sail away from the safe harbor...

I’m about to embark on a new life adventure and fulfill a longstanding dream deferred. In the early 2000s I went to San Francisco, CA for the first time with my soul friend Caitlin (this photo of me below was my first SF pre-cell phone camera selfie in the summer of 2000 Happy) I immediately fell head over heels in love with the city and returned several more times. I loved its breathtaking beauty, the hills, the trees, the water, the horizon, its diversity and culture, and most of all, its expansive healthy lifestyle and nourishment options on every corner. We were supposed to move there together in the great Unwreckable Journey of 2000 (made tee shirts and everything, complete with a fuzzy iron-on letter misspelling! Happy).

My twenties were a tumultuous roller coaster of severe chronic illness (Crohn’s) ups and downs, and while Caity made it out there, I never did. Life happens to all of us, and I believe it is the way we handle our circumstances that define us. Because I’m driven to continual learning and personal success, I admit a bit sheepishly my pride that despite my adversities I have been continuously employed since the age of 15, and graduated from college with honors after many hospitalizations and incompletes. More education may be in my future, but I am content with what I have already accomplished and embrace that I am enough, no matter how many twists and turns my journey has taken or how long it takes me to achieve my goals. We all have obstacles in our paths that challenge us and I am grateful for all of mine because they have chiseled me into who am today: a fighter, a survivor, and a person that I have grown to be very proud of. I haven’t always been able to give myself that grace.

And so, sixteen years later, I now have the opportunity to make this dream come true and move to the Bay Area in early October of this year and I could not be more excited. Many of you have heard about this over the past two years and supported me in a variety of ways as I have worked to forge a path for this to happen.

Today is my last official day at CCL. I will remain closely connected as a consultant and they will be one of my biggest clients. Little will change as I will stay on my two current primary projects, RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows and the Young Women’s Leadership programming and see those through. In addition I will be working to grow CCL’s social sector work and already have some promising leads. The good news is I will be back in North Carolina several times over the next year for a couple weeks at a time so will be able to stay connected to my community and family here.

It is the right time to take this leap and build my net on the way down. I have expanded my consulting business, vallmark* LLC (
www.vallmark.com) and am currently accepting new clients. My passions include helping build and deliver leadership programs for young people, empowering young women, coaching, writing, communications and speaking.

This shift will allow me the flexibility to be open to possibilities that present themselves as I find my niche out West. Yes, it has changed a lot in the 16 years that I've been longing to be in its midst, and the irony is not lost on me that I am a low-tech grassroots gal drawn to this current hub of innovation and massive growth. I am interested to find what is calling me there, whether its to be a grounding source for community work, a person/people, learning opportunities, all of the above... I remain open.

Over the past 9 years I have been so privileged to be surrounded by incredibly intelligent, caring, thoughtful and dedicated colleagues at CCL who continually inspire me, motivate me to dream bigger and bolder, and who have become trusted friends and advisors that I am beyond thankful for. I'm happy that won't change!

Meanwhile- little old Greensboro, NC over these almost 13! years since I was “banished” here from Austin, TX to get well- has grown into a place very near and dear to my heart. I now know I came here to meet some of my best lifelong friends who have been, quite literally, crucial to my survival and development into the most fully realized version of myself yet. I am getting verklempt... Really, just a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you for what you have given to enrich my life in all ways.

My sister and I have joked that over the years we have followed my parents around the country as they move- they keep running away and we keep following Happy. This is the first move I’ve made on my own and I know that in order to be the best family member I can be I have to follow my heart, even though it will feel hard and far away at times! I love them to pieces for loving and supporting me unconditionally.

Are things perfect? Of course not. Its true what they say about not waiting until everything is to do something. Do your research, prepare as best as you can, hedge your bets and jump in! Because #onelife, #yolo, and #betterlatethannever right?

How the West was won almost two centuries ago is a great narrative of facing and overcoming adversity on the quest for exploration and navigating unchartered territory.

It was during my Girl Scouts program almost 4 years ago where something clicked and I reached that state of flow and pure joy in my work. I realized that in order to be a role model, particularly for young women, it is of the utmost importance to live my fullest, most authentic life, no matter how scary that might feel to do, and to share my story and truth with others. I fight my humility by remembering I also owe it to all those who have not been as fortunate to see their dreams manifested. So with that, here I go…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ H. Jackson Brown’s mother

SF post

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i had so much i didn't know what i had.

The culling process continues, in earnest. I sold furniture and got rid of some big pieces last year and also had a yard sale, and amazingly enough I still have a house full of stuff somehow! Gasp So it continues on. I've been in the music mix making process for someone and got out some tunes, and am discovering stuff I've never listened to and didn't know I had. I honestly think this applies to a lot of what I "have," or what has had me.

Simplifying life/reducing one's possessions allows the things you really love to be front, center and enjoyed. I'm starting to see that now. I have had this thing where I SAVE things for later... absorb compliments later, read things later, look at things later, use things later ... and later might as well be never. :/

I had so much I didn't know what I had. So here's to discovering things for the first time right here in my possession. I have all I need. And to moving all I can along so that I can be even more present for my life and the important things in it, like people and experiences.

Letting go of "stuff" allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me. ~ Dee Williams

When you don’t get rid of things you aren't using, you are blinding yourself to a critical part of the consumer experience: what happens to things when you’re done with them. When you have the habit of periodically getting rid of things you aren't using anymore, your brain begins to create links between the beginning (buying) and the end (selling) of all of your stuff.” ~ Tynan, Superhuman by Habit: A Guide to Becoming the Best Possible Version of Yourself, One Tiny Habit at a Time


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blaze a trail.

I am part of a global women's coaching group and I went to look back today at the intention I set at the beginning of the year: "I will blaze a courageous trail through the forests of my life." I am thrilled and proud to say that I think I did that, in my own style, always learning along the way. AND I invented a hashtag that I need to remember to use Happy #‎growoutloud

My wish for you in the coming year- to continue on this beautiful and crazy journey with me, and live with a heart wide open! Much love, joy, and strength to you in 2016!

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wide-open-heart

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good morning...

Good morning! It's gonna be a great week. My nurses are here this week- a cohort of 20 senior leaders graduating after being with us in a leadership program for 3 years. I'm gearing up for the next four days of wonderful insanity by sipping some turmeric ginger green tea out of my favorite mug from the local coffee shop Green Bean Golden Gate.All good things- giddy up!

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live for yourselves.

Another old find (love this notepad's message too, something I struggle with constantly, sleep, which will be another post soon!) and great quote from Emerson. I find this to be true, that it is easy and natural for me to extend my energy outward, and as a giver, I always want to be right there helping others. It takes strength to pull myself back in and say no, just for now, so that I can say yes to myself, because my life needs me. When I do it, it feels good and right. And actually, it is how I will be able to help the most people anyway, focused on what I need to do to bring forth my best work and self. So even though my preference is to live for others, I really enjoy going inward and living for myself, and hope to work on this more.


phsssssoto

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Cathy cartoon.

My Mom and I used to love the cartoon Cathy, and she sent me this one from a daily calendar she had, probably at least 15 years ago given the text... man do these always resonate with me! But literally, this one is Me- I still do this when I travel, even if its an hour road trip, bringing a backpack full of projects that I do not touch! The organizing struggle is real. Happy

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be proud now!

Thanks to Kara for sharing this one with me... progress not perfection! Happy Happy Sunday y'all! #growoutloud #championyourself


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Cred to the brilliant Karen Salmansohn

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Happy Birthday Grammy ❤

Today would be my Grammy's 94th birthday. This is the first year all of her family and loved ones will not be sending her a card- and that is a lot of people, because she was the card queen! She probably got over 50 cards for any given holiday.

She LOVED celebrating birthdays, including her own. She loved gifts, celebrations, flowers, food, sweets, all of it, but most of all she loved the special time gathering with family. These are some of my all time favorite pictures of her on her birthday, taken by my talented friend
John Carey, who Grammy adored- the cake read Happy 39th because that was the age she stopped getting older Laugh. She always teared up, and was so full of joy- she is the cutest thing I've ever seen. We will be toasting to you today Grammy, I hope you are having the best party ever up there with all your long lost loved ones. We miss you. I couldn't be more happy that you were born on this day- thank you for changing my life for the better.

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we'd never find this moment again...

A classic find going through papers this weekend from my Austin days, a clipping from the weekly paper... a rare, touching one from Sir Groening (message from his Dad Homer...)

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honoring space.

Time and space, space and time. It has been a very busy two months, June and July. I love my life- it's the best it's ever been and is as rich and full as I could ever hope for. But I've been doing and going nonstop, and this weekend is the start of one which I will have mostly to myself, with no scheduled events or major to dos. Space.

This blue moon. All kinds of feelings are suddenly coming up for me, and I need space to be able to have my feelings, and feelings to be able to write, so it is a blessing in that way because I'm writing. I am finally writing thank you notes and responses from loved ones when my Grandma passed, and I'm sure that is stirring things up... After a walk this evening at dusk, I was flooded by familiar sounds of high summer, lush greens and the smell of sweat on my skin. It reminded me of staying with her many summers in Maine, NY, in the country, when I would go for walks along the small highway in the evening. Cars whizzing by, trudging through flowers in bloom, black eyed susans, queen anne's lace, dandelions and clovers, passing by the cemetery last before I came back to her cozy trailer where she was always eagerly up waiting (worrying Happy) for me.

Lying in bed in her back bedroom, the most peaceful place on earth to sleep, windows open, listening to the night sounds, feeling the cocoon of a safe and warm place wrapping me in love. I get taken back to this place more than any other when I go to somewhere peaceful in my mind. Memory is so visceral sometimes.

I walked by the hospital tonight where she was admitted so frequently. I just don't really believe she's gone, even thought she left us in my presence. I love her for that. I turned around to get a photo of her parents to lay next to her, to comfort her and help her know who she was going to be with, and when I turned around, she looked right at me, and then off she went.

Maybe tonight was the beginning of grieving. I hope she is having fun right now, baking cookies and playing cards and watching TV. Happy I miss you Grammy. I miss our long chats, and your unconditional, wholehearted, larger than life love. There was nothing else like it. Thank you for making me feel so special. My heart aches for you...


Living Memory
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transitions.

There have been lots of comings and goings in my world lately, people wise. I have been spending this week helping my second set of neighbor/friends in a month pack up and move, and it is a process. You know you have made it to true friend status when you help someone move- you are down in the nitty gritty of their most intimate stuff, and they trust you to know what to throw away and what to keep- when I think about it, it's actually a privilege.

Even someone else's trash is satisfying to me Happy and I have gotten lots of joy and inspiration helping my friend get rid of 4 huge bags of clothes this week, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It's amazing how powerful simply having a witness or "body double" can be in doing this kind of thing and it is so helpful to have someone to check your reality with and offer another perspective. It's honestly exhilarating and addicting to purge and I've just been on a roll with it personally, so its fun to help others also.

It is interesting what kinds of things this work brings up. Tonight after a long week of late nights, early mornings and full days (tired just typing that) I had some really fascinating thoughts about my own upcoming life transitions. Lingering old thoughts/messages/tapes popping up, visiting again for what is perhaps soon to be the last time before they are tossed out with the rest of the old and no longer useful. Actually just having the feelings out with my friend and then continuing a packing burst helped churn it for me and I feel better.

Something about clearing a space, all the dust and dirt and past it digs up, floating in the air, breathing it in. There is a time where you are suspended in a haze cloud that is much worse than when you started, even though you are well on your way to freedom and a fresh and paired down new space and life. That inbetween time is something intense and palpable for everyone involved! Louise Hay uses the analogy of a dirty dishpan. When you scrub the pan, all the gunk comes to the surface and it is way worse than when you started. Eventually, after more scrubbing and cleaning, the pan is empty and shiny and clean.

