Doing It Different

When I found out we were pregnant, something resonated in me:  “Do it differently, Amanda.”

As I’ve previously shared, I’d always been terrified I’d end up the neurotic mom from ‘Modern Family.’ Was I going to lose myself?  Would I become a high maintenance control freak? Would my life revolve around my children?  Would I end up trying to keep up with the Jones’ like our American culture demands? Would financial constraints turn me into a resentful monster?  

Part of me also couldn’t shake icky feelings from my days as a server in Los Angeles, waiting on moms who expected everyone’s existence to revolve around their very special children.  A-very special children.  Or rather, audacious moms and dads, that expected you to be a babysitter, allowing kids to play in the middle of an aisle with an entire backpack of sprawled out toys while you’re serving hot coffee in a tight diner setting.  UGH.  It can leave a bad taste in your mouth for sure.  

But when a friend recently asked what I meant by wanting to do motherhood differently, I was dumbfounded to be at a loss.  What the heck did I mean?  Where does this idea resonate from? Am I just totally full of shit?!  My kid is sure to the color on the walls– I’m not that naive, but how do I want to do it differently?  

In the brief moments I have to actually connect with Baby Soul, I let this idea marinate.  I asked my friend Stacer (now Aunt Stacer!!!) to send me articles about unconventional parenting and like the pro that she is, she has supplied me with articles and podcasts about living minimally, or selling everything to travel the world.  Thus far, I’ve hinted to my sweetie, nothing says good parenting like zip lining through the jungles of Africa and he wasn’t having it.  HE NEVER LETS ME DO ANYTHING!!!!  *hogs remote to watch 127th hour of HGTV* 😉

Before getting pregnant I watched ‘Captain Fantastic.’  SUCH A GOOD MOVIE!!  It’s such an unknown, little independent gem.  If I had the Harvard education and insane physique, I would be over the moon to raise my kids off the grid in the mountains.  Well, “Power to the people!” minus the plot twists.  😉  

Talking with my BF (now Aunt BF!!!) about our shared love of this movie, she suggested I read some queer parenting literature.  After scratching my head for a minute, she mentioned it’s Unconventional Parenting 101.  DUH.  Very true! That’s kind of a brilliant idea. 

I also began thinking about parents I did admire.  Friends that have traveled to Mexico or Italy with their newborn and haven’t let being parents stop them.  Parents that brought their kids to every social party their friends were throwing because having kids wasn’t going to stop them from a social life.  Parents that are still making music videos or auditioning despite being moms and dads.  Parents where the mom brings home the bacon and dad plays Mr. Mom.  Etc, etc, etc… 

In a podcast, I remember Elizabeth Gilbert (now Aunt Liz!!!!)  sharing a story about her mother going into her room and shutting the door behind her two kids.  They knew that for an hour every day, it was mommy’s writing time.  Soon, mommy’s writing time became Liz’s writing time and she still recalls the impact that had on her as a young girl.  She didn’t view it as selfish or mean, it’s just what mom does and it taught them to play on their own and develop their own creativity. WHAT A GIFT!!!

In my ‘Psychic Teachers’ podcast with Deb Bowen and Samantha Fey (LOVE THIS PODCAST!), Samantha talks about doing the same.  Once nap time was over for her girls at a certain age, she introduced ‘alone time.’  The girls would spend an hour a day doing their own thing alone in their room.  They write, they listen to music, etc. This allows their mom to spend time mediating or having the alone time she desperately needs as a psychic to cleanse and get her work done. Not to mention the girls have learned to love it as well!

Obviously, I’m still figuring it out (and have a sneaky suspicion I will be for the rest of my life 😉 ) but what I do know is that I don’t want to live in fear.  I would love for my kid to backpack through Europe after high school. I would love for Baby Soul to learn to fix cars and ride motorbikes like her dad.  Why not a Mother/Baby Soul photography adventure through Brazil?  Maybe a culinary adventure through Paris?  (Nothing says ‘Make mommy dinner, kid!’ like French cheeses!)  Maybe hiking the PCT?  Maybe it just means we don’t let our (potential) daughter watch Disney princess movies because there’s more to life than finding a man.  I don’t know! 

Painting an elephant in Jaipur would be pretty cool to do with Baby Soul? (Ten year visa!) The men who take care of these elephants in India literally live with them in their cement ‘houses.’ The elephants are so well loved, they are practically family members.

But I will love this adventure…  🙂  And I would LOVE to hear what ‘doing it different’ means to you.  Any ideas you’ve had or stories you’d like to share, it would be a LOT of fun to brainstorm.  Not to mention would help a sista’ out.  xoxo

 

 

 

 

Blowing the Roof off of First Trimester Fatigue

I recently heard a story from a friend who was pregnant with her daughter 20+ years ago.  In her first trimester, she got so tired she was afraid she wasn’t going to be able to drive the hour or two she needed to get home.  Thankfully, she did make it home but when her husband arrived, he found her asleep on the stairs of their front porch with a car in the driveway that had been running for three hours.

First Trimester Fatigue… IT’S A THING AND I’M TALKING ABOUT IT. 

I have to admit (and tend to joke with my husband) that I have two emotions right now:  TIRED and RAGE.  So consider yourself warned!  For various reasons, there is definitely some cranky pants anger attached to this blog.  It has become very clear to me that people are uneducated about first trimester pregnancy.  Women go through intense shit early on and because they’re not showing yet, people (husbands, bosses, friends & family, society) don’t believe them and/or make a lot of assumptions. 

It has me feeling all… 

I had no idea before I got pregnant how freaking draining it is and, ultimately, I am dumbfounded it isn’t discussed more???  Maybe that makes me a whiner? Or maybe this is a societal thing where we like our pregnant women ‘glowing’ and ‘grateful.’  We are supposed to keep quiet and endure female pain on our own.  God, don’t we do that enough? 

I am soooo grateful to finally be ‘out’ about our pregnancy.  It has been a challenge having 26 different symptoms and when you’re at your lowest, needing support, you’re not allowed to ask for it because you’re not allowed to tell people about it.

Now that I can tell people, I’ve been shocked by the lack of empathy and belief from some. There are people I have trusted with the info that I have asked for support and their reactions lead me to believe they think I’m overreacting.  Do they think I’m just tired because I’m overweight? (Also, a thing).  Am I just milking it?  Some women’s husbands think they’re wives are trying to get out of chores or get angry when there’s not a meal on the table.  This also goes hand and hand with emotions.  Does what I’m saying hold no truth because it’s coming from heightened emotions?  It’s maddening (especially when you have more than one job and a million different activities on your plate) to be considered lazy or emotionally crazy or… or.. or…  UGH.  

