Category Archives: Dreaming Big

An open love letter to Andrea Scher

Photo by Mara

I’ll admit, kind and gentle reader, I am afraid to write this post. I have avoided it for months, while at the same time silently writing and rewriting it in my heart, longing to say it out loud, to tell her. But what do you say to someone who has given you so much, altered your experience so completely? How can you ever possibly thank them? See…I’m right to be afraid, because every time I think about it, about how much I adore her and how grateful I am, I start to cry (now, for example).

Andrea Scher has been the sun at the center of a universe of amazement and goodness, the shiny middle that all the other bright and precious things orbit around.

self-portrait by andrea scher

Here is just a short list of what she’s given me, what she’s introduced me to: Boho Girl, Susannah Conway, Kelly Rae Roberts, Brene’ Brown (!!!), Jen Lemen, Flora Bowley and the wonder of painting, Laurie Wagner, Rachel Cole, Mondo Beyondo thinking, and the joy of photography.

I’ve taken two of Andrea’s classes, Mondo Beyondo (which she taught with Jen Lemen) and Superhero Photo, and on Monday, June 18th, I’ll be starting Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab.

Horse or Dog?

horse or dog? picture I took of sam during superhero photo

Superhero Photo altered how I saw the world. I got down on the ground, climbed on chairs and tables, went out in all colors and weights of light, looked close and far away, and went on treasure hunts. I took some of the most magical pictures I ever had, and I haven’t stopped taking them.

Mondo Beyondo fundamentally shifted the way I approached my life, the way I saw myself. In this post, (which Andrea wrote when she first introduced the course in 2009), she describes the concept of a Mondo Beyondo list, what that approach looks like and means. She says,

I had been making these kinds of lists for years but had never had a name for it, or ever formalized my mental list by writing it down. My Mondo Beyondo. I liked the sound of it. I also loved the idea of stretching yourself into this world of the outrageous. If your imagination could reach a bit farther with this exercise, then you were giving yourself a powerful gift: expanding your idea of what is possible.

image by jen gray

Here’s the list of what I’ve done because of Andrea Scher, things I can cross off my Mondo Beyondo List:

  1. Started writing this blog
  2. Bought a ticket to World Domination Summit (WDS, just a few weeks away!)
  3. Took a few classes with Susannah Conway, got a signed copy of her book (sent by her!), am taking a writing workshop with her at WDS, and attending an event on her book tour at Kelly Rae Robert’s studio (!)
  4. Met Brene’ Brown (holy crap, I even talked to her!), took a two-day workshop with her
  5. Signed up to take a yoga class with Marianne Elliott at WDS
  6. Went to a Fearless Creativity writing and meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center with Susan Piver (oh how I adore that woman!)
  7. Hosted a Well-Fed Woman Mini Retreatshop led by Rachel Cole
  8. Started writing a book

Maybe for some people, this list wouldn’t seem that astonishing, but we are talking about me here: INFJ, introvert, highly sensitive person who suffered from depression, anxiety, and writer’s block for 25+ years, (maybe longer?). This list is huge, ginormous, crazy wild amazing.

andrea scher, taken by laurie wagner

I found Andrea Scher’s blog, Superhero Journal, at a time when I was so brokenhearted, such a mess, so stuck, so tired. I didn’t know how to keep going, where to even start. I was searching, my view clouded by grief, knew that I had abandoned myself and my dreams, but didn’t know how to find my way back.

The person I am today: writer, artist, warrior, brave, open-hearted, funny, strong, joyful, sane, is possible in part because of Andrea Scher. She invited me to expand my idea of what was possible. She encouraged me, was kind and honest. She was constantly admitting the things that are hard and messy, while still pointing out what’s beautiful and precious. She reminds me of this quote from Muriel Rukeyser, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Split open, and through the cracks, the light would get in (or maybe get out?).

Thank you, Andrea. I adore you and am so grateful for your work, your truth and your light, which have been of such great benefit to me as I stumble along.

If you really knew me: a list of 31 things

If you really knew me, you would know that:

I struggle with trusting myself, caring for and loving myself, and I have a bad habit of trying to please and take care of everyone else even if it means I am being hurt or suffering.

I act tough but I am incredibly sensitive.

I seem like an extrovert but am really an introvert who’s curious, who wants approval and appreciation.

I suffer from poverty mentality, don’t think I am enough or believe there will be enough for me.

