As far as the pictures we develop of what a “good life” means, one considers themselves lucky if one can simply get a good education, get married for life, buy a home, raise happy healthy kids, keep a good job, save money, and then retire happily with some vacations, taking care of the grandkids, and maybe tooling around with a hobby or two.

The Good Life Back Forty

Granted, that’s a good life, as we’re raised to believe.  And yet, as many have found while maturing in the world of today vs. the times of our parents, the early “pictures” we had aren’t necessarily realistic.

The American Psychological Association states the divorce rate as between 40 to 50% and the rate for subsequent marriages even higher. Savings can’t survive certain economic impacts such as Great Recessions or crooked investments. The old-world ideal of keeping a job for life is not only totally unrealistic in a “freelance” economy but perhaps not even a good idea if one is looking to expand and move up. And we’ve all had the mythical, solid and steady “home” get shattered in one way or another.

My parents are a good example of that, when Ike hit the Texas Gulf Coast in 2008 and my entire hometown – including their home filled with years of memories – went under 8-10 feet of water. Or my aunt and cousin in Baton Rouge, recently having had their own home of 50 years submerged in a record flood.

So, what is one to do when the pictures of the way life was supposed to be are drowned, along with all the actual photos from the past? Perhaps undergo a Back Forty Resuscitation.

The Back Forty Resuscitation

Yes, inhaling a new breath into the whole end-of-the-world experience of divorce, financial or physical destruction, and all forms of devastation can help.

Though comfortable, what if our “pictures” were part of a limiting frame…keeping us all inside a smaller perspective of ourselves and what’s possible for us?

Think about it:

  • Ever heard of people who shook off the perceived shackles of a bad marriage and found the more perfect fit for them?
  • Ever noticed how some folks respond to financial ruin with a new sense of Self that has them grow bigger than they ever were?
  • Ever watched as individuals move up and out of early, confined, career cubicles into roles of leadership, both within other organizations or their own business…often because they were fired?
  • Ever seen people create lives far beyond those destroyed in literal or figurative floods or fires on their doorstep?

The Back Forty philosophy, movement and community is all about taking the supposed “worst things that could happen to us” and using them as opportunities for opening up to what’s bigger within us and what’s greater coming next.

If we can look back at our past – even these supposed serious and significant events – and analyze them from the point of view of “laboratory experiments” we ran to discover what we’re here to do and express, we get to then focus on inspiring and forward-moving directives rather than harping on our victim-based losses.

We can be the victim, or we can claim cause over our life and circumstances.  Neither are true, but one perspective gives power and the other doesn’t.

This isn’t to discount or bypass our sense of loss from the unforeseen and unexpected.  It’s just a possible context in which to hold what has occurred so as to best move forward.

Why, just why, might you have had it happen exactly this way?  Come up with several possibly answers to that question and you’re moving past victim in no time.  Not necessarily “the truth”…but a truth you can live with and be empowered by.

“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.”  — Guy Finley



I was honored to get an invitation from the Award-Winning Ed Tyll Show, a nationally syndicated radio program, to speak on the “Inspiring Stories from the Louisiana Flood” segment. I had a wonderful conversation with the host Ed and shared my mother’s story of having lost everything at the age of 85 when over 4 feet of water infiltrated her home of 45 years. This is a major issue for Ed’s listeners and I couldn’t be more grateful for the attention Louisiana is getting from the least expected people and places.

Listen to the full interview here.

If you’d like to help my mother in her recovery, please go to I also encourage donations to our local Catholic Charities at They are the #1 referred-to agency in the city and have an excellent track record of being one of the first groups to show up and help those in need.

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It’s three weeks after the Great Louisiana Flood of 2016, and I feel a little like a UFO abductee who reports that they have missing time—they can’t recall what happened to them between the time the UFO picked them up and put them back. I can relate. I think I’m a #LAflood abductee. There are about 16 days in August that are a blur of floodiness, starting when we rescued Mom by boat on August 13 and then finally got her settled and I was able to return to my normal(ish) daily routine on August 26.