Pre-pregnancy, when I thought of someone being pregnant, I only thought of two things:  morning sickness and crazy ice cream & pickle cravings.  I assumed women got really tired in their last trimester (which they do), being entirely ginormous, carrying  a ton of extra weight on swollen ankles.  In my clueless assumptions, I thought the first trimester was supposed to be a breeze!  “You can still exercise and have sex!”  Knowing what I know now, feeling the way I do, to brush fatigue under the rug just feels like another impossible standard for women to maintain and a societal construct that we’re supposed to endure.  

Every woman is different for sure, but for me, I can only compare this fatigue to my trip to India– spending ten days in the chaos of an awesome country with little sleep, and then taking a sleepless 20 hour flight home.  I wake up that tired every other day.  The rest of the time I don’t wake up India-tired, I feel ‘food sick’ tired.  Where you’re finally over your bug but are still really weak.  There are days where I don’t want to do the littlest things like email my parents or call someone back because all I have energy for is melting into the couch.  Like when you’re drunk and laying down anywhere will do. This is not typical.  I have to-do lists for my to-do lists.  And don’t get me started on nausea… 

In all of my 38 years, I think I’ve taken three or four afternoon naps.  My wheels spin, I can’t calm my brain in enough time, I’m just not a napper.  In this pregnancy?  I could nap almost any time of day.  I often don’t have the time to allow myself that luxury but when I do, I’m out like a light.  I’ve gotten up, driven down valley to get groceries and by the time I’m there, I am so wiped out, I do worry I won’t be able to get home.  On an inappropriate scale of 1 to 10, how bad is it to curl up at the grocery store for a month nap on a shelf with the large bags of cat food?  #noshame

This is actually what the first trimester looks like….

I took a quick photo from my cell phone at a hotel in Seattle.  I had my photography class and then my husband and I celebrated our first year anniversary.  It was so entirely exhausting, I could barely keep my eyes open.  I am soooo lucky to have him. He is super supportive and understanding.  He doesn’t judge me or belittle me.  He listens, he rubs my twitchy legs, he buys me chips for my nausea, he snuggles…

Also, God bless the internet because I know I am not alone!  Care to hear from other women?  Be sure to read the comments. 

The Bump

Pregnant Chicken

The Guardian

My favorite line is from Pregnant Chicken, “Fatigue is such a lame word. When I hear it I think of a yawn, stretch, and flutter of the eyes. Pregnancy fatigue in the first trimester is a BEAST.” #PREEEAACH

Not to mention that I am a line cook, lots of movement, on my feet. I work in a hot kitchen on packed summer nights.  Or I get up early for the breakfast shift which is worse because I haven’t slept due to three trips to the bathroom that night.  It’s brutal.  Not to mention my other jobs, trips to Seattle, photography class homework, home reno, etc, etc, etc… What’s the lesson here?

If someone you know is pregnant and claims to be tired, believe them.  It is waaaaay more than ‘tired.’ Know that it is an exhaustion that makes them feel like they barely exist.  Know that it has nothing to do with laziness or exaggeration and support them any way you can.  

And pregnant ladies… I SEE YOU.  Ask for what you need and F*CKING TAKE IT.  When almost one in three pregnancies ends in miscarriage, your biggest concern is taking care of yourself and your baby.  And nothing is worth that loss.  I know it’s easy to say… But don’t be afraid to disappoint people.  SAY NO.  The people who care are the ones who deserve your loyalty. Word?

Now, I want to hear from you!!! Tell me your stories… Who’s first?

What was the hardest part about your first trimester?  What was brutal?  I am hear to listen and would be grateful for your honesty!  In my opinion, the truth of the reality we experience only normalizes things in culture and makes us stronger…  Thanks for listening. xoxo

 

 

 

 

The Story of Baby Soul

Pregnant.  I stared at the little plus sign for quite a while.  Am I sure it’s a plus?  I was running on such adrenaline, is it possible I made a mistake?  Do I just want it to be a plus and it’s not a plus?  I can’t believe I actually want it to be a plus…. Do I really want it to be a plus? Who am I????

Back in college with my girlfriends, our goal was to get degrees, an education and rack up a slew of fun experiences, but there is a joke in Christian college that women are mostly at school for their ‘MRS. Degree.’  And ooooooh, I was soooo on board for that major!  Amongst my friends, we all wanted to be married, find our ‘soul mate’ and have a gaggle of children.  

However, after NOT meeting Mr. Perfect at Christian college, I moved to LA to pursue acting.  I figured if I wasn’t going to get married out of college like everyone else, I wasn’t going to put my life on hold.  As I soon learned, finding my ‘soul mate’ was going to be a challenge. LA is not the kind of place where you’re going to find a laundry list of good guys, Christian or not. With a host of gorgeous women to choose from, in an incredibly (can-be) superficial environment, there really is no incentive for men to get married.  I was chunky, shy, lacked confidence and it just never worked out for me.  So I kept making choices outside the marriage box. 

Another year went by, and then five.  Ten. I continued to get older.  When you see that marriage might be something that never happens for you, you begin to see your life differently.  You lessen your tunnel vision.  The box opens and there is a whole world out there, outside of kids.  Few women get to see it really– wild possibility outside of the cultural norm. I widened my dreams to include travel and adventuring.  I learned that living passionately and choosing directions different than most energized me.  Twenty years later, I found myself asking if I even wanted kids.  I could barely relate to my 23 year old self.  

Then I unexpectedly met my honey at the age of 36, we got married at 38 and the baby inquiries rolled in.  I realized I still had time.  Very little time, but time.  There was a lot of pressure.  I am older.  Could we even have kids? When we talked about kids we decided we wanted them but we’d always kind of laughed nervously about it and never made any plans, mostly due to the financial monster that lurked behind the idea. It’s crazy to open your door to that guy.  We’d never be able to afford to have kids.  Let’s let the universe decide!  If it happens, it happens… And then it doesn’t have to be our fault. Ha!

I went to see my psychic while I was visiting in Los Angeles.  She was terrible! She answered none of my questions.  Instead, she told me there was a ‘baby soul lurking out there that wants you to be her mommy.’

Ummm…  

I ignored that and asked her if I should play the lottery.  Do I have lucky numbers?  When do I get rich?  She said that all of the creative things we had been talking about won’t happen for a few years really anyway, so why not have a baby girl!  