I have all of these surface level issues, blockages that cause me so much suffering, but underneath, I am wise and compassionate and powerful.

I love big, a love that is unbound, a love that breaks my heart wide open.

I hold a grudge, am judgmental and critical, but I would never hurt anyone intentionally.

I’m glad that dogs can’t talk because if they could, I might find out they don’t love me as much as I think they do, and I couldn’t bear that.

I am obsessed with anything about the Holocaust, went to Amsterdam just to be able to see the Anne Frank House.

I can’t swim very well because I am afraid of drowning, which makes me tense up and start to sink.

I have dreams about being able to fly fight like in The Matrix or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The only “make-up” I wear is moisturizer and Strawberry Chapstick.

I prefer flip-flops, clogs, or boots to heels or sandals, but I’d rather not wear shoes at all.

I like doing laundry.

Lilacs are my favorite flowers.

I couldn’t live without music—well, I could, but I wouldn’t be as happy.

This is my second marriage.

My two favorite and most read authors are Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, and my favorite poet is Mary Oliver.

I was in theater and two different choirs in high school. I miss it.

I dream about learning to play the ukulele I already own and taking singing lessons so that someday I can be in a band.

I have two tattoos.

I want to be in a flash mob.

I lived in the same house for the first 18 years of my life, and the house I live in now, have for 12 years, has the exact same floor plan and was built around the same time.

I was scared of the dark and being alone until I was 31 years old, the same year I got my first dog.

Letting go of that dog, my Obi, was the most difficult and most loving thing I have ever done.

I prefer mending and keeping old things over buying new ones.

I have two places I consider “home.”

My favorite pastry is a maple bar (unfilled), my favorite ice cream is maple nut, and I love any breakfast eaten with maple syrup.

I would almost always choose staying home in my pajamas and reading a good book over dressing up and going to a concert.

I have Ménière’s disease and Hypothyroidism.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the second grade, when I first realized writing was an occupation and therefore a possibility for me. It’s still the thing I want most.

Something Good

It’s Monday, and even thought Daylight Savings Time is kicking my butt today, I can still think of good things to share. Here’s the list:

Being Elmo.

I just got done watching this movie (it’s available on Netlix streaming), and it’s every bit as wonderful as everyone said it was. I teared up many times just from nostalgia: Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, the Muppet Show, Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth.

image by tiffany terry

I love Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo, and his story. He knew at nine, when he first saw Sesame Street, that he wanted to be a puppeteer. He started making his own puppets and putting on shows, but was teased by other kids for “playing with dolls.” His brother, George, said “He’d faced a lot of opposition, but he just stuck with his dream, and he went for what he truly believed in his heart.” Kevin says:

There will always be someone saying to you that you might not succeed with it, you might not make any money with that. There’s always going to be some type of obstacle in the way. All of those things will go away if you really focus on what makes you happy.

When developing the character of Elmo in 1984, after many other puppeteers abandoned him, Kevin says “I knew that Elmo should represent love.” Oh, and he does! I was already in high school when Kevin’s version of Elmo appeared, not the target audience at all, but I loved him so much, still do.

Sam’s Two Year Anniversary.

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of the day we brought Sam home from Animal House Rescue. This picture is from that first afternoon. He can’t fit in my lap anymore.

“We’re Getting Another Dog” This I Believe Essay by Jeanne.

The reason we have Sam is because we lost Obi. Two other really great dogs passed on this week, Strauss and Jane, and a few others are struggling. I reread Jeanne’s essay from time to time, because she reminds me that:

I believe that getting another dog is a physical act of pure hope and resilience. It’s a statement that I can and will bounce back from the worst of it.

Getting another dog is believing in life and the real meaning of it. I can’t think of any other decision I have made in my lifetime in the name of love with such an inevitably painful outcome.

Getting another dog is an act of unconditional optimism. It’s seeing the goodness and being grateful for all the blessings.

Knowing this simple truth makes me appreciate all I have at this moment and makes it easier to face all the inevitable grief that is part of life.

Amen.

Sleeping Dogs.

Let them lie, because I’m not sure if there’s anything cuter.

Unless it’s a sleeping baby bunny.

