another trip around the sun.

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I take birthdays very seriously.

I’m feeling more reflective these days (well OK, let’s face it, that's not anything new… Winking). Birthdays tend to evoke this with the very public recognition of the aging process, time marching on. “Time flies whether we are having fun or not!” the saying goes. They can be markers that call us to reflect on the year past, the year ahead, the meaning of it all. So with that, I share a little pulse check.

What other day besides your birthday do you feel most like yourself? It is after all the day you were born! Something about the spirit of that makes me excited for my birthday, and thinking about the things that make up our essence and core as we traverse our respective journeys. What we radiate to the world.

I have been immersed in transition, relocating to a new home the past few weeks, and notice how moving never fails to illuminate things. Something about all of our stuff being shifted around physically that can trigger emotional seismic shifts. While being one of the top five most stressful experiences in life, moving can provide some real gifts once we get past the utter chaos.

With each move, distance is created between the last place, and with that comes the opportunity for fresh insights to bubble up.

My new place feels like my old place in Greensboro, NC, but different. There is an awareness of different levels of self. I wonder if that’s what the term “leveling up” means...

I can feel a little breakthrough happening in the air. It feels Sliding Doors-esque, thinking about the many different Choose Your Own Adventure decisions we activate in our lives. We make choice after choice, each one getting us to a different ending, or perhaps the same ending, with a different arrival.

Living your truth is strange. You don’t realize how long you’ve been buried. It happens slowly in stages, unfolding before us in such a way that we may not realize what is happening because we are too busy being wrapped up in the folds.

I’ve always lived my life in intense bursts with hibernation retreats in between due to various circumstances. I have a feeling I’m not at all alone in this- we do this in our own ways as we juggle all the things that happen in our busy lives. I’ve always loved life, but haven’t always
lived it, not fully at least.

My friend recently said that she is sorry that I’m not a cookie cutter person because it's hard. Well, she's not really sorry, but she's sorry for the struggle that comes with it. She's right - I’m not a cookie cutter person, “cut out” (ha, sorry) to live a cookie cutter life. Blazing new trails where there are no tracks to follow can be really lonely and confusing at times.

She said that I’m facing up to the reality of what I’m embarking on and doing and there would be something wrong if I DIDN’T feel somewhat insane right now! Feeling the feelings means I am facing it, which is important. It's also important to have grace with myself. I’m going through so much, and it's not a pretty time. Self care, self care, self care I chant.

The guiding principle of
being what you want to see in the world gives me some basic direction and focus. Even though the path is still being forged, I can look to my North stars and values that I want to embody and surround me as I walk. My doctor turned philosophy guru says: “Be it until you see it.”

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke


There are times in our lives when everyone else knows “it” but you. We always have the biggest blind spots when it comes to our own lives. I think of the old sticking our heads in the sand notion, trying to be inconspicuous. I always use the analogy of being a kid trying to sleep at our desks in class in school, head down and arms over our face. We can’t see, so we think we are hiding. For some reason we don’t realize that others can see us.
We see things as WE are, not as they are…

The hiding is dumb, to put it bluntly, and we are ultimately most definitely going to be found out. It is like me hiding around town and work wearing what is now famously called my Dumpy Khakis. I wasn’t fooling anyone! My inner peacock had given me away and I had no idea.

It’s cliche, but no one else can live our stories for us. We have to do it. Hiding will only get us so far. We will keep meeting our same selves in the mirror facing the same things until we shift, make a move, make a change, be brave and take a step to move ahead.

I’m currently living the life I was “supposed” to live at 20, at 40. It’s a bit surreal. I wore a bikini last week for the first time since age 25, and felt way more comfortable in it now than I did back then.

Yeah sure, the old crusty junk that haunts us is gonna creep up. Rilke speaks to me today with his wisdom:

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke


Just keep going, keep walking.

I have seriously kick ass community. Those who know me know I only swear when I’m extra passionate. Happy We root for each other. I love that the most. They remind me who I am when I forget. I made a quick list of the people I feel most like myself around- took 15 seconds and jotted down a couple names. I encourage you to do this. Cherish those people.

Most important, perhaps, is that
I got me. I have my own back. I can meet my own needs and take really good care of myself.

Say it with me: I am a person of this world. A proud inhabit of this beautiful planet. I deserve to take up space (thanks Cat).

You are beautiful just the way you are. Be You. Tousle your hair every once in a while. Embrace the messy. Hike barefoot like my cousin Sean. Feel the earth beneath your feet.

Here’s what I’m currently learning and working on:

  • Love is additive. There’s more room in our hearts for an abundance of love than we ever could imagine.

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  • We all come from such different backgrounds and life experiences. It can be hard to really try to put ourselves in others’ shoes- I know I struggle with it. Again, we see things as we are, not as they are… relationships of all shapes and sizes are a gift that is letting me practice this. Life is short- love each other! And let the little things that are not important go. With practice we start to see what the little things are. I’ve found I have more flexibility that I thought on this as I’ve matured. I used to want things a certain way. And while I still have some preferences, some more important than others, I have been surprised to see what I don’t need to hang on to. It has freed me up to be more open to receiving the gifts that do come my way.
   “We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Translations from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

In terms of current priorities and goals, here’s what I’m focused on making happen:

  • Writing. I wrote 3,619 words participating in National Novel Writing Month in November. I definitely wasn’t going for a high count but rather consistency in showing up a few days a week in a room with other women and getting some words down on the page, and in that regard I was a success! We’re continuing the momentum through mid-December. I’ve been taking personal essay and memoir workshops in Berkeley this year at a fabulous place called Left Margin Lit (I am in their midst as I write this) and have dived into writing in a way that has been calling to me for a really long time. It feels good!
  • Hitting Fuzzy Yellow Balls. Tennis is another one of my hobbies that fell by the wayside. Whenever I pick up a racquet (which has sadly been only occasionally over the years) I think, I need to get back into this again, for real. I’ve been playing the past few months with some wonderful ladies, and just joined a friendly club in my new neighborhood that will guarantee I get in some more regular tennis action.
  • Creative Pursuits. Music, crafty things, design, color, style, photos, telling stories. I strive to fit these in more and make the time to create- it's good for the soul!
  • Inspiring Work and Building Community. I keep close to the flow on this and am learning to stick to the things that I am drawn to.
  • Exploration in whatever forms this takes. I live in the effing Bay Area! My new environment provides plenty to keep me busy in this department on a daily basis.
Until next year… I hope you make some magic happen on your birthday, and the 364 other Unbirthdays in between.

Enjoy one of my favorite
Birthday songs!

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Smurftastic birthday with the annual classic birthday candle!

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6th Birthday Happy

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When Grandma came to live with us in NC, Dec. 3rd, 2012

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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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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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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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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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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!).
https://secure3.convio.net/ccfa/site/Donation2;jsessionid=E34293592B1B0E2EB2462DB72F7060BE.app321b?df_id=16402&16402.donation=landing

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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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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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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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!


Fear-Redmoon

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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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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

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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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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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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

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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.

photoG
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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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.

 my-heart-on-fire-1

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