Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Don't Forget to Breathe

Anyone else feel me on this meme? 

There’s a lot of buzz about motherhood and self care these days, and I would bet money this is how most of us feel most of the time.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
“Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”
In theory these are true and wise, and we should all do them by instinct. But motherhood and life and adulting, well, they’re hard. The brain does weird things when you fall into survival mode and start to feel overwhelmed. At least for me, self care is always the first thing to go. Losing self care is quickly followed by my self-confidence and the ability to hear my own voice. Lately I’ve been thinking about these things a lot, probably because of Mother’s Day and all the posts about taking the day off or treating yourself, and the many blogs about motherhood. I think most women are familiar with this spiral, but we don’t talk about it. We make comments that motherhood is hard, we laugh about it and share a glass of wine. But often we don’t acknowledge the real and raw idea of what it looks and feels like when it happens.
So, let me give you a hypothetical example of what this downward spiral might look like:
               “It’s the end of the school year and there is something extra to remember for both your kids, every single day on top of the usual craziness. Colorful sock day, tie dye day, teacher appreciation week, bring a flower day, send an extra snack day, donate a book day, celebrations of learning, school musicals, end of the year projects, and all the while your child has completely checked out and is in full on summer mode (and to be honest, so are you). When you forget one of these things, your child tells you that he was the “only one” in the class that didn’t participate, and that goes straight to your heart. It stings. You tell yourself it’s not a big deal but that little kernel of mom guilt sneaks in and does a number on you. You’ve also had a tough week budget-wise and there are other big emotion items on your mind. Everyone knows a woman’s brain never stops, so you’ve been mentally chewing on these things well into the night. You’re tired. So you snap at your 8-year-old for whining about “being out of everything” when you’re just trying to get through the week. The mom guilt increases.

               In addition, it’s allergy season and you feel an ear infection coming on. Instead of going to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor like you know should, you go to the General Practitioner and just see the nurse because you’re in a hurry. The kids have practice and you need to get ready to go out of town for your blossoming jewelry business, quite frankly, you don’t have time to drive into town. You ignore the obvious signs this is not going to go well. Over the weekend you end up having your friend drive you to urgent care with a ruptured ear drum. Now your body is tired, and fighting an infection, and you’re in pain, and you feel very sorry for yourself. You start to question yourself in situations where you’re normally very confident. You become needy and looking for outside reassurance, when in actuality you’re competent and secure in who you are. One night you finally lose your shit and announce you need to take a walk. You’re literally stomping around the block, and your brain is fuming and furious at everyone and everything and telling you your entire life is just a house of cards. Without warning you’re crying and talking to yourself like a crazy person because you realized, as you stomped along, you WEREN’T EVEN BREATHING. You take in a great lungful of air and realize your self care meter has fallen so low, you’ve forgotten to breathe.”

I mean, this is all hypothetical, of course. I’m just saying. If you’re not careful, it could happen.
               Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why does it have to get to the point where we can’t breathe before we realize we aren’t checking in with ourselves? I’m the first to tell my friends they need to take some time and take care of themselves. But I rarely remember that for myself until I’ve spiraled all the way down. I don’t know why we do, and I don’t know how to stop it from happening. But I’ll tell you what I decided to do different immediately. Rachel’s six steps back to sanity I call it.
1.      From the wise advice of a friend, I came home and sat down to my computer and did the thing that gives me life and centers me more than anything. I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and wrote and pretty soon had typed up thousands of words over pages and pages of single space type. A lot of it was ugly - emotions I didn’t know I was holding in that I most likely will never show the world. But I can’t keep them inside of me or they will eat me alive. I hadn’t written just for myself in so long. I’m trying to make it a regular practice now. Whatever the thing is that centers you, do that first. Get all the ugly out, all the emotions, all the pain, all the worry. Find what lets you release those feelings and thoughts so they don’t stay inside you rotting.

2.      The night of the walk I texted a friend and simply said, “I’m not ok”. We talked, and she told me to write because a good friend knows what your thing is. The next day I went to my counselor and cried for an hour. With both of their help I was able to name my emotions and look at them one by one, and  figure out a plan to deal with them. I had to remember I’m not alone, and even if I sound like a broken record, the people that love me will still listen. That’s what we do for our people. And if you need some professional help, please get it. Most counselors will work with you on a sliding scale. I know because every single time I’ve gone to counseling they’ve worked with me. There is no shame in asking for help. Counselors can give you tools to help you. Sometimes we need both friends and professionals, and that is 100% ok.  Don’t try to do things alone when you know damn good and well you can’t. Lean on your support system, let people love and help you. Relationships are something I pride myself in maintaining and nurturing, but I often forget to let people do that for me, too. I also want to say that I think everyone, like, everyone, should go to counseling at least once in their lives. We all have baggage we carry, and a good counselor can change your life.  

