four…

Growing up a little white girl, among a see of hispanic children was both hard, and it wasn’t. I mean, it WAS hard because I always felt like I didn’t fit in. Adding to that the fact that my mother was a smoker and the kids at school always made it a point to acknowledge that I was a Gringo, and stank. It also wasn’t hard though, because it was what I knew. I had no alternative to compare it to.

Childhood leaves us with the funnest memories, doesn’t it?

When I was a teenager I was living in a fundamentalist group home in (then) rural Idaho. Life was the sheltered sort, with the exception being church and youth group at a local “city” church. A mojority of the normal kids at church, living in their normal homes, going to normal schools and eating normal foods thought us group home kids were freaks. To be honest, their parents also saw us as dangers. It was an isolating and pretty scarring existence.

With this package deal attached to my early life development, there was also the personal feelings (SO MANY FEELINGS) that I had about NOT fitting in. Not feeling a part of things, sure. I had essentially been abandoned by my family and lived a daily life of rejection, so those feelings made a lot of sense.

I also didn’t WANT to fit in.

While everyone was listening to what was hot and trendy, following the current of what they believed kids our age were supposed to do, I teetered there, unsure.

Did I follow along, accept and finally achieve belonging?

Did I go with my gut and follow the less worn path of obscure movie tastes and worn out sneakers?

The struggle was real.

I believed the struggle would eventually subside as I matured into a woman, beyond the angsty years of teenagehood. I was wrong.

That eternal quest to belong equated itself with my sense of personal worth so deeply. Knit by (what I believed, at the time) the rejections, abuses and abandonment thematically designing my life, a melancholy hopelessness settled into everything I did.

I went into group home care in 1988.

I walked through that gate and into the real world in 1993.

I became a wife in 1994.

In 2017 I learned that, on the enneagram chart, I am a four.

Fours have big feelings. Fours are creative and artistic. Fours ache to fit in, but also want to dance to their own rhythm. (and their own, non-trend decided tunes) Fours are (likely) the 90’s emo kids. They are the ones not regularly depicted on screen, in film and television because they happen to (probably) be the real life people writing those characters and creating that art.

I embraced my four.

I connected with other fours.

Knowing these things, having these explanations, it’s like the comfort of filling the gaps I’ve lived with, unwhole, for my entire life. It also forces me to see where my flaws lie. The how’s and the why’s.

I am able to know “ok, these are things I’ll do when I’m at my emotional healthiest”, and “these are indications that I need to work some stuff out, because I’m struggling.”

So many times we’ve humorously mumbled about life not having an instruction manual, or people not coming with a guide.

Guess what? We do.

That is literally what the enneagram does for us.

Plainly put, it is EMPOWERING.

Owning our truths helps us with one another too. For instance, I know that if someone on my team is an enneagram two, they will be prone to saying “yes” and people pleasing. Knowing that, and asking a lot of them anyway would be exploitive and selfish. Additionally, being married to an enneagram nine has helped me realize he isn’t passive or apathetic, he is simply prone to not cause ripples. At his unhealthiest, this can be dark and explosive. Knowing these things helps me love and respect him the way he deserves. It helps me see all of him, and love him.

If you don’t know where you’re at, or want to learn more, I strongly recommend the Road Back to You, by Ian Cohn. Also, in this week’s episode of the Collective Podcast, Abbey Howe is hanging out and chatting random ennea-info with us. Her youtube channel Enneagram with Abbey is super fun and informative. (As is Ian Cohn’s podcast!)

hoping & coping…

On April fourteenth, three years ago, I launched this tiny little notion of a podcast. The idea behind it was to build a platform for women, where they could safely share their stories. Period. There would be no political or religious filtering, no checklist of qualifications they would need to own. The truth is, women need women. This isn’t to negate that humans need connection, or that men are any less deserving of relationship. Those things are valid, but for THIS show, the heart was women…

I wasn’t sure what would come of it, honestly… Right off the bat there were some issues, not ironically related to the very heart behind why the show met a need. From the very start of its inception, years before, I was firm in stating that I wasn’t after growth or numbers, popularity or riches. While many felt my goal of “financially self supporting” was too small, for something I was so personally invested in- my heart was always for the woman out there who’d need the moment. I knew that whoever should be involved, would be, and have held to that. It turned out that something about the project resonated, and as more women came to the mic and exposed pieces of their journeys, a beautiful community began to grow. Women began to allow the light shed by other’s experiences, to illuminate the lies and shame they’ve allowed to hold them down. Women began to say (and believe) the words “I am not alone”. Beauty grew, in abundance, from the words brave women would speak.

