Posts filed under ‘Note to Self’

Not fixed. But not broken.

I was reading a blog last week when a bit of an epiphany struck.  I’m still working through it, but I thought I’d share the beginnings of it with you, nonetheless. 
On Fancy Pantalons, Elyssa Tardifwas reflecting on her recent retreat with Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God.   
She wrote that Roth had said at the beginning, “I’m not going to fix you.”
And then proceeded to reflect,
“Which meant, of course, that she wasn’t going to fix me, either. So I accepted rather begrudgingly the reality that I would have to put forth some effort on my own behalf. For two days, I proceeded to treat myself to Geneen’s wisdom, again and again (what else would you expect from a re-treat?), and Sunday afternoon, I emerged on the other side. Not fixed. But not broken.” 
And there, with those final two sentiments: Not fixed.  But not broken.  Something hit me.  A friend and I often reflect on how all of us have brokenness.  I even wrote a graduate school essay called “Blessing the Brokenness.”  The title, my grad school advisor wrote, is so cliche.  So, indeed, we’ve all been broken in some way.  But as I read Fancy’s blog post, it occurred to me that maybe that is the very point of life.  That we aren’t supposed to go through life unbroken, without challenge and sacrifice.  That maybe the whole point of life is exactly the brokenness, because that is the way our lessons are packaged and those lessons are the ladder rungs we climb to our next steps. 
After finishing the post, I wrote this as part of a comment on Elyssa’s blog: 
Maybe what we can most wish for in life is to be both not fixed, but not broken.  If we’re fixed, perhaps we quit living.  If we’re broken, perhaps the same.  Maybe it is in the between that we do our very best for ourselves and others.
And I have been thinking about that ever since.  How we wish so much to arrive at perfect, to arrive at total, complete satisfaction with everything- our selves, our home, our relationships, our work, our mission, our family, etc, but maybe, when we do that– wish for the arrival to the perfection of our imagining- what we are doing is losing sight on the journey that we are supposed to be on.  We don’t want to be so broken that we can’t thrive and grow but, perhaps, we don’t want to be so fixed that we quit aspiring that, instead, we just exist, an inhale and exhale without any fire in the belly.  I think maybe we are at our best- for ourselves and others- when we are in the in-between because that means we are at our most earnest, at our most willing, at our most engaged. 
Not fixed.  But not broken.   That sounds just about right somehow. 
What do you think? 

September 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

Operation Beautiful with Caitlyn Boyle

Earlier this year, I discovered Operation Beautiful and blogged about it here.  Earlier this summer, Operation Beautiful went from being a global project to also being a book.  Now, people everywhere can enjoy what the web-site has to offer and more in book size!  I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to meet Caitlyn Boyle, the author of Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-It Note at a Timewhen she so graciously came to speak to students in my body image class.  Caitlin is just as you imagine her– sunny, bright, refreshing– and so, knowing that y’all would love to know about Operation Beautiful and Caitlyn, I invited her to share some of her experience here.    

How did the Operation Beautiful project begin?     

I was having a very stressful day and wanted to do something nice for a stranger to lift my own spirits.  I wrote, “You are beautiful” on a Post-It and put it on a public bathroom mirror.  Then, I took a picture of the note and blogged about the experience at my personal blog,  The concept quickly went viral, and the rest is beautiful history! 

When and why did you decide to translate that project into a book?  

The site was noticed by a literary agent two months after it was launched (the site started in June 2009).  I never thought one post-it would become a website and a book.  I think it’s the natural progression of the site though because the book gives more details on how to lead a truly positive and healthy life – the Operation Beautiful lifestyle, if you will! 

What was your favorite part of writing Operation Beautiful?   

It feels amazing to know that I am part of something so much bigger than myself.  The site wouldn’t exist without all these wonderful people who want to make the world a better place.  It’s awesome to be the one who gets to write about it everyday.

What would you say to encourage someone to try and live with more greater self-compassion?  

There is more goodness in the world than you know, and one small act can have a HUGE impact on another person.  There is no limit to the impact that your greatness can have.