3.      I went to work out and stopped eating crap. I know I don’t do well on gluten and dairy, and that I shouldn’t have wine every night. But when the stress creeps in, I want comfort food. For me, that’s carbs and wine. My body loves to remind me every time that this is a really stupid idea and I will kick myself later. But in the moment, when you’re not listening to your voice and can’t hear it anyway, that waffle looks pretty comforting. Physical movement, sweat, being with other people, all those things make you feel better, look better, and be more confident. No, I didn’t want to. I still have a damn ear infection and I couldn’t do any of the up and down moves or hear very well, but it was a balm to my tired body and hurting soul. I only get one life and I’m not getting any younger. So, I went to my boot camp and though it was really hard, I felt more like me than I had in a week. Self care is not only mental. It’s also physical. When we eat what we should and exercise and CARE for the body we’re given, it makes stress easier to manage. Take the time to physically take care of yourself.

4.      I meditated. I like to do simple, short guided meditations.  I also like to walk and just think. On a normal day, one where I’m breathing, a walk is centering. Being outside with the sun on my skin and music in my ears is one of the more cathartic things in life for me. Basically, I was QUIET IN MY BRAIN. It’s not easy for women to do. And lo and behold, I could hear myself again. I remembered my voice, and my wants, and my opinions. I remembered I like myself and most of the time believe in myself. I am capable of what life throws at me. I am strong, I am a grown-up,  damnit, and I can do this mothering and life and adulting thing. I can do it well, and I can consciously create it to look the way I want it to look. Spend time in the quiet. In your own head, with your own thoughts, listening to your own voice. You’ll be surprised what you will hear.

5.      Finally, I gave myself a good mental slap across the face. I do not believe in being a victim. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in crying, or that I won’t ever get overwhelmed again. I will. But at the end of it, sometimes a good self ass kicking is just the thing to breathe in deep and get moving again. I told myself I was being an idiot (but with love and patience and humor and a long-suffering sigh) because I know me. I’m not an idiot. I am confident, I am capable, and it serves no one for me to forget that. Sometimes, a good long look in the mirror and being sick of hearing yourself whine is just what you need. Get up, put some lipstick on, and go back out there. 

6.      Do something fun, just because you love it. This particular timing worked out well for me because months ago I bought tickets to see Todrick Hall’s Forbidden Tour with my niece as an 18th birthday present. I know I seem to overstate it, but that performance was life giving. It lit up my smile and was 100% a happy place. The music, the people in the crowd, the whole vibe of believing yourself and celebrating other peoples’ Shine just reminded me the world can be very beautiful. You just have to remember to stop and look. Don’t be afraid to just celebrate life and have a good time. Find artists, musicians, writers, adventurers, anyone that creates and just enjoy the beauty of their creation. Oh, and there’s another blog post coming about Todrick soon. 

   I’m writing all this down because when I forget to breathe again, and I will, I can refer to this and hopefully remember these 6 things, and shorten the cycle back to myself. Maybe someone else needs a reminder too. Also, since it’s Mother’s Day and we hear a lot about taking the day off and “self care”, it’s been in the forefront of my Facebook feed and my mind. Self care is not a bubble bath, although sometimes those are super helpful. Self care, to quote something I read, is creating a life you don’t regularly need to escape from. It’s taking time for you, and the things you love, from the beginning. It’s making yourself strong mentally and physically, so you can put your best foot forward. It’s remembering that you are worthy of the same love, care and attention you give to the rest of your people. When I do that, I can be a better mom and my kids see me prioritizing my health and happiness too. Someday, when they are adults, I hope they will remember that and do the same for themselves. Making yourself a priority does not mean putting yourself ahead of those you love in your life, it’s simply making sure you’re breathing too. It’s putting on your oxygen mask first, so you also put theirs on. If I’m the best version of me, then I’m the best mom and friend and woman I can be. And that’s something I want to be, Every time and All the Time.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Paleo, MOLO, and the Path

Two years ago last month, I joined a wellness competition in my boot camp group. It’s called MOLO, which stand for Mother’s Love. It wasn’t the first time I’d signed up for it, and I admit I did it reluctantly. But my friend had recently bought the boot camp franchise, and I’m a supportive friend, so there I was. Part of the challenge was setting goals for yourself. Typical ones would be to mark increased strength, reasonable weight loss, specific healthier eating habits, etc. But you see I’d done all those before. Twice for this specific competition and I dropped out both times and went into the big black hole of “I suck cause I always fail so I’m not gonna try anymore.” I’ve lost and gained a lot of weight in my life. It gets old being on that see saw. But, in an effort to try again and be a supportive friend (mostly to be a supportive friend), I valiantly tried to set realistic goals. In a conversation with my friend, I commented that it’d be nice if I could just finish one of these damn things. She said, “Then make that your goal.”

"What? "

“Make that your goal. Don’t quit.”

"That’s it?"

“That’s it. Sure, you have other goals. But none of them happen if you don’t show up. So make that your goal. Your only goal. Don’t quit.”