I told her that my husband and I were on board with letting the universe decide and she shut that down pretty quick.  She said that the baby wants to know it is safe and that you’re excited and more than “Egh, whatever, kid.”  She said we’d need to take responsibility and invite her.  None of this sounded like a surprise financial windfall from a deceased, unknown relative to me. 

I mentioned to the psychic that I felt like, for many reasons, I was finally discovering myself for the first time and that my life was just beginning.   I had all of these creative aspirations, I didn’t want to feel like my life was being put on hold again. She drew some cards, took a breath and then said that this child is ‘gifted intuitive’ and while I don’t exactly remember what she said…  what I heard was… This baby is going to make you laugh.  This baby is going to be a muse.  This baby is going to help heal.  This baby is going to get you out of your head.  This baby is going to teach you how to love yourself, others and the world around you.  This baby will breathe new life, not suck it out of you. 

It is A LOT these ears have put on Baby Soul. Ha! 

I always thought I was going to have a little girl.  I think it’s the close connection I had with my mom as a child.  Yet, in all of my adventuring I had never allowed myself the idea that a child would do anything but drain me and make me crazy. I imagined myself as the neurotic mom on ‘Modern Family’ and I immediately hated the idea of that person.  Or, the opposite, that I would entirely put my life on hold and live for my child, like I see soooo many women do.  I think I just needed to hear somebody say that this was going to be an inspired thing… even add to my existence? 

*Mind Blown*

So, here we are… After the shock wore off, an excited reality has set in.  Again, I have lessened my tunnel vision.  The box has opened and this time there is a whole world in front of me that shows a different kind of adventure where all of my loves, and a new love,  will meet. Once again I am energized by choosing a path different than what I had envisioned for myself, choosing a path that feels scary but true. There is a plus sign and with it comes an intuitive, little Aquarius baby!  We’ve been calling her Baby Soul. 

 

The CopperMaiden

Wow.  Life.  Summer. Craaaaaazy… anybody else?  Damn, Gina!!

There are 4,598 things going on and while some days I feel like I am hanging on by a thread, most of it is exciting stuff– part of which, is what I am FINALLY sharing with you today.  🙂

I’d say the scales started to tip in my creative/exciting & time crunching/hair pulling favor, when I got to collaborate with THIS girl!

Everyone, meet Jess.  

She is ADORABLE.  

The fabulous Ms. Jessica DaCosta is an artist and ‘sculptress’ that specializes in copper, and more specifically, copper weathervanes.  So freaking cool.  You can check out her Facebook page here.

But she also does super fun stuff like pointed elf ears!

One of her sketches… 

And she does these fabulous masks… 

Jess was chosen by Methow Arts to be their featured artist for their summer magazine and I was lucky enough to get to do the shoot! 

A lot of her work is very magical which was a match made in heaven.  Some of her weathervanes have fairies or mermaids, phoenix (!!!) and so we decided to play with the whimsy and magic of her work… 

Her business is also called ‘CopperMaiden’ so I liked the idea of photographing her as such.  Those photos are later… In the meantime, we spent our time in some magical aspens and did our best to blow glitter.  Ha! 

I love the below photo… Not because it’s technically or compositionally great… I just caught her in this gorgeous moment laughing and you really get a sense of her girlish spirit.  

She also made this crown out of fantastic antlers… She’s such a sorceress!  🙂

Crystal balls… *swoon*

She was SUCH a trooper… We shot two days.  One was at her shop and the next day, we squeezed hundreds of photos into a few hours. 

This girl was up for anything and I think it really paid off.  

We had her wade in the river for some photos that weren’t my favorite.  But I wanted to include this one because you can see her fish weathervane below to the left and in her hand she’s holding a copper fairy!!!  I just love her work…

And then later, we got to transform her into the The CopperMaiden!  🙂 🙂 🙂

She let me put foil on her face and although you can’t tell too much, her face is covered in copper face paint.  We also through pieces of metal, glitter, crystal balls and God knows what else in her hair. Fearless!  It was so much fun… 

These turned out very Mid-Summer Night’s Dream to me… 

I really love to tell stories with my camera so I tend to gravitate toward documentary portraiture.  I looove to interview someone, hear their guts and really do my best to try and capture their story in a photo.  

The challenge with the Methow Arts’ shoots, however, is that I’m not the one doing the interviewing.  Jess and I had to get to know each other real quick, but she was so brave, fearless and trusting.   If these photos are successful at all, its all because of her! 

This is my favorite.  I love the light, the colors… it’s very summery to me. I think she looks gorgeous. 🙂  *swoon*  

If only she were prettier, ya know?  😉

And because I don’t get to do these more artistic, super creative shoots often, I really had a blast playing with any and every preset known to man. Ha! Presets are kind of to Lightroom/Photoshop what filters are to Instagram.  With documentary portraiture, you really want to stay as true as possible to the subject or the story you’re telling.  So I don’t tend to use them too much.  However, when a shoot allows for total, complete, chaotic and creative process? Presets can be SUPER fun.  🙂

This is super Lord of the Rings to me with her magical elven ears… *swoon*  🙂

It certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s a super gorgeous girl! 

She also had this gorgeous dress with all this COLOR… Ugh.  Makes the job so much easier.  🙂

I think this photo is interesting, too.  Technically, her foil is blown out but the dreaminess of it, makes me come back to it… (Sometimes ya can’t help but like what ya like!)

Also, Jess is TOTALLY a shapeshifter!!!  In this photo, I think she looks a bit like Jennifer Love Hewitt.  There are times she just looks like a Vogue model and other times, she was channeling Katy Perry.  I’m great at channeling Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, you know what I’m saying?  But I’ll take it…  😉

She took so many beautiful shots, and I had such creative fun, I had a really hard time which photos I liked most.  And even worse, knowing what to send to the magazine!

Our try at glitter again… Note to self:  Next time use strobes.  Also, who wants to carry around strobes?  😉

All in all, it was SUCH an honor.  You can read the Methow Arts Magazine article here written by Marcy Stamper.  

And while I’m saying a lot about how gorgeous Jess is, it speaks nothing to who she is as an artist.  And even moreso, just the fact she’s a doll of a human being.  

This girl is ALL heart.  I can tell she’s intuitive and connected.  She manifests her own magic… A ‘sculptress’ indeed!

AND TOTALLY ADORABLE!!!!

I hope you enjoyed these photos!  Please be sure to check out her work!!  She is currently taking orders WORLD WIDE!!!  I will say I knew her when…  🙂 

Thanks for the honor, Jess!  xoxo

 

JESSICA DACOSTA INFO: 

Instagram and twitter:  @coppermaiden.

Her Facebook page is @weathervaneartistry:  https://www.facebook.com/WeathervaneArtistry/

And her website is:  http://www.coppermaiden.com

 

Living Creatively Workshop

Yesterday, I got to teach three workshops of kids at our local elementary school’s Young Writer’s Conference.  While I was terrified at the start, I left feeling exhilarated! 

To teach the kids that everyone has their own unique voice and it’s good to think outside the box, I had the younger kids draw ‘abstract apples.’  They were a hoot.  🙂

 

I decided to talk about Living Creatively:

“Living Creatively’ is a workshop that helps provide a solid foundation for a lifetime of  creating.  In this workshop, you’ll learn some myths about what it means to be an artist and come up with your own goals and intentions that will last a lifetime.”

I asked all of my artist friends what they wished they knew in 5th and 6th grade.  With their amazing help, I came up with a ‘Top Ten List’ of how these kids could live a creative, artistic life and do so in a healthy way.  Reading the students feedback I was grateful to know that maybe– to a choice few, we really made a difference. 

While some of them were completing the task at hand because that is what proper students do and some were providing feedback in the way of winning Teacher’s Pet, I was grateful to find a few that were more thoughtful and sincere.

 

I could tell the class meant something to this one. She left with a big smile and walked with a bit more confidence. Gutted me.  

 The day kinda broke me in the best way.  It was amazing to watch these kids. Can you imagine being able to redo the start of your life to know that rejection is something to be excited about?  Or that if it looks like fun, you should try it?  Or that art is worth creating not for cultural success but because our voices are unique and important????

As adults, we learn these things too late.  We wonder why our goals haven’t worked out and one of those reasons, I believe, is because we never created art in our lives in a healthy way.  Watching some of these kids take it all in, was a balm that healed a bit of me in the process.  

This girl is totally an artist. She drank everything in.  I could see the determination in her eyes by the end of class that read, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do this and no one’s gonna stop me.”  Bring beauty to the world, sweet girl!

 

Getting to teach these Top Ten Tips reminded me of how I want to create as an artist so I thought I would share them below.  Thank you to all of my friends for your brilliant suggestions.  So much that resonates in life is so painfully simple and yet we miss it.  It feels good to be reminded. 🙂

 

I got to read part of my children’s story at the start of each workshop.  I was so nervous but totally psyched to see them into it and paying attention.  Lots of them raised their hands and asked if it would be published.  Bless their little hearts… Makes me want to keep writing!

 

 1.  IF IT LOOKS LIKE FUN, TRY IT!

Myth:  “You can only be one thing.”

           “You don’t have the build of a ballerina.”

           “Focus on what you’re good at.”

           “It’s your brother’s thing.  You should try something else.” 

Example:  In my family, I was the dancer.  My older sister was the singer and my other sister was the artist.  I was scared to sing because it was my sister’s thing.  It was my childhood best friend’s thing.  It was my roommate’s thing.  When I finally decided to start singing, it gave me such joy.  I no longer wanted to put myself in a box or limit what I could do.  An accountant can be a writer, a poet can be a mathematician.  There is a little bit of everything in all of us.  These things need nurturing and give us balance.  

Intention:  “I am grateful that I have a mind, body and soul that is interested in so many things!  Trying new things enriches my life and excites me.”

 

2.      YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT!

Myth:  “It’s already been done before. Why bother?”

           “I’ll never be J.K. Rowling.”

           “What makes you so special?”

Example:  If I asked everyone in the room to write a story about an apple, every story would be different, wouldn’t it?  One might write a fairy tale about a poison apple, one might write a story about a farmer’s market, and still another might write a crazy abstract poem.  How cool is that?(It turns out, 3rd & 4th graders write about a lot of death and destruction by apples, apple cannibals, etc.)  Our voices are unique and important because there is only one you.  How cool is that!?  

Intention:  “My voice brings something to the world because it is unique.  There is only one me!  Whatever I do creatively, no one will ever do it like me.”

 

I love that she quoted the intention like a mantra.  *swoon*

 

3)  CREATE FOR THE LOVE OF IT/ CREATE CONSTANTLY!

Myth:  “If I’m not making money at it, what’s the point?”

               “I’m only a real artist if I sell something.”

               “People won’t respect what I do unless I’m famous.” 

Example:  Lots of artists in the world create to get somewhere rather than for the joy of it.  Why do you think that is? How many people here play basketball?  Would you consider yourself a basketball player? So clearly you don’t need to be Michael Jordan to be a basketball player, right?  And yet, playing more and more makes us better.  

Intention:  “I am a successful artist because I am always creating constantly.  The process is valuable and brings me joy!  My art brings beauty to the world and gives me balance. I am always creating new things!”

4)  MAKE THINGS YOU LIKE!

Myth:  “This person I admire doesn’t like it.  It must not be very good.”

           “What I do isn’t popular!”

           “People don’t understand my art.”

Example:  I was listening to a podcast recently about a girl that spent her life writing poetry.  When the time came, she applied to 12 graduate programs for poetry.  She was rejected from all twelve!!! She respected those opinions as they were amazing schools.  Can you imagine her disappointment?  Can you imagine what she must have thought about herself as artist?  Eventually she started writing poems again and while I’m not sure what became of her, I know that it brought joy to her life and those around her.  While constructive criticism is important, YOUR opinion is the only one that matters.  Not everyone may understand what you’re doing.  And that’s okay.  They’re not your audience. 

Intention:  “I love what I create and I understand what I do.  I create for me because I think what I make is fun and super cool!”

5)  DO WHAT SCARES YOU!

Myth: “You can’t possibly do that.  That would be insane.”

             “It’s irresponsible to trust your gut.” 

             “I was born this way.  I can’t change how I am.”

Example:  Sometimes in our lives, we pigeonhole ourselves into one thing.  We forget that we’re capable of more than we realize.  Sometimes doing what scares you means swimming with sharks but sometimes it can be a conversation.  It can mean being honest about your feelings and being vulnerable.  Not many of us have gone swimming with sharks and yet we all know what anxiety and fear feels like, right?  Sometimes even being a shy person can make us afraid to step out of our comfort zones. Powering through anxiety, worry and fear, makes us stronger.  It makes us more confident and it’s so rewarding. Whether it’s our families, society or our own inner voice, don’t ever tell yourself you can’t do something.  You have it in you!  Go beyond your fear!  

Intention:  “I do what scares me!  I am capable of more than I realize.  I do not allow myself or others to put me in a box.  Being brave stretches my limits and makes me stronger!”

6)  HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF

Myth:  “I’m going to fail.”

              “I could never call myself an artist.”

              “They probably have somebody else that can do it better.”

Example:  What we tell ourselves on a daily basis can be really negative sometimes.  We see others succeed and we get jealous.  Maybe we think someone has all the luck or more talent than we do.  Having confidence in yourself is everything!  Trust your instincts and trust your gut.  Let your muse lead the way and stay on track to accomplishing your goals.    

Intention:  “I am proud to call myself an artist.  I am passionate about creativity and what I create!  I believe in my ideas and myself with enthusiasm and excite those around me.”

7)  BE EXCITED ABOUT NO’S!

 Myth:  “They didn’t want me. My work is terrible.”

               “It’s a sign.  I should give up.”

               “I just think you need to be more realistic.”

              “It’ll never become anything.”

Example:  My friend Dena is an independent filmmaker.  When she has to get funding for movies, she makes hundreds of calls. To not get down about rejection, she takes a sticky pad of notes and sticks them to her wall.  On every post-it is written the word ‘NO!’ and only on one post-it is the word ‘YES!’  Every time she is rejected, she pulls a ‘NO!’ off of her wall.  She gets so excited because she gets closer and closer to that ‘YES!’  What a great way to think about life, huh? How many of us get down after just being rejected once and she does this all of the time!  You can, too!  

Intention:  “I am grateful for all responses to my work!  I get excited by hearing a ‘no!’  It means I’m one step closer to getting a yes!”

8)  BE CURIOUS AND INSPIRED BY EVERYTHING AROUND YOU!

Myth:  “Get your head out of the clouds.”

                “Stop dilly dally-ing.”

                “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

  Example:  My husband and I go for walks everyday.  When I’m out for a walk my mind is on a hamster wheel thinking of everything I need to get done.  I just want to get home so I can start checking things off of my list.  He, on the other hand, is incredibly observant and curious.  When I’m thinking about laundry, he will pick up a cool looking stone and say, “Look at this cool purple streak, hon!”  It always reminds me to take time to stop and smell the roses and to be grateful for the world around me.  Not to mention that purple streak could be inspiration for a painting!  You never know… 

Future psychologist, maybe? The next Ernest Hemingway? I never mentioned creating due to poetic things like ‘tragic moments’ but dang, if that doesn’t work as well.  

9)  MAKE TIME TO BE ALONE/ TAKE YOURSELF ON ARTIST DATES

Myth:  “You never hang out with us anymore.”

               “It’s weird to spend time by yourself.” 

                “You went to a gallery alone?”

Example:  As a creative person, you might need more alone time than most and that’s totally okay!  Being alone can help get us out of our heads.  It’s a time to play!  Being alone can help us connect with our muse and let’s our imagination run wild.  It’s also great to read all sorts of books, watch movies, reach poetry, paint, draw– things that you’re not entirely interested in!  It enriches our lives and you never know where you’ll find inspiration! 

Intention:  “I am so grateful for my alone time.  I make this quiet time for myself to get in touch with my muse and create ideas.  It allows me to chill out and be open to inspiration.”  

10)  BE PASSIONATE 

Myth:  “It’s really hard to make a living at that, you know.”

           “You should go to school for that first.”

           “She’s been singing for years. You’re only getting started now?”

Example:   When you’re passionate about something, people want what you have.  Imagine if I came in here today like Eeyore to tell you all about living creatively.  But if I’m excited and passionate because I believe in myself and creativity, it’s way more exciting isn’t it?  When you’re passionate about something people want to support you and get behind you.  Use that passion in life to propel you forward.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make a living creatively or that you have to do your life a certain way.    

Intention:  “I am passionate about creating and open to being a successful artist. I even inspire others to create!”

 

Going Deeper: Trusting Yourself

There are self portraits included in this post that are of me messing around for my lighting class and a couple of shots I did for a different homework series about shame.  They’re not specifically about this post but I thought I would share them for the sake of the topic. –MC

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At the lowest of my lows, I was living in Los Angeles, very much in debt and super depressed.  Each day I would pray for God to get me through another day.  I was clearly living in ‘survival mode.’  Psychologically, spiritually, emotionally– you are surviving, and anything more than that feels like an impossibility.  

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but bare with me… I began to take classes that taught you to examine your thoughts and feelings.  By becoming aware of those thoughts and feelings, you could see your unhealthy patterns and change them in a loving way.  My mind was blown.  I was waiting for my life to begin when God was whispering, “I already gave you the skills. Take responsibility. YOU got this.” With this new set of keys, my life did change drastically.  Some might call this mindful or positive thinking. 

When you are a student of life, however, truth is like an onion. There is always another layer.  You work up the courage to peel off a layer and you feel great.  Then you dig deeper and you realize there’s more.  It isn’t easy but you do the work, feel great and dig deeper again, peeling off another layer in the name of awareness.  There is always more work and more truth and more bliss– a teacher in everyone and everything. 

Me?  I’m a digger.  Since that class, I’ve always got a shovel.  I know the deeper I go, the more is revealed and the happier I am.  I’ve seen my life change… More of that please, thank you!  However, there are so many people in this world that hate digging.  It’s such a scary thing!  Their journey hasn’t taken them to a place where they can hear that they have the power to dig.  They don’t yet have the tools. 

So here’s the thing… I’m seeing a lot of this idea on social media, first of all, is that to have feelings is a negative thing.  It means your not ‘being positive.’  Ex:  Me posting these photos could potentially be viewed as uncomfortable, negative, sad, depressing.  “Poor Mandi, etc.”  Do some of these photos make you uncomfortable?  Why?

My response to that idea is remember you’re human.  To say you don’t have moments of fear, worry, anxiety, etc. in life is a lie.  Through photography, I’ve learned to linger with them.  It’s all beautiful because it is all truth.  It is what we have in common.  The more it is embraced, the more we’re able to accept each other and relate. 

Let me be clear… I think ‘positive thinking’ is GREAT.  Yes, you can go through life much happier and lighter by being aware and examining your thoughts.  Joy is absolutely a choice and mantras are terrific.  But what about deep fucking trauma?  Indoctrination?  Societal constructs?  It’s like people being told to eat healthier when what a person might need is  major hospitalization for a triple bypass.  Years of therapy might be required for them to recognize what a shovel even is and their existence is just as valid as yours.

The second thing I’m noticing is that to be negative means you are a toxic person and “I can’t have that kind of negativity in my life.”  These folks make me laugh.  Let’s get real… There are soul suckers, for sure.  People that you truly cannot be around.  I am all for cutting out unhealthy people from your life.  But a majority of this toxicity is an unwillingness to allow for humanity.  It’s grounded in fear and judgment rather than love.  We don’t want to get our hands dirty with a fellow human being because it makes us uncomfortable.  This usually comes from people that have found their answer and if you’re not not the same brand of bandwagon, you’re icky.  It’s positive thinking at its most baby-spiritual. 

Like any good intentioned person, there will always be those telling you you’re doing it wrong.  Out of ‘awareness’ will tell you, what you’re doing is something else.  There might be those on a bandwagon that can’t handle your honesty or reality– or even worse, view it as negativity. Everyone’s story is different and trauma is trauma, folks.  People that don’t understand aren’t meant to be around for your journey and that’s okay.  Feel free to set aside anyone’s rules about what it means to be spiritual.  Feel free to set aside people that want to put out the fire in your soul that you know to be true.  Honesty is integral.

Also, if you’re not big on shoveling, feel free to listen.  More often than not we are very stubborn people and our fear is so deep rooted we can’t see our own programs.  We believe a mantra is doing it differently but we make demands about how our life should be.  It is a limiting ruse. Fear feels good and right because it is comfortable.  It is what we know and allows us to maintain the status quo out of survival rather than take part in real change.  Cheating yourself only leads to more misery.  (Also, being open is a hell of  a lot easier than kicking and screaming). 

We are all on our own journey and hear things in our own timing.  If you have you eyes to see, be grateful.  Have compassion for those who aren’t where you are.  And keep your eyes open. There’s probably more going on in the mirror than you might be willing to admit. xoxo

 

 

 

 

Ready For Summer Strawberry Tart

I haven’t posted a recipe in soooo long!!! What’s up with that!??  I’ve actually been sitting on this recipe since last summer.  But when I launched MC in October, it wasn’t really strawberry season. I adapted the recipe from Izy Hossack.  I swapped out the filling and added a burst of gorgonzola.  I hope you all enjoy!  xoxo

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I love summer here.  The fruit available to us, when in season, is just so yummy, juicy and sweet.  It almost feels like you’re eating pie.  And after a winter of dehydration and feeling blah-heavy on carbs and starches, my body is craaaaaving water and fruit!  

Cue:  Straaaawberries!

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In probably just a week or two it will be the peak of the season.  I couldn’t be more excited!!!  There’s nothing worse than buying a 2 for $5 pack of hard, flavorless strawberries in the dead of winter. They taste like poodley oodley.  I always do it, though, dreaming of summer berries.  Do you do this???  Why do we do this???

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The way the berries are loaded on top, it’s almost like a dessert bruschetta.  🙂
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So when it’s peak strawburry season in your town, go pickin till you come back with a nice haul.  Then, try this recipe!! It’s super fresh, light and delicious.  🙂

untitled-7911Summer is just around the corner… Are you ready???  🙂  🙂  🙂

Ready For Summer Strawberry Tart
A buttery shortbread crust with a cream cheese whipped topping and covered in delicious seasonal strawberries.
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For the crust
  1. 1 1/3 c. dark rye flour
  2. 1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
  3. 1 T. + 1 tsp granulated sugar
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1 c. + 2 T. unsalted butter, very cold, cubed
  6. 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  7. 6-10 tbsp ice water
  8. 1 egg (for eggwash)
Filling
  1. 8 oz. cream cheese
  2. 2 T. Grand Marnier
  3. 1/2 c. gorgonzola
  4. 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  5. 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  6. 1/3 c. apricot jam
  7. 2 T. water
  8. 2-3 pounds of strawberries
For the crust
  1. Put the flours, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the chunks of butter are the size of small peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it has the texture of damp chunky sand.
  2. In a separate cup, pour the apple cider vinegar into 10 tbsp of ice water.
  3. Drizzle a bit of the water mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl and gently stir together with your hands until the dough starts to come together. Add more water as needed to form into a rough ball. Saran wrap the ball and chill for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F.
  5. Cut a piece of baking paper to fit the size of your half sheet tray. Place the baking paper onto a work surface and roll the dough out on it into a rough rectangle.
  6. When its about the size of the half sheet tray, gently slide it onto the tray. Dock the dough with a fork and brush with beaten egg.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until dark golden all over. If there are air bubbles, flatten them with a spatula. Let the pastry cool completely.
For the filling
  1. Slice the strawberries and toss with Grand Marnier in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat the jam on low with 2 T. of water in a small saucepan. Pour the glaze into the berries.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream until there are soft peaks. Set aside in different bowl.
  4. In the mixing bowl you just used, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until soft.
  5. Fold in the whipped cream.
  6. Once the crust is cooled, frost it with the cream cheese whipped mixture and dot it with the gorgonzola. Cover the tart with the sliced berries. The more the merrier! Cut and serve immediately!
Adapted from Izy Hossack
Adapted from Izy Hossack
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com

Spring in the Valley

I live in a tourist town.  Washington Pass connects Seattle to our little valley and when that pass opens every Spring, the flood gates of tourism open and the locals scrounge to produce, typically while being grossly understaffed.  It’s hard to find good help, and while a lot of fun, it can be insanely exhausting. 

So while we have maybe another week or two before Gandalf obliges, I’m doing my best to take in the little things.  Our valley currently is full of flowers… Spring beauties and glacier lilies for days… followed by hills of balsam root.  It’s breathtaking. 

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Spring always reminds me of a song by Nichole Nordeman called ‘Every Season.’  Back in my Christian days, she was one of my favorites.  She was the only artist I was aware of that ever openly questioned life and faith in her music.  She wasn’t threatened to ground her faith in her humanity, where I feel so many other artists (and their PR firms) are afraid to look anything less than perfect.  Her recent Facebook posts on islamaphobia, helping Syrians and loving your neighbor, find me still a fan.  

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Anyway, I always found it a lovely song… You can find the lyrics below.  