Dogs Have Nightmares Too

You know how sometimes my Something Good posts are mostly about amazing women? Clearly today’s list is all about dogs. Saturday night, Dexter woke himself up from a dream and started barking. He was sleeping in the living room, so I went out to check on him. He still wasn’t quite awake and when I first came around the corner, he barked at me, and then immediately realized his mistake, lowered his head and started to wag his tail. His hair was standing up all the way down his back and after I pet him for a bit, telling him everything was okay, he followed me back to the bedroom and asked if he could sleep with us, just like a little kid who’d had a nightmare. I loved it, because he hardly ever sleeps in the big bed with us anymore, and I miss cuddling to sleep with him.

Handmade Root Beer.

My great aunt Magdeline used to make this for us. There’d be rows of dark bottles lined up in her dirt cellar, and it was so tasty. I had some yesterday at Coopersmith’s that wasn’t as good as that (how could it be?), but it reminded me how good it can be.

“Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye.

I love a good heartbreak song, and I’m really digging this one.

Sharing Appreciation, Kindness, and Love.

I’ve been on the giving and receiving end this week, and there’s just nothing better (other than sleeping dogs and bunnies, just to review). Kate Courageous posted on her Facebook page today “Someone left a note on my car that my bumper stickers ‘made their day.’ The fact that they left a note made MY day. #kindness.” This is how it works, you tell someone something kind, and they soften and feel the love, maybe even send some appreciation back your way, and you feel good having made them feel good, and it’s all good. We should do more of this.

Well-Fed Woman Retreatshop Intro

Sometimes, when Eric or I have a big presentation to give, we like to “talk it out,” to practice, either alone or with a small, respectful, safe audience (usually the dogs). I am going to introduce the Well-Fed Woman Retreatshop tomorrow, explain why I instigated it and invited Rachel to come. I’m anxious, a little nervous, and so excited for this, the whole event, the whole weekend, and the introduction, so I’m going to practice it here. This is going to be a longer version of what I’ll actually say tomorrow, because although I am planning and practicing, I won’t have notes and am going to trust my heart in that moment to tell me what to say and how to say it, but it will help me to write it out, to share it in a safe space with a gentle, loving audience.

First I want to say: you all are so brave for being here. Signing up for this, you knew you wouldn’t be able to fake your way through it, sit in the back of a large lecture hall and pretend to be invisible. You knew you would be making yourself vulnerable, taking a risk–your heart might open, you might see and speak truth, you might be shocked, uncomfortable, comforted, and inspired to do different, to be different, to wake up, to live the life you have imagined, and to imagine that it’s exactly what you deserve, to know that you are enough. You knew that shit might just get real, but you signed up anyway. I hope that you have given yourself credit for how brave that is.

As the instigator of this event, I have my own reasons for being here. Two years ago, I lost two beings that I loved very much, both too young to die, both taken by cancer. I was also in the midst of a toxic work situation, and even though being a writer was the thing I had wanted most since I was in the second grade, I had struggled with writer’s block for 20 years, and I was a highly functioning food addict. I was at a crisis point. Something had to change, everything had to change.

I decided to start by being a better friend to myself. I renegotiated my job. I took my practices of yoga, meditation, and writing more seriously. Early on in this process, I had a realization: I had been in a long-term abusive relationship, with myself. To work on that, I embarked on a life-rehab. I started by reading Brene’ Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I started writing this blog. I took online classes, the first with Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen, Mondo Beyondo: an Online Class about Dreaming Big. I had already been reading Andrea’s Superhero Journal blog and Jen Lemen’s blog, and one day, Andrea posted about her friend Rachel Cole. There was this picture of Rachel leaning in the doorway of her kitchen, wearing an apron and holding a cherry raspberry pie. Her smile made me smile.

I clicked on the link and went to Rachel’s website. The content and design of her site communicates so perfectly who she is: creative, alive, vibrant, but also calm, peaceful, stable. She is both inspiring and supportive, she glows with energy and love. I became a faithful reader, a follower, and hoped I’d get to meet and work with her some day–so when she mentioned she was “taking it on the road” and doing a tour, I emailed her and asked how I could get her to come to Colorado.

And now, she’s here, we are here with her, so let’s not waste any more time. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Rachel Cole.

Fill Your Journey with Joy!

I took Thursday off from blogging, planning to make a post on Friday morning.  But then, on Friday, I left the house at 6:30 am and didn’t come back until 9:30 pm.  I slept fitfully that night, and woke up Saturday with a fever and upset stomach.  I spent the first half of the day in bed, then moved to the couch to sleep for the afternoon, and at some point in the evening, watched a bit of Grey’s Anatomy Season Two that I got from the library last week, even though it seemed a bit too bright and loud.  Because I couldn’t keep anything down all day, I was also going through an unplanned caffeine detox.

