as seemingly simple as sunlight and gentle breeze making its way through tender branches, or experiencing the moment when you can finally play a long practiced piece of music, or you witness yourself or someone else ascending into a handstand with ease. These moments often appear as fruits of our own labor or when acknowledging the hard work of others.

And yet at other times, these intersections are precious gifts from the beyond, a reward offered to us for simply being present, or “showing up”, no other “work” required. though it is challenging to capture the spirit of these moments, the intent of revelry and grace is to remind us to trust in the existence of such moments, commit to seeking them out, and invite them to take up residence in our lives. this site is not a place to only honor the celebrations of life but also the sometimes painful or complicated journey towards these celebrations.

As a small business developer, or as “someone who helps to birth and nurture dreams” as I prefer to call it, I am often helping clients to convey their mission, purpose, vision, etc… through the language of mission and vision statements, taglines, and bios. I generally ask them a series of provoking (agitating) questions to get at the heart of what is motivating them in their business and how they want to relay this to their future clients.

I would often tend to see this process as a relatively simple step-by-step procedure until the amorphous beautiful shape/meaning of revelry and grace began to visit me. These conventional processes of defining a vision that had worked for me in the past were now calling to be thrown out of the window. Instead, the language and meanings begun to visit me in their own time through dreams, in between states of consciousness, during walks in the woods or splashes in the bath tub.

I remembered how much I loved the (lengthy) process of naming my child, allowing myself to become completely entangled in webs of alliteration. joining words together to create what a new precious being would be called- it had to be a name of meaning, of beauty, part nature-part lullaby. and so the process of generating the tagline for revelry and grace was much more reminiscent of this type of experience. The following four simple words came to me finally, and sat down in front of me with remarkable ease and confidence: Restore. Reflect. Create. Connect. It was as if they were saying, “you need us. you have needed us, you will need us, and we are here to help you move your tired butt forward”.

I soon realized that within, and between these words, lay the vehicles for my heart’s intention within revelry and grace. I could begin to use them as filters through which I could process the swirling content of my inner life and translate it in a way that makes sense and adds meaning. I don’t hold any expectation or desire for life to fit neatly and only into one of these four realms. rather, I am looking for a way to identify, and give voice to, life experiences. I feel as if once we give them permission to “take up home” in one of these realms, then the experience is free to travel and gain more light through the other three, and yet each experience can still maintain a sense of identity and confidence in their own standing. for example, a work of art may be labeled as a “creation” while the process of creating it can be honored as an opportunity for "restoration”. A story of an interaction with a stranger may primarily be serving as a "reflection" but then becomes an opportunity for "connection".

On brene brown’s ordinary courage site, one day she shared that her counselor had helped her approach life through “integrating, not altercating” between various components/facets/experiences. I would take that a step further to say that revelry and grace advocates for working towards integration, while maintaining respect for boundaries and obstacles and the support/clarity that they can offer.

whew. it felt good to commit those words to screen and now ready to move on. the next post will start the cycle and be dedicated to "restoration". stay tuned....

September 3, 2010

Honoring the Moments

A while back someone shared this moments video with me and I watched it over and over and passed it along to a few friends. I had forgotten about it, but pulled it back up the other day and once again found myself watching it repeatedly. each time a different moment strikes a chord.

Today the strongest reaction came for me with the school aged girl who shoots her hand up in the air. I don't know exactly yet what it is for me that lies in that moment, but it caused me to well with tears -- something in her eagerness--that look of thinking you know the answer, being scared to say something, but being compelled to say something anyways.

the emotions so often come before the words.

pausing to watch this here and there is a wonderful gage for me on where my emotions are residing. the moments that speak most clearly to me change all of the time, just as my emotions do.

Which shots stir something in you today?

September 1, 2010

what these words mean

I do not want to go much deeper into the process of creating this space without defining what it means to me. i have spent hours journaling about the following six words and their true meanings, focusing on the way they relate to each other and the potential that exists in their interplay. however, i feel like the first step in sharing pieces of that process is for me to lay out the already accepted definitions of each.

we use words every day that we come to take for granted and assume to know the true definition of, but over time the lines that separate them from their peers can begin to blur, and in that process there is room for substantial loss of connection and intention.

so, below are the definitions of the six words that have called me here. the first two are obviously the title of the site and came to visit me in unison last winter, and the following four generate the tagline. though some of these words have multiple definitions, the definitions I chose to feature below are the ones that really speak to me.

i felt the need to hold each of these words in my hands today and blend them with some of the images that already reside in my life ; an untacked vision board of sorts. so i scattered them across the dining room table and snapped a few shots (image above). coming sometime soon: ramblings on the journey I have cast these words on.

revelry: unrestrained merrymaking, a boisterous celebration

grace: mercy; to give beauty, elegance, or charm to; a reprieve; seemingly effortless charm of movement; to embellish; to honor; a sense of propriety or consideration for others; divine (supremely good) assistance.

restore: to return to an original or former condition. To bring back to health and good spirits. To return to life. To get or give new life or energy.

reflect: to make apparent, express, or manifest; to bend back; to mirror; to express carefully considered thoughts; to meditate or ponder

create: to cause to exist; to bring into being; to give rise to; to produce through artistic or imaginative effort

connect: to join together; to establish a rapport or relationship; to become united, to be meaningfully related; to link; to establish communication.

what words dance in your own heart?