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And you can hear the song here…

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You
In children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

 

Happy Spring.  🙂

 

From Chef to CHEF

Mandi note:  I met Sean Ragusa on Match.com in 2010 while living in Chicago. We’ve been great friends ever since!  We would cook together, visit local restaurants and I can definitely say that Chef is solely responsible for my love and appreciation of craft beer.  I think we even cooked our first Boeuf Bourginon together!  Soon,  I gave him the nickname ‘Chef’ and he responded with ‘Cupcake’ and the nicknames have always stuck.  🙂

Chef and Cupcake at the opening of Magnolia Bakery in downtown, Chicago. A few years later, I would be the General Manager there.

Chef and Cupcake at the opening of Magnolia Bakery in downtown, Chicago. A few years later, in a weird twist of fate, I would be the General Manager there.

I’m so happy to share Chef’s story with all of you because:  A) It’s his birthday today!!!  Give him lots of love!!!  And B) It is so rare in our society to hear about a major career change so late in life.  Fear is such a driving factor that keeps us from risking anything.  We play it safe in the name of our families, in the name of financial security… While Chef didn’t have children to worry about, he still had a lot at stake to pursue his dream.  But he did!  And in the meantime, he found a new career, a new passion for life and a new and beautiful love.  I couldn’t be happier for him!!  🙂

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My name is Sean, and I am a career changer.
Here is a brief history about who I am and how I got here.

I was born in a decade where ‘men were men’ and women drank scotch while they were pregnant. A decade that introduced us to music’s worst genre, disco, and all of the awful fashion trends and dance moves that went along with it. I mean let’s face it, I had to get past that to move forward into the greatest decade of Bachrach sweatshirts, tight rolled acid wash jeans, and mullets.

The ethnic make up of my family contributed to my love of food, although my taste buds were still typical of my young age. My Father’s side was Sicilian and Milanese. My Mother’s side was a melting pot of culture, Southern (first and foremost), then Dutch, Welsh, and Scottish. But the aromas and food that came out of the kitchens of our house as well as other family members were very memorable, comforting, and pleasant, for the most part. Everything from stuffed peppers and braciole to fried chicken and sweet potato pie.

I can remember visiting my Grandmother on the west side of Chicago, and when we walked into her kitchen there was always a pot of stuffed peppers ready for us to eat. The smell of garlic filled the air. Her simple sauce and a loaf of Milano bread from Butera to go along with it. Oh, and I can not forget her iceburg, tomato, and cucumber salad.

Getting past the 70’s and moving into the 80’s brought musical changes, fashion changes, and taste bud changes. We listened to the Cure, Motley Crue, and Run DMC. We wore college sweatshirts, MC Hammer pants, one white glove, and Reeboks. Foods of convenience took over our lives, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Rax, Taco John’s, Arby’s, and KFC. We were fed Hungry Man, Fox Deluxe, Gino’s, and Banquet. But there was still home cooking going on. I remember quite a bit of grilling at our house. And late into the 80’s, I started to dabble, just a bit, but couldn’t quite live up to the standards of Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet) or Justin Wilson (The Cajun Cook).

And then there was the 90’s and college, albeit short lived, but I did go. It was a year of boxed mac and cheese, hamburger helper, frozen pizza, ramen and cheap cuts of meat, cooked on a hibachi and marinated in beer. It was bad, but an experience that I had to have. I longed for my visits home, for good home cooking.

It was in the 90’s that things began to change for me. On what was supposed to be my Summer break, I decided, thanks to some family friends, that maybe college wasn’t for me. I was meant to do more with my life than to be radio air talent. That’s when I enrolled in EMT classes and joined the Volunteer Fire Department. With less than one year as a volunteer firefighter/emt, I left the VFD to pursue a career as a firefighter/emt.

Sean Ragusa as a bad ass Central Illinois firefighter.

Sean Ragusa as a bad ass Central Illinois firefighter.

This decision spanned a period of 23 years, starting in Central Illinois and slowly moved my way north, ending in Chicago. It was during that 23 years I immersed myself in a culture unknown to civilians. It was a Brotherhood like no other. And what keeps a Brotherhood happy and healthy? Good food! Yes, during my 23 years, I was able to hone my culinary skills. This was in between running calls and watching the Food Network (when they actually had cooking programs).

Long before my time and his nickname 'Chef.'

Long before my time and his nickname ‘Chef.’

 

Every shift, even after taking a position as a Lieutenant, after doing our busy work and training, I manned the kitchen. The guys were my guinea pigs and they didn’t mind because it was food, it was better than ordering out, and they didn’t have to cook it. And we dined on everything from comfort food (roasts, stews, etc) to some not so successful meals. One that still haunts me to this day was a lemon chicken incident that tasted very much like Pledge furniture polish.

During the last 10 years of my career, I toyed around with the idea of attending culinary school, but did not want to commit to a daily regimen. Arranging that with my job, seemed impossible. So, instead I took some cooking classes at Sur La Table and The Wooden Spoon. They were fun, interesting, and I did learn a few things. Then I met a girl, Mindy, and she mentioned something about attending culinary school. Once again, I tossed around the idea, but that’s about it. We then took a vacation, where we spent some time in Tuscany. We also took a cooking class together there, and I made the decision that when I got home, I would figure out a way to go to school.

The next thing I knew, I found myself at Le Cordon Bleu, learning knife cuts, braising, breaking down whole animals, and making croissants (not by popping open a can). That year was a whirlwind, until it was time for my externship. That’s when it got real, because I was going to spend 3 months cooking, in Italy!

Chef: The nickname, the real deal and the legend. This is Chef in Italy. My favorite picture of him, EVERRRRR!!!!

Nickname Chef becomes the real Chef!  Sean in Italy. My favorite picture of him, EVERRRRR!!!!

Two years later, I find myself writing this bio for Mandi, whom by the way, I met in Chicago, but that will also come out later. Sitting here, in my office, at home, in Nashville. My days off are different now, working at a restaurant will do that to a person. And since my move here, I’ve worked at three different restaurants, as well as started my own personal/private chef business.

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Who knows what the future will bring, however I think part of my future will include guest blogging for Mandicakes.

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Mandi Note: HELLS YEAH!!!!!  🙂 🙂 🙂  Also, that ‘Mindy chick’ is now his beautiful wife!!!  You can find this husband and wife duo hard at work on their business:  Let Us Feed You, Nashville.   I think a visit might be in order… I’m suddenly hungry. 

The happy couple in Nashville.

The happy couple in Nashville.