So that's what I did. And I have tears in my eyes writing this, because I did it. For the first time in a whole lot of years, I didn’t quit. It wasn’t always pretty, but I showed up. Not only did I not quit, I was one of three finalists and voted by my peers as “The Heart of MOLO.” I’m still so super proud of that it’s ridiculous. Sometimes you have to start with small goals to make big accomplishments.
MOLO 2017 (both these women with me are badasses. My friend Erica on the right is a working (Geologist!) single mom and you can set your clock by her. If there's evening bootcamp, she's there with her adorable daughter. To the left is my amazing friend Jenny, who was our 2017 MOLO winner!!! She's a mother to 5 and #6 is on the way, and she's a wonderful friend, listener, and work out partner)

I wish I could say from that moment forward I’ve been hardcore on this journey, but predictably I went back into a hole and ghosted out of class for awhile. In and out, but not super consistent. However I did use that tiny spark to start taking control of my health. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, pregnancy induced hypertension that I still have 5 years after my last pregnancy, I couldn’t lose weight to save my life, my hair was falling out, I had terrible itchy spots all over me, and depression. I felt like I was walking through molasses all day every day until I fell into bed….and couldn’t sleep. Basically I was super fun to be around. But that theme of “Don’t quit” kind of became a mantra. I started reading on my own. I started asking questions. I stopped believing that “my lab reports were good” and there was nothing more I could do. I started trusting my own voice. Just a little bit, but enough to set me on the path. I knew this couldn’t be my best life and I was determined to make someone listen to me.

A lot of journeys start with good friends telling you the truth, just like mine did. And good friends will keep you on the path. I had another friend call me out on my depression and tell me to go back on anti-depressants. I didn’t want to, but since most days I felt like I was going to cry, scream, or potentially bodily harm someone, it seemed like a logical solution.  I started with my OB-GYN (a woman), and my new GP (a woman), and we found one that works for me.  Huge difference. It’s like being awake in the sun vs. walking through the darkness of depression.  It’s about being able to step outside of your emotions and decide what’s valid and what isn’t. Listen people, there’s nothing wrong with an anti-depressant. If it helps you lead your best life, you take it. It cleared my head and gave me what I needed to keep going.

I read a lot of books about my condition and diet that affects it. I’d recommend “The Root Cause” by Dr.Isabella Wentz. Keep your pen and paper and dictionary handy, because it is a medical tome. But slog through it if you have Hashimoto’s. She was huge in teaching me what tests I needed to ask for and what supplements to investigate. I read The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf (twice) and Whole 30 by Melissa Hartwig. You’d think at this point, I’d say I went full Paleo.
Despite knowing how I SHOULD eat, I didn’t. I would for a week or two and then go back. Dairy and bread are a siren song, am I right? I wasn’t ready. And though I’m an intelligent and capable woman, I guess I had to wait until someone told me I HAD to. That was coming.

During all these small gains, this 1 step forward, 2 steps back dance I was doing, my brother Bert encouraged, listened, called me out, and answered the same questions about a million times. He’s a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer at Efficient Exercise. Functional movement and healthy living are his obsession. I shamelessly admit that I lean on him too much. But he loves to research anything about exercise so I’ll just chalk it up to keeping him on his toes. I value his opinion and knowledge, and patience. He told me more than once, “it’s your body, you strengthen it.” Like, stop waiting for someone to save me. The nerve. 

He told me all along to go to a functional medicine doctor. I didn’t do it because those folks are expensive. I wasn’t ready to make that kind of investment, and drastic diet changes that I knew would come with that. However, by chance at a routine chiropractor appointment, as I mentioned how gross I still felt, the chiro told me his wife was a blood nutritionist. Eureka! I made an appointment. With a bloodnutrionist functional medicine doctor (also a woman) - Dr. Kim Tran.

After testing what felt like the entire volume of blood in my body, and starting an army of supplements, she looked me in the eye and said “You need to live a Paleo lifestyle. No dairy, no gluten, extremely limited sugar.” I knew it was coming. I just had to get there in my own time. By this point, nearly 4 years after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I was so miserable I didn’t care. Take away whatever you want, just make me feel better. Within a month, life changed in the best ways. In 2 weeks, the “ugh I’m tired I want cheese/bread/coffee” hangover was over. It was pretty mild honestly, I know that’s not the case for everyone. In a month, I had more energy. In 6 weeks, with tweaks to the dosage of some of my supplements, my hair stopped falling out. The benefits just kept piling up. This began my real journey with Paleo and clean eating food. I did a 2 week gut healing cleanse. I did Whole 30. I am working toward finding my food freedom. I am finding balance and deciding, moment by moment, what’s worth it to me and what isn’t. Most desserts aren’t worth it. Wine usually is, but not nearly as much as it used to be. It’s a road I’ll probably always be traveling and what is worth it will change over time. I think that’s what Melissa Hartwig means when she posts about “Food Freedom”. It’s working for me anyway, I’ve lost 2 pant sizes!  I still have an endocrinologist and I probably always will. I need synthetic hormones, but with his direction I’ve switched to one with a gluten free casing to increase my absorbency. But now, he’s a member of the team (and the only man), not the whole team. Last week, for the first time in 4 years, he said I looked fantastic. His words were “Young lady, you have never looked better, and your blood work is the best I’ve ever seen it. Whatever you’re doing, keep it doing it." I cried walking out of his office. Because you know what? I feel like myself for the first time in a very, very long time.