Conversations around Baton Rouge now include asking friends if they got water. That’s shorthand for “Did your house flood and if so, how are you doing, now?” We share stories from the frontline of rescuing family members, saying goodbye to treasured items that are now ruined, and celebrate when we learn that” …the water came up to the back fence but not in the house thank God.”

Now that things have calmed down a bit, we’re seeing some mindblowing stats. Twenty of Louisiana’s 64 parishes (that’s “counties” to y’all who are not in Louisiana) have flooded to the point of being declared an official disaster area. That’s one third of the state. 140,000 homes flooded. Even the Louisiana Governor had to evacuate because the Governor’s mansion got water in the basement. I didn’t know we even had basements down here.

I liked this line I read from a story in the Huffington Post:

“No stories of looting, no stories of riots, no devolving of society to the lowest forms of humanity…instead a tragedy that has brought out the best in friends, family, and neighbors; people who help others before they help themselves…who see the assistance of others as an assistance of self.”

I saw that demonstrated over and over, in gestures big and small.

We go to businesses that have torn up floors and exposed studs where the sheetrock has been cut away. We wait patiently in line because we know what they went through. We’re all in the same club—a free membership that none of us signed up for. But here we all are. Looking out for one another and showing kindnesses to floodshocked strangers. My newsfeed has gone from photos of drowned houses, to photos of rebuilding and I am happy to see the resilience of my community.

I spoke recently with a friend who helped me gain some perspective on the events of recent weeks. When things calmed down a bit, it was easy to second-guess myself and wonder whether or not we could have salvaged more of my Mom’s things. His wise perspective was that even if we could have saved more items, I would still have felt that I could have done more. There is regret built into the process of a disaster. I listened thoughtfully and cried a bunch, and felt better afterwards. The losses were still sad, but I felt lighter.

An antidote to loss is gratitude, and a sense of wonder at what new good things can come out of this monumental change. I discovered that water has its own artistic ability, and what I thought at first were ruined photos had instead become flood art. Change in life is inevitable, and like water in a flood, it helps us as humans to flow with it instead of resisting.

#laflood #louisianaflood #gratitude



I am happy to report that my mom, aka ‘Mrs. B,’ is now happily installed in her new digs and is once again a (temporary) resident of Baton Rouge … In the end, it’s all ‘things,’ and what matters most is that the people you care for are OK. But some of those ‘things’ carry more emotional weight than others.

“I held my breath when my mom held up her ruined wedding dress that she had saved from 1950. The once pale pink dress was stained with red dye from the coat that had been stacked on top if it in her cedar chest that went underwater. She let it go into the trash bag, and I had to stop myself from grabbing it back. Surely, we could fix it! I remembered her showing it to me so many times as a child, and I marveled at how tiny her waist was back then.

“But then I thought, if she was ready to move on, then so was I. ‘Nothing you can do about it,’ she said, matter of factly.

“There is grace in acceptance of ‘what is’ instead of ‘what used to be.’ And despite the material losses, the gifts we have received in the form of time, effort, hugs and caring have been phenomenal. Strangers have fed us, come to check on us. We are truly a fortunate community.

“I’m going to miss my roommate of the last 11 days. It’s been a lot of years since we last lived together. This wasn’t the way I would have wanted to spend time with my mom, but I sure did enjoy her company. ‘Come visit me once in a while, now that you live closer,’ I told her as I left her new dwelling.

NOTE: See more inspiring Louisiana flood stories at



Day 3 (or is it Day 21?) of cleaning out Mom’s house after the flood. It seems as if we’ve been doing this for a while now. The majority of the pile that was in the house is now outside of the house, and the pile of stuff that is salvageable is the smallest of all.

Mom is a lesson in acceptance and resilience. She gets up, has coffee and toast, puts on her rubber boots and is ready to tackle it another day.

There were still so many of my childhood things at Mom’s house. Report cards and drawings from elementary school, and toys that I cherished as a child. There was odd comfort in knowing that I could go back and look at them if I wanted, letting good memories triggered by them to flow. My parents were two of the keepers of my history. I find now that I am saying peaceful good-byes to these items, knowing that their season was vital then, and has passed now. I was ready to let them go, and what’s in their place is profound gratitude for the love that put them there in the first place.