“A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.” ~ Wangari Maathai

Trees. Let’s learn from them. They give us so much, including life-sustaining oxygen, life-affirming examples, and life-guiding lessons.

One valuable lesson for these confusing times is this:

Potentials are present in every challenge. In fact, great transformation is possible now. We can each help bring healing, compassion, and respect for all people into the world…justice, peace, and reverence for all creation too. We do this by staying rooted deeply in the values we are reaching for. We become like a tree that draws sustenance from its roots for the strengthening of every leaf and opening of every flower. We do this by practicing compassion, courage, reverence…all the highest ideals that are in the essence, the heart, of every person, religion, and culture on earth.

Essentially, we LIVE The Twelve Gifts, especially love.  

Among our Twelve Gifts is talent, or talentry. Like branches on a tree, we all have a special abilities and interests that are expressions of us. Often the things we like to do, the things we care about – our talentry – branches in many directions. In addition to practicing compassion with courage, we can nurture the blossoming our talents and use them to make a difference.

With love,

THE SEVENTH GIFT IS TALENT: May you discover your own special abilities and contribute them toward a better world.


“Makes no difference who you are…”
– Leigh Harline and Ned Washington

It’s true. It makes no difference.

“Makes no difference who you are,” goes the song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Jiminy Cricket sings it in the film, Pinocchio.

The message is meant for all of us. We all deserve to have dreams. And when they come from our hearts, they can come true.

Another true message for all of us is demonstrated by Coco, the kitten in the photo with her security blanket, “Fishie.”

Everyone needs to feel safe and secure. We all deserve to be safe and secure. We all deserve to have dreams and be free to follow them.

Let’s do all we can to assure safety and the freedom to be oneself, for ourselves and for all. This includes fostering respect and reverence within ourselves and cultivating then in our culture. How might we do this?

Here are some ways to consider:

Practice mindfulness and compassion for oneself.

Notice when thoughts about ourselves and others are harsh. Get into the habit of then pausing, taking a few slow, deep breaths, and saying something like, “I forgive myself for judging myself and others as not good enough, bad, worthless, dumb, lazy, weak, stupid, ugly, or whatever negative label we are using.”

Apply love like a healing balm for our hearts. One way to do this is by placing our hands over our hearts, close our eyes, intend to have love flow into our hearts, and stay in this position until subtle or strong warmth is felt.

Avoid all books, films, games, conversations, and situations that celebrate and encourage meanness.

Perform at least one deliberate act of kindness every day.

Smile often.

Another activity to try and possibly make a habit is to remember that every person we see and encounter was an innocent, trusting, playful toddler. Take this further by, as best we can, “seeing” at least one person each day as they sweet child they once were. Imagine getting in touch with the young child we were. Stir love and compassion for the children we were and the child we aim to see in others, in all.

Pray for increased love and respect flowing among us all.

Reach inside for courage and strength every time we feel reluctant, shy, afraid, not important enough, or any other limiting perspective that holds us back from doing the right thing and from following our dreams.

I wish you deep sleep and beautiful dreams, the REM kind and the make-a-difference-in-the-world kind. I wish you peace and hope too.

With love,

The eighth gift is IMAGINATION. May it nourish your visions and dreams. – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth


Hi there friends, long time and new.
I’m sending good thoughts,
praying too,
as I wish for you
health and hope,
and the courage to cope.
Actually, there’s more.
I’m wishing you’ll soar.
Beyond surviving.
I see you thriving.

I believe in the gifts and talents in you.
I believe in your goodness and you being you.

Each morning, each day
may joy come your way.
with strength and compassion
and peace that will stay
bringing sweet dreams for deep sleep
that lasts through the night.
And for the day,
may peace be your light,
and guide the way,
for you to be you,
living the dreams and doing the good
your heart longs to do.



“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.” ~ Anne Lamott

Hope is always present, in the dark and in the light. It stands ready to be called upon, even when we feel hopeless.

Hope opens windows and doors, allowing light, fresh air, and entry into other places. 

Hope lifts us. Sometimes ever so slightly. Sometimes to great heights.

Hope energizes and empowers us.

Hope helps healing. It may even help us live longer, some studies show. “It will help all live better,” says Dr. Jerome Groopman. “It’s critical that we be absolutely intentional about nurturing hope in our lives, ” says Naomi Drew.

So, let’s feed hope.

Here are a few ways to do that:
Be kind to yourself.|
Take deep breathing breaks.
Curtail the intake of news reports.
Read, watch, and listen to uplifting stories.
Remember times when confusions became clear, troubles were resolved, and good things came in unforeseen ways.
Use positive affirmations.
In all circumstances, let’s be kind to ourselves and one another.

Remaining hopeful,

THE FIFTH GIFT IS HOPE: Through each passage and season may you trust the goodness of life. – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth.


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

The first time I heard this passage I was a child and my young heart seemed to jump up and down while my soul said: Yes! Yes! Yes!

All these years later, I still experience a strong resonance whenever I hear these words and act upon them.  

I have found myself applying them a lot lately. 

For example, like millions of people, I felt hurt and horror about the attack on the women and children traveling in Mexico near the U.S. border. But my heart was uplifted when I heard about the 13-year old boy who bravely hid his injured siblings, covered them with branches, and walked many miles through the Sonoran desert for help.   

I’m reminded that the beauty, strength, courage, wisdom, and love in that boy are present in all children. These gifts are in you and me and in every one of us. They are in people who don’t seem to have knowledge or appreciation of them or the inclination to use their noble qualities. 

Demonstrations of goodness and beauty don’t cancel out or change the reality of violence. But they can keep us from sinking into fear, depression, hate, and despair. They can move us toward constructive and loving actions.

Let’s look for the good in ourselves, one another, and the world. May seeing it feed our faith, heighten our hope, and deepen our desire to respond to life with courage, compassion, hope, and love…with all that is noble and beautiful in us. 

Yes? Yes? Yes?


You are invited!

A Healing, Well-Being & Peace Retreat at
The Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona,
also known as “the CASA.”
Friday, October 25 through Sunday, October, 27

Presented by cancer survivor and award-winning author, Charlene Costanzo, this experiential program will explore ways to tap into your inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom love, and faith in order to embrace life no matter what is happening in your personal world and in the whole world.

Recognizing the dignity and worth of all people is a significant part of The Twelve Gifts message and of this event. Each participate in this active, inspirational, and somewhat playful retreat will take home a personalized “tool kit,” used for daily inspiration and empowerment.

Fee: $135, commuter includes meals; with lodging, single, $250; double, $150 per person.
Pre-registration is required.

Franciscan Renewal Center 5802 East Lincoln Drive
Scottsdale, Arizona 85253

480.948.7460 phone
800.356.3247 toll free
All are welcome.
To register, visit or call 480.948.7460

Every CASA spiritual retreat includes options for single or double occupancy rooms with private bath; pool, spa, putting green; on-site dining; numerous outdoor amenities, including a desert walk and healing garden, and a variety of places to pause and reflect in a peaceful environment.