Last but not least, find your squad. Life is hard, even harder without your people. I have my tribe here in Katy, I have my college tribe all over the country, I have my bootcamp family, I have my actual family, I have a health journey/weight loss online support group, I have some people in my “at large” family that don’t know they’re family (Melissa Hartwig, Danielle Walker, and Glennon Doyle I’m looking at you) and I finally, after much searching and bitching and refusing to give up, have an incredible team of doctors. All of these people encourage me to be my best self. They pick me up when I fail, they celebrate when I yell at them like a little kid that just learned to ride a bike (“Hey! Everybody LOOK! I can do a proper walking lunge!”), they encourage me when I’m down, they call me out when I’m being stupid or in a self pity spin out. Their words remind me to be bold in my self-belief, to try again, that I’m worth it, that I’m making progress, that they’re proud of me. It’s huge. Life is not meant to be lived alone. If you don’t have a tribe, find the nearest Baby Boot Camp and be brave and go say hi. It will change your life. Read people’s words that inspire you, and then turn around and inspire someone else with what you learned. Be brave. Everyone is scared. Everyone started somewhere and was a beginner once, or twice, or three times. This is the 3rd time I’ve been on a health journey, but this is the first time I knew it was for life, and its mostly because as Melissa Hartwig says “I consciously created that shit”. Build your own life, find people to live it with that see and love you for who you are. Real friends walk the path with you and they fill it with so much more joy.
My Katy Tribe on my 40th birthday. Back (L to R) Tricia, Jennifer, Victoria, me, Deya. Front row (L to R) April, Katie, and Katie's mini-me, Amy). Arrow pointing to the owner of Baby Boot Camp Katy & Richmond, Victoria. 

My college tribe on Spring Break L to R: Kristen, Jessica, me, Jennifer, and Ej, (missing Jackie & Tara)

My brother and Melissa Hartwig (creator of Whole30) at SXSW 2018

My point in writing this is not to tell you that you should immediately go Paleo (but you should). It’s to tell you not to give up. It took me 4 years to find my path. Eight years if you track it back to my first pregnancy. I lost the weight after it, but I didn’t find balance. It took not accepting “you’re fine” as a good enough answer. I don’t want to be fine. I only get one life. I don’t want to spend it walking through molasses. So in an effort to line it all up - Here’s what’s happened in the 2 years since I decided in that MOLO competition not to quit on myself.

My hair isn’t falling out and has grown 4 inches.

I attend boot camp class at least 4 times a week and I walk or elliptical when I don’t.

I sleep better.

My skin has cleared up

I actually have core strength.

I can do a one legged pushup on my toes (this is not intrinsic but I’m super proud of it so I’m throwing it in)

I’ve lost weight (that is only important because it makes me healthier and feel good in my clothes and shopping is FUN again)

I started writing again, because my brain and my soul are awake for the first time in a long                  time

I turned 40 and I’m ok with that, because I’m living a better life.

I like the food I eat, I learned a whole new way to cook, and I don’t miss dairy or gluten (or coffee actually but that was an unintended side effect of Whole 30). I don’t miss them at all. I’m never going back.

My overall health is a work in progress. I have a battery of tests every 120 days with the blood nutritionist. But little by little my gut is healing, my inflammation markers are down, and even the inflammation in my thyroid is down. Hashimoto’s will never be healed, but the inflammation can be. And side note – it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and worth every penny.
I started my own business that I've been dreaming about for 5 years. I am an ambassador with Noonday Collection, a fair trade company that partners with jewelry and accessory artisans in 13 underserved countries across the globe to increase their marketplace here in the U.S. We work together to lift up other women, families, and communities across the globe. 

Most importantly, I remembered who I am and that I’m worth it.

So if you’re on a health journey, or you wish you could be on one, listen to your voice. No one knows your body like you do. Don’t accept “you’re fine” - but realize that you have to do the work too. It’s not about taking another prescription sometimes, though they have their place. It’s about not quitting on yourself. One small step at a time. I still modify almost everything in boot camp and I probably always will. I’m 40, I have early onset arthritis in my knees, I will always have an autoimmune condition, and it’s easy to feel that mom guilt that keeps me from paying proper attention to my needs. But one small step at a time, I’m staying on the path. And the path is everything.

This year in February, as we always do, we had another MOLO. This year my first goal was “Don’t Quit”.

It always will be. It’s become my life mantra.

But I also set goals that I’d hold a 2 minute forearm plank, I’d level up my weights and resistance bands, and I’d be able to do bicep curls on one leg. I crushed them all. I also got voted an “Inspirational MOLO Mom” by my peers.  That means everything to me. If I can do it, you can do it too. I am going to continue to set goals, and continue on the path, and continue to seek balance and health and joy. Because the journey is never complete as long as we’re here on this earth right? That’s the fun part.
My MOLO 2018 award

Some comments from my MOLO nominations 2018

Me & my littlest mini-me that time we were featured for Baby Boot Camp Katy & Richmond 

One of my new favorite motivationals.

Here’s what’s on my mirror, so I see it every day:

“Discipline Defined is remembering what you want.” – Sabrina Kindell

“Consciously Create It” – Melissa Hartwig

“If we don’t stay lit, we’ll blow out” – P!nk

“The Path is Everything” – Bert Massey

Last, but not least, here's me before I decided I was worth it vs. me now, walking every day to be who I want to be. Inside and out.
You're worth it too. 

"It's never too late to be what you might have been" - George Eliot

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Real Lessons from Cinderella

A long time ago, when I was still a single girl, I wrote a piece about how we’ve all misinterpreted Cinderella, and most princesses, all these many years. I think it mostly still holds true though my perspective has changed a bit. Recently my niece gave me a book, Bad Girls Throughout History, by Ann Shen. No gift has ever meant more to me. She thinks that’s me. I am flabbergasted as to why she thinks I belong in the book. But especially in these times, these new days where women are speaking up for themselves and for each other, if that is a fire I have given her then I am inordinately proud. Honestly though, if you look at the stories we were fed as children, strong women have always been a fixture. They just weren’t as vocal about it - me included. The message was there, you just had to look for it. With that in mind, here’s what I wrote, lo, so many years ago. When I was obsessed with Sex & the City and writing and finding my own voice. So I guess really, not so much has changed after all. J

“Let’s face it. All women have a bit of a Cinderella streak living in us. There is a small part, perhaps leftover from childhood or Disneyland, which stares at our Halloween pumpkin and wishes that instead of rotting like last year’s relationship, it turned into a carriage. We wish our shoes were made of glass, our fairy godmother could change our lives with a wave of Bibitty Bobbity Boo, and all men were Prince Charming. We all want to be rescued from the ashes of the life that is ours - and swept away to the palace that true love built. Then the buzz wears off and we realize life doesn’t work that way.

            So to live in reality, do we have to let go of the dream? Is there a place for Cinderella in the modern woman’s life? I think there is. No one ever said you have to give up your childhood to live in the adult world that is now yours. Cinderella is not just my childhood, she’s my teenage years, and my college years, and my failed relationships, and the many times I try to plan to perfect evening only to realize that midnight came too soon. But she is also the hope that lives within me. I know that the fairy tale isn’t real. I know that love isn’t always easy, and that the man that completes me will never find me because I left behind my size 9’s. Cinderella had much smaller feet than a size 9. But I also know a man will never complete me. Only I can do that.

            I think as women we have to learn to find the balance between what we dreamed and what we will achieve. They can co-exist. In a way, Cinderella made her own destiny too. If it were a true fairy tale, she wouldn’t have made her own dress the first time, she wouldn’t have talked her step mother into letting her attend the ball, she wouldn’t have busted her ass to finish her chores that day, and she’d probably still be locked in that attic. If it were a true fairy tale, Prince Charming would’ve ridden in on his white horse and figured out she was up there instead of sending his right hand guy to do the shoe fittings. Cinderella saved herself. And I don’t mean she caught her a man. I mean she worked, she planned, she accepted help when it was offered, and she didn’t settle for less than what she wanted. I think most women out there today can find their own path. Prince Charmings come in different packages, as do Cinderellas.

            We can make our own destiny and find the charmed life, we just have to let go of thinking that we live in the mind of Walt Disney. Maybe it is possible to find the man of your dreams, and become royalty, at least in your own mind. Or maybe your dream is to get that great job, or to have children and be an incredible mom, or take that vacation you always planned. Maybe you’re headed to college soon. Maybe you’re working your ass off for that internship you always wanted. I think happy endings are relative - everyone’s is different. Whatever your fairy tale is - it can be attained, even when the ending isn’t the way we thought it would be. Making peace with the happily ever after you thought you’d have and the one that’s waiting for you opens up better carriages to happiness than any pumpkin could ever build - and it won’t end at midnight. It’s out there waiting for you - but you gotta get your ass out of the attic first. Cinderella did it. So can we.”

And so as I write this tonight, my niece is on my mind. She’s about to be 18. About to go to college. About to embark on some big years in this next phase of her life. I don’t just want her to write her own chapter in the book she thinks I should be in. I want her to headline it. I want that for all our young women stepping out into the world. Never before has the world been so poised to listen to you. You live in a time where your strength isn’t couched in fairy tales. We don’t have to search for it between the lines. You can live it out loud, unapologetically. You can reclaim your time, persist, and quite literally be anything you want to be. When I was in Jr. High I interviewed my teacher and asked her why she wanted to be a teacher. She said, “Well, I didn’t want to be a secretary or a nurse and those were the only three options available during that time.” Even at 12 years old, that made me so sad. Thankfully, that is not your world. Many ferocious women have gone before you to make sure that is not the path you have to walk. So whatever your dream is – and no dream is wrong – I want you to go for it. Be a scientist, an engineer, a writer, a singer, a mom, a teacher, a revolutionary, a nurse, an assistant, a dancer, a poet, an astronaut. Whatever your happily ever after looks like, that’s what I wish for you. But you can take some wisdom from those that went before you, even fictional Disney princesses.

 Here’s what I want you to know from Cinderella:

1.      Bust your ass to get what you want. Don’t be afraid to dream big, work hard, and do everything in your power to follow your own path. Even against the biggest opposition, know your own heart. If you want it, go for it.

2.      Accept help when it’s offered. Cinderella needed a fairy godmother. We all do sometimes. You will have many throughout your life. Learn to recognize when you need help and accept it when it’s offered. We are not put on this planet alone for a reason. We are meant to live in community. Accept when you need, give when you can.

3.      When you fail, check your road and the nature of your battle, and get back up. Don’t quit when you feel locked in the attic. Cinderella could’ve quit then. Instead she had the help of friends and an incredible will to get noticed. Don’t be afraid to use your voice and talents to HELP YOURSELF when you feel like the game is over.

4.      Believe you are worth it. Believe you are worth it. Believe you are worth it. Believe you are worth it. Believe in your worth.

5.      When you get what you fought for, remember those still in the battle. The most famous line from the modern Cinderella movie is “Have Courage, and Be Kind.” Women are here to lift each other up, to be a fairy Godmother to someone else when needed, to listen with a woman’s heart. No one else understands the struggle better than another woman who has walked it. Be that woman for someone else.

Happily ever after is a fairy tale, but when you look close, that’s not what was written about Cinderella. It’s a story about quiet strength. You could even say Resistance. She never stopped believing in herself. She never lost hope. She worked hard. She was kind. She had courage. Whatever you do, ladies, going forward, do it with all your might.

Believe in your worth. Find your voice. Use it, both for yourself and for others. And for goodness sake - Have Courage, and Be Kind. That’s where the best magic lives.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sisterhood, Jewelry and Global Living

Once upon a time, I friend stalked this girl. It was right after we moved to Katy and I didn’t have a lot of friends. Just one or two, and one of those invited me to a party at her house, and I met Victoria. She doesn’t remember. But I do. I thought, “I want to be friends with her. That one. The one with the great laugh and smile. The one everyone is gravitating around. She looks fun. She looks genuine.” And so I set about making it happen. I stood next to her in boot camp. I commented on her Facebook posts. I got to know her in group outings. And then, one Mother’s Day, when we really didn’t know each other still, I just went for it and asked her family to meet my family for brunch. And that was it, we were friends.

Over the next 4 years, they’ve become family. Her kids are my kids and vice versa. But I’m finding as time goes along, we didn’t just add to our family. I added someone that supports me, loves me, gets me, and tells me the truth. Celebrates my wins, is sad for my losses, and is straight up with me when I’m being a ridiculous baby. I hope I do the same for her. She helped me hear my voice again. She helped me like myself more. She does that for all our tribe, our elephant tribe as we call it (thanks to this post by Jen Hatmaker). Her friendship makes me a better version of me. This is what happens when we are vulnerable with each other, when we give someone a chance. They can become family.

I’ve been thinking these days about sisterhood. I’ve been lucky. I have a lot of close, strong, supportive sisters in my life. I used to think that was chance. But in this new “say nice things to yourself” era I’m working on, I think maybe I made that happen. Just like I set out to make our friendship happen. I think I might be good at this sisterhood thing. It fills me up, seeing women support each other. So much of our lives we spend competing, fighting, one-upping, feeling inadequate, and judging each other. When we come together, the magic of it makes my heart sing. I’ve always loved animals and I thought someday I would run an animal rescue. While my house will always have animals in it, and maybe a foster dog or two that I’ll probably adopt, I think my life’s calling might look a little different. Animals are easy to love. People are harder sometimes. Maybe I can help with that - maybe I can build some bridges.

I’ve been thinking about barriers, and fear of the unknown, and women, differences, and cultures. More than anything I want to live in a global world. I want my kids to as well. We’re lucky that the city we live in attracts people of many different cultures. It’s normal to my kids to see many different colors and faiths and languages in our schools and daily lives. But I want more. I want global sisterhood. I don’t want to help people in underserved countries. I want to know them. I want to work with them. I want us to help each other. In these years where my kids are older and I’ve had time to think about what my talents and heart’s desire and faith really means to me, I keep circling back to Noonday. I’ve been friend stalking them in a way. I love their mission.

            To make a difference in some of the world's most vulnerable communities, we partner with Artisan Businesses that share our passion for building a flourishing world. We develop these businesses through fair trade, empowering them to grow sustainably and to create dignified jobs for people who need them.

Fair trade. Empowering others to grow. Creating jobs. Women making an impact by not only sharing the most beautiful and intricate jewelry and accessories you’ve ever seen, but by making this world smaller. By creating a bridge from their place on the globe to ours. By helping us know each other, and become friends, and maybe even family. This is what I want. This speaks to my soul. This is not a charity, this is women helping other women create their own futures, build their own dreams, and in turn empower other people in their communities. This is the global version of the sisterhood I’ve been looking for.

I’m ready to get started. I’m ready to show you how talented the artisans are, how precious their communities, how beautiful their hearts. I’m ready to make some new friends, both here in entering your homes and telling you the stories I know and showing you the jewelry and accessories that illustrate them; and abroad by learning about women in other places far away from my comfortable, small world. This is what fills my heart; this is where my soul sings. Women working together, helping each other to be the best version of themselves. Someone did it for me. Now I want to pass it on. This world really is such a cool place, I want to experience it more, write about it more, share it more. Because in the end, we really are all the same.

 “Little one, when you are older and when you are grown, you may be different. And they may be different, wherever you are, wherever they are, in this big, wide world. But remember this:

Joys are the same, and love is the same. Pain is the same, and blood is the same. Smiles are the same, and hearts are just the same – wherever they are, wherever you are, wherever WE are.

All over the world.”Mem Fox, Whoever You Are

We are stronger together. If you'd like to book a Noonday trunk show (or just shop the link below!)and find out more, please contact me. I'd love to hear from you! Hostess deals are amazing and change every month, and we also do trunk shows to benefit adoptive families. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Me Too

The other day a friend was commenting on a funny post I made on Facebook, and he made the observation that most of what we see on Facebook is not true life. I mean, sure, I shared a candid moment, but it was mostly for laughs. It was not a “real” bad day. He said he wished he could design something where people would just share their truth, instead of the highlight reel we typically show on Instagram and Facebook. I realized he was probably onto something there. We all know this is true, most of us don’t post make up free selfies (except on R+F Go Naked day – and I can’t lie. Mine was all filtered up). We don’t post about the mornings we lose our shit and scream at our kids. We never tell about when we forget to show up to be class reader for our 2nd grader, or when we don’t speak to our families, or deal with an addiction, or mental health, or have a falling out with a friend or are just really, really in the ditch of depression. I’ve been in that ditch, more than once, and I’ve never told my story. I’m not saying we should share every single moment of our lives. Have you seen the movie The Circle? No thank you Emma Watson. There is such a thing as over-sharing (you all know someone who does it). But Brene Brown has a really good theory about when it’s ok to share the gritty things with the world at large. The litmus test is that if you are looking for your healing from the act of sharing – it’s not time. If it infringes on someone else’s privacy, even your child’s, and you don’t have their permission – it’s not time. If you’re seeking validation of who you are or how you feel – it’s not time. But if you can pass this test, and still have that quiet voice inside that says “it’s time to share”, then you can and should do it. It’s a voice I’ve been ignoring for a long time.

                I have a t-shirt that simply says “We Can Do Hard Things”. It’s my quiet reminder that I don’t give myself enough credit. And I find lately that most of my Sheroes are women who do hard things. They say hard things. They speak truth and they tell people as much as they can wisely share. Because it matters that we tell our stories. I’ve needed to hear theirs. I’ve needed to know what they learned. They made me think. They challenged me. They showed me a bigger world and a better way. Their passions ignited something in me. Glennon Melton, AbbyWambach, Anne Voskamp, Beth Moore, Luvvie Ajayi,  Ellen Degeneres, Patty Griffin, Indigo Girls,Danielle Walker, Melissa Hartwig, and my imaginary best friend of course, JenHatmaker. They have suffered some for their honesty, but they do it anyway. In these years of my life where I have felt down, when I didn’t write, when I didn’t take care of myself, their words in blogs, books, twitter, poetry, song, whatever medium God gifted them with….they used them to lift me up. They sent them out into the world, knowing they weren’t alone in what they struggled with or were passionate about and that someone, somewhere, might need to hear them. That someone was me.

The lyrics of Patty Griffin to this day are a hug from an old friend. She’s sat on many back porches with me and held my heart so gently in her songs. Glennon Melton makes me proud to be 40. She makes me excited to have reached this age where I can just be me, and not need permission for being honest. She gives me an avenue to be a real, tangible help through Together Rising. Luvvie Ajayi challenges me and opens my mind and makes me laugh because even though she’s slinging some hard truth, she’s awesome and hilarious. Melissa Hartwig makes me believe I can consciously craft my own health and wellness and be a badass at it. And Jen Hatmaker and Beth Moore, well, they saved my faith when it was almost gone. They all taught me to love bigger, see broader, be braver, try harder, and listen to my own voice. If they had never shared their words, I wouldn’t have been able to learn those things. Words are important. Being brave enough to share them is a gift they gave to me and many others.

                Last weekend, my brother was here. We discussed what my next 40 years might look like. He said, “Don’t discount using your experience to help someone else who might be just starting the road you’ve been walking.” He’s right. I don’t know what that looks like yet, or how I want to start. But if we have knowledge or experience, or even most importantly – Empathy – we are remiss to keep that to ourselves. While he was touching on a health and spiritual journey I’ve been on, one that is still developing, these two separate conversations sparked in me a desire to share some writing that I penned a long time ago. When I was just healing and finally doing some really hard work in counseling about my own #metoo story. While those close to me have read some of it, I’ve never shared it with the world at large. It felt too personal, too raw, and too open. But the conversation on social media, the power I’ve seen from many of my Sheroes, the ones who don’t want to be silenced, have made me want to be a part of this very necessary dialogue. I think the most powerful words in the English language are “Me, too”. Especially for women, we are so mean to ourselves inside. We think we are the only ones that deal with shame, with feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, the demon of comparison. When Tarana Burke chose those words as her hash tag, I think she must have known that. There is power in not being alone. There is power in sisterhood. There is power in our voices raised together. And so, while I’m not going to tell the details of my story, and I probably never will, I can share some of the poetry it gave birth to. I don’t need to tell my intricacies to heal. I healed as much as possible a long time ago. But you’re never the same after a #metoo experience; it’s something you always carry. If I can share my most raw poems and someone reads them, maybe they’ll know that somewhere in Texas, I know just how you feel. That I am with you, I pray for you, and you are not alone. None of us are. It gets better. But we should never be silent about it. Let’s keep the truth telling going. It’s the most powerful thing we have.

As Margaret Thatcher said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice. Now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”


Tears From the Past
I know now why so many times
I cried for no reason
Something would just set it off
Like a fire without a spark
Or a waterfall with no river to feed it
I know now why the drive
Home seemed so long
And the job was never enough
Or the story of the victim
Struck a chord so deep inside my old soul
 I know now why the tears that
Came for the self-ruined relationships
Were not for the man I
Had just broken or failed somehow
They were for the shame hidden inside me 
The knowledge comes to me like
A beast in the closet that
I've never acknowledged but
When you shine the light on it
It's not a beast at all but a memory never dealt with
 It's the mountain I never climbed
And the task I couldn't accomplish
The rage I never screamed
The prayer I never prayed and the contest
I couldn't win because I had to admit what I lost first
It's the tears of my past that I couldn't cry
That I wouldn't recognize
That held me back all along
From becoming the person I was always meant to be
Because I never cried for the little girl inside
I never told her I was sorry
And that it wasn't her fault
It's her tears that have crept out
From time to time
Like the slow leak of a dam that's trying to break through
 It's her tears that I will cry now
And acknowledge at last the damage done
So together we can reshape the soul
That makes the beautiful victory
Of me and that little girl going forward to conquer the world.

Puzzle Pieces

All of us are puzzles

Shaped together by different pieces

Unique, different from your neighbor’s

Or your sister’s or father’s

Sometimes things happen to our puzzles

When they are young and still fitting together

Or old and fit, yet brittle or fragile

And yours falls apart

A little like humpty dumpty

All the king’s horses and your will

Or heart or broken soul

Can’t put the pieces together again

So you walk along with this broken puzzle

All your life, struggling to carry

Your burdens and keep track

Of the pieces

You saved to fit together again someday

But they never will

Until suddenly you realize

You have to let God reshape them

With hammering and biting and

Incredible heat and screaming and

Fisted hands with careful attention

And it burns and binds and breaks your insides

You feel as though your guts are

On fire and some days you can’t take the pain

But like precious metal or steel can be beautified

With the right amount of patience and heat

The tender hands of God, the blacksmith

Can begin to temper the broken puzzle pieces

To build a bright and shiny new landscape

After the pain, after the fire

After the suffering and broken back from

All the years of lugging your burdens

After you stand under the microscope and burn

Your demons like ants on a Texas summer day

Your pieces will begin to fit

Shaped by a heavenly forge and His hands

To create the puzzle that was waiting inside you

Cocooned by eons of self protection and uncried tears

Bright and with a beautiful hue

That pieces never broken can never have

But yours, because they have had

Such sculpting and pain

Love and Sorrow

All in one lifetime - they are different

They are shaped to fit the puzzle that is

Raw, awesome, and without bitterness

Because the heavenly fire charred it all away

Leaving only the shine gleaming

Your puzzle is now complete again in a new way

A better way, a way you could never foresee

And you didn’t need the king’s men after all

You just needed the King.

~ Rachel Massey