Honestly, three years later, I can’t explain it.

I have had the gift of not only connecting with women from all parts of the world, but watching our community of women rise up to support each other. Nothing within my professional life has ever filled my heart with such warmth, as seeing that happen every day.

On April fourteenth, the third season of this beautiful little show was going to launch. The recording schedule was laid out and confirmed months ago. I am a planner, so it all fell together smoothly. (I also have a pretty great support team that give me life!) Approaching this third season, I was really starting to feel like I might finally know a little of what I was doing. We also, in our “down time”, brought together a beautiful virtual conference of EMPOWERING women. The energy was AMAZING, for all of it. The show is NOT financially self sufficient yet, but the conference would make that a reality. (coupled with our Patreon)

And then, March came and life imploded…

Women began reaching out more, asking for prayer, needing an ear, sharing their daily moments, and I thought about why we are here- and why the Collective Podcast began, in the first place.

Weeks ahead of schedule, today, our third season is launching. Our guest is Samantha Ruckles, who began an amazing kindness initiative in Australia, that is now recognized around the globe. Sam’s story is the PERFECT inspiration we need right now. (You can go here to get her episode)

In the next few weeks we have episodes coming that need to be shared, within this current world we live in. Episodes and guests who were scheduled months before we even knew anything about Covid-19 or could fathom things like self-isolation and worldwide shelter-in-place plans… We are showing up early because someone, even if it is just one person, needs us to.

As for the conference… It is this beautifully empowering day, (ironically already virtual) that has the possibility to leave every woman who attends feeling empowered, capable and more able to navigate this season of life. Is it something I truly believe can help women? Absolutely! However, the current climate of anxieties and emotions has numbed the enthusiastic energy from weeks ago. Where hundreds of women couldn’t wait for the tickets to be available, now many are silent. I get it, you can’t eat or practice hygiene with a virtual conference pass. I also know that, with the financial climate as it is, I may not be able to sustain the show without it.

If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, I’m asking you to take that leap of faith with us. Here’s the information about the Gathering, the brilliant women involved and what to expect. It is a modest price, with a percentage going to two amazing charities. We truly are better together! I know it is scary to spend money right now, but please know that our mental/emotional health is AS IMPORTANT as our physical health. It truly IS an investment, this group of women has the heart FOR YOU. FOR community…

And if it isn’t right for you, that’s ok too. As long as the Collective can be around, it will be. And when it no longer can, well, then I have to trust the divinity in that too…

yesterday…

Yesterday was one of those days when you log on, for one reason or another, and are bombarded by the news…

*The shattering grief and updates from Kobe & Gigi’s memorial, for one. I have so many thoughts and feelings on the pieces of that, which flooded my twitter feed, but they aren’t important in this space. The grief is felt by a giant community of fans and human beings, let us not forget though that the actual grief belongs to the people who really knew them. Their grief is not meme worthy, front page headline/clickbait fodder, or appropriate for anything beyond us kindly giving them space to have it…

*The news of Katherine Johnson passing was remarkably sad and humbling. As someone who works, every single day, with women, I hope that I never cease to find myself in awe of the brave and powerful women who have accomplished many amazing feats, simply by engaging in their authentic journey. She lived 101 deep years, may we honor her and her family for that many more years to come…

*Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape. He is facing trial for four additional counts. (I realize I don’t normally delve into topics like this, but bear with me a minute, please.) If convicted on these additional charges, Weinstein faces a max sentence of 25 years.

The definition of rape is: To take something by forceful robbery or spoiling.

Most people would agree that rape is a violent crime, even when a weapon is not directly involved. A black man, in America, who is convicted of one violent robbery could face up to 25 years in prison. Tell me, how is this justice then, regarding what Weinstein has done? (And mind you, there are many other women. Twenty years ago, women were warning Hollywood newcomers to steer clear of him.)

It is worth noting: I have been clear that while I believe Weinstein is a monster. I also believe that he was shaped to become such, by an industry of powerful men who abused women in every possible manor, simply to keep them dependent and controllable. Why should a woman’s life have little value? The effects of psychological trauma and sexual assault, at the hands of Weinstein AND men like him, shape her life in unimaginable ways and will stay with her until she dies…

*I’m not even going to talk about the health or political nightmares continually on rotation, in the news… My point is, that the news is a VERY small portion of what real life looks like. As I type this, my dear friend is sitting vigil, waiting for a family member to pass. My own mother in law lost her sister, this weekend. A sweet friend experienced a terrifying moment with her son yesterday. A dear friend is grieving the loss of her baby girl… Miscarriages are happening; terminal diagnosis are being given; marriages are ending, and the loved ones belonging to every day people, are taking their last breaths…

The news is overwhelming, because LIFE is overwhelming.

When we allow ourselves to be consumed by all of the negative- getting swept up in all of the FEAR directed our way- we will drown. Maybe our heart will go on beating, but surviving is not living.

I’m encouraging us to change the way we see things, starting TODAY.

  • Acknowledge the hard things with grace and love.
  • Extend kindness whenever possible.
  • Listen to our instincts when they encourage us to fill a gap. (tell her she looks pretty in that sweater, offer to bring a family a meal, buy that person’s coffee, etc…)
  • Keep stock (an actual list, if possible) of the beautiful things happening around you. Big things, small things, even if all you can find is that first sip of your morning coffee, when the flavor and temperature are just right. We HAVE TO CLING to the good bits with FAR MORE tenacity than we reflect on the bad.

Yesterday was a hard news day.

Yesterday was a hard day, for a lot of people I love.

It is quite possible that yesterday was overwhelming for you too.

Yesterday is over. Sure, there are ways its contents can reach into today, and beyond, but we can’t worry about yesterday anymore.

Focus on TODAY. Find your things, and hold on tight…

On trend…

I am an enneagram four. It is literally NOT in my wiring to follow a trend. Growing up, seeking love, I might have dabbled in a music or apparel style only to get all cringy when I realized I simply could not commit. All of those weird 90’s kids, angsty and flannel clad, wearing our docs or converse, listening to music that made us FEEL- we were the real kids in America… The kids who didn’t want to follow the pattern, or color inside the lines. Most of us were Fours, only we didn’t know what that meant then. We found confidence (usually) in our need to find our own rhythms, and we found immense value in accepting all of the other “freaks” who weren’t trend followers either. We also, I’ll admit, still likely felt as though we were on the outside, always looking in; on the brink, but never really belonging…

When I was a young wife I developed a deep affection for Classic Pooh things. They were artistic and obscure little trinkets, hard to find, with steep price tags, when we did stumble upon them. Just before I turned twenty-three, a trend was emerging where every adult woman in the world wanted Disney store apparel themed in Classic Pooh. Dish-sets emerged, followed by entire kitchen ware collections, and household decorations, of the gently sketched little bear and his friends. Honestly, I was lived. Ironically, I was also on the verge of a shift, so as much as I may have wanted this trend to matter and wound my consistent strive for individuality- it didn’t.

When I feel in love with that sweet little bear, I was in this stage of my life where I deeply wanted a baby. In the way that I have always designed and decorated a room, within my mind, I imagined a nursery filled with unique little treasures featuring the gang. Those classically drawn images represented all things innocent and nurturing. They seemed to embody a heart full of aching, and my desperate need to hold my baby in my arms. As time passed, with each miscarriage I endured, the room filling my mind became more intentional. Whenever I’d stumble upon a new piece, I’d buy it, whether I could afford it or not. These were the things that I could do to control my shattering spirit. It wasn’t ever about Disney or trends, or anything other than the symbolism of something imaginary come to life- something cuddly and so incredibly love-able. My heart’s desire…

My seventh miscarriage had me so incredibly disheartened with doctors. It was the 90’s, and while women’s health medicine is still filled with frustration and horror stories, that decade really had this special way of making a woman feel like a complete piece of crap when she managed to have any fertility problems at all. (I have horror stories. I have small surgical procedures in a hospital hallway, by an eager (almost giddy) male doctor, while I was given no anesthesia or pain killer… I have football sized blood clots slapping onto a hospital floor, with a nurse saying “well, that happens! Hopefully the baby is there so we can be done with this and you can get some rest.”, I have promises of how I “definitely will not be losing this baby”, from the experts, while I sat miscarrying 3 hours later. The brutal times were significantly impacted, for the worse, by the medical industry of the time.) Each loss experience was completely different from the others. It is one of those bizarre, indescribable things… And so, when that stick showed a plus sign, in the autumn of 1998, I swore I would not see a doctor until I knew I was halfway through.

You see, in that same way that I was attempting to will God to give me a baby by creating a space for said baby to live, I was needing to blame someone for the lack of babies, thus far. The doctors seemed like the obvious common denominator in each messed up instance. No one would argue that they were not to blame for some terrible things. All of the people consuming my support network, at the time, would also wager that these doctors really did not care about me, my vagina or my future motherhood. The ambivalence with which I was handled was sickening… So, I blamed the doctors and I stayed away.

I ate saltines, took prenatal vitamins, and relished in the mornings I spent on my knees over the toilet. Everyone loved to reaffirm that the morning sickness was a good sign. The breast swelling came once again, the only consistent symptom with my pregnancies before. We slid gently into 1999, and my baby bump was slowly rounding. I had made it, I knew. This was it, finally. We found a highly recommended specialist, for at risk pregnancies, and I reluctantly agreed to see him. (By my rustic calculations I should have been 19-21 weeks along.)

It turns out that hormones are an odd duck. I wasn’t pregnant. My baby bump was a lovely nerf-football sized tumor, which had consumed an entire ovary and made a gigantic mess in my entire uterine area. The rise in some sort of something (this is how well I get science) had convinced my endocrine system that I was pregnant, and so symptoms mimicked pregnancy. It all sounded VERY Twilight Zone and I just knew the doctor was lying, and had disappointingy joined the big conspiracy against my babies, but eventually had to realize this was true. On a Wednesday night, in late January, I downed my first every peach bellini, and the next morning they sliced me open to bring that fat tumor into the world. I lost all of one ovary and a portion of the other.

Then March came, and I turned twenty-three. We had a big party, with a lot of friends, and I wore a denim Winnie the Pooh jumper as we paid a 90’s arm-and-a -leg for glow bowling. My white stitching was radiant beneath the black lights and while our beautiful friends were celebrating that I was alive, I wanted nothing more than the opposite. The doctor had said I could try and have a baby in the following year, but that the condition would happen again, and next time I’d probably lose everything. He had been encouraging, and internally I questioned how I hadn’t already lost everything. I didn’t understand how each bloody puddle that I’d sat broken in, upon ice-cold tile floors were so insignificant to everyone else. Hadn’t they been everything? Hadn’t those little heartbeats at least been something? The world was encouraging. Everyone acted like this had somehow solved the mystery of why I couldn’t carry a baby, and suddenly all roads pointed to a child of my own. I knew they didn’t. I knew that it was over. I couldn’t celebrate. I couldn’t find the happy, there within my inadequacy. I couldn’t have anything to do with that silly old bear again.

Just as the trend swept the nation…

I am an enneagram four. I feel things deeply. I process. I grieve. I march to my own rhythm, never following a trend. I, by nature, feel like an outsider aching to be a part of something. I couldn’t have a baby.

I got swept up in the fastest growing trend among American women…

I am an infertility and miscarriage survivor, and this is my story. One story, lost in the sea of millions.

(On the Collective Podcast this week I come together with four other brave women, vastly different in their own stories. They share their journeys and unexpectedly we find there, despite our differences, the commonalities of of both shame and hope. We find real. We would love for you to hear these stories. This is a safe space if you feel the need to share your own. Here is the link and it is episode 57.)

Magic wrapped joy…

Anyone who truly knows me can attest to the fact that i LOVE gifts. Long before anyone was publishing books about Love Languages, I was enamored by the mystery of a wrapped present. I loved the magic of giving them, even when I clearly knew what was inside. Emotionally, I engaged in the unveiling of the secrets, with the recipient. I am even an absolute fan girl of the empty wrapped gifts meant only to adorn hotel lobbies in December. I don’t know why.

I was just sharing a story, with a friend, about one Christmas when I was a little girl. My grandmother would put her wrapped gifts out weeks before Christmas and I loved looking at each one. While I obviously had a vested interest in the packages with my name on them, I held a pretty committed intrigue to each gift, regardless of who it belonged to. On this particular Christmas, my grandmother had a wrapped gift for me, in the shape of an octagon. It was roughly ten inches long, and octagonal around. I was enchanted. Every empty moment spent at her home, that season, became filled with me sitting cross-legged beneath her tree, that gift in my hands. What WAS it? What could it possibly be? I would rack my brain imagining everything I knew, shaped even remotely similar. I concluded it had to be a candle. A really large, octagon shaped pillar candle. The disappointment of receiving a candle for Christmas was real, but also much smaller than the satisfaction I would obviously feel, come Christmas Eve, when I unwrapped it and had been right.

If gift guessing had been an Olympic sport, I would have gone out for it EVERY SINGLE YEAR… (I also would have been disqualified in ’85 for tearing 2″ pieces off of the back of every present beneath my mom’s tree- the equivalent to “doping”, in this event)

Christmas Eve finally came. Our tamales were eaten, merriment was high and, as the youngest, my time came to begin the unwrapping festivities. I’m sure you will be surprised to learn that the amazing mystery gift was not a candle. In fact, it was two Barbie boxes taped together. (because Barbie boxes used to not be square) It was absolutely GENIUS and while I give my grandmother full credit for being the family Einstein of gift wrapping, she inspired my creative gift wrapping beast to emerge… (Yes, I DID learn it from watching her! Thanks, ’80’s, for the commercial sentiment that is applicable to so many things!)

So yeah, now that it’s a legit “love language”, it is safe to say that gifts are mine. As I’ve matured, my gift giving has too. i LOVE it. It is my absolute favorite thing, of all times. (EVER!!!) If I had the money and corporate sponsorships of Oprah, everyone would be getting presents, all of the time. I keep running gift lists for everyone in my life, from friends to family. I have a ridiculous number of loved ones reach out to me for guidance and direction year round. (I wouldn’t say I’m a gift expert, but I will say I am pretty ok at it.)

I’m not Oprah though. I’m not Ellen. I don’t have awesome companies giving me things to give to people I like. I have me. I have my starving artist budget. The plus side to this shiny (and yet equally dull) coin is that this means I am far more intentional about the gifts I do give. The less than fun flip side is that I don’t get to give a fraction of what I would like. (If you were hoping that this silly post might end with presents galore, it won’t. I’m sorry- but I do promise imaginary puppies for everyone!!!)

Take my husband, for instance. Gifts are NOT his love language. They are not something he cares too much about. He could never again give a gift to anyone and be absolutely capable of both sleeping at night, and seeing his reflection in the mirror… (I know, it sounds like I’m describing a MONSTER, but I’m not. Chw is a really great guy, he’s just a little flawed when it comes to presents. I have learned to accept him…) He also, hasn’t been the best gift receiver. Personally I feel that it may be my purpose, on this earth, to one day create a course helping weak receivers not shatter the hearts of the generous givers they love- because this is REAL. If you’ve never known such hell, count your lucky stars… Because when you pour all of your love (and thought and time, and therefore self) into the perfect gift, for it to end up shoved in a drawer or never worn/used- it kills… You just can’t please some people… (by no fault of their own, of course. They just don’t care. And are damaged. They may crush souls for breakfast, but I’m not here to judge. Whatever.) Even with this reality, I love him, so I continue to torture myself and therefore, for him, I have three gift lists…

There’s the:

  • ridiculously boring stuff he actually wants that, in my opinion, make for really crappy gifts. (a tire gauge? really? Nothing says Merry Christmas, you are the love of my life like a tire gauge- am I right?)
  • awesome gift ideas that he should love, yet fit within my crazy small budget.
  • the ten million dollar list of things that i KNOW would make him blissfully happy, (Apocalypse Tesla? YES! Your own Japanese Steakhouse, on call, in your own kitchen? DONE!) but that I also know I will never get to give him, and that’s ok… It’s still fun to dream, and the dreams that really make me happiest are the ones when I imagine I get to give really wonderful gifts to the people I love…

Take my podcast, for instance. Every single guest I talk to, I think of the perfect gift for them. I can’t buy it for them, but I deeply wish that I could in an overwhelmingly powerful way, send them a creatively packaged present, after we chat, so that they could hold how much I value, respect and appreciate them, within the palm of their hands.

Perhaps loving via gifts, is less of a gift itself… I don’t know. I am a tortured, writer soul, i am no expert. What I do know is that Christmas is around the corner and so many of us go above and beyond (heart wise, time wise, stress wise, and financially) and it isn’t healthy. This season that we are approaching is the most depression filled, suicidal season within the average calendar year. While there are many factors at play here- finances and the expectations around our capabilities concerning our money/spending/gifts/travel are huge. It doesn’t have to be that way. I have something coming, that can help… If you aren’t on my email list- sign up to stay in the loop because next Friday a few great things are happening. Relevant and timely things… (Just keep in mind, I’m not Oprah!)

Back to that Octagon Christmas… While I remember the amazement I felt, discovering what the package was- I couldn’t begin to recall which Barbie’s they were. I can’t tell you anything else I unwrapped, that year. I have literally zero recollection of what Santa brought Christmas morning. I am forty-three years old, and do you know what I DO remember? The beauty and the magic of that gift. The mystery, and the weeks of wondering, which led me to absolute joy.

The moral of this story: The JOY is in the giving. (the second, somewhat deeper moral: If there’s no joy in the process- it’s not right and you need to stop.)