My Own Shame

After reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir ‘Love Warrior,’ I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty, shame and vulnerability.  In her book, she speaks to the idea that we have these impossible societal constructs within which to live and rather than be our vulnerable selves, we send our ‘representatives’ into the world.  They laugh on cue, they look the part, they diminish their voice, check out and hide, or fall in line.  It becomes a life of survival rather than a life of authenticity, and instead of thriving, we suffer and cope.  We find a pulse in various comforting addictions and the secret knowledge of these habits, fill us with guilt and shame. 

 

Late to the Glennon Doyle Melton party...

Late to the Glennon Doyle Melton party…

When Edward Snowden announced that the government had been spying on us and other countries, invading our personal freedoms and privacy in the name of terrorism, we didn’t take to the streets.  There was no rioting.  We rolled over, scratched our bellies and said, ‘Yeah, not surprised,’ and went back to sleep feeling powerless.  In the same way, we’re not surprised by Glennon’s truth telling.  ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah… We all know we live in guilt and shame.  Sweet Lord, don’t make me think about it.’  

The thing is, I want to think about it because I crave healing.  I want to be healed because I want to live a life that is powerful and full.  I want to be so full that I’m able to offer something to the world.  I want these things for all of us because… imagine that world.

There are many reasons, we send out our representatives but for me, my shame and guilt, pain and grief, all stems from my weight.  It’s so incredibly… painful. It is such a deep river within that when I think of my wedding day– my wedding day!— the feeling that first comes to mind is: FAT.  I had gained a ton of weight, was so uncomfortable and wanted to crawl back in bed for a do over because this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  This wasn’t my soul’s wedding.  This was the wedding of a fucked up, embarrassed and guilt-ridden failure.  (Thanks to family and friends, it was also a day I’ve never felt so loved, a testament to what love can do).  

My representative wants to tell you about my mountain life, my adorable cats, manifesting a life of creativity and having a wonderful sweetie. These things are all very true.  I feel absolutely blessed and my life, oftentimes, divinely inspired.  But, truth be told, it is not the story in my head, the underlying programs; these are the voices I wake up to every day and the ones that scream me to sleep at night.   

These voices require that I live the ‘Walk of Atonement’ on Game of Thrones daily.  I am both the observer and the observed. I am an overweight, short, guilt-ridden and shamed, Cersei, naked and vulnerable, making my way through King’s Landing.  I am mocked.  I am hated.  I am covered in spit and garbage.  A man exposes himself to me? I’m sure I deserved it.  I question the people in my life that love me and what is wrong with them. I am also the one throwing the garbage. I detest myself. I spit and spew. My fat is nauseating and I hate looking at it.  This is how the standards I have set for myself, after being an A+ student in bullshit, make me feel every day of my life.

For anyone that has ever tried to lose weight and failed, it is because it is almost impossible to will one’s self into perfection.  And if you do have that sort of panicked will power, a neurotic workout and diet regimen is just another hamster wheel.  On a diet, there is good and bad. There is right and wrong.  It isn’t a matter of health or listening to your body. We are programmed to believe that to be thin and lose weight at any cost is a success and to be fat for any reason means you’re a failure. From doctors we hear, “Eat 4oz. of skinless chicken with one cup of steamed broccoli and brown rice.” From society we hear, “Eat less and work out, fat fucks.  It’s not rocket science.”  

There are problems with this… 

  • It speaks nothing to the holes within us that cause us to eat in the first place.
  • It speaks nothing to the shame and guilt that we feel toward ourselves on a daily basis.
  • It speaks nothing to the programming that thin equals success and fat equals failure.
  • It speaks nothing to how women view each other and how we’re taught to view each other.
  • It speaks nothing to the spirituality of our bodies.
  • It speaks nothing to the indoctrinated mindset of society that fat people are allowed to be the butt of a joke and are incompetent, nauseating, ignorant, unworthy of existence, etc.
  • It speaks nothing to how our feelings as individuals, regardless of the reasons for our shame, cause us all to exist in society.

It’s FUCKED UP!  And it’s not just about weight.  

To me it feels heartless, calloused, superficial and just plain wrong that as a society we don’t allow ourselves to talk about our feelings.  It’s only after we’re thin, fixed, have gotten sober or lost the addiction, that we’re allowed to admit to our issues and how we felt ‘less than.’  Only after the fact do you get to write the memoir, because to mention in everyday life that you are sad, alone, addicted, fearful, anxious, depressed, frustrated or angry makes society really uncomfortable.  It’s just not the American way.

I also learned in church that this was God’s ideal. To be without joy, was to be separate from God.  You’re either in the dark or you’re in the light. I was a determined and sensitive kid that took to heart God’s satisfaction and dissatisfaction with all of my thoughts and feelings. Not only did I feel God’s disapproval and judgment every moment of the day, but on top of my own, it was too great a burden to bare.  It caused so much guilt and shame, you could have tattooed the word ‘grace’ on my forehead and I still wouldn’t be able to look at myself. So, the best I could do was play the part and if I could never be good enough, hopefully, at the very least I could trick my community.  Proverbs 31 woman? No pressure.

Inner trauma is everywhere.  We all have it. It’s called being human.  Society wants to fix it.  I am absolutely guilty of wanting to fix it and my Christian upbringing required that I always had answers. It’s a trait that I’ve had a difficult time shedding and I know I’ve hurt people in the process. We hate to see people in pain, especially people closest to us, but I dare say, we need to start seeing people feeling their feelings.  We need snot, tears, laughter, hand holding and not just at our therapist’s office, but also at our therapist’s office. Not just with our close friends but especially with our close friends.  

I’m realizing the timeliness and imperative value of diving into this shame because it is such a disservice– not to the idea of this woman with the mountain life, the baker with adorable cats, but to the perfect and vibrant soul that was born joyfully into this world.  Our world! The skin sacks we choose don’t make us who we are, that soul we were created to be is everything.  I am learning that taking care of my soul is my biggest priority right now.  And personally?  My soul wants a healthy skin bag. I’m also learning that self care can mean more than a bubble bath.  It could mean spending time on the elliptical, spending less money, laughing more, going to therapy or taking photos and connecting with someone.  It’s different for everyone. 

On 9/11 we accepted each other’s pain because we were all in pain. That pain was beautiful because it was honest, heart wrenching, vulnerable and true.  Each face in front of us was our own. It united us. Do we have the guts to do this everyday? Can we tell our very honest stories and see ourselves in each other without ego or judgement?  Can we just sit in each other’s messiness without an answer to be had? 

What is our shame? Let’s start with what is true…