Here's a song I recently wrote as a capstone to this lovely renaissance period of our lives here in the Fisher Park Neighborhood, dedicated to these friends:
https://vimeo.com/131736670

I've also had an influx of new friends, particularly younger people, come into my life recently. Maybe it's the summertime... maybe it's the good energy in the air. Either way, I'm enjoying it!

Update: I just found out it is a blue moon- no wonder...
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/07/unprecedented-blue-moon-in-aquarius-now-or-never/ This excerpt from the above article explains a lot:

Our souls can sense that we are on the verge of something big—but it’s up to us to initiate change.

We are on the threshold of having massive pieces of the puzzle collide. There may be big changes or upsets in the status quo during the next several weeks. We may find ourselves acting in ways that only a few weeks ago we never thought possible, but Aquarius is lighting a fire inside of our hearts and daring us to break the boundaries that have held us back for far too long.

We can only deny ourselves of what we want the most for so long.

While we may feel anxious at all of the possible changes being presented to ourselves—know that the universe won’t bring us anything we aren’t ready for.

The truth of it is there is no such thing as the perfect time—so now is as good a time as any.

Everything that we have been going through the past year has been leading up to this moon. It’s the time of infinite possibilities, of desires bubbling over and manifesting themselves in our lives in ways we never thought possible.

No matter what has come in or out of our lives in the past few years, once in a while we are given the chance to have everything we’ve always wanted—we just have to make the choice now to not let it go.

Because certain chances only come around once in a blue moon.


Moving madness Happy
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Pals

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heart wide open.

This is interesting to get my mind around, or at least try to articulate. After years of work and babysteps (my favorite thing ever), I’m getting very close to “returning to myself”. What does this mean?

For me, it means being able to be my authentic self in 99% of situations, including work, family, etc. I like myself and who I am, no apologies. I spent years running and hiding from the true me, even if subtly at times. Years tamping down my brilliance, sparkle, radiance, energy, light, boldness, vibrancy, joy, fun. Censoring what I really think, fighting against my core values, being with people who sapped my energy instead of lifting me up.
 
It has been a slow crawl of a process of releasing perfectionism, not waiting until things are perfect to show my face, learning how to show my face when it is imperfect, flawed, messy, loud, “too much” at times. I created a new hashtag recently that I love and have been weaving through my life: #growoutloud

The simple secret is that life is really really fucking short. Too short. Heartbreakingly short.
 
I want to dance! Laugh. Smile. Feel light. Be with the ones I love. Why do we let all these other “shoulds” and stressors cloud our way to joy? Life. It takes what it takes. Youth is wasted on the young, as
Greenberg says. Haha… bittersweetly true. As skin start to sag, wrinkle, get bumpy and sunspotty, inner radiance, wisdom, and beauty grows stronger, more stable and confident- so ironic. Happy
 
It has happened in the smallest of ways, unfolding a day, week, month, year, years at a time, peeling back the onion layers, slowly lightening the heavy load we choose to carry, think we are supposed to carry. After a few years of quiet, I can hear my heartbeat, and my song humming. The music has returned, my zeal and thirst for learning is piqued, and I’m hungry for the stuff of being present and available. I’m here, and it feels good.  
 
My friends can see it way better than I can. It is invaluable to have witnesses to go through life with, who can tell you how you are doing when you don’t know and can’t see… they have seen this growth and change and transformation and help me know I’m heading in the right direction. They don’t judge me for taking so long. I’ve learned to gently stand up for what I believe in, to be firm and still kind, to hold people and love them for exactly who they are at any given moment (always continually working on that one Happy).
 
I’m finally doing work I really care about and connect to deeply, and that is so important to me. Since doing it, all kinds of other good things have flowed from this.
 
People can see light in us that we often can’t see.
 
If I have 38 years of being half asleep, and 5 years of being awake, I’ll take that any day over 100 years half asleep. I’m really looking forward to what’s next for me.
 
Here is the deal- the world actually WANTS you to be your truest self! It seems incredible, I know. We are our own worst enemies.
 
It’s all love. Here and now, and forever more. Embrace who you are. Others are so eager to also. Let it happen and open your heart. Watch out- blazing suns ahead! Happy

 

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oblique strategies.

Love these cards that Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt designed in 1975 to disrupt conditioned thought processes and spark creativity... This site lets you draw a card any time you need one. http://www.oblicard.com
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In Memoriam: Betty Maxine Wilbur, 8/4/1921 to 5/31/2015.

Our dear Betty Maxine Wilbur transitioned on to the next adventure peacefully today at 1:40pm, surrounded by her loving Swan family, her daughter Franny, son Geoff, granddaughters Vally and Katie, and care kitty Marshall. She was 93 years young, or 39 as she would say! She was my best friend and only Grammy we've ever had, and there are never going to be enough I love yous and hugs and thank yous and reminiscing about special times... so our hearts are aching, yet we are happy that she is free and on to the next thing in what is no doubt a beautiful place. We all feel so lucky to have had her with us here in North Carolina the past two and a half years- we have made so many wonderful memories, and she has collected quite the fan club of admirers. Happy

The Swans will have a celebration to honor her with our NY family, and we will have a celebration of her life here in NC in several weeks. Thanks so much for all your love, prayers, good energy, and all you have done for her. We read her all your kind notes and I know they comforted her and brought her joy. She was the most loved woman, and for good reason. We will miss her terribly. I love you Grammy, forever and always you are in my heart!


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oh Carly!

"It's my yearning to love a damaged person. I mean, we're all kind of damaged and it's normal to be damaged, but some people don't like to admit it. It's amazing how many people don't like to admit what's wrong with them. Whether it's depression or having had cancer... And when I met that man I thought, Here's somebody I could love... I just know that what was left of him, which was personality and character and the look in his eyes, meant more to me than any intact body part, and it reminds me of something that somebody used to say to me who was in love with me a long time ago; he said, 'I would love you if you were a stump.'"

Honestly, I know I can relate to that and what we want to hear (that someone else will love us if we are a stump Happy)... can you? And, I love me some Carly Simon!

~ Carly Simon in an interview with Out magazine, October 2008.

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five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes...

One year ago today I received a letter in the mail that would change my life forever. Sounds like a good opening line for a book right? Winking First of all, to receive a Real and Important letter in the mail blew my mind! It was from a Vermont adoption agency, telling me that they had some information they thought I would like to have and asking me to please contact them about it. It was the Friday before Memorial weekend after 5pm, so I had to wait 3 verrryyyyyyy long days before I could find out what it was. Yes, my crew and I analyzed every word in this letter up, down and sideways! I found out the following week that my biological mother had sent some medical history information to the agency for me on that side of my family and shared her contact info. as well.

Several weeks after that, I received the info. and her name (and I released mine)… and immediately called my Godsister Hannah in Burlington, VT to help me research, ahem, aka stalk my entire birth family tree on that side for the next two hours! Lots of gasps and goosebumps and tingles and surrealness. It was an exhilarating time to say the least, seeing names and photos and faces … after all these years of wondering. The adoption coordinator encouraged us to write letters, so I checked my mailbox for the next couple months, and did not reach out to the family I had found online because I wasn’t sure if it was OK to do so. Just knowing they were out there was honestly enough for the time being, and we took those months as a family to catch up a bit and process some of this news.

I realized that it was my turn to send something in return for the initial outreach, so I finally got a first letter in the mail. I procrastinated (a lot) because I felt like it had to be the ‘perfect-kitchen-sink-letter’ and, what do you say in the first letter ever?? Thankfully I have dear friends who helped bring me down to earth about it, and this whole time period in general, and keep me accountable on just getting a starting point down on paper, so I wrote a short intro hello note with the help of my Grandma one Sunday afternoon at the end of July last summer, and sent it off on its way to Vermont. I had all these doubts about the Mail all of a sudden, and how crazy it is to rely on sending something off like that, almost on faith, it felt like to me at the time. About six days later, 2 of my birth aunts contacted me on social media… and of course I freaked out in a good way… I connected with my newfound and dear cousin Nicole, and then a letter came from Cheryl in the mail. Then it was a flurry of first connections with more new cousins (13 in all, not counting their children and partners!), and I spent the next few months in a hazy pink cloud, a thrill of excitement coursing through my veins with the ding of a new message (thank you Facebook, for being awesome and very handy for this purpose!).

My cousin Brian reached out with: "Hi, are you cousin? I’m a McDonough, if you are who I think you are then your mother and my mother were sisters…” I had already been told about Brian, and from everything I saw from stalking him and his photos Laugh, I could tell we would be fast friends. We are both oldests in our family, nostalgic, and love family history, etc. Next thing you know we are Skyping (then e-mailing, texting, calling, ha!) and he and his lovely fiancé, now wife, Becca’s bright faces were staring at me through the computer screen! Between the 3 of us the permagrins were in full effect, and next thing I know they are inviting me to their wedding in October and not taking no for an answer. !!

So, off I go on an adventure to meet all but one of the immediate birth fam clan to Connecticut and Vermont in the fall. I spent an incredible six days with mostly all new people, and thankfully my Godfamily interspersed in there for some much needed grounding support Happy. I got to meet my cousin Sean on his birthday (pretty cool present I was able to give him if you ask me ;D). I was welcomed with a party, wined, dined, and chauffeured, and filled in on family 101 cliff notes, and they all made real efforts to see me (and the wedding was pretty helpful!).

I am at a perfect time in my life for all of this to unfold, but I certainly still had my moments of overwhelm and feeling a bit unmoored. There have been ups and downs and a roller coaster of emotions for everyone, and bittersweetness throughout it all. “Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness. ~ Shauna Niequist

This was SUCH a big and important thing for me in my life journey and path that I had compartmentalized it off so that I could live my life. When the letter came and the floodgates opened, it was honestly beyond my wildest dreams because I hadn’t entertained many thoughts about it or asked the what ifs, other than a fleeting innate curiosity here or there. I didn’t have any expectations, so not only was I not disappointed, but I was gifted and overwhelmed, frankly, with a new and extraordinary family that I am still coming to know. On the last night of my trip I met another cousin and his family for the first time, Pat McD, who I hadn’t connected with previously because he is not on Facebook. It was the perfect ending to a wonderfully full and rich week, and he, also the oldest in his family, gave me some much needed kindness and words of support that helped coalesce everything I had been experiencing to that point. He invited me back to do the Penguin Plunge in February, a cause that the entire family gets in on and is near and dear to their hearts, and I realized after settling back in at home that I didn’t want to waste another minute not having them in my life, and I went back (and plunged, into freezing Lake Champlain! Happy). Happily I got to meet my cousin Amanda this visit to complete my dance card! There is still so much more to learn, and this is just the beginning.

Most days now it is life as usual, and I guess in some ways this just isn’t that big of a deal, and happens every day for people, all the time. I also am aware that it does NOT happen this way for so many, and I know with every fiber in my being how lucky and blessed I am. Then there are some days where it hits me in beautiful waves and I smile, when I have a connection with some of my new family, recount the story to someone, or just think about all of these amazing new additions to my life. I didn’t need them, but I want them, in ways I didn’t know was possible to feel. Even though we didn’t grow up together (and I wish I could take a magic carpet back and see what that was like), the bonds were immediate and strong. I’m still exploring and learning like everyone else on this planet. Families are living and breathing things and they grow and change and shift. When I stop and think about it and zoom way out, I am still totally incredulous that we are here, and that I have my chosen/given family of origin, and now even more with my nature family. I also think it’s hard to explain, because it’s mostly feelings. 

I acknowledge and thank my family, my sister Kathryn, who is my rock and has my back, my parents, who I ended up with on purpose, my one and only Grandma who has always made me feel so special and so supremely loved, my aunts, uncles and cousins, my dear Godparents Bernie and Michael Schwartz, and my friends who are like family to me- I truly have a village (and need one- LOL!), and that has made doing all this so much easier. 

We were so excited to have cousin Megan visit us in January this year, and cousins Brian, Becca, Liam, and Finn with us this spring, and for them to meet my family! My family has opened their arms and hearts in the most generous of spirits throughout all of this, and I am in awe of the way they love. 

And if you’re still reading, thanks for allowing me to share… it's been a pretty big year.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj7LRuusFqo

From Seasons of Love, Rent (one of my all time favorites, ever).

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love? How about love? How about love?
Measure in love
Seasons of love


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sisterly love ❤

It's been a while... lots has been happening, though not on here... Happy It will translate soon! Had a yard sale last week that was a big push to get several month's worth of purging round up out the door. Feels good in here now, echo-y even... and there is room for energy to move around. I am down to the last few piles of paper to sort through, and while the remainder are not perfectly organized and archived by any stretch, it is good enough that I will be able to move on from this massive project to other important things that have been waiting for me. Hurray! I have come across lots of amazing and special gems in this archeological dig of Val, and this is one of them found tonight, an essay written by my Sissy in high school... sniff sniff! Thank you Sissy, you are the best Sissy in the world and I love you!

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a short and slightly mushy essay on why i love my parents.

Looking back, its clear to see that if I liked something, my parents almost always liked it too. This includes politics, and before we knew it we had 3 Nader supporters on our hands deep in the heart of Texas! Laugh

If I like someone, they like them too. Always and assumed.

It reminds me of a very important book that I have given to a few special people in my life called
I Like You, that expresses this same sentiment so purely- you must get a copy and read it, and I dare you to not give it to your special people straight away!

One of my favorite things about both my 'rents is that if I show support for something or someone, they do too, and immediately incorporate it or them into the welcoming family fold right away. I think I might have taken this for granted for a time (although it was always appreciated and I knew how amazingly nice and cool they were) but it hit me today when my Mom was giving me an update about one of my dearest friends with so much love and care and concern in her heart, what an incredible gift their unconditional and unwavering support is. My people are
their people. My causes are their causes.

When I met and liked my birth family, my parents liked them too and were interested and loving. When I got to know them further and really liked them even more, they embraced them with open arms!

It makes me smile thinking about it and I had to pull open my laptop and jot it down. I didn’t realize or just didn't consider that the reason they do this is because they trust and like ME implicitly, and wholeheartedly believe in what I think is right and who I vouch for. A crazy and beautiful revelation to have. As my Godsister Hannah likes to say, #lovebreedslove! This is an aspect of many true friendships of course as well, those core people who have our backs no matter what. But I think my parents embody this radical acceptance and love more than anyone I know.

I love you Marge and Norm!

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Here are the lovebirds themselves in 1969 Happy


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inspiring person of the week.

Greg Long is a big wave surfer and human role model. Not only is he very easy on the eyes Laugh, but his energy, heart, genuineness, and perspective are so appealing. So incredibly wise for 30 years old! I've been a fan of him since I started following surfing, and I love what he had to say in the August 2013 issue of Surfer magazine, when he shared in the aftermath of a three wave hold down ordeal that nearly killed him:

"My goal in life is to constantly keep improving in every aspect and facet, not just surfing. The amazing thing about this life is that there's an infinite number of possibilities that could direct you into a whole different place than you'd ever thought you would be. I never took for granted the amount of amazing people and experiences and opportunities that I had from surfing. But, what really matters is my family, my friends, and my health and well-being, as well as all of theirs. The ultimate goal is just to be happy and content. So if it carries forward in surfing, that's beautiful. If it happens in some other avenue in life for me, then I'm still gong to be happy and content."


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in the gloaming.

I spent the day at a used bookstore yesterday with my Dad in Mount Airy, NC called Yesterday's, and had a blast spending hours digging through old books, magazines, records, and other memorabilia. This is our idea of heaven... I joke that I am slowly buying back all my treasures from childhood! Happy

I found this 40+ year old National Geographic for my nature loving friend (Nat'l Geo calls to me, with great memories of my Dad's vast collection in the basement of our NY house growing up), and I loved the in depth piece on John Muir.

Muir's adventures and significant impact on our natural world are highlighted, along with photos and quotes of these parks and landmarks, and a peace settled over me just reading about his legacy.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir


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The gloaming, dusk, has always been my favorite time of day. It is magical.

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this sucks.

This sucks. This talented young man just graduated from Penn and announced his wedding to his fiancé, who also has Crohn's Disease. http://www.phillymag.com/announce…/jessica-leva-zack-seigel/

They met at Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America Camp Oasis, a special place near and dear to my heart, that provides a safe place for kids to be around others suffering from the same illness as them (and have a blast while feeling safe and accepted!).
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Zack died from lymphoma, a known side effect of being on medications for Crohn's, including the one I take. My heart is breaking for his family and loved ones. http://www.thedp.com/article/2015/01/former-rower-dies-of-crohns-disease-and-lymphoma

I am often amazed to see how similarly people with my struggles feel, probably because I'm usually in my own bubble for protection... A few quotes shared on Zack's fiancé Jess's page that I too have lived and breathed many times over:

"Everyday I am reminded that our life's journey is really about the people that touch us." - Stuart Scott

C.S. Lewis once said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one."


Zack and Jessica, a beautiful love story
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soul food.

I read this from some great gals I follow, and it immediately resonated and I had to make it into my very first meme Happy So it is with what I am doing here, trying to create my own little authentic space to exist and share what I know and love with the world, across a variety of categories. While all areas might not appeal, hopefully everyone finds a little something they didn't know they needed. Thanks for visiting and being a part of Why I Like Rainbows! Be True to Yourself.


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music and lyrics.

And now for something different, some songs I recorded acoustic and rough, with themes of struggle and poignancy. The lyrics to Pompeii have been my anthem lately! I was messing around with filters, and late at night, I found I looked better with some funky effects Winking While you're there you can check out my other vids from this past year as well. Enjoy!

Lean On Me

Pompeii

Titanium

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My sweet kitty Marshall enjoying my fuzzy guitar case Happy
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it's like falling in love.

Meeting new blood relatives is a bit like falling in love, or certainly the infatuation phase (except that it isn't temporary!).

I LIKE them so much! Makes me smile when a relationship with one of them deepens and grows. This post was started in August, but the fall became a wonderful whirlwind spent writing and getting to know this family, via letters, Skype, text, email, Facebook, and a first face to face visit in October, and I am just beginning write about it (I've had quite a year!). Hearing the ding of a new message online is so exciting! And with 13 cousins, 2 aunts, 1 uncle, and one birth mom (not to mention spouses, kids of cousins, extended family etc.), I've had a bit more to keep up with than them Laugh

It is the strangest thing to do, meeting your blood relations for the first time, having missed so many years of each other's lives. There is no guidebook for this, trust me, I looked! All I can describe is my experience, and it has been amazing. Its kind of a giddy feeling- endlessly fascinated with learning about them for one thing (because you know virtually nothing!) and with checking them out, from every inch of what they look like to their personality and how they interact with people, and what they spend their time doing. Its all so incredibly interesting! Happy The thing that makes its different is that you are meeting people who are instantly family. The trust isn't there, but yet it sort of is, in an immediate and unconditional way. These guys would do just about anything for me and extended such a warm welcome to me when I went to visit and meet them all in Vermont and Connecticut in October. I feel the same way about them and I've only met them once!

It is a warm feeling. It dies down for a while, then when new correspondence takes place, and next visits are planned to see one another, I get excited all over again!

Also I'm not sure if it is rose-colored glasses or not, but I pretty much only see the good things and characteristics about them! I had such a great time that I am going back in a few weeks to see them again Happy I wasn't sure I could make it work, and then I thought about it and realized how much time we had already missed in each other's lives and decided I don't want to miss another day. It's funny how things become important so very quickly. I can't wait to go back and for them to visit me and meet my family too! Warm fuzzies all around Happy.

Photos of me meeting my cousins, birth aunts, uncle, and birth mother for the first time

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counting the days.

This beautiful, colorful calendar was gifted to me by my dear friend Kara, who knows me well enough that she gets me perfect, inspiring, and functional gifts all the time, like containers to hold my supplement powders, and special lotion for my very dry hands for example Happy I have a handful of people that do this really well (Cori is another one, and my sister and YoungDoo too, and Gabe with his super fun and impressive mixes!) and with my 2nd love language tied for receiving gifts (check it out: http://www.5lovelanguages.com)- these thoughtful gifts mean so much to me! I love seeing them everyday and reminding me of the giver. Thank you for the happiness you bring to my life!

This calendar has brought me such joy and delight this year, because it was something I got to do each day, punching out the circle for the date, and as I watched the year unfold it got more and more rich and beautiful. And what a beautiful year it has been!! Wow. So cool right?! It also helped me be aware of how quickly time moves, and to continue pushing and working towards the goals I am set on. Time flies whether you are having fun our not, as the saying goes... Going to miss this calendar this year but I am sure I will find other ways to track time Happy


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Another perfect gift- Cori found this at a YARD SALE, and fought for it for me! I see it every day and smile, amazed at how incredible it is that she found it (it's my motto!!!!)
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new things.

In order to get something different you have to do something different. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I have been in the learning curve space recently, and lots of new and challenging things have come into my path this past year. Getting out of our comfort zones is one of these cliche things we hear platitudes about and don't give a second thought. But actually BEING out of the comfort zone on a regular basis in several different areas of life- whew! The learning curve is something we talk about in my work with people on their leadership journeys, where we see our growth over time, then a plateau... we can either grow again and learn something new, which dips us down into a valley initially, but we end up higher than when we started, or stay where we are, comfortable and content. If we choose continual growth, the cycle repeats and we go through valleys, and then new, higher peaks with each new area we develop.

This is embodying a growth (versus fixed) mindset (Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization). Being in a growth/learning phase can be uncomfortable! Tonight for example, I went to an event alone. I just realized coming home that I went to an event alone and sober on New Year's Eve! And it was no big deal! There were plenty of people there that I knew so I wasn't the least bit worried. I got a migraine today and so drinking was out of the question. My favorite place in this area was having its last show ever tonight, and I knew it was the right place for me to be so I went. Didn't think anything of going alone, until several people mentioned it and questioned me on it (when asked why, they said, because they never go places alone). Sure, there were a few awkward moments and me just standing around, decidedly more sober than everyone else present. But I just did my thing anyway- why would I let a little social awkwardness get to me? Everyone is awkward in some way or another.

Towards the end of the night when I was getting my coat on to leave, I ended up in an unexpected and really nice conversation with someone that would not have happened had I not ridden through those awkward moments. I ended up rambling on to this person about all the growing pains I'm experiencing from the stretches in my life currently, and even talked about the learning curve effect, and how my confidence has been shaken a bit in certain areas. To steal a line from Meredith in a recent Grey's Anatomy episode, "Progress looks like a bunch of failures." Yes!

I talked to my party companion about how happy I am currently with my own company, and how I realized doing my biannual New Year's letter today all the growth that has been transpiring, and how when I let go of something that kept me squarely in the comfort zone (which can be so hard to get out of, because - its comfortable!) it opened up tremendous space for movement in my life that hasn't stopped coming!


I don't really know how to fake things, truthfully, particularly in conversation... but what you will get from me is genuineness. I don't know how to put on an act or play a game. I am just me at face value, and I "put things out there" as the saying goes. While it can feel unnerving sometimes for me, I'm thinking that maybe it is a good quality to have (we really suck at being insightful in any way towards ourselves). I've been saying a lot lately that the coach needs a coach! And tonight I was pleasantly surprised to have one. I brought up the saying that we are most like the 5 people we spend the most time with, so choose wisely... and we discussed trusting our instincts with people. I left with a smile on my face and inspired to write this post. Not bad for an evening out, alone Happy.


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This quote reminds me of something my friend Cat says that works for her- you want to find the sweet spot where you feel both Safe, and Brave. Don't you just love that? My word for 2014 was Change and my 2015 word is Courage. So I hope to introduce them both even more in the New Year!

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start each day like it's your birthday!

Below was my Facebook post on my birthday today after a fantastic day all around, having lunch with my family, decorating my Charlie Brown Christmas tree (well, my Grandma decorating it- one of her favorite things to do), special phone calls and songs from little ones, and a cozy bonfire in my front yard with my neighbor friends! Great little article on why fire is so enjoyable and restorative: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6171508

I am going to get deep for a moment (it’s my birthday post and I can do what I wanna… Laugh):
Birthdays are a great time for me to practice the powerful 4 agreements: Don’t take anything personally. Always do your best. Don’t make assumptions. Be impeccable with your word. Let go of expectations is another one I see rolled up in these as well. 

As I reflect on the kaleidoscope of people in my personal network, I know you all from very different places and times and contexts in my life, scattered around the globe, some in closer mental/physical proximity than others, and yet here you are, still sticking around and showing up for me in various ways. I’m feeling mushy about that. Happy I expected to be thankful at the end of today, but didn’t expect to be so moved by the breadth of love from so many good souls in my life, each one of you making me smile. It is a rich fabric of unique connections that I feel blanketed in. Big love.

This has been a renaissance year for me. There has been hard news too, and I try to remember that the sun and the rain are what make up my rainbow. 

It is truly wild for me to get this opportunity to share myself with so many in the most authentic way I know how. It’s scary at times right? All these different groups and types of people. It’s a thrill in some ways to continue, despite fear, in everything I do, so that I can keep learning and growing. Thanks for bearing witness to that for me, and letting me practice this life stuff with you. Here’s a thought: no one knows what they are doing! So thus we are free to face the world with confidence. Happy Much love and so glad you are with me on this journey. 


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Our cozy fire pit
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Me after a great night tonight - got this beautiful cashmere hat as an unexpected gift, thanks Eric Happy
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Mr. Roy Williams.

On this world HIV/AIDS awareness day, I recognize the most influential teacher and mentor I've ever had. Mr. Roy Williams was a beautiful soul, kind, loving, fun, thoughtful, encouraging, and supportive, among many outstanding qualities. These are my friends that I came to know well with him, and cherished our special time together in our youth, playing brain games, pushing each other, and relishing this safe space he created for us. I remember being so excited when we all worked together to surprise him on his birthday Happy He wrote me COLLEGE recommendation letters, even though our time officially ended in elementary school; we always stayed connected. He came to my piano recitals, games, and always wrote lovely notes in his memorable penmanship.

Losing him at such a young age spurred my activism and involvement in HIV/AIDS work, and in health care in general- I can only hope to bring a small piece of his beautiful legacy and compassion to my work. He has touched so many people's lives as he did mine. I'm forever grateful for the impact he has had on me and am thinking of him and his family today.
❤️  He is STILL inspiring me, just thinking of him today and seeing his writing, his powerful words which shaped me and gave me confidence I needed and still need- I'm inspired to go do and be more right this second. That is a powerful legacy.

Mr Williams

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it takes a village.

My mother and godmother have always said it takes a village to raise a child. Tomorrow morning, I’m embarking on a new adventure to meet my birth family on my mother's side. I want to thank all my family and amazing friends who have been there to support me through this journey, at every stage for all these years. It has been a very long time coming! I have the best family in the world and I know I am incredibly lucky. Our family is growing, and we welcome my new clan with arms wide open!

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vision boards.

I first learned about vision boards I think from Nadia, an employee at the cafe that I ran in Austin, TX, who was completely beautiful inside and out, and had a dry spell of no dating for quite some time. She made a vision board and I remember that when I went back to see her after I had left the cafe, she had found a love and was so happy... and she felt that the vision board helped manifest that in her life.

When I was going through a very challenging time in 2008 (major life challenges were converging at once: my Mom diagnosed with breast cancer, new job, break up with boyfriend, personal health challenges...) I went to a counselor because I was having "trouble with balance!", who encouraged me to do a vision board. I like to do things right when I do them Happy, so I made this kick ass board... and she was very impressed. Since then, it has hung in a couple different places in my home and not too long ago I moved it into my bedroom so I would see it more frequently than in the hall- it makes me happy.

It was time to make a new vision board for 2015, and as I got it started at our first girl's craft night a couple weeks ago, I wondered about this one and if any of it had even come true before I embarked on the next vision. My friend immediately said YES, things have definitely come true! I know I am not a good judge... that is why I have friends thankfully! It is like having a child and being around that child all the time, and not seeing the dramatic growth and change that takes place as well as someone who sees them only a couple times a year. I've gotten a bit desensitized to this thing and couldn't look at it clearly. It's exciting to look at it now and see that my health has drastically improved, my relationships are strong, my work is fulfilling and inspiring, there is joy in my life... it worked right before my eyes and I didn't even realize it!

I hope to finish the new vision board in the coming weeks, and as I look back fondly on this one again, really look at it (something I am working to be better at doing, absorbing the good), I see that Terri is right, and things really have come true. Happy

This exercise is a powerful tool for me, and I'm looking forward to manifesting even more on both in the New Year!


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the yesterdays.

Today I tell a true story, to a live audience, with no notes, for 12 minutes, around the theme of On The Edge, via the nonprofit storytelling organization The Monti. I have to tell you it has been a surprisingly cathartic experience! I had a good friend help me cut things out of my story, because it's way too hard to do yourself when it's your LIFE! She helped me realize I already knew the story, very well, and just needed to tell it the way I would tell it to anyone in conversation. The actual story and narrative do the work, not the words- pretty cool! It's a shift of mediums for me, as I'm more used to writing, and it's been a good challenge to step out of my comfort zone.

The gist and moral of the story, is that through a process of shedding yesterdays, I am slowly but surely more able to live in today. It is the story of overcoming 25 years of chronic illness that I write about here, and this site has helped prepare me to tell it.

The image below is a slate wallhanging that was in our house growing up in Upstate NY, and I've always loved it. It's now in my living room, and I just noticed it when practicing my story. It reminds me of home, because we had a big beautiful white birch tree in the front yard, and the cool, heavy shale is from that region. It's perfect ... read aloud, meditate on, and enjoy!


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A blurry shot of my sister Katie, cousin Julie, and I horsing around in the birch tree Happy
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don't give up!

I'm behind on posting- have several in the works and promise to post soon. In the meantime, just a little reminder Happy

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Renaissance-y.

I wrote these scraps of thought on the go, and as I'm coming back to it, I'm just leaving it as it came out- its simple enough to make sense (mostly I think? Winking).

I wanna be a success story- for others to look to. Here's why I'm pushing through fear, self-imposed boundaries, junk, and overcoming barriers and obstacles to expand my contribution. My favorite quote explains it all in a nutshell (fear of success):



Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

I had my fortune read for me recently, this summer. It was cool. Tarot cards. I got a hermit card for the one that was "behind" me. Since then I've found some connections to this hermit hiding idea. I have to be honest and say that I have been hiding somewhat, in my house, in my life. That is coming to an end, and it's a strange process. Its awkward and messy at times like learning anything is, but ultimately I'm doin' it... Happy To be vulnerable means to be able to be loved. Without even knowing it, I had built up little walls around things, keeping people and things out. Its insidious. Safe. They were stripped down, and had crept up again! Its been an intense few years, and its understandable that I went into turtle shell protect mode. But its time to peek my head out- the coast is clear.

What this "coming out" of hiding is allowing me to do, primarily, is be there for my core best friends/family. It's really touching for me to get my head out of my ass and see that there are people who actually need me! A huge gift that I did not realize because I was only thinking about things from my own, tunnel-vision perspective. Sad

So the way I see it I have two choices:

1) Old way- hiding (hermit). I drew this quote yesterday at a dinner party: "Nothing is more capable of troubling our reason, and consuming our health, than secret notions of jealousy in solitude." ~ Aphra Behn. I wasn't sure what it meant until my friend pointed out it was the hermit concept. Oh! Man.

2) New way- move forward. Be who I am. Be afraid and do it anyway. Do it BECAUSE I am afraid.

Once you know another way, its pretty much impossible to go back anyway. We still do it, but it really sucks and we feel guilty for doing it. Its worse than not knowing! Ugh. OK, for you non-conceptual thinkers, I know I am losing you. Happy But bear with me!

I have been calling this period my Renaissance. It has been the summer of love, the summer of freedom, summer of facing reality, summer of discovery, summer of the creative and the brave. I can hear the universe whispering to me, saying "it's your time now, child." "Go be your full, rainbow-ific self!" People are being put in my path that support me and my philosophy, and that want to help me. Looking forward to seeing what happens next!


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place in this world.

For some of us, it is not the easiest thing to find our physical place in this world (important song from my formative years), what feels most like home. For me, it is an amalgam of lots of special, favorite places that I've been or dreamed about. I've discovered that geographic location/environment is an important value of mine, and while I've lived in a variety of places and settings, I certainly haven't thrived in all of them.

My utopian community would currently make up the best combination of: London and small town England, Austin, San Francisco, Portland, lakes and parks of Vermont/Upstate NY, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Aruba, Costa del Sol, Spain, and New Zealand. Coincidentally these are almost all places I've lived in or spent time traveling to. Laugh I enjoy other cites too: NYC, DC, Philly, Boston etc. but I'm trying to be specific about exactly what calls to me.

I love the history, charm, way of life in England (and the accents!), the live music community, food, and outdoor life in Austin, and its inclusive, active culture of all ages. Among many things, I love San Francisco's vibrancy, hills, healthy food/quality of life, diversity, retro and vintage shopping, public transportation, cool weather, coast, and trees. I like how I can be myself. I spent a good amount of time there in my early twenties visiting my best friend from college and her brother, and didn't get a chance to move there like we had planned.

I love Portland's creative energy, inspiration and walkability. The rolling hills, lakes, and neighborhoods of Vermont and Upstate New York feel like home to me. I hail from the northeast, and that is definitely baked into my soul, with a love of cloudy cooler weather and four seasons, older homes and buildings, and overall aesthetic. Arizona, for example, while I lived there and enjoyed many things about it, did not feel like home to me, just a unique place to visit.

The European presence and friendly, fun vibe in Playa is amazing, the soft Aruba beaches and breeze is the best combination, and Costa del Sol is brimming with tasty food and the Mediterranean laid-back lifestyle. I haven't been to New Zealand yet, but I crave its calm, beautiful, nature and health driven culture.

No doubt as I continue to travel I will find more and more spots to occupy little pieces of my heart (Italy, I'm coming for you Happy)! No place is truly a home without people, and that is an important factor as we get older and close friends and family become scattered about the globe. We make sacrifices with the environment for people sometimes for sure, and for good reason.

We owe it to ourselves to determine where we best fit, where we most come alive and fully express our best selves. Moving and trying different places is part of figuring it out; even by process of elimination, core needs come to the surface about what kind of community we want to be a part of (from the pics I found, clearly food is an important part of my equation ;D)... When do you know you are
home?


GF orange almond cake at Vegetalia's in Spain, May 2005
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My friend Ry guy and I eating Dosa in San Francisco this week, August 2014
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world IBD day- may 19th.

Today is World IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) Day. I honor this day and raise awareness by sharing a little bit of my story. I salute all survivors and those we have lost... their fight was not in vain! I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at age 12. It was a very scary time, I lost so much weight and hated having to drink Ensure to try to keep weight on, and remember feeling embarrassed on the school bus when it spilled, and at school... This was the beginning of my "hollow leg" syndrome; I could eat and eat and nothing stuck, as I was not able to absorb nutrients. I took my special milk and lactose free food wherever I went and I tried to learn what it meant to "take care of myself"... but that was really hard at that age. Back then I didn't know anyone else that had this, and I felt different and couldn't yet see the beauty in that. I was in remission until age 16, when I was out of high school my last year for a month. I was overwhelmed, very sick, down, and scared. I'm so grateful to my loving family, friends, and teachers who gave me hope and loved me unconditionally through that period and in all the years of struggle to follow. I will always remember my teacher Mrs. Davis, who very strongly told me that "I need to learn to ask for help"... (I desperately hated to be a burden to anyone- this chronic disease is very challenging and greatly impacts the support system of those affected)- that was one of those life lessons you never forget.

I was proud to graduate from college, enduring hospitalizations each year for a week or so, usually each fall and spring, where I crashed from exhaustion and rested my digestive system on IVs. When I felt OK, I pushed like crazy, because I was always scrambling to live the life I wanted in my head, and felt betrayed that my body had other plans and kept me from my dreams and desires. I had so many dear friends and family lift me up at U of R, and U of A... Jennie do you remember sneaking me out of the hospital in my gown, IVs and all, and wheeling my wheelchair across the street to Bruegger's Bagels?!! Laugh I was so hungry... was I addicted to gluten back then or what?! I have always been close to my one and only Grandma, but she was my rock when I was ill and always came to visit me in the hospital (when my family lived far away) and supported me emotionally. Hammy, Cori and Caity (my most favorite nurse!)- I am forever in awe of what you did for me back then, and continue to do. Crohn's is an invisible, inside disease- "but you don't look sick!" is common. Oftentimes the better I looked, the worse I felt! Skinny, porcelain skin... what's your secret? Trust me, you don't want to know my "secret".

I continued to decline over these years, and things reached an all time low when I was in Austin, TX- I did everything under the sun as last ditch efforts to try to get better: special diets, many alternative therapies and conventional treatments, but I was rapidly declining and nothing worked, and many of my systems were failing. I had surgery in Dec. 2002- four feet of intestines removed, holes in my bladder and abdomen repaired, and a fistula- it was a 4 + hour surgery, things were worse than they thought when they got in there. Thank you to my parents and Godparents for waiting for me during that grueling time and being there when I woke up and in the months to follow. Long recovery process, and then later that year I had a C.Dif infection from the hospital stay, which almost killed me too- I took a month to recover and visit 4 medical centers in North Carolina, where I discovered many new allergies I had of all kinds, and decided to move here in 2003. The C.Dif, ironically, brought the Crohn's back, and I didn't get to experience any disease free years as I had hoped.

A rectovaginal fistula appeared in 2005 (horrifying and so difficult to treat), and I met 2 incredible doctors that year, Jade Teta and Keoni Teta at the
Naturopathic Health Clinic of North Carolina, who helped me get started on slowly turning all this bad news around. They were the first doctors I went to that had anything positive to say to me- whenever I went to any doctor (and I've been to a million) it was always, "you're our worst patient," most severe, no cure, nothing we can do, etc etc. I can't tell you how many doctor's offices I've left in tears. I am beyond grateful for the Teta's coaching, encouragement, love and support at the right time in my life. I volunteered for Camp Oasis, a camp for youth with IBD, in 2006 and had an incredible time. The fistula returned in 08-09, and I went on a liquid diet for six months, along with other healing remedies, and was able to get things to improve greatly (to where I had my first Crohn's free colonoscopy ever!). I volunteered at Victory Junction Gang Camp for children with chronic illness for IBD week during that time, and though I was tired, I was incredibly lifted up by strong young women who were worse off than me, and it gave me powerful perspective. I had a plug surgery in 2010 to repair the fistula, which had a 20% chance of working, and IT WORKED! My posse wore "It's Gonna Work" buttons for 3 months while we nervously waited (even my surgeon!). Since then that has been one of my mantras in life.

In recent years, I've continued slowly on my upward climb to restoring health (I don't even remember what it was like to be completely healthy, it was that long ago). Hypothyroidism came in 2011, all those years of adrenal exhaustion, and near daily chronic migraine in 2012. I feel sure of connections between these things and am working to puzzle it all out, while also trying to focus on the positive and get busy having a life. I am almost twice the size of when I was at my sickest, which means I'm absorbing my food much better and am so much healthier overall. I'm extremely fortunate in light of what so many others go through, and I know this. I have had several second chances at life, and I'm humbled to be here. I drink lots of concoctions, take a zillion supplements, and have to work at this daily, constantly reminding myself I'm not like everyone else (which is hard because I always wanted to be "normal"- whatever that is!). I have finally started this website, many years in the making, where I write about my journey, the impact of Crohn's and life.

Thanks for reading, and taking the time to learn a little bit more (
http://www.ccfa.org), and maybe watching this dance from these guys... Because you have to smile! Happy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0sOFTCz4ck

mice

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limitless potential.

Welp, here are some random scraps that I jotted down here to reflect on later... rather than reflect, I shall let them speak for themselves. Happy

POTENTIAL. The opportunity to explore our limitless potential. Happy Blog! I'm excited!
Haha, classic Val starter excitement and closing problem! I will leave this here as a placeholder for me to come back and explore this idea further, because it sounds really cool to write about. For now what I will say is, I get these little glimpses of what a heart wide open, best and most conscious life lived might be like. They are electric jolts and shivers down my body, the tingles, felt in a location visited, time with an inspiring kindred spirit, in the flow doing something I love. There is some sort of block to accessing this place fully, and certainly not all the time... like if I'm fully realized... then what? Kind of thing. That might be the block.

But why not do a lot more of the things I love to do? On purpose, intentionally? Because they are not happening on autopilot and habit. I need to make it a practice to incorporate more awesome and fun and satisfying things into my schedule on a regular basis. I'm the only one who can do it!

And, from some girl(s) movie: 

“The shitty part for the other people in your life is no matter how painful it is for them, when you’re a writer, you just can’t let shit go, you have to study it, and poke it, turn it over and investigate it incessantly..." Oh so true!!

For me, its about finding relational order with everything in my life, a term shared with me by my previous naturopath doctor, who we affectionately call PhD dude- he suggested that I need to have relational order, and how it is tied to science of who we are as a person, and that I won't stop until I get there, much to the chagrin of the normies in my life...


meditation_Sep081

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inbetween days.

After being sick this entire holiday break and quarantined in my pajamas, with one happy exception on Christmas Eve, (my work is closed for the holiday season until after the New Year), I'm back to the grind of purging and sorting.

It is draining, emotional, lonely, wandering through the hallways of the past. It is necessary work. It is also incredibly poignant, fun, and daunting. Feeling the feelings as they come and allowing them to pass through me. The deeper I get, the closer I get to me. This is the cool part. As strange and
in-between a process as this is (I could use a good dose of The Cure right now, the anthem band of nostalgia), I know I am marching towards my most authentic and true self and destiny, and that feels exhilafrightciting, to use a phrase created by someone I used to know. Swimming in the depths of nostalgia, scraps of thought, kind words from loved ones, glimmers of who I want to be, things I want to explore, and old shit, it is like walking the pages of a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

I took a mental break this evening and saw
Dallas Buyers Club, and something Ron Woodroof's character said rang very true for me: "Sometimes it feels like I'm fighting for a life I ain't got time to live." I feel like I am playing catch up so much of the time that I don't get a chance to stop for a minute, catch my breath, and just be in the present. I try to reassure myself with the thought from my doctor that I have indeed been living, all these years, just like everyone else, just doing different things, and learning in different ways. I may not have been out "playing pinball" as he put it, but I was living and learning just the same. That comforts me.

I've connected on a deep level to the HIV and AIDS movement since the early nineties, when I was very ill and could relate to so many of the struggles faced by those afflicted. It's worthy of a separate post sometime, but this raw passion for health, born out of experience and hardcore empathy, is an important chorus that rattles around the chambers of my heart, and physical space, present in books, articles, notes, people, and knowledge. It was a nice reminder to supplement the deep dive explorations I'm doing in my surroundings. A few finds from today:

Consent for treatment, 2002.
photo 1
Dreams.
photo 5
My very first Apple product, my PowerBook G4, circa 2005, is being laid to rest.
Bon voyage, silver bullet.
photo 4
My cute Momma helping me sort
m
I've carried this thing around from state to state over the years. Must be I liked what it said...
l

cover

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"getting organized."

I remember talking to my Dad on the phone when I was away at college, and whenever he asked me what I was doing, the answer was usually "organizing" or getting organized" - you can ask him. Happy I'm still at it! After examining my values through a tool we have where I work called Values Explorer, I know that 2 things I always value are knowledge and wisdom, so that seems to be part of it- I've been hoarding bits of knowledge for decades now, organizing it, and then eventually planning to share it I suppose with the world, and at the least use it to make me a more effective, directed individual.

I think it also explains why I have a hard time getting rid of these kinds of things, such as books, newspapers, informational articles, resources, etc. because I value them so. I know some people who couldn't be more opposite in this regard, and they value other things more. For me, there is always something to do, something to learn, something to discover. I could remain in this house for the rest of my days and I wouldn't be able to read all that is currently in my possession. That's something, seeing as I'm still in my 30's... Laugh

I'm learning the balance now of amassing and digesting knowledge, and then releasing it, to move on to the next thing. So much is constantly changing and improving anyway that it is hard for any of these things to remain static. There are some classics that just are, of course, or sentimental. But other knowledge is time and date sensitive, and there's always new material being generated. For someone who values this stuff so highly, this can create quite a tension and stress, trying to keep up with it all and not wanting to lose the history of the old. I definitely resemble many professors I know in this respect. Knowledge is power. Wisdom is a goal. But if you have so much of it that it becomes difficult to meander lightly through life, its time to lighten the load.

A friend was talking last night about how the internet available at any moment to us has changed our learning and existence, in that kids don't feel they have to learn as much any more, because they can just look it up. That was an odd concept to consider. It's both freeing and frightening. The thought of our brains atrophying because we no longer seek to learn, just look up. Perhaps different skills are being harnessed in this technological era (I hope). A mantra that comes to mind often for me when considering this work is from a Be Good Tanyas song:
Keep it Light Enough to Travel. Ultimately, I'd rather absorb and process what I can and store it in my mind, and release the rest so that things can flow on, but I know this struggle will always be one I wrestle with. For now, I'm working to trust as much as I'm able to technological archiving and sharing sites such as Pinterest, and then my electronic filing, which basically is a black hole that I am 99% sure I will never look at again. Old school paper sometimes is more in your face, tangible, and accessible, especially after spending most of the day on a computer - I just am not very inspired to do it at home as well.

I'm down to 2 (admittedly very large) bookcases, 4 filing cabinets, 2 closets,
1 dresser/console, and 1 trunk of books/paper Happy
sdfsdfdsf

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25 years of Crohn's.

25 years of Crohn's. Woah does that sound heavy looking at it in a sentence, in word form. So concrete and data parametered, defined. There's no hiding from numbers.

Thing is, numbers don't mean much to me, just swirl around in a survivor's haze, and I peek my head out now and then to come up for air. I feel young and "behind" and just waking up, which is why I always describe the experience as Rip VanWinkle-y. Nowadays I'm hitting my stride more and it's so exciting. For the first time, I am living my life from a stronger platform, getting to make informed choices and experience the present more fully. There are still plenty of challenges, of course. But I'll take these struggles any day over all the rest.

I think about what has kept me going, and even though at first glance my aesthetic may appear fluffy and over the top with all it's cheery rainbow goodness, it runs deep. The motto came to me at a time when I was having my first relapse of Crohn's and was out of high school for a month. I felt like I was dying, and I had to rely on the small things to keep me going. When I received a love note from someone that said "It takes both the sun and the rain to make a rainbow," it clicked. I didn't always like the fact that there were hard times, and I was 16- quite a dramatic and tumultuous time. The phrase has taken on deeper layers of understanding over the years for sure, and I can look back now at that streaky blur of an existence I had, clinging on for dear life while the wind blew me sideways, and see that rainbows
are roads between dreams- those rainbows during the dark times kept me hanging on and believing that there was a higher purpose. The roads have been long, 25 years long some of them, and I am weary sometimes. But I continue to trudge the road of happy destiny, because these roads are leading me to my dreams! It doesn't matter how long it takes. Being on the road is the journey that is important to where I will go and the dreams I have, I now realize. Those roads and walks are making me who I am: strong, funny, mentally tough, appreciative, grateful, tenacious, persistent, dedicated, sharp, competent, knowledgeable, my own Chief Medical Officer and health case worker/manager. I know stuff! People come to me for advice.

I remember visiting my cousin Guy in England and talking to him about his job- he is a private investigator for Scotland Yard, which is like the Brit's version of the FBI. I used to want to be in the FBI as a special agent (until my poor vision shattered those dreams!) and I was enthralled by his work, and wanted to know how I could sign up! He laughed and told me that I needed to put in my time as a beat cop for 20 years first. Wahhh Whannt Whaaaa.... that was a letdown! Happy But I think of it now seeing this magnet on my fridge below, and feel warm inside knowing that my connection with rainbows is something to the core and almost indescribable (yet I still try) - somehow I knew as a kid that they were placeholders, transporters to other dimensions and places (a la Rainbow Brite) and that I could rely on them to get me safely to the place I needed to be, when the time was right.

photxddo

Being a bone fide child of the 80's, I LOVED Rainbow Brite. I can vividly remember Starlite's (her horse) clomping as they trotted away on a rainbow bridge that they made appear with stardust to go help or save something. I always wanted to stand on a rainbow like they did, and still do Happy

rb-and-starlite-rainbow-brite-263731_300_236

Paint a Rainbow In Your Heart
If this doesn't make you smile, or get stuck in your head the rest of the day... Happy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMLJ3JJOBFs

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birthday girl.

Today is a great day to be born! I love my birthday. My family has always been big on celebrations and holidays, starting with my Grandma in her home when her girls were young, and filtering on down throughout our lives. My family made us feel very special on our birthdays, Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, with lots of gifts and positive attention, and of course delicious and made from scratch favorite foods.

After the health struggles I've faced for most of my years, I love my birthday even more because I'm on the up and up for once, and I couldn't be more grateful to be alive, truly, and to get a second chance to make this life count. I feel extremely fortunate to have been adopted by two incredible people on December 8th, and to have been so loved and well cared for. Birthdays are important ways for me to celebrate life, and all the special people that are in it.

I'm giving myself two gifts this year- sharing this website with the world and letting others in, after many, many years in the making, and a rainbow tattoo, which has also been percolating for a very long time. Stay tuned for updates on that process in the coming weeks!

My favorite birthday photo- I remember it sitting on my Dad's desk- Apalachin, NY, circa 1981?
VS bday

Austin, TX, December 2002, last ditch effort to save my health before surgery- eating a homemade
special diet "cake," weighing 90 pounds- my most fragile birthday.
val bday 2002

sdfsdfphoto
After my group birthday dinner tonight, my mom said to me: "You can tell a person's character by the company they keep, and you have a great posse." Well, I couldn't agree more about my amazing posse! And I KNOW that they help improve upon my character. Grateful!

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ten years gone.

It's hard to believe that it has been ten years since I've moved from Austin, TX to Greensboro, NC, this Thanksgiving weekend in 2003.

I had extensive life saving surgery for cumulative years of severe Crohn's disease in December 2002 in Austin, which included four feet of intestines removed, a hole in my bladder repaired, and a fistula repaired. My immune system was completely shot at that point and I was very weakened and susceptible to other difficulties, and it was a domino effect in the worst way. I recovered the best I could but it was not ideal conditions, looking back. 2003 was a hell of a year.

I developed C. diff (Clostridium difficile) from that hospital stay unbeknownst to me, and muddled through work for months wondering if this was how I was supposed to feel. I drove myself to the ER after my ankles swelled up enormously one day and my co-workers feared something heart related, parked in the front, and didn't come out for a week. I also developed a sulfite allergy that summer, and had another trip to the ER as my throat closed up listening to R.E.M. at the 2nd Austin City Limits music festival!

While on disability from work for a month recovering from the C. diff and everything else, I came to stay with my family who had just moved to NC and made trips to Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, and Johns Hopkins. I was glad I did because at 3 out of 4 places I got new answers to the various befuddling complexities I was dealing with. I discovered I had terrible latex and formaldehyde allergies that were breaking me out all over my body, and I had experienced an allergic reaction to Remicade, which was a newer drug at the time with side effects not being reported by its maker yet because it had been administered to less than 5,000 people.

At that crossroads, I remember weighing the pros and cons of moving from an amazing city that I hadn't really had a chance to fully appreciate or enjoy because I was too ill, to somewhere near my family that had many big medical institutions in close proximity. I was genuinely torn and heartbroken about leaving Austin (considered leaving my stuff in storage there), but ultimately decided to just pack it all up and come here where I had found at least some of my answers.

I had tried everything humanly possible to get well in Austin, but I was too sick ironically for any of it to have a chance at working. Painstakingly slowly, over this past decade in NC, I have had the opportunity to take baby steps towards getting well (two forward and one back), and have built up a dedicated health team army in the process.

As much as I've begrudged being "banished" here from the cool city to get well, incredibly, I do not regret the decision.

Just came across this sorting through files from that move...
photo
11.25.03 - back when photos had printed timestamps...
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Ten Years Gone.
10yrgone

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thanksgiving.

We are all auditioning for various parts in each other's lives. Figuring out how we might best fit. Sometimes there is so much love there, and we just can't figure out how to make it fit (square peg in round hole). The beauty, I've finally realized, is in the noble trying. The fact that there is that much love there in the first place. I've been blessed beyond comprehension when I stop to think about it, how much love I've received in this life. Instead of focusing on how it hasn't worked, or why it didn't work, focusing on what that relationship gave me just fills me with gratitude. Things didn't work for a reason (sometimes more than one). It doesn't mean they didn't work, period. No, they had a purpose, and many of those loves are still in my life, still my dearest, most trusted and valued friends, because that is the purpose they arrived in my life for.

If only we could helicopter over our lives 10 years down the road and see the timeline, the path, as it should unfold, instead of stumbling blindly about every step of the way- we'd go, ohhhhhhhhh, I see! OK! I'm not gonna hold on to that so tightly! It had a beauty and a purpose even bigger than I could have imagined. Wow. But of course, the living part, not knowing where things may lead and trusting anyway, is what creates the depth of who we are. All of these relationships have made me better, and have slowly pushed me towards being the person I need to be. They have been a gift.

I talked to an old friend and his sweet family recently, an example of someone who tells it like it is and brings out the best in me every time we communicate. That is special and rare. We tell each other we love each other and it feels good and true. I know that I'm on the level with him, all the time, and he will go down in my all time inner circle club, always in my corner, fighting for me and cheering me on. He inspires me, and inspired this post.

Sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst with love thinking about all these special people that have graced my path. I was born with an extra dose of feeling genes and a heart on my sleeve, for sure. That too was for a reason, no doubt, which I'm working out now, day by day. I only see my story from these eyes, but these people I've loved have a story too, that I touched, and made an impact on as well. Maybe that is the reason I'm "special." Maybe I've given them wonderful things that they can't put into words. We don't think about things from other's perspectives- its too hard, its all speculation, etc etc. But why not? Why not assume the positive instead of the negative? If these people have had such impact on me, why not assume I have had the same for them? Just food for thought.

We could wait until someone dies to share how much we care about them. But why wait? Why not share what's on your bursting heart now? It feels really good. It's also contagious, and it grows on itself- giving is expansion, and when I give and share my good feelings, it makes me just want to do it more.

It feels like peace, and like I won't have the regret later that I wanted to but didn't. I'm committing right here to giving my all now, while I can. I've wasted enough time. I don't want to waste another minute. Will I be perfect? No. I'm gonna get out there and tell you I love you. Happy So look out!

Have I Told You Lately

Hammy (Brian) and I, Dec. 2002. Caption is from my movie "story" I did for a
support group (only copy of photo I could find at the moment). This guy has
been there through all my worst times for nearly 20 years, and
I'm very lucky to have him on my side now for all the good!

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 8.40.16 PM
This picture also shows, at my sickest point - even though I hadn't had sugar in a year,
my teeth were still rotting out and yellowed- major systems were shutting down.
I'm unbelievably thankful to be here, and Thanksgiving Day is a hallmark for me.

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val's in da house

So, it's back to the house. Teresa, my friend of almost 10 years (gulp- cannot believe it has been this long!!), and her beautiful daughter Skyler, have resurfaced in my life at an opportune time. They are thoughtful, funny, caring, hardworking and dedicated to a fault. Where I flounder and freak out in overwhelm, Teresa lays down the law and "gets it done." She is hardcore and actually accomplishes things and moves forward in life- what a concept! Laugh

For those of us that are Ns (iNtuiton in the Myers Briggs type indicator), we envy these results-oriented Sensing types. They DO things and are known as the masters of action and implementation, out there living life, whereas iNtuitives are more abstract in their worlds of ideas and reflection, and we may take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to actually do anything concrete... and may not realize it because being in our heads, making connections and philosophizing feels like doing something to us! Being pushed into motion feels exhilarating to people like me and I highly value the support of my friends, and the other fellow Ss in my life (my Mom and Grandma), even though we spar over this key functional difference sometimes of course.

Thanks to Teresa and Skyler, I am in motion again after a longer than I would have liked hiatus. We tackled ONE drawer, and then cleaned up and restored the place to previous order. Definitely not the way I would have worked if I was running the show, so I was very grateful for some guidance to keep me in check! It's great to have a team - Skyler very quickly shred a ton of old bills and statements, put things to keep in clear plastic sleeves, and filed folders. Teresa challenged me on items that I might have contemplated keeping, (mostly things years old that I haven't read, probably never will, and that are only making me feel guilty- what's the point of continuing to lug that shit around?) with "It's 2014 Valerie!"

Huh. You know, clearly, as strange as it sounds, I do not yet have a grasp of year or decade. It's that Rip Van Winkle syndrome thing I have from feeling like I've missed years of time due to survivor mode illness- I just feel like it's earlier than it is. This process makes me feel good because it gets me one step closer to the present, which is the real gift. Punny but true! We also made lists so I can cross off the drawers/boxes/bins/cubbies as I clear them, and celebrate my progress catching up! Incredibly, in doing just one drawer we uncovered some important and very relevant writings and other finds that will help support me on my next steps.

Goodbye 1997 John Cusack! It's been a great 17 years...
(I can't believe I got this when I was 19!! Now that feels like a long time ago...)
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Waking Life (Richard Linklater) movie rental, 2004.

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Super efficient filer and shredder Skyler at work
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1 drawer cleared= 1 bag of shredding and 5+ pounds recycling!
IMG_0065

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on attitude & perspective

Attitudes are self-created. You are free to choose to be victimized by circumstance or people, or you can choose to look at life with an open mind and be victorious. No one else can choose your attitude for you. Your perspective and choice of attitude gives you the power to be in control. That is the essence of true freedom. ~ Irene Dunlap


This was one of my favorite quotes I hung in my cabin when I was a camp counselor at Camp Oasis, a camp for kids with Crohn's and Colitis. There were others too that I brought with me to decorate the walls and the girl's minds, wrote with markers on colorful construction paper that my mom and friend John helped me make, some that I still have hanging on my wall in my office below, reminding me of that experience.

I paid over $1000 to volunteer at this camp, all told, in the summer of 2006 in St. Louis, MO- now that is saying something! They say you should ask yourself what you would do for free, or if money was no object- and whatever it is, do that. I've certainly volunteered for a lot of camps over the years, so it will most definitely be a part of my what-I'm-going-to-be-when-I-grow-up plan!

IMG_6276 IMG_6275IMG_6277

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all we have is now.

This is a portion of what I have on my facebook "about me" section, since the day I signed up in 2008 (as close to any "profile" as I get):

Life is beautiful and short. Enjoy it and each other while you can. The end. I have a glass full disposition on life. I try to always see the good in people & situations. I believe in living each day as if it were the last. I don't beat around the bush. I'm not afraid to be real. I believe in dreams. I believe everyone has an intrinsic, authentic truth & tend to seek it out. I will never stop learning and exploring. I ask a lot of questions, especially why & what do you mean? I like being alone. I like being with you. What you see is what you get. I'm an ordinary person. I'm an extraordinary person. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

The world lost a special lady named Hazel today. She was someone that was sweet, loving, generous, and affectionate to me, she was a grandmother and mother, among other things, had a cozy house filled with cherished memories and photos of loved ones, comforts, and vintage delights in that pink and moss green hue of the 60s.

Was I nice to people at the grocery store serving me today? Not consistently, no.

Did I take the time to smile to people I encountered today? I did attempt this, but wholeheartedly and always in the moment, no.

This pains me because we are so often on autopilot, so self-absorbed with our own thoughts, so hurried, that rarely do we even fully acknowledge each other.

I learned the lesson early on that people are what matter (another post to get into the why). Do I live every day and each moment like it is my last? Sadly, no. I know it might be difficult to do so, but for as much as I know and believe that
all we have is now, there is a disconnect in the daily grind from experiencing this kind of reality more often, as much as I wish I did.

Only with hard losses, struggle, and unexpected wake up calls are we jolted back into remembering.

I'm going to work on getting to this place more, hopefully without the painful paths it usually takes to get me there.


The heart may freeze
Or it can burn
The pain will ease
If I can learn

There is no future
There is no past
I live this moment
As my last

There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret
Or life is yours to miss

No other road
No other way
No day but today

There's only now
There's only here

Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way

No day but today.

~ From my favorite musical Rent

8664_10151760323882935_1528994769_n
Today.
grannyhazel

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betty maxine.

My Grandma, Betty Maxine, is my heart. We've always been very close, and she is the only grandparent I've ever known. She fills me with joy, makes me laugh with her quick wit and terrific sense of humor, and is a lot of fun to be around. She makes me smile. She loves to snuggle. I definitely got my sense of style (and love of shoes!) from her, and maybe also my strength. She is incredibly strong and has been through so much in her 92 years. She gets knocked down, but she gets back up every time, and never gives up.

We've had great fun over the years- many, many sleepovers where we lie in bed together talking until the wee hours (she loves this, as do I!)... cooking at 1am, playing cards, laughing, watching Hallmark channel movies, visits to the Secret Diner. She lives with my parents now, more frail than in the past, but still giving it everything she's got.

This is a bracelet I made her because her wrists are too small for conventional bracelets. It is simple and didn't take me long to make. She loves it, wears it every day, and says it brings her good luck. It means so much to me that it means so much to her... she shows it to me proudly every time I visit. My Grammy is love.

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Getting pretty at my vanity
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That one time I beat her at cards... very rare! Happy
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the world is changed...

This first line of the book!:

"You put two things together that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. People may not notice at the time, but that doesn't matter. The world has been changed nonetheless."

"We live on the flat, on the level, and yet--and so--we aspire. Groundlings, we can sometimes reach as far as the gods. Some soar with art, others with religion; most with love. But when we soar, we can also crash. There are few soft landings. We may find ourselves bouncing across the ground with leg-fracturing force, dragged towards some foreign railway line. Every love story is a potential grief story. If not at first, then later. If not for one, then for the other. Sometimes, for both.

So why do we constantly aspire to love? Because love is the meeting point of truth and magic. Truth, as in photography; magic, as in ballooning."

~ From Levels of Life, By Julian Barnes
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je ne sais quoi

When the music changes, so does the dance. ~ African Proverb


Sometimes you just need a little spark. That something, from the world, others, to kick start the next phase of exploration. Things just click into place, after being just out of place for a long time. We all need a reason to get up in the morning. But who actually stops to think about this, or what it might be? I believe in the power of intention, and putting out to the universe what you are looking for at its simplest sense. It's visioning, and it works.

What this spark does is breathe new life back into dormant rooms of life, refreshingly fast sometimes. After a long hiatus from listening to music for example, I am all of sudden wanting to do nothing but listen to music. I have missed it and have been waiting to get here, but needed something to make that leap. These life affirming experiences renew your soul and its purpose here, and flow blood to all the places that needed to wake up and come alive again.

The same concept as writing here- I have been thinking about these things for a long time before they actually come into fruition. They usually need a little push, some change, energy shift to get translated. Can you relate? I know some of you have similar stories Happy


The view from my window this morning

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love.

Can't sleep can't work can't do anything warm fuzzies that are at the beginning of any relationship (honeymoon phase) and are so undeniably tempting and all consuming.  

Just because you've had them before doesn't mean you are ever immune to them (if you are still human). They keep coming, nature's way of helping further our species, I can feel that in my body, truly. We may have even very recently been dragged through agony, heartache and pain, and yet we run towards the light with our arms wide open and outstretched, hoping that perhaps this time will be different. It has to be. We keep learning and growing and try to quit falling in the same potholes that got us into dead end situations, but we are nonetheless so imperfect, and still utterly our same, vulnerable, flawed selves when this new opportunity shows up at our doorsteps.

The kind that you can't not talk about to everyone you see. An enlightened education into what unbridled joy means.

Hormones flood our brains with confusion and rose colored glasses. It doesn't matter. There is nothing I could have done to stop this. And I wouldn't want to. For now, I'm letting the fire burn and seeing where it leads.

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enfp

In Myers Briggs land, I am an ENFP. Formerly an ENFJ, with some J holdovers for sure, like list-making and calendars and scheduling. But I also do these things to calm and combat my naturally raging P. I find that most things I read on ENFP's are pretty right on, both in strengths and potential areas for growth.

If you haven't heard of this assessment, I would encourage you to check it out:
www.16personalities.com. It isn't for everyone, and not all find things that speak to them or that they strongly identify with. For me, probably because I score highly on most of the 4 measures (what the letters stand for), I find it to be a pretty accurate descriptor and a useful tool in better understanding myself, and improving my interactions with people. It's good to know what others are in your life too so you can see where you rub- awareness is the first step, and then learning to self-modulate and be adaptable to other's personality types is the goal for relational harmony. Understanding and valuing difference goes a long way towards this.

I've worked on this quite a bit over the last few years. I value knowledge and wisdom, so I enjoy learning and personal development. Working at an organization committed to helping people better understand themselves and their leadership potential, I am exposed to these assessment acronyms regularly, and they have rubbed off on me to say the least. There are plenty of other assessment tools besides this one, and they supplement each other nicely to give you a fuller picture.

Learning what gives and drains you of energy, your preferences in relating to the world, how you make decisions (heart or head, very crudely), and how you control and act gives you power to navigate life in a more intentional way.

This is a classic ENFP quote - I can relate! Happy
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the gift of the present.

I feel alive. Present. For the first time in quite a while. I have a migraine, and vision in my left eye is blurry. But this is mostly a big nuisance- I still feel this clear feeling. It's a lovely summer evening, 8:25pm, and I've got the front door open, shades up on the window, and have reached out to neighbors I've lived next to for years and haven't officially met. I'm putting myself out there, and am more available than I've been. It is an energy shift. A happy one!

Maybe it's because I'm on the cusp of finally digging into the thing that my life has been waiting for me to do. It's finally time, and I have arrived at the place where I'm ready to move forward, instead of just wondering and thinking about it.

One thought is that there are NO MORE DISTRACTIONS. It's interesting how some of us have to push ourselves to the brinks to launch the change we have been desiring for long periods of time. I have no financial distractions, because I have no money to spend. It's peaceful in a way it hasn't been previously. I know that it is leading to the next step for me. I have no relationship distractions. As I've mentioned in a recent post, my life has been eerily quiet (my cousin, recently visiting from Spain, called Greensboro "Spooksville" Happy!

This is the first time in I don't know how long that I am home at a reasonable hour, no where to rush off to, taking the time making a semi-proper evening meal for myself. I found a bottled spiced apple cider in the fridge, and am making a club sandwich. Seems crazy I'm sure that these things would be remarkable, but most of the time I don't slow down long enough to breathe. I'm appreciating the little things that could be taken for granted, and it's a really nice feeling. The absence of some things makes other things more apparent.

My club sandwich
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Tonight's view from my back steps
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one thing that scares you.

Do one thing each day that scares you. Please raise your hand if you are doing this. That is what I thought! (I didn't raise my hand either!) We get stuck in patterns, habits, ruts of daily living, "comfortable," and it can be hard to STOP, assess, and evaluate if where you are going is where you want to be going!

Note it doesn't say, what are you afraid of. We certainly think enough about our fears. It says DO something that scares you. This flies in the face of that fear we experience! Time to stop taking a backseat in your life!

Today's one thing I did that scared me? Wore white jeans to work! ;D
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surf.

I've developed a voyeuristic interest in surfing and surf culture lately, spurred somewhat from the inspirational story of Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer, and have watched other films since then, such as Chasing Mavericks, Blue Crush and Beautiful Wave. Cheesier depictions perhaps, but good enough for me. I've researched the stories of these legends, and have been endlessly fascinated with the way they live their lives.

I was considering what interests me about it, since I've never surfed, and I'm not sure if I plan to. I'm a strong swimmer and have always loved the water. I love sailing and boating. I've bodysurfed plenty, mostly as a fearless kid with my Dad in the cold Atlantic ocean, and have felt the panic of being knocked down by sets of waves at a time, discombobulated, not knowing which direction is up. I've lost my bikini top as a teenager, crawling out of the water on my stomach, so embarrassed and awkward. I've waited, heart pounding, for my Dad's bald head to bob up in the water as a sign he is OK. I've lost my nerve as I've gotten older and have become more risk-averse for sure, opting to stay on the shore most times, or just getting wet.

Mostly though, I just have a love affair with the ocean. It is one of my most favorite places to be, where I feel so small, and yet incredibly grounded and peaceful. I love the color. I like hearing the waves and smelling the water and the salty sea air. Also there's such mystery and power in its vastness. It breeds adventurers and seekers. The fact that there are people who spend the majority of their time in the water chasing their bliss as a hobby is thrilling to me, and something I feel like supporting.

I picked up
surfer magazine recently, and I gotta say I love reading it. I actually know many of the names mentioned now and can understand and visualize most of the descriptive jargon. Seeing jaw-dropping photos of big wave surfers in their element is like art I want to hang on my wall. In fact, I've torn out a couple particularly breathtaking pages to stare at. Surfing world, please welcome your newest fan.

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i always feel like somebody's watching me

This week started off with bang. I was at a local coffee shop this weekend, and a strange guy was not reading his newspaper, and blatantly staring at me instead. I thought maybe he was interested in what was on my screen, so I angled away from him a tad and ignored him. When some people to my left vacated their table, this person and his newspaper quickly got up and moved to their place, and I felt my bag move as he brushed by me. I adjusted it back up on my chair and kept typing.

All of a sudden a patron sitting in front of me jumped up, grabbed the newspaper on the guy's table, and revealed my wallet underneath! He quickly told him to get out. It all happened so fast... exciting I have to say! He had seen him grab it out of my bag when he went by. I'm so grateful to him- I never would have thought twice about it if he hadn't been
watching me! I thanked him on my way out, and he said he didn't think he was after my money, but rather was trying to stalk me. !!!! He had been watching the whole time, watching him watch me, and had even said something to the cafe staff about it. When he threw him out, the barista ran after him. It all caused quite a stir! When I thought it was about money, I laughed it off, and joked about how I didn't have anything for him to steal. This was much more unsettling!

Coincidentally, this kicked off a very lean week financially for me, so I'm seeing how far I can stretch the contents of my fridge and cupboards, by playing
Lynne Rosetto Kasper's game of "what can I make with these 5 ingredients"... wish me luck!

Oh e-cards, so good for a quick cackle...

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back in the saddle again

Since I got this fantastic IKEA Norden birch table (with hidden leaf):

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I’ve camped out in my living room and have used it every day for projects, bill paying, computing, and life. The downside to this is that my office has been feeling a bit neglected! So, now that the newness of it has worn off a little, I’ve officially moved back into my office, and I’m rearing to go!

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survivor.

Being chronically ill can be extremely isolating. Since my Crohn’s has been in remission and my fistula plug repair in Dec. 2010, I’ve been slowly trying to catch my breath from 23 years of severe disease, with very little moments of respite in between. I started experiencing hair loss and what seemed to be hypothyroidism not long after, seemingly because of fatigue from living in survival mode for so long.

One year ago, I had my first aura migraine ever, and have experienced them nearly every day since. Migraines bring on GI symptoms, which can impact my Crohn’s - lots of vicious cycles in this delicate dance.


These daily struggles have kept me just doing what I can to put one foot in front of the other, some days, weeks, months and years better than others, and as a result I haven’t had the time or bandwidth to do many of the things I truly love- connect with my loved ones, and have fun. I’m working on this!

I have so much gratitude for my people who have hung in there with me whatever life brings. It’s a privilege to grow and learn together. Baby steps on the journey to happy destiny...

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My loving Dad, Mom, and my one & only Grandma.

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getting quiet.

I get the feeling that life is keeping my world resoundingly quiet at the moment (and mostly throughout my time here in Greensboro) to allow me the opportunity to listen for what’s next. It can feel a bit lonely at times, but it is also the promise of a future that is wide open, and as bright as I desire it to be!

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compassion

I loved this recent article in the July/August issue of Ode Magazine:

The compassion instinct:
Research shows that a compassionate attitude towards others improves mental and physical health. ~ Larry Gallagher

Too bad you can't read it online Sad. Are they trying to thwart my paper hoarding tendencies?? Happy But here's a readable one with many of the same info and sources: Click here to read more

It's a really interesting idea, and I love the sounds of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley!
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gluten free pizza slices in portland!

www.pizzicatopizza.com

So excited to be here in PDX for a few days on vacation. It’s glorious and so inspiring. Really great to be playing on computer for fun for once, it’s been WAY too long! Good to be back. Vacation is essential to our health!

PS: This quote has been staring at me from my new favourite
magazine Experience Life (Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act): “The energy it takes to ignore an inner longing is greater than the leap of faith it takes to move you in the direction of your dreams.” The title and tagline of this magazine is brilliant!

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the journey.

I am taking part in a program that greatly enriched myself last year, serving as a mentor for black and Latino youth. We chose images that represented where we were at the beginning of our journey, and one for where we are headed. I found this simple exercise to be very powerful and it evoked strong emotions in me, as the mentoring experience has overall, learning more about myself than I could have imagined.

I chose the image of the girl with the suitcase for where I was at the beginning of my journey. Curious, innocent, a deep thirst for travel and adventure, and ready to get on the road and see the world at a very young age. This describes me well-- when I was age 10 I went to England alone to visit family and felt ready to move out on my own after that, empowered and with a strong taste for independence.

The outstretched hands are where I’m going, even though I fight it sometimes with my own self- deprecation (fear of success thread)-- I am a reluctant role model, teacher, healer, even though something tells me that I’m already well down that path and there’s no turning back.

In my secret heart of hearts I want this. I want to be the life force that a few very special people were to me, who have inspired me and saved me beyond belief. I want to “give back” in this way.

At present, I walk the tracks between these two-- the girl with her suitcase, and the wise, soulful woman. I embrace this journey.

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resiliency.

I work at a neat non-profit where we dream up ways to help others be better leaders all day. Mostly it’s just a job just like any other, but sometimes it taps into what is at the core for all of us-- how to be a better version of ourselves. How to get to know ourselves. And better yet, how to be our most authentic, best selves.

This is the part where my ears perk up as I work to embrace my true nature, from a time in my youth when I was truly just Me, before disease, popularity, fitting in, conformity, non-acceptance, jealousy, depression, loneliness, bills, jobs. I was pure curiosity and sheer joy, inquisitive, investigative, fun-loving, entrepreneurial, and had a true zest for life and all it’s details. I Lived In The Moment.

At work we were talking about a health & wellness component to one of our programs, and someone suggested that it be worked as Resiliency instead. I loved the ring of that word. It was only Tuesday, but the week had already felt 3 years long, with work weighing me down, boyfriend, friends, health issues, all seeming to reach pivotal stress points simultaneously, and I was feeling left with very little left gas in the tank. I’ve cried enough to fill a river this week thus far. I’ve given 110%, and was in a position to realize (again) that in the end, it is every man and woman for themselves.

When a friend of mine told me this years ago when I was literally on my death bed from this disease and feeling full of despair, as cold and isolating as that thought sounds, it actually gave me some power and hope. She is a very wise woman, my friend Lauren, who has been through many battles herself at her young age. It gives me a strange feeling of comfort to mull this over. Mostly because it is in such stark contrast to my usual sociologist’s desire for an interconnected, interwoven, loving, full-of-people and support based life.

It takes me back to why resiliency has struck a chord, probably mostly because though I need others to make life bearable sometimes, I ultimately only
need myself to survive at the base level. I’m not saying thrive, no. But survive. And that is an empowering thought, knowing I can make choices and do what is best for me, regardless of how it effects anyone else, make my decisions based on what’s in my heart, and climb any mountain I choose and breathe in the air from the top. I don’t need anyone else to tell me that I am a beautiful, wise, funny, sensitive (in a good way), happy, thoughtful, kind, loving, incredible person.

I’m more comfortable looking to the external world than giving these things to myself, but I’m learning. I don’t need someone to tell me that I deserve the best, everything life has to offer and more-- after all, it is the pep talk I would give to someone else- it is just old habits and patterns that have my mind defaulting to reject this.

If I keep the mantra in mind of “what would I say to my best friend?” when talking to myself, it is overwhelmingly insightful and powerful. I’m working on closing the gap. And supporting myself and my hopes, dreams, goals, visions and aspirations, all the while remaining strong and resilient.

re·sil·ience noun \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\
Definition of RESILIENCE
1:
the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Lauren and I before my surgery, Dec. 2002
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the bookcase.

Four words: the bookcase didn’t fit! After 12 hours of IKEA-ing and building, must formulate plan B tomorrow. Happy UPDATE: We had to get a 2nd smaller bookcase, as this one, pictured below, would not fit down the hallway (it was intended for my office). So another trip to IKEA later, and more building (thank you infinity John, who’s idea it was to get the bookcase(s) in the first place...) we finally have success. And now plenty of extra room!

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This behemoth stands in the living room - mirrored doors, so fancy!

This is the new smaller bookcase for my office- in love with the smooth sliding drawers and doors for the cubbies!
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the transformation.

Ok, so I’ve told you a tiny bit about me and now I will share what I am up to. While this rainbow world is born out of wanting to document my struggles and triumphs over a twenty-plus year battle with Crohn’s disease, most of my time and thoughts are spent thinking about and doing other things, and I find it all sort of inexorably bound up together, such that I don’t know how I could have a single focus.

Rather, I see it more as a kind of lens which informs the rest of life I am involved in, and thus will share those other aspects here too-- and as the Brits say, you can like it or lump it, or as MJB
sayz, you can hate it or love it... what what!

The latest is trying to get my home organized. Oh boy.

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1st episode.

Good evening/morning. I don’t know where to begin, except to begin, again... even though I’m starting now, it’s again because lots has come before but for various reasons has not made it to publish land. I bought a website with my name on it years ago, then thought better of sharing my gory life story on it for the whole world to see, so then bought this domain to spill the beans on instead. The about page will have more insight into the choice for this site... while the primary goal for this friendly cyber world of mine (never ever in a million years thought I would ever say I would have a cyber world!) is to share my voice with you.

For some reason I equate futuristic tech stuff with coldness, and since I am far from cold always distanced myself from this kind of thing. I know my world, cyber or otherwise will be a break from the norm in this respect. Anyhoo, back to the primary reason for starting this -- surviving and thriving with a chronic illness.

One way I procrastinate from progressing on this project is to allow myself to be overcome with feeling cliché about this endeavor, i.e. everyone writes their sob stories and we are over-saturated with this kind of stuff, etc. etc. but by doing this, I effectively deny MY voice. And that, I am finally beginning to realize, has been a shame. Because I have a lot to share. Regardless of who is touched by it, and even if I’m the only one who reads it, on here or in print or some other form-- it will still be of great cathartic benefit to me.

So for that reason alone, I must press on. Even if it takes me a century. Which is something that I like to beat myself up about; not cool! Moving in the right direction feels a hell of a lot better than sitting still these days, and so I shall ride on the back of friend-propelled momentum, and see where this takes me!

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This is a warm fuzzy! You pull a string out of it and give to someone else, along with a hug Happy I believe in the power of hugs! The saying goes- we need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 for maintenance, and 12 for growth!
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one more time.

The title of a great Daft Punk song. Propelling me forward through the mountain uncertainty and fear that have built up over the last few months, years.

Food as comfort, as the great satiator (I made this word up), like I can do anything as long as my belly is full --- and fear for how to survive when it is not. Survival instinct really is all it is. Well, mostly what it is.

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coming around again.

The itsy bitsy spider... you’ll have to excuse me, most of the words that flow through my noggin are lyrics from a poignant song by Carly Simon, awash with feelings of familiar family nostalgia, heard so many times growing up, sung by a woman who’s voice and words always seem to ring true. I’m coming around again. Pain as a motivator. But only sort of. There are other motivators too, like the realization tonight that the reason this is the year (2nd year actually) of the nun is because I don’t need to be falling in love with anyone but myself. That is quite enough for one person to handle.

So, that is what I’m going to try to do. I’ve avoided it in one way or another for a very long time. But there is no going around it this time. It just makes me so darn sad, looking at pictures of a fragile yet unbelievably tough girl, feeling for a fleeting moment what others feel for her and see in her, and then quickly shutting that off, heaping up the compliments in the “compliment pile” for later reading, and most importantly, digesting. Why all the self-punishment? Is this the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Protestant guilt or some shit? It has gone on for long enough, that is for sure.

Yes, there is fear, and the fear of having to walk through that fear. And the fear of what is on the other side. But this is my journey after all, only mine, and only I can be the one to walk through it and see what it is all about. I owe it that much. So, here goes. I’m really glad you are here with me, holding my hand.

Val_101 - Version 2
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