Photo by Rachel Titiriga

I feel better today, weak and hollowed out, but better. Along with eating, I couldn’t write or read yesterday.  It was hard to take a whole weekend day “off” when I hadn’t gotten any of my own work done on Thursday or Friday either.  Not only had I missed blogging, but I am again a full week behind in my Ordinary Courage class, with only one week left, laundry needs done, and the pile of receipts and bills on my desk remind me that I still haven’t balanced the checkbook this month.

There isn’t enough time. Whenever my nieces complain that they are bored or I hear other people talk about how they don’t want to retire because “what would I do all day?,” I grit my teeth and want to scream.  There is so much I want to do, and I want to do it all, NOW.  Which, in part, is why I ended up sick. It starts with my inability to pace myself. I push because there is so much I want, and I don’t listen to myself or pay attention to what I need, don’t care for myself when I am doing too much.

And right now, the situation is more intense. I am trying to maintain a full work life–you know, they call it “full time” for a reason.  If you have such a job, it takes up all of your time.  You are either working it directly or preparing for it or cleaning up after it or resting up from/for it.  Yes, you might have evenings and weekends away, but I find that those are spent in recovery or preparation. Making sure we have clean clothes and groceries, the dogs are cared for, we aren’t defaulting on our bills, and we see our family and friends enough that they’ll remember what we look like is all I can manage on my “time off.” Add to that my my life-rehab, and my desire for a full creative life.  How is this ever going to work?

When my book group met with author Laura Resau on Friday night, it was one of the questions I asked her.  She’d been an academic, a graduate student and teacher, who eventually quit to write full time.  A few other people in my group are writers, one of them who has published multiple books but maintains a “day job.”  I asked Laura what the tipping point was for her, when she gave up the other paid work to write for a living/life.  It’s not so important how she answered the specific question, when that was for her or why, but rather that in answering, she reinforced that you take the steps, no matter how small, you start and keep going, keep showing up, and maintain that faith and trust, that deep knowing, that this is what you want, what you should do, that it is right and true.

Wings I noticed a shift in myself as a writer with my question to her.  As a more immature practitioner, if I had the opportunity to ask, the questions were always about “How do I get published?” Now I want to know, “How do you give yourself permission to write, to be a writer full time?” Maybe for other writers, the question really is how to publish.  For me, it’s about a whole life. It’s not just that I need to write and submit, but that I need to learn how to live, and the writing is part of the process.  I can share during, and then when I figure out some stuff, I can polish and publish it, share it with others who need the encouragement and resources.

Laura signed my copy of her book, The Queen of Water, “Fill your writing journey with joy!”  Today, feeling weak, hollowed out, and tired, with so much to catch up on and do, I am hopeful, committed to showing up, but also learning to pace myself, learning to live full time, with joy, and sharing the process.

Picture by Erik Sagen

Three Truths and One Wish

I was reading author Laura Resau’s blog today.  We are reading her latest book, “The Queen of Water” in my book group (I stayed up until 11 p.m. reading last night! Typically, I get in bed “to read” around 8:45 p.m. and am asleep with my face in the book ten minutes later), and she is going to come to our next meeting, (she lives locally, and one person in our group knows her–so lucky).

I stumbled across a post she wrote about the space where she writes: a silver camper from the 50′s that’s parked in her driveway.  I love it so much, it hurts.

I cried reading about it.  I posted a status update on Facebook that said:

Dear Uni-Verse (One Song),
I cried when I read this, http://lauraresau.blogspot.com/2010/07/trailer-tour-at-long-last.html. What do I need to do? I am ready to do it, I just don’t know how. You know the specifics of my situation, the details, so please send the appropriate help, and pretend like I am really stupid and make it really clear what I am supposed to do. Pretty please.
Thank you and amen.
Love you.
Love,
Me

Then, as I was thinking of what three truths and one wish I would post, it came to me.

1. Truth: You know what you want. I do. I really do. A deep down knowing, an ancient thing that I have tried to deny, tried to pacify, a truth I have betrayed time and time again. I read this description of Laura’s writing space and her process, and my stomach hurt.  It wasn’t simple envy or jealously. My whole body said “yes, this is it, this is the thing.”

2. Truth: You can have what you want. I have no idea how this is going to work, how I am going to get there, or what the specific details will be, I just know that somehow I will get there. I have to. I’ve known for a very long time that the only thing stopping me, is me.  But wow, do I have some stories to tell about why I can’t or shouldn’t.

3. Truth: You know what to do. Take the tiniest step, take a deep breath, take another step, another breath.  Keep moving, keep showing up.  Jennifer Louden, mother goddess of comfort and wisdom, wrote a blog post just today called “Are You Avoiding Your Heart’s Desire?” Gulp. yes. In the post, she says “To find and live your unfolding heart’s desire, your deepest truth, requires burning.”  I have lit the match.

  • I wish to burn, dismantle, come apart and fall to pieces, become who I am, finally arrive where I always have been. When Jennifer says “Finding and living your calling is all about peeling the onion of your resistance and your sputtering ‘but but but’ until you get to the heart of it,” I want to say “amen” and begin.  Onions will be peeled, fires will burn, and there will be crying and gnashing of teeth and smoke, but I think it will be so worth it.

Photo by Dottie Mae

Starting Over, Again.

I got an email today, someone I love talking about being “45 and starting over.”  It made me think of all the times I have done it, called a do-over, begun again.

Photo by Steven Depolo

  1. I married at 18 and moved to Arizona.
  2. I moved back to Oregon and got unmarried.
  3. I moved in with my mom and dad and went back to college, (a change inspired by the loss of my friend Heather).
  4. I moved to Colorado and married Eric.
  5. We moved back to Oregon and I went back to school, again.
  6. We moved to Colorado, again, and I went to graduate school.
  7. I got out of a bad work situation and started working on myself, (inspired by the loss of my dog Obi and my friend Kelly).

Lucky seven?  There are a few things after all this practice that I know are true when it comes to making changes, starting over:

  • I am already whole, (all of us are).  I am not a problem to be fixed, or a project to take on.  “Improving” or healing are about becoming what I already am.  My friend Courtney wrote a blog post the other day about the same kind of thing, “Not Fixing.”  In it, she says “Say goodbye to the wrench and screw driver approach to your healing. You don’t need fixing. You have all that you need inside you for your healing to take place.” Thank you.  Amen.
  • To practice “self-help” does not mean that I have to change who I essentially am, but rather be true to who I am.  To change, I make a commitment to manifesting that which is fundamental about myself, my basic goodness and wisdom.  What I do let go of in this process are habits, and actions or thoughts that no longer serve me, (that probably never served me the way I expected, the way I needed). “The purpose of our practice is just to be yourself.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

I get daily emails from Jo Ann at The Receiving Project and today’s was “You cannot run away from yourself. The sooner you stop trying, the sooner you can begin to bring love and compassion to yourself. The sooner you can embrace that which pains and transform it into that which loves.”

Brave Belly

So, what am I looking to change? In a post that seems full of them, here’s another list, the list:

  • To eat in a way that feeds a healthy body, not a sick and starving heart.
  • To continue to write daily, with the intention of eventual publication, (beyond this blog).  The daily practice and public forum of my blog will manifest this in an organic manner.
  • To be more settled, satisfied in my current paid work, or be financially able to let it go.
  • To be financially fit, debt-free, simply living.  To have the ability to take care of needs, save, provide, share and gift, take the occasional vacation or bigger purchase without depending on long-term credit.  To have freedom without too much sacrifice.
  • To become craftier, more hand-made, learn the skills of “my people”–farming, gardening, canning, baking bread, sewing, quilting, knitting, carpentry, car repair.
  • To be vulnerable and brave, to let go of shame, pleasing, performing, and perfectionism.
  • To repair my relationship with myself, and through that, repair my relationships with others.
  • Learn the ukelele and take voice lessons, giving my creativity and voice another outlet.
  • Be more green, more simple, more careful, more mindful.
  • Continue to develop my yoga and meditation practices, remaining open to the possibility of teaching, but not forcing it, allowing it to manifest naturally.
  • Slow down, continue to be mindful about how I spend my time.
  • Keep my eyes and heart open to great work, as I continue to do good work.
  • Be aware of the ways I can grow deeper into myself, seek out those opportunities with kindness and wisdom.

My Mondo Beyondo class taught me that there is power in dreaming big, making a list of all the things you want and sharing it. “What happens when you give an unspoken wish a place to become a dream come true?

ScribbleIf you are looking to begin again, start over, “be the change you want to see in the world,” you might want to read:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin