I ASKED FOR HELP AND FOUND MY TRIBE.

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This is not an easy thing for me to say, but here goes: My name is Suzy, and I need…ugh…I need…gulp…okay here goes…I NEED HELP!

Wow, that was tough, and yet it’s true. I am recovering from back-to-back reconstructive foot surgeries, and guess what I learned? I can’t do it alone. I need help. But sometimes it feels easier to do it the hard way than ask for help. Me, relinquish control of every aspect of my routine? Me, admit that I can’t do it all? Me, watch someone else do it the wrong way?

When you live over a decade with an illness, you learn to adapt. You learn to modify your ways in order to preserve your independence…and your self-esteem. Every time you have to ask for help, like opening a bottle of pain reliever medication so that you can function a little better and not have to ask for so much assistance, it’s a reminder that you have limitations while others don’t.

I don’t think the hesitance to ask for help is solely tied to those with illness or injury, though. I think far too many of us fall victim to this mentality. In this day and age of the multi-tasking, overachieving, constantly-striving-for-self-growth way of life, to admit we can’t do it all feels like defeat. Think about your workplace. A leader is only as good as the people she leads. A great leader has great employees and knows how to delegate. She has help.

Except in real life, most of us don’t have personal assistants to help us manage our lives. We can’t tell someone to watch our kids while we go to the doctor or bring us soup when we are sick. We have to ask. We have to interrupt someone else’s busy routine, one that’s probably just as full as ours.

                  No wonder we are so exhausted.

                  No wonder we feel busy and overwhelmed.

                  No wonder our relationships struggle and we feel alone.

                  No wonder we don’t feel a sense of community. We don’t offer a sense of community.

What are we so afraid of? Rejection? Move on and ask another person. Disappointment? Again, move on and find someone else. Being an inconvenience? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Would you feel inconvenienced? Hopefully your answer is no. Are you afraid of strengthening friendships? Having someone by your side to make life a little easier? Sharing in life’s troubles?

You see, we have so much to gain when we learn to ask for help and very little to lose (except for some maybe their pride, in which case I would suggest you need to be humbled now and then).

I’m not suggesting we make every problem someone else’s problem. There is strength and satisfaction to be found in perseverance. But when life seems to be throwing a dozen lemons at us (or in my case, a broken garbage disposal, broken dryer, backed up sewage pipes, broken garage door spring and a totally busted “Franken-foot”), and we only have two hands, why not ask for help catching the other lemons rather than trying to grow ten more hands (and maybe even an extra foot)?

So back to my foot surgeries: I not only accepted but I asked for help. I accepted offers for meals. I asked to borrow a knee scooter. I asked for healing prayers and emotional guidance. I asked for help getting kids to and from school. I asked for rides to doctor appointments and play dates. I asked for help when my daughter got herself stuck inside box spring mattress. Imagine making that phone call. I even asked one of my closest friends to scrub my toilet. (For the record, she is a neat freak whose love language I am pretty sure is cleaning toilets.)

And guess what? Not everyone helped, but a lot of them did, even with the toilets. They caught my lemons! It’s my hope that I can repay them with kindness and generosity. No, I take that back. I won’t repay them. These friends of mine, they don’t keep tabs. But maybe, hopefully, I can be there for them, and others, when the need for help arises.

SUZY

I’ve always enjoyed being in motion, whether it’s playing tennis, running a marathon, hiking the desert trails or mountain biking. Managing multiple autoimmune diseases has forced me reevaluate my definitions of healthy and active. It’s given me a new perspective on medicine, doctors and nutrition.

I am stubborn, though, and refuse to give in to disease. Determined to find the answers, I search each day and have been known to do some CRAZY stuff in the name of healing. And I won’t stop until I win or die trying.

In between those searches, I volunteer at my kids’ schools, read, write, get crafty, bake, organize my Pinterest boards, attack everything in the house with a label maker… What can I say, I get bored easily and need hobbies, lots and lots of them.

I ASKED FOR HELP AND FOUND MY TRIBE.

pexels-photo-541520.jpeg

This is not an easy thing for me to say, but here goes: My name is Suzy, and I need…ugh…I need…gulp…okay here goes…I NEED HELP!

Wow, that was tough, and yet it’s true. I am recovering from back-to-back reconstructive foot surgeries, and guess what I learned? I can’t do it alone. I need help. But sometimes it feels easier to do it the hard way than ask for help. Me, relinquish control of every aspect of my routine? Me, admit that I can’t do it all? Me, watch someone else do it the wrong way?

When you live over a decade with an illness, you learn to adapt. You learn to modify your ways in order to preserve your independence…and your self-esteem. Every time you have to ask for help, like opening a bottle of pain reliever medication so that you can function a little better and not have to ask for so much assistance, it’s a reminder that you have limitations while others don’t.

I don’t think the hesitance to ask for help is solely tied to those with illness or injury, though. I think far too many of us fall victim to this mentality. In this day and age of the multi-tasking, overachieving, constantly-striving-for-self-growth way of life, to admit we can’t do it all feels like defeat. Think about your workplace. A leader is only as good as the people she leads. A great leader has great employees and knows how to delegate. She has help.

Except in real life, most of us don’t have personal assistants to help us manage our lives. We can’t tell someone to watch our kids while we go to the doctor or bring us soup when we are sick. We have to ask. We have to interrupt someone else’s busy routine, one that’s probably just as full as ours.

                  No wonder we are so exhausted.

                  No wonder we feel busy and overwhelmed.

                  No wonder our relationships struggle and we feel alone.

                  No wonder we don’t feel a sense of community. We don’t offer a sense of community.

What are we so afraid of? Rejection? Move on and ask another person. Disappointment? Again, move on and find someone else. Being an inconvenience? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Would you feel inconvenienced? Hopefully your answer is no. Are you afraid of strengthening friendships? Having someone by your side to make life a little easier? Sharing in life’s troubles?

You see, we have so much to gain when we learn to ask for help and very little to lose (except for some maybe their pride, in which case I would suggest you need to be humbled now and then).

I’m not suggesting we make every problem someone else’s problem. There is strength and satisfaction to be found in perseverance. But when life seems to be throwing a dozen lemons at us (or in my case, a broken garbage disposal, broken dryer, backed up sewage pipes, broken garage door spring and a totally busted “Franken-foot”), and we only have two hands, why not ask for help catching the other lemons rather than trying to grow ten more hands (and maybe even an extra foot)?

So back to my foot surgeries: I not only accepted but I asked for help. I accepted offers for meals. I asked to borrow a knee scooter. I asked for healing prayers and emotional guidance. I asked for help getting kids to and from school. I asked for rides to doctor appointments and play dates. I asked for help when my daughter got herself stuck inside box spring mattress. Imagine making that phone call. I even asked one of my closest friends to scrub my toilet. (For the record, she is a neat freak whose love language I am pretty sure is cleaning toilets.)

And guess what? Not everyone helped, but a lot of them did, even with the toilets. They caught my lemons! It’s my hope that I can repay them with kindness and generosity. No, I take that back. I won’t repay them. These friends of mine, they don’t keep tabs. But maybe, hopefully, I can be there for them, and others, when the need for help arises.

SUZY

I’ve always enjoyed being in motion, whether it’s playing tennis, running a marathon, hiking the desert trails or mountain biking. Managing multiple autoimmune diseases has forced me reevaluate my definitions of healthy and active. It’s given me a new perspective on medicine, doctors and nutrition.

I am stubborn, though, and refuse to give in to disease. Determined to find the answers, I search each day and have been known to do some CRAZY stuff in the name of healing. And I won’t stop until I win or die trying.

In between those searches, I volunteer at my kids’ schools, read, write, get crafty, bake, organize my Pinterest boards, attack everything in the house with a label maker… What can I say, I get bored easily and need hobbies, lots and lots of them.

SATIATING MY INNER ARTIST.

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I have been mothering multiple children for over a decade now, and in their midst, my time is always shared. I have begrudgingly learned that some tasks cannot even be begun in the realm of raising little people. Perhaps that is when we lose sight of actions that bring us joy. To be peeled away from what we love to do, because we are never not needed, is painful at times. There was a moment when I felt sure that I would never again see an artistic endeavor from conception to completion. To feel compelled to create, or inspired in that moment, and realize that someone is always going to be hungry, or crying, or bored, and you are the one responsible for tending to those needs, is really awful.

I’ve adapted. Part of it sounds like less than a solution. I have embraced that sometimes I appear to be a slob. Okay realistically, if the creative urge is strong, I cut corners. My friends know that if they drop in on me, I may be wearing my pajamas as an outfit. On certain occasions, I have not asked the kids to clean up after themselves if they are not interfering with me, and aside from throwing food at them, I will anchor myself in the task at hand. It’s an artist/mother survival technique.

