Monthly Archives: July 2008


Us, on the fridge, Canon Rebel Xti

Shame can’t survive when empathy is present, she told me. Something got rearranged in me when she said this. Shame thrives in secrecy, it transforms in empathy.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s audio cds The Gifts of Imperfect Parentingthis week. Okay. I’ve listened to them three times. I am usually wary of parenting books, manuals, how-tosbeing such a vulnerable new parent, I’m afraid to read about the way I’m supposed to do things, and inevitably go down the shame spiral. My policy has been to trust myself as much as possible and ask my sister and friends about the rest. But these cds made my heart feel lighter and gave me so much hope and confidence. It might be the only parenting book I ever need.

One of the most important things I drew from Brene’s lecture was a distinction she made between guilt and shame. Said very simply, the self-talk for guilt is I did something bad. The self-talk for shame is, I am bad. How many of us spill the carton of milk on the floor and lash out at ourselves, You’re so stupid! God! What a clutz! Stupid!

I do this all the time. This is called shame, and according to Brene, I am shame-prone. Eek!

As I contemplated these lessons, I got more clarity about why I blog and why I shared my infertility journey here. While I was struggling to get pregnant my self talk was not, I am good. I am not pregnant yet, but I am whole and loveable and good. My self-talk was much darker than that. It was something along the lines of, If you were only more feminine, more nurturing, more of a woman, you would get pregnant. If you weren’t so damaged, broken, f**ked up, selfish, you would have a baby by now. If you were a better person, thought more positive thoughts, were less attached, more zen, you would deserve this child. If you weren’t so jealous and angry you might have a fighting chance. The details changed, but the message was basically this: You are not good enough to have this baby.

It’s not that I was ashamed to be struggling with fertility so much as I thought I was bad, like there was something deeply wrong with me that it wasn’t working. This is the kind of shame I am talking about.

Shame can’t survive when empathy is present. This is where you, and this community come in. You sat with me, you shared your stories with me, you held my hand. You told me you’d been there too. We cried together. And this is the empathy that helped me to heal.

This is why I’ve always believed in storytelling. This is where we cultivate connection, compassion, empathy. This is where we can liberate ourselves from what holds us back, whether it is our shame, our fears, or our history. It is a space in which we can heal, forgive ourselves, and dream bigger. It is where we find hope.

That is what this blog is about. Every post may not be this tender, or this bare, but my commitment to you has always been about inspiration and liberation. I have always wanted to be a gift to the world; nothing makes me happier than that. It is in this spirit that I write each post. It is with an ear out for this that I share my stories. It is in the spirit of empathy that I take risks here to be vulnerable.

Reading the whirly wind of comments yesterday made me stop and question all of it: My intentions, my choices, having this blog at all. After I wiped all the tears away, I found that this is a choice I feel really good about. (I also honor people who choose differently) Creating space on this blog for my community to share their work, their books, their art is exciting to me. Being paid for my writing allows me to show up here in a more committed way. With very little time to write these days, creating space for this feels like a wonderful gift to myself and hopefully a gift to you as well.

Thank you for being with me on all of my journeys.

Blog redesign & sponsors*

my boys rockin out, Canon Rebel Xti

My blog is going through a little redesign! After more than five years, this feels very exciting! I will also be offering some space for sponsors in the right column. If you are interested in getting more eyes on your blog, sharing your crafty work, launching your book, etc. please email me and I will give you the details! ([email protected])

being all of our parts

Jen Gray, on the Shutter Sisters photo walk, SF, Canon Rebel Xti

I’ve been a little sister my whole life. First to my flesh and blood sister, and then later, unconsciously, as a role to play in the world. I am a petite girl, a mere 5 foot 3 on a good day, and have often been referred to as Little A, someone to pick up and spin around (I broke my leg this way once) and someone to take care of and give advice to. I am often attracted to friends who are older siblings in their family. It’s not a bad thing, just something I’ve noticed in the last few years something to question: How does it serve me? How does it keep me safe? Is there room to be that and more? What attachment do I have to this way of being in the world?

In my life coaching courses I began to see how much more of me there was to access. We did an exercise once where we had to be in character. The character had to be something completely outrageous to us, a way we didn’t identify with at all. My group chose Drill Sergeant for me and I was told to coach someone in that character. This was not about good coaching, but about exaggerating that persona and accessing new parts of yourself.

