What Matters

July 11, 2016


STUFF I KNOW ON MONDAY © Kathleen McKern Verigin

What Matters

I am a news hound. Most mornings I read The New York Times. I listen to NPR when I’m in the car. I especially like hearing news updates from the BBC. In the evening I check in with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. (Did the last reference surprise you?) I bring up news topics with my husband and friends, because I want to know what they are thinking and feeling. I do all of this not because I want to blame or shame, or to be intellectually admired. I do it in pursuit of Truth by continually asking, “WHAT is this about?”

This morning my heart ached when I perused the front page of The New York Times. So many senseless deaths. So many hated related reactions. Anger hell bent on a target. But something shifted when I saw this headline: GEORGETOWN’S SLAVERY LEGACY, “Georgetown University’s president is trying to make amends for the school’s slavery past.”

Read the full article here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/11/us/intent-on-a-reckoning-with-georgetowns-slavery-stained-past.html

You can read the details in the article. What matters to me is that I had no idea that a prominent University had a legacy with slavery–owning and selling.  In the early 1800s, “…the college presidents at that time sold 272 slaves for about $3.3 million in today’s currency.” What a stunning piece of information! Just learning it lifted my heart a wee bit, because with knowledge comes power. The power to take positive, generative action. The descendants of Georgetown slaves say they want more than a pat on the head. There have been apologies, but no real amends that come with action. Until now. Check out the final three paragraphs from the article:

Jessica Tilson wanted something more. She asked Mr. DeGioia (Georgetown president) to issue a declaration of posthumous manumission, granting the slaves their freedom. Then she handed him several jars of soil.

She has been haunted in recent weeks by the knowledge that her great-great-great-great-grandparents died without returning to their birthplace in Maryland (near Georgetown). So she dug up soil from the old plantation— symbols of her enslaved forbears — and asked him to help her ancestors get back home.

Before he boarded his flight back to Washington (from Alabama), he shipped the jars to Georgetown.

I wonder if these small steps, gigantic to descendants of slaves, will help make a difference in the racial strife in our country. I’m not naïve enough to say it will change anything dramatically, but I do know that it is a beginning. And so I ask: What can I do today? The Prayer of St. Francis has been wafting through my mind. I invite you to take 2:42 to watch and listen as a way of making amends—to whomever, however or wherever.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace) – Sinead O’Connor

America (First circulated July 2, 2012)

July 3, 2016

“Independence is happiness.” Susan B. Anthony


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

America (First circulated July 2, 2012)

The first celebrity of my early baby boom generation that I wanted to be wasn’t Ann Margret or Annette Funicello. I wanted to be Haley Mills. I loved her English accent and amazing wide-eyed innocence. I would practice words she spoke in movies, like “nooo, reeeeally,” “pull-pel” instead of purple, “faaaa-tha” instead of father and “muhhh-tha” instead of mother. I would rehearse these words over and over again in the privacy of my bedroom on 6th Street in little old Ames, Iowa.

As we approach Independence Day, I am reminded of Haley singing “America” in the film “Pollyanna.” As a child, and even an adult, I disliked singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” It felt too war like to me. I much preferred “America the Beautiful.”

America the Beautiful
Written by: Katherine Lee Bates

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I highlighted “and crown thy good with brotherhood,” because, as a child, besides Haley Mills, I was intrigued by Robin Hood. His motto was “to rob the rich to pay the poor.” Tantalized by this idea, I heard the song lyrics as “And crown thy good with Robin Hood.” I could imagine Haley Mills sharing the joy in my misinterpretation—robbing from the rich and sharing the wealth with the poor.

I chuckle as I type this as many of us, as children and adults, have misunderstood lyrics. This 4th of July, while lolling about at a resort, I intend to contemplate the perceived opposites of rich & poor, the free & the brave. I will cloak myself in an imagined American flag and sing with the conviction of Haley Mills. Am I a “Pollyanna” if I celebrate Independence Day? Or am I a proud American collectively shouting “Whoo Hoo, we have a long way to go. Let’s go together so that we may all enjoy freedom.”

‘Pollyanna’ America the Beautiful

Fluid Balance

June 29, 2016

“Action is at bottom a swinging and flailing of the arms to regain one’s balance and keep afloat.”
Eric Hoffer, American philosopher, 1898-1983


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Fluid Balance

A friend once shared an experience that was meant to be thrilling but turned out to be terrifying. He tried skydiving, mostly as an exercise to face real fear but also as a celebration for a landmark birthday. Feeling confident on land, it wasn’t until he was in the air that it dawned on him, “Why would I jump out of a perfectly good airplane that’s designed to safely carry me from lift off to landing?” While his mind was churning, the butterflies in his belly turned into drones—with no one at the controls—of his mind or belly. He watched as, one by one, the other divers exited the airplane, each with an experienced tandem buddy attached from behind. When it was my friend’s turn, he was suddenly paralyzed. Absolutely immobile. Frozen in time. His hands gripped the sides of the exit portal. “Goooo,” shouted his diving buddy. “Noooooo,” my friend replied. From the buddy came, “Yessss!”

With that, the two of them exited the plane, doing something that our brain tell us is irrational. Absolute panic set in as my friend’s arms began to uncontrollably flap and flail. He was sailing right into a full blown panic attack. He let out screams that defied communication with his tandem buddy. He had our dinner guests howling with laughter while he demonstrated this. The wild flailing caused their attached bodies to erratically swing about. The freefall lasts 45-60 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity to my friend, especially knowing they were heading towards earth at 120mph.

Things shifted when the tandem buddy gestured to have my friend lift up his chin up, thwarting his attempts to get into a fetal position. That’s what it took. A simple chin up. His arms stopped flailing. The two of them stopped swinging. Flailing morphed into soaring By the time the parachute opened, my friend’s sense of balance was restored. He soon discovered that he could feel balanced while in motion, even though it seemed like he was out of control. This is what I call Fluid Balance.

I think we can all agree that we are living in a time where there’s lots of flailing and swinging. We long for balance. After what just happened in Orlando, someone said to me, in tears, “I can’t make sense of it.” She is right. We can’t make sense of senseless acts of violence, around the world or at home. What restores me is to turn to Nature. The rhythm of the seasons remind me that there is no flailing, only flow. There are no rights or wrongs in Nature. It just is. And I can enter into that flow—a state of fluid balance—simply by lifting my chin. Try it. Right now. Try it the next time you feel anxious about the world. Lift your chin, enjoy a cleansing breath, and allow a soft smile to come over your entire being. No more flailing, only soaring, in fluid balance with All That Is.

Every heard of skyaking???
New Skyaking Tricks  2:11


May 20, 2016

“If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space.”  
― Stephen Hunt, British Writer


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin


My mother passed onto me her passion for words. She’d often say that she’d read anything, even the labels on cans, simply because she loved words and how cleverly they fit together. My passion expanded when I developed a fascination for taking words apart. Specifically, prefixes and how they can dramatically change the meaning of something.

For example, consider the word understand. If stand is the root of the word, then under would be the prefix. So, to understand, means to look below the surface of what stand is taken. Makes perfect sense, to me. But consider this. What if the prefix of understand is un, meaning not? Then derstand would be the root word. What does derstand mean? Webster obviously didn’t share me curiosity, but the wordsmiths at the Urban Dictionary do. Derstand means to un-understand. Oh, the fun my mom would have had with this wee inner dialogue!

The prefix that intrigues me today, inspired by the poem below, is peri, meaning around, near, about—the edge of something. When I was in peri-menopause—those fabulous two to twelve years of a woman at mid-life—I pondered the prefix while walking the shoreline at the Coast. I wanted to feel what an edge felt like. To my great joy, I noticed that the edge of the Pacific Ocean is marvelously random. It’s not a straight edge, nor are the phases of our lives. We are always in peri-something. Nothing is static. There are no blocks. We are free to be. And speaking of be. As a prefix it means…..

At The Edge  (by Rev. Liah Rose)
Bubbling up from the Earth
No longer held captive by rock and soil
Making its way to the surface, it breaks free
A spring is formed

Drawn by the forces of nature, she forms a pool
Growing as she bubbles forth from the depths
Finally spilling her undefined banks,
Escaping all confinement, she becomes a stream

Tumbling over stones, small or large
Meandering around trees, ferns, shrubs
She winds her way toward more of her kind
Joining together they become a creek

Wider, more defined, now, she feeds life.
Insects first, then the frogs and fish to eat them
Ever reaching for something more, something greater
She merges with the river, joining the quest

Rushing faster, boulders cannot stop her
Cutting her own path, deeper, wider
Into the Earth from which she first emerged
The river flows to the sea.

Fresh river water is infused with its salty counterpart
The saltwater ocean diluted by the river
Carried inland by the tides, and out by the pull of the sea
It all meets here at the edge

Stuff I Heard in Scotland and Ireland

May 8, 2016

STUFF I HEARD ©Kathleen McKern Verigin

“I’m twenty years younger than I was ten years ago,” spoken by a 70-something year old Scottish goddess.

A 13 year old girl told us the names of her two future daughters. When asked what she’d name two sons, her 14 year old sister chimed in, “Shut and Up!”

Our guide at Clava Cairns (ancient stone circles in Scotland) said of the burial grounds, “A cemetery is not a dead place. It’s where the dead are placed.”

Posted at a holy well and prayer tree connected to Culloden, the battlefield where the Highlander way of life was destroyed by the British on April 16, 1746:  “It’s not the running well that’s heard here, but the breath of hope, and the rustle of wish rags that hang from branches above its flow. There was no fulfillment of desire in the spring that day, but it was the source of a lullaby for the dying warriors.”

Sign near field of sheep:  “No WORRYING the sheep. Dogs will be shot.”

At the Titanic Museum in Belfast: “As was the custom of White Star Line, no christening ceremony was performed at the launch of their steamship.” One island-man declared, “They just builds ’em, and shoves ’em in.”

Cuckoo Bird poem recited by Beltane ceremony participants, hosted by the Sisters as Solas Bhride in Kildare, Ireland.

The Cuckoo comes in April.
Sings her song in May.
In June she whistles her tune.
In July she flies away.

Sign post while departing a village in Scotland:  “Haste Ye Back.”

Greetings from Belfast

April 21, 2016

“How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!”
-George Elliston


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Greetings from sunny Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Scotland tour unfolded beautifully, including fair weather every single day. Yes, a few brief rain showers passed through, but I never needed my umbrella, rain poncho or rubber boots. Thank you Nature Spirits to whom I have been praying to for several weeks, asking for kindness. Today, before heading to Dublin for the Ireland tour, I ask the same, for who am I to ask for sun and warm breezes? I have no control over that. I do, however, have absolute control over my participation in the weather. I shall be kind to Nature, and in return I know that Nature will be kind to me.

What would today be like if I affirmed kindness as my guiding principle? Remember the old bumper sticker—Practice Random Acts of Kindness? And so it shall be done. I hope you will join me.

In honor of the Full Moon, Earth Day and as we near Mother’s Day, here is a lovely poem offered by Rev. Liah Rose. Enjoy!


The Mother Rises, by Rev. Liah Rose

Like an old woman rolling over in bed
The earth rolls gently toward the sun
Stretching, reaching, a new day dawning
The mother is waking from her winter’s nap

New life is everywhere you look
Baby birds gawp with their tiny beaks
Begging for nourishment from mama
Soon, they’ll be tumbling from the nest, learning to fly

Lambs, goats, and other farm animals
Who tottered on unsteady legs,
Now frolic in the warming sun
Discovering all that life has to offer

The skies still cloud over, looming dark and gray
But when they’ve spent their weight, the light is quick to return
Rainbows abound
The earth welcomes the soaking rain

Flowers, trees, shrubs, dormant these long months
Erupt in colorful blossoms, bursting with new life
Some trees, slower than the others
Still stand bare and skeletal, waiting their turn

Daffodils that led the charge, already fading
Allowing tulips and hyacinths to take their place
Lilies stand tall, demanding attention to their showy blooms
Roses pour their energy first into leaves, the buds come later.

Soon the rain will be a forgotten memory
The earth will soak up the sun’s rays instead
Bringing forth life from what appeared lifeless
For the mother has risen from her bed.


March 23, 2016

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to
an understanding of ourselves.”
― C.G. Jung


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin


It the late-1980s Deepak Chopra was a guest on the live television talk show that I produced. He seemed like an oddly curious little man with a message about mind-body healing. That day Dr. Chopra shared case studies conducted by psychologists and sociologists demonstrating the mind-body connection.  Of particular interest to me was The Kitten Experiment.

Researchers, in a double blind study, isolated newborn kittens in two different rooms. One room was painted with vertical stripes. The other with horizontal stripes. Before and after the kittens opened their eyes, they were raised in their respective rooms. They discovered that the cats raised in the horizontally striped room would jump up on table tops, chairs and counters with no problem. But they kept running into chair legs because they couldn’t perceive vertical lines.

Conversely, the cats raised in the vertically striped room could navigate the most complex maze of table legs, but could not jump up on chairs or counter tops because they could not perceive horizontal lines. All of the cats had been so conditioned in their environments as kittens that they couldn’t “see” anything different. (For we cat lovers, they were all adopted and allowed to roam freely in their new homes.)

Remembering Dr. Chopra and the kittens, today I ask myself:  Am I able to see what’s really there or only what I expect to see based on prior programming? That programming can be the cultures we were raised in, the time in history when we grew up, or the beliefs, morals and values we received from our family-of-origin. Our egos and personalities carry these imprints whether we know it or like it. And, we have the opportunity to unravel the threads that no longer serve us, giving us a new level of self-respect.

I love Angeles Arrien’s definition of respect:  the willingness to look again. What if the kittens in the striped rooms had the ability to look again and see something different? I adore my cats, and I think they are pretty smart, but they are cats, not humans. We who walk upright on two legs have been given the gift of perception. The gift of discernment. The gift to release in order to receive something new.

  • What is your current perception of the presidential candidates?
  • What is your current perception of the recent terrorist attack in Belgium?
  • What is your current perception of your ability to change, to extend respect by being willing to look again, thereby activating a New Thought?

International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016

“We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights
that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed
to us and our daughters forever.” – Susan B. Anthony


STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

International Women’s Day

When my mother was born, her mother couldn’t vote.

When first pondering what I wanted to be when I grew up, my mother told me I could be a nurse or a teacher.

As a teenager my mom convinced me to take a typing class so I would have a skill to “fall back on.”

When I was in college, afraid that I was pregnant, I desperately searched for money to fly to New York for a back alley abortion. Thankfully it wasn’t needed.

I smoked Virginia Slims cigarettes enticed by their tag line, “You’ve come a long way baby.”

In a job interview, fresh out of college, I was told that I was marriage and baby material, and therefore they didn’t want to invest in me. I married at 44 and never had children.

Along with a subscription to Ms. Magazine, I got a free t-shirt with MS. strategically placed across my bosom. I caught a man staring at my chest and confronted him. His reply, “I’m looking at exactly what you want me to look at. Why else would you wear that t-shirt?”

A few years later, preparing for another job interview, I was told the boss was a lady’s man and to dress provocatively. I did, and I got the job.

At 30 I was date raped and never told anyone until a woman friend told me of her experience with the same man. I couldn’t get angry for myself, but I could for her.

Years later, as senior producer of a television program, I was told my women assistants didn’t need raises because they had husbands.

When I told my mother how much money I made, in answer to her question, her reply was “WOW, those are man’s wages.”

In my late 30s my mother told me, “If you weren’t so independent you could catch a good husband.”

About that same time a Yale study was published stating that un-married women at 35 were more likely to be shot by a terrorist than marrying. The Old Maid card was on the cover of People Magazine. I found this offensive and wrote a letter to the editor. It was published in the next issue.

When I first started offering moon ceremonies for women, I met an elderly goddess who told me that after her hysterectomy she took her uterus home and buried it in ceremony. Aghast, I said, “And your doctor let you?”  Her reply, “Yes, because it’s a part of my body and I own my body.”  A few years later I did the same.

In her late 70s my mom attended one of my moon ceremonies for women. Afterwards she remarked, “It wasn’t unlike when I attended the women’s circles at church. But you ladies talk about way more interesting things.”
Forty-one years ago today I arrived in Portland, Oregon. My mother grieved my absence terribly. My father never visited me here. His reasoning was “She left us, we didn’t leave her.”

Before Mom’s death in 1997, she remarked, “I get why you moved to Portland. You’ve created a great life for yourself. I’m happy for you, and envious.”

Remember, when my mother was born her mother couldn’t vote. We have come a long way, but with so far to go. And I am nobody’s baby, except my mother’s. I am grateful for her and all that she taught me. Because we are All One and we’re all in this together.

History of International Women’s Day

Stuff I Know By Me

February 22, 2016

“If everyone waited to become an expert before starting, no one would become an expert.
To become an EXPERT, you must have EXPERIENCE.
Stop waiting. Start stuff.”

― Richie Norton, author of The Power of Starting Something Stupid and
Résumés Are Dead and What to Do About It


STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

It’s time to reveal where Stuff I Know originated. Years ago, as producer of a live morning TV talk show in Portland, Oregon, I was exposed to sound bites of information from a wide variety of sources. It was the 1980s. People like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Leo Busgalia were yearly guests. Local topics covered politics, fashion, criminal justice, and lots of cooking segments. Well known authors loved to be on our show. Think Ann Rule, Leon Uris and Ursula LeGuin. Because of this exposure, to put it bluntly, I was the ideal cocktail party guest. I could engage anyone in conversation, because I knew just enough to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I was not an expert at anything, but I knew a lot of stuff.

