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Empty Nesting with Curiosity and Compassion

This week my first ad on life coaching for empty nesting appears in the high school newspaper, which my daughters edited five years ago. The lessons of that time of life are still fresh for me. I want to help others as they move through the pain and loss of their kids going away to college, or moving out into the world in other ways.

In the book “Rising Strong,” Brené Brown, a shame researcher and storyteller, writes about loss, longing and feeling lost. Loss. Longing. Feeling lost. Each deserves its own period in my book; these are big concepts. Brown highlights the importance of really feeling the grief connected to transitions and how awkward and uncomfortable this experience is when we really take the time to feel it. Brown interviewed a father who was going through empty nesting:
“Everything was off . . . nothing felt normal. I wasn’t sure where to park my car at our house. He had his car with him, but I still left his space open. Setting the table for dinner was strange; walking down the hall past his room felt painful—we were completely lost and at the same time happy for him ad proud of his accomplishments. We didn’t know if we should laugh or cry. We’ve done a lot of both.”  


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The Gifts of a Quarter Century

My husband gave me packs of Kleenex for our 25th wedding anniversary. While this may not seem like much for a silver anniversary, it speaks volumes of his kindness.

James noted that I asked for a tissue a few weeks ago when I was driving in his car. He went online, found Kleenex packs that had a cool design and ordered them in time for our special day. I couldn’t believe that he remembered this seemingly insignificant need but that’s just the kind of guy he is. That is just the kind of relationship that we’ve created over this past quarter century.

Accepting of the past. Rooted in the present. Hopeful for the future. 


These words are written on the back of my business card. These words are the basis for my marriage.

As I celebrated our anniversary this week, I felt a deep satisfaction in getting this far, surviving the ups and downs and navigating successes and failures. I know from past experience that marriage is not an easy path. I saw my mother marry and divorce four times and my father three. There are many ways to explore and experience the institution of marriage.

Our wedded bliss includes the raising of two healthy daughters, national and international moves and the start of a dozen companies. We celebrated first days of kindergarten, middle school, high school and college as well as graduations. We learned to ride horses as a family. We created a ranch with my father—“Grandad”—and learned to incorporate animals, weather and the outdoors. We have experienced hundreds of family dinners and family meetings. We have learned to appreciate and love each other, resulting in a high level of intimacy.

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The Preciousness of Life

In had an exchange this morning with my younger daughter, Grace. She had just found out through Facebook that a friend’s mother died several months ago. This friend is her age and I could tell she was upset by this idea of death and the loss of a mother. We exchanged “I love you’s” via text and I thought, once again, how precious life is.

In honor of this exchange with my daughter, and the three-year anniversary since my father’s death, I want to post the following blog that I wrote way back when. I like to take time to know my family history, and to consider those who have gone before. I value appreciating the span of time: past, present, future. Here goes  . . .

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From Ashland to Ubatuba: Service Above Self

My brother and I with the Rotary Club of Ubatuba, SP, Brazil.
The one-hour Rotary meeting I went to last night will be a treasured memory of my three week vacation in Brazil. Though I understood perhaps only ten percent of what was being said, it was the welcome I received that made the experience so worthwhile. There is a magic in knowing that I share the same values as the people who attended the meeting last night. The hearty handshakes I received and the kisses on my cheek spoke volumes of the shared fellowship that is Rotary around the world.

Ubatuba, the town I went to last night, is only four hours from São Paulo, where Rotary’s International Convention will take place this June. In my broken Portuguese, I could make that connection, along with another question that brought smiles to their faces: “How long have you been in Rotary?” Whether the answer was one year or twenty, I could tell these people were dedicated.
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Accepting the Belly


When I made the ticket to come to Brazil late last year, I was excited to go and see my brother, who has been coming to this country on and off for the past 20 years. My excitement doubled in 2015 as last year we had to cancel our plane tickets after our visas didn’t come through in time.

Knowing and loving my brother made coming here an easy decision. Though the travel door-to-door was a full 28 hours we knew the trip would be well worth it. Clay is a great tour guide, speaks Portuguese well, bakes bread and used to be a professional chef. And he loves to teach people how to play. What’s not to like?
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An Overall Sense of Well-being

I am not alone.

This is the revelation I had this morning. Like the hot water bottle I sleep with on cold nights, I feel this reassurance radiating outwards, warming me with its simple truth.

What’s funny is that, I am right now actually alone, at least physically. My husband is on the East Coast for business as well as to visit our daughters, who work and go to college there. And my father, with whom we bought our ranch 13 years ago, is no longer with us in body though he is often in my heart.

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Considering Qualities for 2015

For 2015, I am choosing three new words: Responsibility, Acceptance, and Wonder. They spell RAW, so that is easy for me to remember. RAW RARA (my initials)!

I write each word/quality on a 3x5 card and keep it on my desk where I rotate through them, mixing them in with other vows I have taken and what I call “soul reminders.” I keep the words as a screensaver on my computer. I breathe them in as a way to fortify myself and weave in new qualities, as if I can insert them into my bones, the very marrow of my life and being. I still feel last year’s words: Balance. Spaciousness. Grace.
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I Will Shine A Light

Last night I got to play a very small role in a monumental event: Shine a Light. Invited to be a greeter by my friend and colleague, Mary Rogan, I stood in the darkness on the longest day of the year and opened the door for participants as they arrived to roll out their yoga mats and do 108 asanas to raise awareness about human trafficking. Shine a Light partners with organizations in Oregon and India to give refuge, rehabilitation, education and hope to individuals affected by or vulnerable to the commercial sex industry.

I asked Mary if she wanted me to say anything specific or shake people’s hands like I do when I am a greeter for my Rotary Club. “You can do whatever you want,” she said calmly. “Free form welcoming! I trust you.”

At first I stood inside the doors, directing people a few feet away to the registration table. But it was too intense a welcome for a graceful transition from outside to inside. The registration people were welcoming in their own right—Natasha, a high school student who involved many teens in the cause, and Barb, a fellow rower who is also an awesome business woman. They were already shining in their own brilliant way. I stepped outside.

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Service Above Self & Belonging

Yesterday I got my Blue Badge in Rotary. Initially, we get a Red Badge with a ribbon that says "New Member." We are then expected to work our way through a long list that has on it such tasks as join a committee, attend a district meeting, participate in a club service project, etc., to get the coveted Blue Badge.

There was a short ceremony during which I had a chance to address my fellow Rotarians. As I looked out into the crowd, I realized how much these people have become my community. After eating lunch with them every Thursday since last September and hearing about their children’s sports wins, new grandbabies, trips far and wide, and professional achievements I have a new way of locating myself in this little town of 20,000 people.
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The Courage to Lead and Learn: Rotary Youth Leadership Awards summer camp

Having returned recently from my first 24-hour stint at a Rotary leadership camp for youth, I feel renewed. Renewed, inspired and hopeful.

Imagine being in a room of high-schoolers who do not have their attention on their next text or tweet. Instead, they greeted us adults with handshakes and interested eye-contact.

Imagine groups of high schoolers who do not reflect the sarcasm and anxiety that is so prevalent in today’s media. Instead they worked respectfully with one another on group agreements and developed pitches for service projects to help their communities.

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Belonging on the 4th of July

I loved this 4th of July weekend because I realize I am a part of my community. Now I know where and how to be. I used to feel like only the cool, in-the-know people knew where to be, and I was, well, neither cool or in-the-know. Excluded.

But on the 3rd of July this year I got to meet the Queens from our sister city of Guanajuato at my Rotary club, and then read a quote on hope by President Obama. Then, this morning, I got up and got dressed in red and black, like my husband, the current President of the Ashland Rowing Club (ARC).

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Graduation Day and Hope

My 22-year-old daughter, Ella, recently got her first full-time job. Of course my husband and I, Proud Parents, are excited. When I posted the news on Facebook, it received almost 80 “likes” in a 24-hour period, the biggest response I’ve ever had on social media.

Youth and inspiration.  Hope and possibility.

Ella seemed perplexed at my delight and the tears in my eyes when I showed her the response. She hasn’t yet even finished the paperwork, not yet set foot in the office. I explained that my friends, most of whom are in their 40s, 50s and 60s, love to see and encourage youth. To see our children and their friends succeed, make good, pursue excellence, contribute to the world.

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Skipping Over Life To Manage Overwhelm

I went to a weekend retreat for women 20 years ago and I’ve been staffing it ever since. The Woman Within community has become a part of me, a place where I belong. My weekend in 1994 broke me wide open and showed me that it was okay to feel emotions I’d kept locked inside. I learned that I didn’t have to do everything on my own after all, that I could nurture the softer sides of myself, and that I could reach out to other women and they wouldn’t reject me. I found a lot of laughter, tears, love and hope that weekend and it has inspired me to continue on a path of growth and healing.
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One More Graduate


Ashland's newest life coach treated to a little 'Pomp and Circumstance' by her friends and family


By Janet Eastman
Ashland Daily Tidings

Renée Alice Riley-Adams, otherwise known by her initials "RARA," celebrated her graduation from life-coach school on Saturday in the most unusual way: For once, she followed tradition.

In a purple cap and gown with a bright-orange stole, she swayed to the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance" as she passed by applauding family members and friends lining the long driveway of her Ashland home.

Riley-Adams, 53, never participated in her previous graduation ceremonies.

Not at Los Altos High in California, because she had been kicked out of her mother's house when she was a sophomore. She later received her diploma without ceremony while living with her dad in Victoria, British Columbia.

Instead of walking with her class after she earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of British Columbia, she took a motorcycle trip across Canada and Europe.

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Building a Relationship with Uncertainty

Sitting on the back patio at my father's house, during his memorial, reflecting.
I love June. It is the time of weddings and graduations. A time of beginnings, surprises, freshness, and strawberries. And with all those good things, there too, is loss.

Last year at this time, I was planning a memorial for our family and the community to bid farewell to my father. It was a smallish affair, 60 people or so. The food was delicious, the wine mellow. My father would have loved to attend; he was quite a connoisseur. He, like his mother (my grandmother), loved good friends and good food, especially when they came together for special occasions.

At that ceremony, where we celebrated my father’s life, we wandered through his home and gardens, reflecting upon the good times. We built this ranch together over twelve years; there were many outside projects, ranch meetings, dinners and family meetings. We were a cohesive unit; we spent time together and we did stuff together. We all miss my father’s love for beauty, hedonistic delight, mental figurings, and his big heart and warmth. It was a loss we all knew would happen though I think one can never truly be ready.

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