I happened to get paired up with a big man who was much older than me someone I would normally be intimidated by. My heart started pounding violently in my chest. I was nervous, but went for it and started yelling at him:

Me: So why are you really here Doug?!
Him: a bit flustered, Uh my coaching practice. I want to start my practice.
Me: (Still yelling) Oh yeah? Well, what do you want?
Him: Um to help people and make some money from doing something I love.
Me: Well isn’t that nice. How much money do you want to make?
Him: Oh, the money isn’t important to me. I haven’t even thought about it.
Me: Yes you have! You’re not doing this for your health! HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Him: $100,000 dollars this year!

When the exercise was over, I was relieved and totally apologetic. I was so afraid I had hurt him by being so harsh. But he grinned really wide and told me that was the best coaching session he had ever had in his life. You called me out in a way that no one ever has. I was trying so hard to be good, I didn’t even know what I wanted.

Although I would never choose to coach in quite this way, it opened something up in me and gave me access to a part that was buried under being polite and good and sweet the ways I survived in the world. In this world of the drill sergeant was a whole new kind of power.

Another skill I cultivated in my coaching training was around intuition. I have always been highly intuitive and deeply trusted this skill when it came to my own life. What I began to learn though, was that I could use it to serve others as well. We practiced the skill of blurting which was saying whatever came to mind as an observation to the client. It could be something like this: As you are talking I keep getting an image of a red wagon Or, My intuition tells me that you’re not telling me the whole story. What part are you afraid to share?

It wasn’t about being right. You could be wrong, but it always sparked something and challenged the client in a new way. I was also amazed by how often we would get an intuitive hit on someone that was exactly right. It’s amazing what we can see and know when we give someone our full attention and really listen.

As I unfold as a parent, I see where I am still afraid to step into my power. When Ben was first born, I was afraid to tell him what to do (stuff his flailing arms into the swaddle for example) or make executive decisions for him (circumcise? vaccinate?) this was of course my job! but it was such unfamiliar territory for me. Jen Lemen just reminded me of a tender conversation we had when Ben was a few months old. I can’t be the little sister anymore! I exclaimed. I have to be different

It’s good to remember that we don’t have to get it right every time, but the power is in listening deeply and trusting ourselves. There is also power in widening the range of who we get to be in the world. What parts of you don’t get expressed? Your sexy? Your soft? Your vulnerable? Your bad girl? What would be possible if she got a little airtime?

photo walk with the sisters

Gypsy Girl Alex , on the Shutter Sisters photo walk, SF, Canon Rebel Xti

One of the highlights of the weekend at Blogher was the Shutter Sisters photo walk. We wandered through Chinatown and found colorful umbrellas, gorgeous signs, lotus cakes and potstickers. I realized as we walked how long it had been since I had gone out with my camera for the sole purpose of seeing.

transmissions from Blogher

Maggie Mason, Jen Lemen, at the Alltop Kirtsy party, Canon Rebel Xti

typewriter at the Alltop Kirtsy party, Canon Rebel Xti

red lanterns, Guy Kawasaki’s house, at the Alltop Kirtsy, Canon Rebel Xti

Jen Lemen and me on the bus to the party, Canon Rebel Xti

These are pics from the kickoff party at Guy Kawasaki’s house last night. It was fancy! and fun and the backyard was surrounded by the most stunning circle of redwoods. But the best part was seeing my girls more photos as the weekend unfolds.

hiding out

self-portrait, top from All About Cute, Canon Rebel Xti

I rarely cry anymore.

While I was pregnant with Ben, I thought it was hormones. A gentle cocktail that left me feeling grounded, even, content. It was how I imagine being on an anti-depressant might feel, protected from the high highs and low lows of the world. After years of trying to conceive, it was a welcome respite. My theory was that I had cried my quota of tears, way too many, and I was done crying for a long while. I was all dried up.

But even now, 19 months later, I rarely cry. There is a way that I no longer have the indulgence of looking at my inner life like I used to. Sometimes this is a blessing focusing on this other life called Ben, on the immediacy of the moment and his needs (and not my own) protects me from my own mental drama. At best it keeps me from obsessing about things I can’t control and leaves me more present.

The down side is that I feel disconnected and confused a lot of the time. A simple question like, How are you? can disarm me. I find myself wondering where to look for the answer, How am I? and I’m never sure. I’ve trained myself to just say, Great! because if you don’t know, then why not? (and some people are just being polite and don’t really want to know how you are anyway) but somehow these simple questions stop me and point to some sadness in me, some ungreat part of me that I haven’t untangled yet.

I share this partly by way of an apology, or rather an acknowledgment. I haven’t been sharing as much here or as deeply. I’ve felt a bit more quiet and hidden, more like the superhero pendants I recently designed and not the bright bold superhero necklaces of before. Becoming a parent has left me feeling less visible in the world, tucked away a lot, not going out that much or wearing hottie clothes, feeling more simple and less shiny.

And I’m okay with this. It’s the being less visible to myself that concerns me. Have you ever gone through a period like this? When you didn’t have access to your deeper layers?

And then there’s the crying. It seems to happen only when I see a sad movie, and then I am sobbing in big gulps and my throat swells from trying to hold it back. Did any of you see Sex and the City? I cried my freakin eyes out. I cried during the movie, when I got home and even a week later when I talked about it with a friend. It opened the floodgates. I was like one of those dudes that never cries when they lose their parent and then 5 years later they find an old watch or something and they cry for three days straight.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. After trying to come up with some snappy post for several days I am going to have to satisfy myself with something from the heart. A snapshot of where I am today, a bit tangled up and a bit less shiny than normal.


Me pregnant with Ben way back when, Shutter Sisters founder Tracey Clark, Grace, at Blogher 06, Canon Rebel Xti

Who is coming to Blogher this year? I can’t wait to meet some of you hot chickies

Besides going to panels, cocktail parties and schmoozin with the girls, I will also be selling my jewelry at the lunchtime swap meet on Saturday afternoon.
Here are the deets:
During lunch, from [12:15][1:45] PM (following the Crafts/DIY meet-up)
Where: Olympic Room
Westin St. Francis, Second Floor
Who: Open to all BlogHer attendees

There will also be a Shutter Sisters photo walk on Saturday at 3:15-4:30. We will be strolling around downtown San Francisco capturing the odd, the beautiful, the shiny, the gritty Maybe we can even find that guy who paints himself silver and stands like a statue. ? As if that isn’t enough incentive, each participant will also be receiving a coupon for a free Blurb book. Wahoo! Haven’t you been wanting one?

Allow it

orange spools, SF, Canon Rebel Xti

And I would answer you that to prepare the
future is only to found the present.. for the sole true
invention is to decipher the present under its incoherent
aspects and its contradictory language You do not
have to foresee the future, but to allow it
-Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Having it all

cloud graffiiti, Puerto Rico, Canon Rebel Xti

Yesterday I was with a friend who is thinking about having kids. I found myself saying, It’s hard! then trying to balance that out with I mean it’s great! and then of course seeing how both are true. It’s that everything is cranked up so many notches. The great, the fun, the exasperating, the exhausted, the joy, the frustrating. All of it is in superdrive. It’s life to the nth power.

And as I recover from my latest childhood illness and see the spots finally begin to disappear, I am reminded of my own tendancy to superdrive it through life, do too much, and as my parents used to tell me constantly, burn the candle at both ends.

I like to think that this comes from having a passion for life, for learning, for seeing beauty and capturing it sometimes all I see is possibilities. I want to taste it all! To be a Nia master and a yogini, to learn spanish fluently in Barcelona, to have a hugely successful jewelry business, to be a fashion photographer, to travel the world, to write books, to learn to cook like my italian friend Viola. All the while having a soulful family life, balanced and relaxed, where we read a lot, play games with Ben and take long walks in the woods.

What I really want to say is that I haven’t figured out how to have it all just yet, but I want to believe it’s possible. And for me, I suspect it’s about agreeing to having it all eventually, just not all at once. It’s like a gorgeous meal where I want to taste everything, but I know if I put everything on my plate, I won’t be able to savor each delicious bit. And so comes the picking and choosing.

I am curious what having it all would be for you. What does having it all look like in your world?

Fart party inside

fridge magnets, home, Canon Rebel Xti

Driving down the street this week, I saw the best message written in the dust on the rear window of a minivan. FART PARTY INSIDE!!!

This totally made my day.

And inspired my Shutter Sisters photo challenge this week. Go check it out!