In the mid-1980s I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles. One of her friends, Martin, was intrigued by my job and the stuff I knew. He said to me, “You should write a book and call it Stuff I Know.” My reply, “Yeh, Stuff I Know by Me.” We both clinked our wine glasses and laughed.

A few months later, I got a phone call at work. I answered, as usual, “AM Northwest, this is Kate McKern.” The man on the other end of the line said, “I’m a publisher and want to book one of my authors on your show.” As the ever-ready producer, I asked for details. “The book is called Stuff I Know by Me.” This was followed by a long pause. In a hush whisper I said, “Martin, is that you?” We both howled with laughter.

I love the word stuff. It’s my favorite subject line in an email. By definition, it means “the material of which anything is made.” An author gathers material for his book. A comedian gathers material for her set. A minister gathers material for a sermon. It’s all stuff. We are all the authors of our own stories. I wonder, what is the stuff you are gathering to live your best life? As the above quote says, “Stop waiting. Start stuff.”


February 3, 2016

The Wheel has turned, spring is here,
Welcome new life, far and near.


IMBOLC © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Greetings from the wild, windy, and wet west of Ireland. The 3-day festival I attended at Brigit’s Garden, Co. Galway, was well worth the journey in the dead of winter. What I’ve discovered is that winter is not dead at all. In reality, She is very much alive, as I experienced on her Feast Day, Monday, Feb. 1st.

That day I was the guest of two local women whom I’d met through friends of friends. We first attended a Brigit mass at the church in Liscannor, Co. Clare. The priest there, Father Dennis Crosby, knows well the blend of ancient and new. There were hand-woven Brigit crosses everywhere, including on the sacred altar. Also on the altar, there were dozens of Brídeógs, the Irish word for Brigit doll. School children were holding the Brídeógs they had made, clutching them close to their hearts. Consider that these primitive dolls are fertility symbols! Father Dennis even brought in a baby lamb to demonstrate the meaning of Imbolc, the pre-Christian (dare I say pagan?) tradition. Imbolc (pronounced IMM-ulk) means “in the belly.” It was the time of year—early February on the modern calendar—when the first farmers saw that the pregnant ewe’s milk began to flow. It meant that winter had enough passed that it was safe for new life to emerge. Indeed, I’ve witnessed plenty a pregnant ewe, and cow, as I roam about the eternally green grasses of Erin.

After mass, just down the road a bit, we visited Brigit’s Holy Well. To be there on her Feast Day was extra special. I offered a variety of prayers for healing, for friends far and near. Later we enjoyed lunch at a pub, followed by a trek to a much less celebrated holy well, this one attributed to St. Augustine. It was there that I noticed a paradox of sorts. When I looked at the land, I sensed the presence of spring. The green grasses allowed tiny flower shoots to begin emerging. When I looked above, through the soughing trees, I felt the presence of winter, not quite gone. It was then that I encountered the Cailleach, known as the divine hag, a creator and weather deity. Through the ROARING winds (gale force that day) she seemed to be saying—“Not so quick Little Missy. I’m not done with ye yet.” The purpose for this journey was revealed.

It was time for me to experience and embrace my personal passage from autumn to winter. I saw this at Brigit’s Garden when I came upon an autumn leaf with snow drops on it, while resting next to daffodil shoots. When I stepped through Brigit’s crios, (pronounced “criss,” it is also known as Brigit’s girdle, a seamless circle formed from triple-braided straw rope, thus marrying the sacred numbers of four and three) at Brigit’s Garden, and again after mass, I finally proclaimed, in silence, that I am indeed in the winter of my life, and, like the old Cailleach, I am very much alive as spring is so beautifully demonstrating.


“Something’s Coming”
© Rev. Liah Rose, 2/2/16

The sun is rising, throwing color into a dark sky
Ice and snow still shimmer on the ground
But the mother is waking
Green shoots herald the coming of a crocus bed
Bare trees are beginning to show signs of budding
Small bumps looking more like a crone’s warts than the blossoms it will bear.
Bulbs underground, long dormant, sense the pending warmth
And break through their winter blanket of earth
Reaching for the sun, reaching for the warmth
That hasn’t quite arrived

People hasten by, loathe to slow down
Not wanting to be late for their busy lives
And yet a glimpse of green, stark against the snow
Catches an eye and captures the awareness of one such passerby
Just for a moment, he stops, bends down and touches the blade of new growth.
The firm leaf that has broken through the cold ground
A promise of spring is in that touch.
The promise of warmer days ahead.
It’s enough to carry him through, and he hurries on his way
The smile he wears a testament to the stolen moment.