The truth is, I've never been afraid to make a mess, but there was always time before kids, to start and finish something. Now there are twenty in between stop-and-start-again phases. And at the end of the day, as I scramble to throw dinner together, the countertops may be covered in unfinished paper crafts, paint trays, and the resulting hint of what could someday be art are littered over the colorfully blemished dining table. My bed may be hiding beneath strewn fabric awaiting a final stitch and me somewhere else completely, making a sandwich, applying a bandaid, or just belly to the ground, playing with my kids.

I have made an effort not to completely abandon those things that seem absolutely unfathomable to finish. I credit this to handing over much of what I love to do, to my kids. I may have wanted to collage a masterpiece, but I spent the hour cutting out things that they wanted from magazines instead and in between helping the littles with the glue and the scissors, I was able to steal enjoyment from the creations that they made. This is how they have come to sew, paint, sculpt and draw. I had to willingly let go (literally sometimes: paint brushes and pencils pulled from my grasp), and be okay with assisting them in their own creations.

Making things for the sake of making things, is who I am. There is homemade flarp in my carpet that is never coming out. A beautiful smear of fuchsia paint has embedded in the wood floor in my dining room. Sparkles are so deeply ingrained in the nooks and crannies that you can’t escape, unknowingly wearing one or two on your face for a day. The mess is collateral damage for the bigger, more important part; remaining a creative force while being a mom. 

EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.

     

 

PARENTING WITH RESPECT TO GROW YOUR RELATIONSHIPS.

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In astrology, it's said that an eclipse is looked upon as a turning point. Where I live, we had almost one hundred percent totality. Our most amazing friends drove 11 hours to witness this phenomenon and stayed with us for a few days. They have four children, whom Mom homeschools, ranging in age from four to eleven. These kids are something to behold, full of smiles, confidence, and endless pleases and thank yous. They are constantly drawing, reading, playing games, or generally being delightful. And that's just the kids. I haven't even gotten started on their parents.

Mama is ethereal, she has a gentle way about her and a humble, witty, refreshingly honest sense of humor. She effortlessly floats from child to child, sitting down to draw with one or play cards with another. They arrived with a slew of library books, and she very naturally expanded upon the lessons within, craftily turning it into a teaching moment. None of it felt hurried or like a chore. She was one hundred percent engaged, and this wasn't even homeschool, it was vacation. 

Dad handles the kids with an uncommon level of patience. He is gentle in his reprimands, which surface more like empathetic chats. When the kids talk to him, he's all ears, there's no half listening or hurrying the conversation along. He injects subtle humor, which remanifests in the kids and how they communicate with others.

All across the board, major parenting inspiration. Goals, people.

Now, I'm going to have to get really transparent about how witnessing all of that made me feel as a parent. In two words, inadequate and ashamed. While I could have internalized these sensations, I chose to instead use them as a tool to explore my own parenting.

What I realized is that I'm spending a whole lot of time wiping down countertops and making things clean, at the expense of my children. I really had to sit back and ask myself, "Am I wiping countertops for four hours per day (exaggerated for dramatic effect) because I'm a neat freak, or am I endlessly cleaning because it's an excuse to not engage?" Then, I have to follow that up with, "Do I not want to engage, or do I not know how to?" This leads me further in, "Am I afraid to engage?" "Is my need for perfection or, more accurately, my fear of a lack thereof, keeping me from checking in?" I also noticed an underlying fear of changing and what that might entail.

For me, it all comes back to that vulnerability. It's diffusive. If my image doesn't project like I've got it all together, then what will people think of me? More importantly, what will I think of me? Will I feel weak, not good enough, not worthy? 

We both know that no one really cares about my house being tidy or meticulously decorated. Sure, they notice, but it's probably not a major factor in whether or not I'm considered likeable. The only person who is judging me is ME.

And, watching this family interact, I was judging myself, hard. But, this judgment felt like it had merit. It reminded me that my current parenting priorities aren't very authentic. They're coming from a place of feeling like I'm not enough. A place where I have to control my environment to feel adequate. And, some of it isn't about vulnerability at all, but is born out of a simple need for an example of how to be a more present parent.

Witnessing their profound relationships with one another checked me out of that irrationality and offered me a model, both things I sorely needed. I realized that in an attempt to maintain "perfect" order, I'm impatient. I half listen to the words coming out of my children's mouths. I often respond hastily, because the laundry ain't gonna do itself. Ultimately, wether it's inadvertent or not, my children aren't feeling respected. That plays out in their treatment towards one another and their treatment towards my husband and I. I'm falling short in some really important ways. It's likely that many of us are, for varying reasons. We're tired, and we're busy. It takes a lot of extra effort to be mindful under those circumstances. It's easy to get lost in our phones and our televisions. 

Now isn't the time to languish in guilt. That's not why life presented me with this beautiful family for four days. This was an opportunity, a gift to reassess how I'm operating. And, I have it on good authority that it took effort and self evaluation for these parents to evolve into the stellar force that they've come to be.

A light has shown in a darkness, and I'm forever changed. This isn't the type of thing where you go on a diet and then eat a cupcake two days in, reasoning that you'll start again on Monday. This is my family. There is absolutely no excuse worthy of failure or transgressions. These little souls are going to be part of our lives, as children, for a very limited time. I can probably keep my sparkly countertops and still be far more present with my children. Showing your children the same deference that you desire of them takes no extra time, just more focus. Commingling with them, in their individual activities sporadically throughout the day, equates to the laundry hanging out in the basket for an extra hour or two. 

I hope you'll take away a few things from this:

1.  If you're going to be your own worst critic, do something about it. Guilt is a useless, fruitless endeavor.

2.  It's worth it to sit back and examine your feelings in reaction to something. Find the opportunity for growth in your experiences. Allow yourself to go deeper. Don't sell the process short by moving on from a little introspection too quickly. 

3.  Remember that most of our faulty methods of operating are coming from a noble place of self protection. Don't be too hard on yourself, but also don't use that as an excuse to stagnate.

4.  Finally, your kids, your marriage- always worth it. Put the work in. Too often these are the people we are the least respectful too and the most indulgent with, yet they love us the most. Don't just be decent, put one another on the pedestal that kind of love deserves.

 

Links to the blogs of Emily, the beautiful creature/mother I'm referencing, below. Learn from her. She's special.

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

HOW I MANAGE ANXIETY AND STRESS THROUGH PRACTICING YOGA.

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I was in Yoga class doing Ustrasana (Camel pose), a heart opening pose. I started to feel my heart beating more quickly, my stomach was tied up in knots. I easily could have thrown up. The panic forced me out of the pose and onto my heels. I shrugged it off thinking that maybe I just needed some water. After a quick drink, I continued. Class ended with Savasana (Corpse pose). Again, in Savasana, I started to feel my heart racing, my stomach tightening, and this time, tears welling up in my eyes. What was going on? Whatever it was, it was powerful; the tears kept coming, and I had no explanation for them. 

I later realized that I was experiencing the release of trapped emotions in my body.  This is a common phenomen in yoga. Corpse pose is deceptively simple. You lay on your back in a relaxed state for several minutes. The intent is to let go of worries and almost be meditative. In the midst of busy lives, it can be difficult to allow that level of relaxation. In that moment, I needed to purge myself of emotional stressors, and my body had a physical response to that release, something I've experienced multiple times since then.

No one is immune to emotional baggage. We carry around pain, sadness, rejection, contempt, etc. Have you ever thought about where you store all of these emotions? Yoga teaches that we carry them in our body. That mind, body, and spirit connection is incredibly interwoven and immeasurably powerful.

So many of us are on medication to control our emotional responses. Medication can be an important jumping off point for healing, but there's something to be said for allowing ourselves to feel. It's important to sometimes sit with our emotions, to observe them. Heartbreak, love, joy, sadness, grief, failure, and accomplishment all have places in everyone's lives. Giving our attention to the sensations accompanying those emotions and letting ourselves sit with them is part of processing our lives. It's how we build coping skills, so that we can push on in the face of emotional obstacles. It seems that some people are robbed of the opportunity to do so by the emotional numbness that can occur with medication. We can't be expected to feel everything intensely, we have to be functional in our lives, but we do need to achieve some level of balance. 

My yoga practice continues to bring me to this place of balance; a place where I can feel my emotions in my body and not judge them. As you go through your day, I urge you to observe what you're feeling without getting overly drawn in to the emotional response. Here are some things that have helped me on and off my mat. 

1.    Be present- I know, easier said than done. I so get the struggle in this. I have been trying to be present ever since I heard what being present was all about! It’s a continual battle in an overwhelming world with constant stimuli. We play so many roles, we take on so much, we go and go and go. Living mindfully all the time isn't realistic but reminding myself in the moments that it really counts is possible, like when I'm with my husband or children. There are times when it's far more difficult, such as the morning rush to drop off the kids, or when my mother calls me to find out where I am (for the third time in three hours), love you, Mom! When does it count for you? Aim to be present, to just be in the moment, to not judge, to not fix. JUST BE. Being present allows you to feel your surroundings and observe your own feelings towards them without judgement. 

2.    Breathe- How many times do we forget to do that in a day? I am constantly reminded in Yoga class “don’t forget to breath!” Breathing, and more importantly, being aware of your breath, is one of the most fundamental things we can do to feel and then let go. It is a tool to help us to experience our emotions and simultaneously work us through them. I often find myself not breathing when I am upset or nervous, holding all of my emotions in. Again, our powerful mind, body, spirit connection at work. 

3.    Feel it all and cry it out- Yes, men too! We have a tendency to only want to feel the good stuff, naturally, because who wants to feel sadness, grief, loneliness, etc.? Yet, as a therapist, I know how important it is to allow yourself to feel the array of emotions we were born with. All of our feelings play a part in our lives. We wouldn’t know what happiness was if we didn’t have sadness. It is ok to feel sad, it is ok to cry, it is normal, it is right. If you deny yourself the negative emotions, it is hard, if not impossible, to genuinely feel the positive ones. Furthermore, guess where all of those negative emotions go? You guessed it, your body. If it isn’t in your body, it will be in your relationships, your choices, and your destiny. Those emotions have to manifest. Yoga and breath awareness are two tools that I invite you to try, to increase the quality of your emotional life!

 

NAYANTARA

As a young child, my parents left India to come to the United States. They sacraficed a very comfortable life because they had a vision for their children's futures, one in which we had the opportunities to pursue our passions.

True to my parents desire for me, I've Followed my heart and my passion to be of service to others, becoming a part time instructor of Counseling at my local State University, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm also a wife and a mother to two amazing children, a seven year old boy and five year old girl. My latest adventure is to work towards my Yoga Instructor license, sharing my love for yoga and helping others to transform themselves and their lives through it. I can feel that my years of experience being a therapist, along with my journey of being a Yogi, is setting me up to be a student first and then a teacher. I hope to share my journey, learning with you and through you along the way.

 

HOW I SAVED MY MARRIAGE AND FOUND MYSELF.

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When I met my husband, I was just coming off of a ten year relationship, four of which were spent married. And, when I say just coming off of, I mean the month after. I absolutely wasn't looking for anything serious, and wasn't sure I ever wanted to be married again, but was still fresh in the headspace of operating as a committed, married person. Being in something resembling that felt natural. I made it clear to my now husband, from the onset, that this wasn't going to turn into anything permanent and internally resolved the same. 

He was easy to talk to, understanding, we communicated similarly. Our conversations had depth. He was patient, and he really wanted our relationship to have a legitimate future. This left me with the upper hand, and that's not ever an optimal start. I was selfish, and I felt completely entitled to be so. I was in the process of healing and self discovery, trying to figure out where my blame lay in the dissolution of my marriage, and on a mission to reclaim my confidence and self worth. I couldn't risk failing again. It's easy to get lost in the minutiae when you're in the midst of an emotional battlefield. It's convoluted, and at the end, no one really wants to take the blame or sit around dissecting the ins and outs of something on the verge of being lost. 

I was fragile, but it presented as a lack of empathy and self involvement. Call it self preservation and protection. My now husband was compassionate enough to allow that and maybe a touch naive at the time. He was four years younger than me, idealistic, and inexperienced enough to accept my transgressions in the name of potential love. Pure good. 

It's incredibly difficult to start off on one side and then switch teams, especially when you were your team's biggest fan and greatest advocate. I fought hard to stay on that team. The dynamic of our relationship felt concreted, as did my mindset. I wasn't going to let him in, I couldn't allow myself to be vulnerable. It was too soon, and it didn't feel safe. Little did I know what was to come of our future and how damaging this subconscious choice, for lack of a better word, would become.

Seven months later, I was pregnant. One would think that may have shifted things, but it didn't. How to drop your emotional stance when you'd spent the entire relationship defending and honing it. 

Then there's the issue of believing your own bullshit. 

Don't think that things were ugly. I'm a nurterer by nature. I play the part of wife well. I'm not sure that my now husband even really knew that anything was amiss. I'd been going the motions for years prior, in a dysfunctional marriage, I was pretty adept at it. We married when our son was a year and a half. I knew, in my heart, that something was missing. I would tell myself that he wasn't right for me, we just weren't meant to be, arcane excuses from an ambiguous mind. In reality, he was doing everything right, and by all standards, I should've been madly in love. It took a long while before I was able to acknowledge that the only person who was lacking was me. 

I wasn't checked in. This manifested in a multitude of ways. It's still difficult for me to believe that he allowed it, but his desire to spare the loss of our family trumped his own needs, and if I'm being honest, my position in the relationship had slowly whittled away at him. I was hard on him, often quick to be dismissive of his needs and opinions. I tried to take charge of things I had no business being a part of, creating a mother/child dynamic around certain issues. I was feisty, always ready with a snide come back. I'd call it a subtle form of depracating, subdued and inconsistent enough to just toe the line, to keep from being completely found out, to keep from having to concede to myself what was happening. All this for the sake of maintaining my upper hand, insulating myself from the pain that true attachment can bring. I didn't want to have to leave someone that I loved again, because we just couldn't work. It was the most difficult, gut wrenching thing I'd ever done. So, in my disjointed emotional brain, the best protection was to not allow that level of attachment. Nonsensical and stupid, at best, and a devastating waste of time, years of potentially meaningful connection squandered. But, as Maya Angelou said, "When you know better, you do better," and I just didn't know any better, yet. 

I can't berate myself for the human action of avoiding pain. I wasn't consciously making the decision to act out these behaviors. That's how powerful the mind is, how immense the influence that fear has on the words coming out of our mouths, fooling us into believing false assumptions. I really didn't see any of it with clarity, and it's hard to share that I didn't begin to until much later. 

I don't want to be dismissive of my responsibility, cavalier about the pain that my husband endured while I meandered through the relationship with blinders on and mercurial emotions. I was aware, on an intuitive level, that I was an asshole, but I didn't know why, and I wasn't sure how to change it, because if I did, I knew, on a deeper level, that I might WANT to check in. I'm not even sure exactly when the realization occurred that I was manifesting the very thing I was most afraid of, a marriage destined to fail. 

The epiphany was the easy part. How to change something that was years in the making, how to turn an entire relational dynamic on its head, now that felt incredibly daunting. The task at hand involved retraining my brain, changing ME. The only tactic that seemed appropriate was deceptively basic;  "fake it til you make it". This was hard because it required, what felt like, a condition of inauthenticity. It also required me to know what the hell a healthy, madly in love wife looked like. From my husband's end, it called for him to endure what resembled a newfangled wife pretending. It all felt, somewhat, like a giant joke, but he's an outstanding human, and we have built an incredible little family, well worth every ounce of effort and temporary make believe. And, let's face it, the prize, unencumbered love... yeah, we're in. 

A metamorphosis of this caliber, demanded acting in extremes, in an attempt to find a reasonable middle, but it was still easier than I thought it would be. I owe most of that to Sean, for never making me feel like a fool, and for always indulging my unremitting need to talk about it, to beat the damn dead horse to smithereens. 

The hard part, as in breaking any habit, is sticking with it. I fell off the wagon any time a stressor entered the picture, a sick kid, a sleepless night, a disagreement. It didn't take much, and I never got back in the saddle as fast as I should have, but I did get back on the horse, and I still get back on that horse. Each time I stay on a little longer. Let me tell you, riding this horse feels pretty damn good, too. Being vulnerable with Sean doesn't scare me. I trust him implicitly. It's more about retraining my brain, breaking that habit of self protection. It has nothing to do with the context of our relationship or my faith in my husband, it never has. It was always me and my stuff, my fears. I can honestly say that I fall in love with him more each day. 

Sharing this isn't just about a fear of vulnerability. We all have ineffective ways of relating to others. Maybe they started in childhood. My vulnerability issues didn't exist solely because of a faulty first marriage. They were there for the duration of the first marriage, and we couldn't work through them. We both struggled with the same fears and personal feelings of inadequacy, and it was just too much for us to recognize and ultimately mend, at that time in our lives. Choosing to acknowledge where you're selling yourself short is daunting, but it's also incredibly liberating and reaps powerful rewards. Retraining the brain is a slow and difficult process that requires constant motivation, awareness, and accountability, over and over again, until the job is done. 

We've got this one life, and we owe it to ourselves to give all that we have to the pursuit of love and connection, because that's what it's all about. Taking a long hard look at our relationships, with a critical eye, and owning our own flawed processes, that prevent true and continued connection, is a journey well worth embarking upon. It's the journey your soul exists for. 

 

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME. NO, REALLY, IT'S ME.

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This probably won't come as a surprise, but I love hosting parties and dinners, the prep work, the cleaning, the staging, the whole enchilada. I, more or less, exited the womb as a retiree. I wanted to be a grown up as soon as I could comprehend what the hell that meant. No slight to my parents, but I couldn't wait to move out and take care of a house. As a little girl, I had them remove my bed and put the pull out sofa in my room, so it felt like an "apartment." I never connected with cartoons, instead preferring the likes of Mork and Mindy and Laverne and Shirley. I played games like "teacher", and "librarian", and "waitress." A real hoot and holler of a kid. You can imagine all the raging fun that goes on in our house now that I actually am an adult. My poor husband and children. I'm not that bad, it just has to be "clean" fun, as in literally clean. Reading books, favorite activity. 

I digress from my original point. Hosting shit. There's an element of planning, always a win in my book, and then you have the execution which, without a doubt, floats my boat. I'm a bit of a raging bitch in the final moments, because of the self induced pressure to perform, but it's nothing that Sean can't handle with a swift removal of the children for a long drive in the car until I've wrapped up. He's learned that one can find something pleasurable and want to continue doing it, even while appearing to not be enjoying the process. Most of all, he's learned it's best not to point that part out. Just take the kids and get in the car. Don't come back until the floor is washed and my hair is dry. Then I pour myself a little glass of wine, and I'm a pleasure to be around. I'm in it for the build up and the slow unfolding. Love. It. 

So, this retiree by nature wasn't something I was aware of until the last few years. Obviously, the older I've gotten, the older I've become, as in at 20, I was probably akin to a 35 year old. Now, at 40, I'm like 60. That math doesn't work, but it's an accelerated process as you age, says me. Anyway, I assumed everyone was like me, as I think most of us do until we realize differently. 

This caused internal struggle for me, because I was going above and beyond, on the regular, and not noticing much, if any reciprocation. My first assumption was that people didn't like me. We're not just talking about cooking dinners, this is friendships, boyfriends, husbands, you name it. If I was going to all this trouble for them, and they weren't responding in kind, they must not care much about me one way or the other. I think I spent a good decade rolling around in that assumption. 

It took a long while for me to realize a couple pretty imperative things. 

Everyone is not like me. And, praise be for them, because it's a hell of a lot of work. Beyond that, they aren't really even giving me much thought. We're all pretty damn wrapped up in our own existences. Sure, we talk a lil' shit here and there about each other, but the amount of energy put in pretty much ends there, and if it doesn't, whatever your hang up is about someone else, it probably has more to do with you than them. Time for you to do some uncomfortable soul searching.

The other crucial realization I had was that I wasn't doing shit for anyone else, making elaborate dinners from scratch wasn't an ode to my guests. Bringing my husband breakfast in his office and reorganizing his closet wasn't for him. It was for me. I was doing it because I wanted to and enjoyed the process. Whether it's appreciated or reciprocated is neither here nor there. The minute I took that bit out of the equation was the moment I upped my enjoyment factor even more. It removed pressure and the possibility of resentment. 

A book that really moved me along in this process was "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. I can't stress enough what an important read this is if you are a human. No one is immune from the lessons within. I read it a couple times per year, because I require constant reminders of how to operate without resentment. If you're a giver, this is a must do for you as well. 

Taking a long hard look at yourself hurts sometimes, most times, but the growth that you stand to gain makes every ounce of pain worth it. It's so easy to point the finger at the other. I've done plenty of it. Ultimately, how we respond to our experiences is what shapes our world. Taking responsibility for our perspective is empowering and it is, hands down, one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves. 

 

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

THE UNEXPECTED GIFTS THAT AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE BROUGHT TO ME.

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The other day I cried while loading the dishwasher.

You are probably thinking, I cry when I have to clean the toilets. It’s called housework, and we all have to do it, so get over your little pitty party and put on your big girl underpants.

Fair enough. But there was a reason I was crying, and it had nothing to do with the actual task at hand and everything to do with what my life had become at that moment. Bent over on a knee scooter, recovering from a second reconstructive foot surgery in four months, unable to walk and losing strength in my arms and hands, I was stuck. The wheel of the scooter was jammed between the dirty tile floor and the open door to the dishwasher, while the bottom rack held a heavy ceramic crock pot which made the rack impossible to slide back into the dishwasher. I couldn’t even close the damn dishwasher without my eight-year-old’s help.

At thirty-nine years old, I felt totally helpless and old and…guilty.

My family didn’t ask for this.

My husband didn’t ask to be the sole provider while driving kids to school, giving them baths, cleaning the house and picking up groceries. He’s like a single parent except he has to pay my medical bills, which we all know aren’t cheap. He didn’t ask to give up vacations because I can’t hike in Oregon and can’t wear flip flops in Carlsbad. He didn’t ask to forego fancy anniversary dinners because I have severe food sensitivities and can only wear sneakers, anyway. No, he didn’t ask for this life, and he couldn’t have imagined it fifteen years ago when he said his vows.

My kids don’t deserve a mom who can’t kick a soccer ball or camp out on the living room floor. They shouldn’t have to hear all the reasons why I can’t take them to the museum or the trampoline park. They deserve better than a mom who screams in agony and frustration when they accidentally hit her elbow with a book. Yeah, a book.

So what does one do when faced with this guilt? I’ve found a few things that help.

1.     Remember it’s not your fault. I repeat, it’s not your fault. You didn’t intentionally make yourself sick. In fact I’d bet a million bucks (or maybe a year’s worth of medical bills) that there isn’t much you wouldn’t do to make yourself well again.

2.     Know that you are deserving of love regardless of your physical condition. Do you love your parents or grandparents any less when they need help opening a jar of sugar-free jam, get cataracts or need a hip replacement? (Note that you are allowed to dislike the sugar-free jam. Artificial sweeteners are crap.)

3.     Put yourself in their shoes. I’ll be honest, I struggle with this one. The kids are easy. I grew up with a mother afflicted by RA. I never resented her or felt slighted. But my husband…well, I never thought of him as having a caretaker’s mentality, and that’s what he has become. Most men are physical by nature, and my man is no exception. They are drawn to the physicality of their mate, and some days my physicality looks like I just walked off the set of The Walking Dead. All I can do is try to fulfill his needs as much as possible and show my appreciation for his loyalty and care of our family.

4.     Think of everything your loved ones have gained. Say what??!! Sounds crazy but it’s true, there are things to be gained. I believe my children are learning empathy and compassion. When my son has to refill my glass of water and my daughter has to retrieve ice packs, they learn to put others’ needs before theirs. Anyone with small children can agree that is not instinctual for most kids.

5.     Embrace the times when you must slow down. My limitations have forced the family to slow down at times. Maybe we didn’t travel the way we had planned this past summer, but we rented a cabin a couple of hours away and were able to unwind. The kids got to play in the creek and get muddy. We went fishing and listened to Pearl Jam. (Typical fishing music, right?) We read books and swung on wooden swings. I’m pretty sure we made a few good memories along the way.

It’s not an easy journey for any of us, but with the right perspective, we can live enjoyable and fulfilling lives with our loved ones.

SUZY

I’ve always enjoyed being in motion, whether it’s playing tennis, running a marathon, hiking the desert trails or mountain biking. Managing multiple autoimmune diseases has forced me reevaluate my definitions of healthy and active. It’s given me a new perspective on medicine, doctors and nutrition.

I am stubborn, though, and refuse to give in to disease. Determined to find the answers, I search each day and have been known to do some CRAZY stuff in the name of healing. And I won’t stop until I win or die trying.

In between those searches, I volunteer at my kids’ schools, read, write, get crafty, bake, organize my Pinterest boards, attack everything in the house with a label maker… What can I say, I get bored easily and need hobbies, lots and lots of them.

AUTOIMMUNITY AND THE MAGIC BEANS.

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Autoimmunity. It’s the (often) invisible disease that will turn your life upside down and is sure to spark more debate at a dinner party than any presidential election or bathroom segregation. Everyone seems to have an opinion these days.

Chronic fatigue syndrome? Poor diet. Adrenal fatigue? You need to exercise more. No, don’t exercise. Sleep with a grounding pillow. Fibromyalgia? Try yoga. Acupuncture. Arthritis? Cut out gluten and dairy. Go Paleo. Go alkaline. Try some CBD oil. Hypothyroid? You need more iodine. Less iodine. No, you need to remove that root canal. Did I mention I have some magic beans to sell you?

Surely there must be a reason why we’ve seen such a spike in autoimmunity. It’s all caused by leaky gut. No, it’s parasites. Epstein Barr Virus. Vaccines. Heavy metals. Nope, it’s just mental.

Feel free to roll your eyes now if you haven’t already. Ugh, I’ve heard it all. And I’ve said it all at some point in my sixteen years since I was first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

I’m not here to tell you why we suffer. I don’t know the root cause, and I don’t know the cure, although I’m working to find mine.

I do know what it feels like to suffer, though. At the age of 23 I was diagnosed with RA. I have since been diagnosed with hypothyroid and adrenal insufficiency. I’ve had high uric acid (no, I don’t drink beer or alcohol of any sort, thanks for asking). I’ve suffered through fibromyalgia pain and all sorts of other weird symptoms that would probably have an autoimmune diagnosis if I felt like going to a doctor. And it sucks.

But I’m not looking for sympathy.

You see, before I was diagnosed with RA, I never thought I would get it, despite the family history on my mother’s side. I was my father’s daughter in so many ways: athletic, always on the go, a busy body. RA just didn’t fit in with my lifestyle.

And then I was diagnosed and figured there must be a reason. Everything happens for a reason, right? Right?

Days when the air outside is damp, the bags under my eyes are more pronounced courtesy of a 2:00am wakeup call from my daughter, my knees hurt too much for a bath but my feet are too sore for a shower, and the dog is eating the sofa …it’s not always easy to appreciate my suffering. But maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better and find someone who is living my yesterday. And I’ll be able to empathize, lend an ear or a helping, albeit slightly swollen and tender, hand. Because you never know who else is suffering silently.

And that is what it is all about: making the best of this journey, bringing awareness, picking up friends- and strangers- along the way. I hope you’ll join me as I share my not-so-invisible autoimmune life.

SUZY

I’ve always enjoyed being in motion, whether it’s playing tennis, running a marathon, hiking the desert trails or mountain biking. Managing multiple autoimmune diseases has forced me reevaluate my definitions of healthy and active. It’s given me a new perspective on medicine, doctors and nutrition.

I am stubborn, though, and refuse to give in to disease. Determined to find the answers, I search each day and have been known to do some CRAZY stuff in the name of healing. And I won’t stop until I win or die trying.

In between those searches, I volunteer at my kids’ schools, read, write, get crafty, bake, organize my Pinterest boards, attack everything in the house with a label maker… What can I say, I get bored easily and need hobbies, lots and lots of them.

SOCIAL MEDIA, I HATE TO LOVE YOU AND SO DOES MY YOGA PRACTICE.

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I started Instagram this year. I swore up and down that Facebook was enough for me, but I kept hearing Instagram was “better” and “less annoying", so I finally caved. My intention was to only follow people or pages that fed my soul. I'm a nature girl, my first follow was Natgeo (National Geographic). I searched next for people that were in my Yoga community. I loved seeing how real they were, and it genuinely inspired me. My search took me to a few others that were not in my personal community, but who were equally inspiring. Soon I was flooded with images of beautiful, perfect bodies, doing beautiful, perfect Yoga poses. I consider myself to be fairly rational, but I had to remind myself that this was Instagram, not real life. I started to notice feelings of inadequacy creeping in as I viewed these flawless women, because it felt so far from how I viewed myself. I saw myself as flawed and imperfect, and I was okay with that, before I was deluged with perfection. I would go into my practice and attempt to duplicate the Yoga poses I saw on Instagram. I became my worst critic; my comparison game wasn't feeding my soul, it was depleting it. I know I'm not alone in getting sucked in. We all love it, but, ultimately, end up loving to hate it. Social Media can work to our advantage and fulfill our positive intentions but only if we remain mindful. As you navigate through social media, keep the following in mind to avoid opening the floodgates to negative self talk:

1.    You are flawed and imperfect- we all are. A picture can capture only what you allow it to capture. The person posting the picture on Instagram wants to portray to others perfection, and they may be pretty great at what they're doing, but like the rest of us, they have their strengths and are average at a whole lot of other things. They are imperfect and have insecurities just like you do. Remember that, always. 

2.    What is your intention? Be mindful of why you are on social media. We often forget why we connect in the first place. What made us open that Instagram or Facebook account? What were we hoping to gain, find, or learn? These questions will always bring you back to the genuine purpose of connecting. When we start to forget our intention, we start to forget ourselves. We may also find that we need to reevaluate what we're taking away from social media and make some shifts in what we expose ourselves to. It's important to protect our souls and our feelings of well being.

3.    Your yoga mat speaks to you- ok not really, but you get what I’m saying. When you are on your mat, you will at one point or another start to have an inner dialogue with yourself. Listen to this dialogue, but don’t try to change it. Just be present and aware of what your thoughts are. I paid attention to mine, and they said "you are human and that is perfect."

 

 

 

NAYANTARA

As a young child, my parents left India to come to the United States. They sacraficed a very comfortable life because they had a vision for their children's futures, one in which we had the opportunities to pursue our passions.

True to my parents desire for me, I've Followed my heart and my passion to be of service to others, becoming a part time instructor of Counseling at my local State University, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm also a wife and a mother to two amazing children, a seven year old boy and five year old girl. My latest adventure is to work towards my Yoga Instructor license, sharing my love for yoga and helping others to transform themselves and their lives through it. I can feel that my years of experience being a therapist, along with my journey of being a Yogi, is setting me up to be a student first and then a teacher. I hope to share my journey, learning with you and through you along the way.

 

THE BALANCING ACT BETWEEN GRATITUDE AND PROGRESS.

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Oh man, this trip to Bali has left me in the midst of an existential crisis of sorts. This post is going to contradict the last one in virtually every way. I'll need to preface this with a description of the Balinese lifestyle. Present day Bali exists almost solely for tourism. The bulk of the Balinese work in the service industry; transportation, hotels, restaurants, etc. Bali is a pretty inexpensive destination, once you get yourself there. You can eat lovely meals for a third of the price that you would pay in America. A large luxury villa, with a private pool, can be rented for the cost of a Motel 6. We lived like kings for the almost two weeks we were there. These low prices are possible because the Balinese are paid almost nothing for their tireless work. According to one of the drivers we spent time with, the average monthly salary for a Balinese citizen is $150 per month. The government is corrupt, and although gobs of money are pouring in from tourism, little is invested back into the infrastructure of the country. There are almost no sidewalks, and what pathways do exist, are in extreme disrepair. I never saw a traffic light, the roads were incredibly narrow and inadequate. Ngurah, our driver, explained to us that the Balinese education system requires parents to buy books and other necessities that American schools would provide. The tap water isn't potable, and toilet paper can't be flushed because the sewer system can't handle it. Australians have come in and invested substantial monies into resorts and restaurants because, proximity wise, Bali is akin to their Hawaii. Due to Australian efforts, the food and shopping are incredible and the upscale villa rental is off the hook, but this has little to do with government efforts.

We tried to talk to our taxi drivers and servers often, they were all Bali natives and almost none of them had ever left the country. Vacation isn't part of their vocabularies. They work tirelessly, day in and day out, serving tourists who are taking breaks from lives that probably would feel like vacations to the Balinese. Yet, there is no animosity. They have constant smiles on their faces. Any time they say something that might seem negative, they quickly self correct and point out the blessing. Shit, I can't even go to Target without the check out girl bitching about being there, and she's probably 19 years old, working 12 hours per week, and still eating on her parent's dime. At first, I wondered if they were fronting, because they know that tourism is their bread and butter, but it was just too consistent. They have a love and a reverence for life. They adore children. There wasn't a single restaurant we went to where the staff didn't go out of their way to play with my children. Indigo got picked up and snuggled by a Balinese waiter or waitress at literally every eatery we went to. Men and women alike, smiling and relishing in these privileged white children. How? Why? 

Enter my existential crisis. I mentioned in my previous post about all the books I've read that are written by these dynamic individuals who are drinking up life, living without boundaries or limitations, the masters of their own destinies, yada yada yada. I'm trying to replicate that lifestyle. We said fuck it and took our three kids on a ridiculously lengthy trip to Bali. We didn't go to Tahoe, we went to fucking Indonesia. Last year, we left everything we knew and moved, from the city we'd been raised in, to another state. We took a lot of risks and worked our asses off to make this possible for ourselves, because we wanted a different lifestyle for our family. Life without limitations, masters of our own destinies, right? But here we are, not content. What's the next trip? How do we make more money? How do we figure out a way to bypass the 9-5 so we can travel unencumbered or hire a part time nanny so we can pursue fulfilling endeavors? More, more, more. It's never enough. When you live in America, the sky is the limit. There is never a point where you have to stop and say, "Okay we've reached the pinnacle, this is the most we can have/do." That doesn't exist here. I'd go so far as to say that it's frowned upon to accept your position in life. 

Then you go to Indonesia and you meet these smiling Balinese people whose entire lives have a maximum limitation. They don't want for more, because they just can't. It's not possible. You don't leave your village, you'll never make enough money to do that. There's no college. There's no travel. But this life with limitations has created content, and that content presents as joy. And then, in opposition, we have life without limitations, which creates contempt. Contempt for what we do have, for our current lives, because we want more. It's hard to appreciate where you're at and what you have when your eye is always on the prize, the bigger house, the better neighborhood, the fitter body, the better job. 

Of course, the answer can't be not wanting for more. We weren't born in Bali. We do have options. If you dangle possibility in front of someone and then tell them they can't do anything with it, the result is depression, hopelessness, not content. It's easier to be content when you look beyond your circumstances and nothing else is around the corner. But that's not what it means to be American, a blessing and a curse, depending on perspective. There's a balance that must be achieved, balance of the most difficult variety. How to have gratitude for where you're at while still living progressively? It's a question I don't have the answer to, but I'm going to take a page from the Balinese, who are Hindu. Each morning the women spend hours making offerings for the Gods, which serve as blessings and as a means to express gratitude. I'm going to start there, by gently and consistently reminding myself of the gifts in my life, my children, my husband, my health, and of course, the freedom to want more. 

 

 

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

HOME SCHOOL-ING IN THE CHIP AISLE.

We’re at the grocery store, and I know you from around town.  Maybe we have mutual friends but we’ve never hung-out together, me a gaggle-deep amidst my 4 kids, you alone with a yoga mat slung over your shoulder.  You look startled by us, almost like I’m doing something wrong, but you can’t put your finger on it.  I simultaneously disregard a child’s pleas to purchase Cheetos, while gently reminding another to ‘make room for the world around them,’ as an old woman squeezes past our budding shopping cart.  I examine the contents on a label of jelly, and still manage to talk to you.  I know it’s a lot, but you could have just pretended not to see us.  Instead you ask, “Whoa, is it a school holiday or something?” One eyebrow rises, as you survey my brood. “Right?!” I say, chuckling, as if no one has ever asked me that one before, “They are homeschooled,“ and then under my breath, “they NEVER leave.”  You laugh and acknowledge my response to be inclusive with your own judgment. Now we can talk. “Shopping with Mom is actually a highlight in our homeschooling. They get to talk to strangers and even practice their conversation skills with humans of different ages,” (even the ones that don’t know that public school is a relatively new institution in the scheme of things). One of my middles steps on the shopping cart, causing one side to teeter and slam back down as she jumps off, startled.  I put a hand on her shoulder and bring my gaze to hers, “I asked you to stay off the cart. Please don’t climb on there again.”  This time you inspect us with two raised eyebrows and awkwardly move past while saying, “Okay… well, see you guys around.” 

I push on towards the produce, and remember a time when I wanted approval for my perfectly behaved kids.  But they aren’t perfect.  And they aren’t the only ones having a learning experience at the store.  Each time I feel defeated by a less than perfect scenario with my kids, I have an opportunity to make choices.  It used to be that I would chastise them in the heat of my humiliation. Later I reprimanded and then apologized for getting upset or raising my voice. After a while, I was able to talk to them without referencing any spectator’s judgments. I confidently know now that I can use my words with them just like I ask them to use their words with the world around them; politely. I’m a living example of the people I hope they will be.  That doesn’t mean that I’m always doing it right. I just know how to embrace failure and make that part of the brilliant lesson (that we’re all having) at the grocery store. 

 

EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.

     

 

THE FEARLESS YOGI.

During the course of my career as a therapist, I've found myself continually frustrated because I want more for my clients. I want them to experience a whole (mind, body, spirit) experience; achieving this is few and far between with traditional talk therapy. Talk therapy is an imperative part of the process, but it has inherent limitations. This is something I feel not only with my clients but in my own experiences. 

Yoga has been in my vocabulary for the duration of my life. My almost 100 year old grandfather practiced it every morning. My father taught me breathing techniques when I was a child. I've tried it sporadically over the years and knew a few colleagues who utilized it in their therapy practices, but I never did more than dip my foot in. I felt afraid for so many reasons. 

My age was one of them. I'm 38 and am a pretty well established therapist. I went through years of schooling and spent a lot of money to get to where I am today. I struggled with feeling too old and too invested to start something new. 

I'm not a yogi. In my mind I had to be a yogi to start yoga. Doesn't make sense, right? Well to my perfectionist brain it made perfect sense; you have to be the best at yoga to start yoga. 

I don't look like those girls on Instagram. You know which girls I'm talking about, the ones with the perfectly proportioned bodies doing those incredible poses (which you secretly attempt at home and then need your husband's assistance to dismantle yourself from). I never paid much attention to my body growing up, but now that I'm getting older and have given birth to two children, I'm more focused on the changes. I'm working on aging gracefully and fully accepting my flaws, but social media and the human tendency to compare makes it incredibly hard to do so. 

The most important part of my hesitation was that I wasn't clear on my intention. I've learned over the years that your intention always has to be clear or at the very least come from a pure place. When your ego has an intention you can guarantee it's going to steer you wrong. I wasn't sure if I was trying to prove something to myself, or if I truly believed in the power of yoga. I look back now and know that the origin of my intention wasn't ego based,  but the aforementioned fears were holding me back. 

It wasn't until I found my yoga tribe, this year, that I was able to find my fearlessness. I use the word fearlessness because that's what it really took for me to dive in. I saw so many young people around me not hesitating once about what they were pursuing, not using age as a limitation, not worrying about the way their bodies looked, not attempting to be the perfect Yogi. I wish someone would have given me the following suggestions when I first started my Yoga journey:

 1. Be fearless- don't let fear burn you... let it burn a fire in you. 

2. Be a racehorse- I was watching "The Defiant Ones" on HBO the other night and Jimmy Iovine said that racehorses are blind folded so they don't see what's happening around them, they just go. So just go!! Don't think about how you will look compared to your neighbor or what the person in front of you is doing. Just go! Live!

3. What's your end goal? -trick question! There is no end goal. Go for the experience and dwell in it,  breathe, and enjoy your Yoga journey, or whatever new endeavor your heart desires, every step of the way!

 

NAYANTARA

As a young child, my parents left India to come to the United States. They sacraficed a very comfortable life because they had a vision for their children's futures, one in which we had the opportunities to pursue our passions.

True to my parents desire for me, I've Followed my heart and my passion to be of service to others, becoming a part time instructor of Counseling at my local State University, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm also a wife and a mother to two amazing children, a seven year old boy and five year old girl. My latest adventure is to work towards my Yoga Instructor license, sharing my love for yoga and helping others to transform themselves and their lives through it. I can feel that my years of experience being a therapist, along with my journey of being a Yogi, is setting me up to be a student first and then a teacher. I hope to share my journey, learning with you and through you along the way.

 

BODY LANGUAGE.

We were the new neighbors.  I had just unpacked the last box and paused by the window to appreciate our green lawn when the sprinklers popped up to do their scheduled watering.  Delighted by this new pleasure, I hollered up the stairs, “The sprinklers are on!” My six-and-under trio flew past me and burst out the front door.  They threw off their clothes and, within seconds, surrendered all their tiny dignity to the wet spray. I felt at home as I hunkered down on our new porch steps with my five-month-protrusion resting between my thighs. I sipped my tea and surveyed our tiny slice of Eden, filled to the brim with gratitude… (gratitude and a growing baby.)

I guess I just expected that the population at large would embrace the sight of my naked kids. I still adored their tiny curved bellies, their smooth little bottoms, and their complete abandonment to joy, sans all clothing. Only now, we were not in the middle of a secluded forty-acre plot, we were visible to other homes.  And I very abruptly learned that we were wearing the emperor’s new clothes. 

“Look! Those kids are all naked!” a shrill voice heckled from the end of the driveway. Side by side, two little kids pointed fingers from the serenity of a shared Power-Wheel.  My children, unaware of their indecency, sprinted forward at the sight of the new comers just as the Power-Wheel, admitting shrieks of terror and glee, turned on a dime and disappeared back down the rode.

I pregnant-strutted as quickly as possible down the steps and across the driveway to gather my flock.  We had done nothing wrong. I could fix this; make sure the shame of this moment didn’t stick. “C’mon,” I said, taking in the next row of houses, people inside, probably watching, “er…let’s all go inside.” I escorted my little exhibitionists into the house, but fearfully forgot the lesson outside.  I soon learned it takes more than one naysayer to break the unclothed spirit of a kid. 

The following week I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the house right next door was a family of crazy homeschoolers, “Like us!” (I assumed incorrectly.)  My eldest daughter gregariously enveloped this shy, polite as-all-heck, neighbor girl. Holly was one year older and loved crafting and reading and make-believe, and seemed to be a perfect companion. I had hopes upon meeting her that she would become an example of maturity and manners for Haven. 

We all became accustomed to the intermittent ring of Holly’s baking timer whenever she came over to visit. Every fifteen-minutes, a jangle notified her that it was time to run home and “check in.”  I didn’t think too much about it, until one afternoon when her mom came knocking on my door to confront me about the picture of a naked woman that my five-year-old son had in his bedroom. Confused, I allowed Holly to escort her to a poster on his wall of animated super heroes, complete with an overly busty Mystique in her blue skin.

An acute awareness befell our home during those future fifteen-minute increments.  Of notable interest was how often my family was categorized as “weird” in a squeaky little girls voice.  My 6 year-old son without a shirt on, or myself exposing a breast to feed my new born, were observed to be “gross.” If any proper names were used for body parts, I could be sure to have an overly friendly confrontational chat with the mother. We both kept the peace by fake laughing over one another about the crimes our children were committing. Exhausting!

But our girls were friends, both homeschooled. We owned houses next door to each other. There didn’t seem to be another solution. I felt panic when that sweet little face appeared at our front door.  She gently swayed side to side in her new dress, thoughtfully calling me “Miss Emily” and politely asking if Haven could play. I can still see my children’s confused expressions as she shrieked through laughter “STOP LOOKING AT ME” while they played dress up in the living room.  Later she chastised them for kissing their dad and me on the lips.  I began imagining the horror of what the neighbors would think if they found out I sometimes showered with a kid or two.

I wish that I’d foreseen the impact that this little friend would make in such a short time.  Gone were the moments of pure nudity, but I had expected that sooner or later (definitely later).  And in its place a growing fascination was fostered for all things that could be suspects of shame.

That’s when I decided to get real naked with myself. I was leading by example when it came to being comfortable in my own skin, but that hardly required me to talk about the opposition. I didn’t know how to deflect the harm of other’s judgments. I was a little kid all over again and silence reined over the ridicule of our human bodies.  If I allowed it, another family would interpret what I knew was right for our individual family, and it wouldn’t be with a favorable artillery of words.

I began to use any comparison with the neighbors as a soapbox moment in my anti-humiliation campaign.  I was not immediately successful at this, and even fearful that I couldn’t or even shouldn’t, be telling my own kids about their own bodies. Thankfully, with every new word tackled: “sex,” “vulva,” and yes, even *gasp* “masturbation,” I realized that my kids were way less mortified than I was.  I made it clear that what I expressed to them was unique for our family, just like the neighbors had their own very unique way of talking (or not talking) about bodies. 

We discussed “sexual objectification” at the Target check-out line while analyzing Kim Kardashian’s magazine cover.  We shared beautifully illustrated books about different types of bodies, allowing these to be coffee table friendly, regardless of who was visiting that day. This last year when an adult discussion on politics lead to my daughter asking some very specific questions about her president, we had an empowering talk about consent.  And nobody turned into a three-horned-sexual-ghoul.  Nobody was emotionally stunted or robbed of their innocence. If anything, after our experience with the neighbor friend, I feel that I have given that innocence back to them.

I have heard similar stories of parents who speak freely about bodies and sex with their kids. I wish that someone had told three year-old me that having a body was okay. In fact, it is super-cool, and special, and fascinating to learn about and absolutely worth protecting.  I won't pass the fear I felt about my own body onto my kids, a fear that grew mostly from silence.  My parents didn’t want to talk about it, and that void filled up with misconceptions. 

Had I not faced the obstacles that our neighbors provided us with, I may have missed an invaluable opportunity to cultivate the natural flow of conversation about our bodies. Although we struggled in the moment, I appreciate the opposition that parenting with others provides. It allows us to dig deep and get critical about why we have the values we do. As a budding teen, Holly is a less frequent visitor at our house, but we have maintained a healthy relationship with our neighbors. I hope that we have been a catalyst for productive conversations in their home, as they so clearly were in ours (even helping us to identify how Mystique was being sexually objectified right under our noses). 

I have healed some of my own un-ease about my own body through ensuring that my children value theirs.  And consequently, I can’t shut up about it now.  The more that I discuss this issue with the people in my parenting world, the more I realize that I am SO not alone. Do you have a personal stigma attached to body image from your childhood? And, does it effect the “sex /body talk” in your own home? 

 

 

 

 

EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.

     

 

MAMA'S HUNGRY.

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I'm in Bali, lounging on the couch in our villa. It's a perfect day by all measures. The sun is reflecting off of the pool, casting an indigo haze, and a slight breeze is rustling the palm leaves before it pushes through the outdoor living room. I should be drinking it up, basking in the glory of vacation in a foreign wonderland, but instead a familiar angst is setting in. 

I can feel the dissatisfaction for my current life stewing. It's always there, this desire for change. I struggle with knowing what the actual origins of my longing are. Am I unfulfilled in my present circumstances because I'm not yet pursuing my life purpose? Of course, there is purpose in parenting, but if I'm being honest with myself, on most days the responsibility renders me feeling more like a housekeeper and short order cook than anything else. I'm good at it, I love my children, they bring me joy, but it doesn't fill the angles of me that exist outside of being a mother. 

I tell myself that my time will come, just a few more years until my youngest two are independent enough for me to invest less coddling into them and use that excess for pursuing personally fulfilling endeavors, but I'm scared that I'm fooling myself. Things will be busy in new ways, less ass wiping, more chauffeuring. More excuses to put things off, and then I'm pushing 60, and I haven't done shit. It's passed me by. Sure 60 is the new 40, but how many 60 year olds are out there realizing dreams and pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones? They've moved beyond that season. Excitement is of a different, safer, more relaxed variety. 

When I start to feel this discontent brewing, I search for opportunity to make a shift, something to temporarily camouflage the void. Let's buy a fixer upper, let's live in an RV, let's sell it all and move to Italy, let's buy a vacation rental, and most currently, of course, let's move to Bali for six months. But, is this about seeking out excitement or is this about distracting from the fact that I'm not fulfilled, searching for anything to satiate the hunger, when ultimately, another exciting venture will have to take the place of the last. We've lived in 4 houses and remodeled 3 of them in the last 6 years. The shifts are never enough. Moving to Bali means the same problems in a different location. Still a parent, still asses to wipe and mouths to feed. Still no time.

I have justifications for wanting change too. The American dream and the accompanying idea of success leave me feeling dispirited. It's dull, and supposes that joy and pleasure come only with lots of time, very hard work, and a chunky 401k. I want to enjoy my life now. I do want to expose my children and myself to different cultures, different lifestyles, different geographies, but does one have anything to do with the other? Until I fill up the things that are lacking within my soul, all of those aspirations still won't be enough. They'll be magical, and they aren't off the table, but something else needs to be the main course or else Mama's always going to be hungry.

I'm a firm believer that the universe supports our endeavors when there is a soul's longing and a clear intention. You create what you give energy to. During the last few years, I've been pouring through writings of people who are the architects of their own destinies. They are purpose driven. Excitement oozes from them. Mindful+ Mama is one step towards personal satisfaction. With clear vision and motivation, I intend to push on, my path slowly revealing itself amidst the brush and overgrown foliage that life's day to day distractions place in front of me.

 

 

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

FIND YOUR INNER ZEN AT WALMART.

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We've welcomed four sets of houseguests this month. Tomorrow the children and I are off to bunk with my mother in law, while my husband hosts his father for his 60th birthday. The crew and I return, post father son shenanigans, and one day later we have an international flight to Bali with all three children. It's 35 hours people. Thirty. Five. Hours. Three. Children. 

July has been an amazing month, brimming with friends and family, but it's seriously testing my mindfulness. I'm excited, to the point of combustion, about our upcoming trip, but my Type A headspace is overwhelmed by all of the past activity and anxiety is mounting that I'm not preparing adequately. Then there's the obvious panic that we are complete lunatics for taking an 20 month old on a 35 hour journey. That last part is a fact. Let's be real. We cray. Every parent reading this knows it and is nodding, but you're also kinda envious of our bravery, right? Not enough to book your flights, but sorta giving me props? Maybe perusing Airbnb, just to fantasize? Be careful, that's how these kind of things start. You should see my Airbnb wishlists. Prolific. 

My third baby was a surprise. These sorts of things happen when you Google the rhythm method. Lesson learned, not the first time, but the last time. Snip snip. Anyway, right before I had my first child, surprise number one, rhythm method blip number one, I'd resolved to start traveling. I'd been tethered to my home and life, and circumstances had shifted. It was time to get a move on it, see the world and have some straight up enriching experiences. Enter unforeseen pregnancy and push pause on the travel plans. In hindsight, we should've jumped on a plane and got jet setting with the first kid, but everything seemed so daunting with that initial go around of parenting, and your threshold for stress is still ridiculously low. If I knew then what I know now... words uttered by literally every parent.

Baby number two was planned. I planned him right after my third rum and coke the evening of his conception. I was ovulating and I knew it. At least I'd managed to figure that part of my body out since the first kid. My son had been spending way too much time longingly watching the neighbor children through a hole in our backyard fence. He had that same look on his face that I do when I flip through a West Elm catalogue. Fruitless yearning. There were no cousins in his future. He needed a friend stat, and Captain Morgan agreed. Nine months later, done. Prisoners in our home, again. Check.

By the time the second kid was two, my husband and I started consistently talking about our impending freedom, with a wildness in our eyes. Everyone knows that three is the magic number when it comes to re-entering the world and not having to chase your kid around like they're a wild animal. We could taste the liberation. It was as good as ours. Then aunt flow was late. Rhythm method for the win. Again. I'm not gonna lie. This one hurt. Normalcy was within our grasp, and we lost it. I know, I know, children are a blessing, but so is eating at a restaurant and having the opportunity to chew your food. 

So, here we are with an 20 month old sugar plum. She's sweet as hell. I love her like crazy. But I'm ready to break outta jail. I can't wait until she's three to make good on  delayed travel dreams. This is a desire so powerful that it feels like it burns my insides if I ruminate on it too long. Parenthood has honed our skills. Our standards are super low as to what we find enjoyable. Our thresholds for stress are top notch. We've been training for this since the first kid arrived eight years ago. Like, I could find my zen place in the middle of a Walmart on Black Friday. That's how good I am. 

But, that said, here I am feeling anxious about the unknown and the possibility of said toddler running up and down the aisles of the plane. If I really slow my mental roll, I can identify two voices. One is freaking the hell out, incessantly voicing a stream of what ifs. The other is breathing steadily, whispering "shhhh, all will be well". They're always present, both of them. One represents the personality, and the other aligns with the soul. You have them too. The personality operates from fear. The soul is the inner zen on Black Friday. It's Morgan Freeman narrarating any commercial. It knows that no matter what, you are whole, you are love, and all will be well. The tricky part is remembering which one to listen to. The personality is noisy. It's like that anxious friend that feels uncomfortable with silence, the one that requires a nap and a glass of wine just to gear up for. Your soul is Mr. Miyagi, quietly observing and waiting for you to slow down and breath, to feel the zen, Daniel-san. I read a book a few years ago, The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer. The content is about quieting the chatter. Do yourself a favor and read it. You need it. We all do. To hush the incessant internal dialogue, you first must notice and recognize it. It's there, constantly preaching negativity. "You're not good enough", "Why did you eat that cupcake, you know you're trying to lose 5 pounds," "Your thighs are entirely too big for skinny jeans", "Your flight is going to straight up blow. You have no business taking this trip....there are way too many kids to pull this off", and on and on. 

Just stop, breathe slowly, listen, and separate the ego driven, fear mongering personality from your all-knowing soul. Hear the two independent voices. Which one feels good? Which one feels like love, like a warm blanket and a hot drink? Which one brings you strength?

I'm breathing deeply today, listening really hard, and gently smiling because I know that everything will be okay. Even if my baby runs up and down the aisles for 14 hours, zen is mine, and all will be well.

 

 

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

I AM ENOUGH.

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I often find myself sitting at intersections, looking upon all of the cars and their inhabitants, not voyeuristically, but humanly, wondering what they're thinking about as they wait for the light to turn in their favor, or peeking into houses with lit windows on early morning runs, catching glimpses of moving bodies, curious as to what they're doing, what they're feeling, of their strife, their happiness. It's during times like these that I feel a deep kinship to my fellow beings. At our cores, we're all the same, wanting for love, connection, peace. We all wear bathrobes in the morning, wake up with bedheads, drink coffee, and relish our rituals to get through each day. These are the things I've had to remind myself of when trying to practice self acceptance, when trying not to judge myself to anyone else's standards. 

My fear of vulnerability, of not measuring up, equates to a lack of self worth. If I'm not A, B, and C, then I'm not worthy of love, friendship, attention. Me, at my core, stripped of all the overachieving business, doesn't feel noteworthy. Noteworthy and worthy being two different birds. I want to be noteworthy. 

I learned at a very young age, after feeling somewhat invisible, like there was nothing particularly noteworthy about me, that hard work got me attention, praise.  The voodoo that is positive reinforcement worked its wonderous magic, so I worked even harder, becoming better at everything I did, better than most everyone else, at the things I chose to put my efforts into. More attention came, and over time this way of existing was solidified. I didn't have to work very hard for it anymore, I had a reputation for being smart and able, and my hard work and thirst for knowledge had become innate. Now, even new acquaintances quickly realize that I possess these qualities, because this is my way of being. It has become authentic. I know no other way.

So, we'll say that at around age 6, I started developing my tendencies towards overachievement. Now, at 40, I exist as that woman. Do I berate myself for requiring that attention, that feeling of love and connection, worthiness, noteworthiness, at a young age and now, as a grown woman? Do I try to strip it all away, put an end to my weekly cleaning of baseboards and making bread from scratch, and just be, in the name of loving myself for whatever raw little person resides in there? Do I stop with the Martha Stewart bullshit completely? 

In years past, I may have thought that necessary to "heal", to identify the "authentic" me, but today, and a library full of self help books later, I realize that would be pure tomfoolery. I may as well beat my head against a brick wall in the hopes of breaking it, one mind numbing blow at a time. It's simply not gonna happen. Given that info, I have to ask myself, "what's so bad about Martha?" Yeah, she did go to prison, but criminal record aside, she's putting out some quality information. And, what's so bad about me? I am loved. I am connected. I am noteworthy. I am happy. I can say those things without pause, and that is enough. I am enough. Maybe, just maybe, I'm absolutely everything I was intended to be. Maybe my soul's journey always meant to take me here. Maybe my need for noteworthiness has left an imprint upon others. You're reading this right now, aren't you? Maybe, just maybe you're feeling like your curses have created gifts in your life, and maybe, most importantly, in this moment you are feeling like you are enough.

 

 

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU HAVE A FEAR OF VULNERABILITY.

I've struggled with a fear of mediocrity for as long as I can remember. Failure isn't even the issue, it's about not excelling, or more precisely, not being labeled as the most adept. I've managed, quite aptly over the years, to beat out most people in the room at whatever it is I'm attempting and simultaneously to avoid everything that might threaten that outcome. I'm sure you know my type. You've seen us, we're the Martha Stewart's of the bunch. We've got our shit together. We've got an arsenal of information and advice and maintain organization and routine in even the most stressful of situations, all while baking organic vegan muffins. Our kids eat vegetables, we're the weirdos that love cleaning, making lists, yard work, and exercise. It doesn't even seem feasible to operate this way, but over the years I've honed my skills, and my life is as real on the inside as it looks on the outside. Intelligence is a minute component, although being regarded as intelligent is as important as the image we project. There's an intense motivation to succeed and that's what actually drives the level of achievement. 

But, there's a deeper layer lingering there, the true raison de etre, something my younger self wouldn't have seen and may not have been so quick to admit to even if I had. It's an intense fear of vulnerability. Or, at least, at its origins it was a fear. After years of self reflection and transparency, fear may no longer be the driving force. At this point, it's a habit, a way of living. I wouldn't even know how to be any other way. It would feel inauthentic and unnatural. 

Sharing this with you is less, for me, about picking apart why a fear of vulnerability exists. We'll get to that another time. Instead it's about being human and embracing your baggage, your modus of operandi. If you're a person, living in this world, you've got some shit. It's inevitable and that inevitability is beautiful. It unifies us as humans. We're all just trying to get through each day with our monkeys on our backs, learning how to traverse through our relationships with open wounds. We're never alone. It's the journey of our species, and I hope that you'll join me on mine, exploring the gifts that my scars have given me, while realizing your own perfect imperfection.

 

 

 

ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis.