(Image credit: WorldLifestyle.com)

Today, I would like to share a poem I wrote. It was inspired by the practice of mindfulness, which has helped me cope with depression and anxiety.

I first learned how to be mindful in an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class taught by my husband's aunt, Carol Hendershot, co-founder of the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness.

Some of the most helpful techniques I learned from Carol's class included deep breathing, mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful listening, mindful yoga and mindfulness in meditation

The first practice Carol taught us was called the body scan. Lie down on your back and let your mind drift over your whole body, noticing every part of it. We used a CD recording to help guide us through this practice. 

The body scan put me in touch with the areas in which I carry tension; it taught my mind to be attuned to what my body is feeling and doing (or not doing).

This poem is largely based on the body scan, but also includes aspects of other practices we learned in Carol's class.

Meditations on Mindfulness
By Rachel E. Watson

I meditate.
I scan my body,
noticing everything.

My left great toe, my right great toe,
my ankles and joints,
my parts great and small,
the sections that make me whole.

The winter in my heart,
the spring in my brain,
the fall in the pit of my stomach,
when I heard your life-changing news.
The summer I felt when last
we were together.

In noticing myself, I’m here to observe,
not to judge or to blame.
But the factual truth about noticing,
is noticing won’t let me go.

In the rhythm of my breath,
the rise and fall of my chest,
I find new marching orders.

I reach inside and seize my plough,
ripping up those old, worn cow-paths
and seeding the ground
with vibrant perennials.

A garden I sow
in the earth of my mind—
all because of this little thing
called noticing.


The Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness was founded by Carol Hendershot and April Hadley, two longtime local yoga and mindfulness instructors. 

GRCFM teaches mindfulness techniques based on the work of John Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn's work established a scientific basis for using mindfulness techniques to manage chronic pain, reduce stress and promote whole-body wellness.

Free Information/Orientation Sessions for MBSR Classes

The GRCFM's next Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses begin the week of June 8. GRCFM will offer several free orientation sessions to acquaint participants with the specifics of the eight-week course, including rates and scholarship opportunities.

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 25 and June 1
Where: Holistic Care Approach
, 3368 East Beltline Ct. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

When: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 27 and June 3 

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 28 and June 4 
Where: Energy Touch Center
, 1331 Lake Drive SE, Suite 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Note: I was not paid to write this article; I am not in any way affiliated with GRCFM besides the fact that Carol is my aunt. We took her class and fell in love with mindfulness, and that's why I write. Give it a try! It works. 
Memorial Weekend is not just for barbecues. It's a holiday for remembering departed loved ones who devoted their lives to serving our country.

Lt. Col. Rodney Fausett

My uncle, my mother’s brother, Rod Fausett, was one such man. He died two years ago in April, just two months shy of his 56th birthday.

Uncle Rod had retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2007, after 25 years of military service. Despite all his time in far-flung places during peaceful and turbulent periods, and despite six years of post-Army work as a civilian contractor, it wasn't his job that claimed his life after all.

He died in a motorcycle accident on a bright spring Saturday, April 6, 2013.

Even in retirement, Uncle Rod was serving our country, via his work as a military analyst for L-3 MPRI, a global contracting firm. Had he lived past age 55, I know he would have found a way to keep serving in whatever capacity he could, until his last breath. He was just that kind of man.

Full of life and passion

Uncle Rod was dedicated. Warm-hearted. Articulate. Full of sly wit. Intelligent. A fun goofball. Fond of a good cigar. Wore those trademark Hawaiian shirts whenever possible.

Uncle Rod sports one of his infamous Hawaiian shirts while hanging out with his kids,
from left, Sarah, Jenna and Matthew, Memorial Weekend 2009.
(Photos courtesy of Jenna Fausett)

I never had the chance to know him as well as I would have liked, as he spent most of my childhood in places like Detroit, Florida and Germany, then settled his family in Leavenworth, Kansas, when I was a teenager.

But I do remember a collection of little things, from our trips to Kansas and their visits to Michigan.

I remember his love of storytelling. I remember his fondness for grilling and cooking excellent meals. I remember how he spent hours combing ancestry.com and other genealogy websites for Fausett family records, emailing hundreds of pages of correspondence back and forth with my mom. The project united their curious minds.

I remember his silences. How he could be so quiet, then something would spark that tumultuous belly laugh, and the stoic front would melt into a hundred smile lines.

A deep family bond

As a niece observing his life from a distance, I remember witnessing his bond with his children, Sarah, Jenna and Matthew, and feeling blessed by it. I got the sense that, despite the necessity of uprooting the family for each new assignment, and the pain of divorce and geographical separations, he was the kind of dad who inspired deep devotion and fierce loyalty.

That sense was never stronger than at his funeral. His eldest, my cousin Sarah, read pages of memories she and her siblings had written the night before. My heart ached for her and Jenna, who each would walk down the aisle with their grooms later that year — without their dad to escort them.

His legacy lives on

Even though he's gone, be assured: His legacy lives on in his children.

I see it in Sarah’s wit, intelligence and curiosity, her passion for science — she is a genetic biologist — and her love of travel — she lives in France. I see Uncle Rod’s kindness, sensitivity and groundedness in Jenna, the young mom who lives and works in Leavenworth, Kansas, Uncle Rod’s last base before he retired. I see his often-quiet demeanor and soft heart in Matthew, who works with his hands fixing cars in Lansing, Kansas, not saying much in groups, but quick to smile, fond of a summer fishing trip, and devoted to his mom and sisters.

May you always rest in peace, dear Uncle Rod. May you be richly rewarded for the lives you have touched.
Amos Lee
I recently came across "The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver," a lovely collection of cover songs by various blues, country, folk, pop, rock and soul musicians.

Amos Lee's cover of "Some Days Are Diamonds" is one of my favorite numbers on the album. The song was written and recorded in 1976 by country singer Dick Feller. But it didn't hit the Billboard charts until John Denver recorded and released it as a single in May 1981.

In his 2013 cover, Lee enfolds Feller's pensive lyrics with his soulful, bluesy voice and gentle acoustic guitar picking. He plays with the tempo and melody, transforming the song from the rollicking version Denver recorded to a more contemplative, emotionally poignant tune.

There are plenty of things to like about Feller's original piano, guitar and strings version, and about Denver's bouncy cover, but Lee's rendition stirs my guts. 

See what I mean below:

"Some Days Are Diamonds"

Lyrics and music by Dick Feller, cover arrangement by Amos Lee

When You asked how I've been here without you
I'd like to say I've been fine and I do. 
But we both know the truth is hard to come by
And if I told the truth, that's not quite true 

Some days are diamonds some days are stones 
Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone 
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones 
Some days are diamonds some days are stones. 

Now the face that I see in my mirror
More and more is a stranger to me 
More and more I can see there's a danger 
In becoming what I never thought I'd be 

Some days are diamonds some days are stones 
Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone 
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones 
Some days are diamonds some days are stones. 

Some days are diamonds some days are stones 
Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone 
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones 
Some days are diamonds some days are stones.

This seems to be mostly a song about loneliness, about being separated from your love. But it calls to me for other reasons. I think of it as a good anthem for anyone who deals with mood swings, whether at a normal level or in a heightened way because of a mood disorder/brain chemistry issue. Like me, a person who deals with depression and anxiety.

I am thankful today is a diamond for me. My heart goes out to those for whom today is a stone. Some of you are stuck in a hard time, a cold wind is blowing, and there's a chill in your bones. May you know you are not alone. May God bring you peace and comfort as you walk through the valley of the shadow.

Learn more about "The Music Is You"

If you liked what you heard, be assured this John Denver tribute album is chock full of plenty more goodness. Browse the track listings on Amazon, buy the album on iTunes or find it at your local book and music store.

Read more of my blog posts about music.