Some issues we discuss on a regular basis on this blog are self-awareness and community engagement.  Given that, what community issues most speak to you?  There is a lot of negative messaging in our society.  The biggest mistake we make is beating ourselves up for not looking like models or celebrities.  99% of images in magazines are photoshopped in some way.  It’s time we stop emulating or striving for a type of perfection that doesn’t even exist in the real world.  It’s OK to look like a human!   If you have a negative thought, replace it with a positive, realistic thought. Consciously correct yourself if you engage in “Fat Talk.” Posting Operation Beautiful notes can also lift your spirits!                         

 And what do you most appreciate about yourself?     I really surprise myself with my drive and ambition.  I never knew I had this in me! :) Running the site and writing the book has made me a more gracious, accepting person.  There are so many different, wonderful, and amazing women out there with great stories.  There is truly beauty in all of us.                                                                                                                                                              

What do you wish all women knew? I wish all women realized how infinitely powerful, wonderful, and beautiful they really are – inside and out.

September 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm 1 comment

NPR and the Yard

As Happy and I were driving in the car on Tuesday morning, I had this concrete memory of a moment in the car with my dad when I was in high school. 

You see, Happy was in the backseat complaining about NPR, imploring me to put on music.  This was exactly what I would be thinking when my dad would pick me up from my job at one of the mall’s department store (where I sold those triangle-labeled, zippered leg Guess jeans that were all the rage). 

And, so, just as we were coming around the curve next to the mall movie theatre (the same movie theatre where I had met my 8th grade boyfriend, unbeknownst to my parents, kissed him during that Cher movie Moon something, and then dashed across the street to the mall to feign that I had been there all along; only to later discover that in the dashing across the street, my glasses that I had been hiding bounced out of my sweater pocked and got run over by a car.  This story is the one I will tell Happy one day when I am stressing the value of not lying to your parents), I had this thought, “You are old when you listen to NPR and care about the yard.” 

Fast forward to today when my two year old is so over NPR that he’s hollering for music in the backseat, and my mind flashes back to my dad’s cherry red Mitsubishi Cordia and my teenage mind being bored beyond measure with the idea of an adulthood stuck caring about the news and the yard.  Twenty years later, I care deeply about the news and, yet, I can barely muster a look towards the yard.  I want to care about the yard.  It’s something I think I should care about.  I just can’t do it. 

Anyway, I posted on my Facebook wall about the NPR and the yard and getting old and all that and that sparked an interesting discussion that I thought I would bring here because it was so fun there.   So, here’s the question:

What did you think made one “old” when you were young?  And given your standards then, are you “old” now?

September 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm 1 comment

The woman who lives in my house

The woman who lives in my house runs with her dog every morning.  She loves the quiet of that time and loses herself in thought or the book she’s listening to and never even realizes that an hour has passed of hard work.  Back home, she slips back into the house, quiet, undetected, and eats yogurt and homemade granola or a fruit-filled oat wheat muffin she’s whipped up or slow cooked oatmeal (not instant).  She showers, throws on a simple dress and clogs, and braids the hair that falls down her back.  She reads the paper, fills her head up with ideas and information, and then sings- in a melodious voice- her baby awake.  She has enough energy all day to meet her son’s needs while doing her work and is creative to boot.  At night, she’s not too tired or brain dead to make an interesting, from scratch meal from the veggies she’s grown in her back yard.  After one final round of playing outside, she easily and efficiently gets her son down before retiring to the front porch to rock or swing while reading some great book that has been hard for her to put down during the daytime.  

For years, I met running buddies at the local YMCA to run first thing each morning.  A few streets away from the Y, we’d take a turn down an oak-lined street whose families had lived there for decades and kept horses and cows in their backyards, despite the proximity to town.  Just as we’d come to this one little cottage with its four big oaks, I’d sigh.  

“I love that house,” I’d tell whoever I was running with and because I am a storyteller, because my imagination is always ready to paint a picture, I couldn’t help but imagine the woman that lived in that house.  The woman who lived in the cottage was strong and athletic and simple and accessible and down to earth and earthy and always had flowers on her table.  She was a good cook, but not fussy over what she put on the table.  She wanted it to taste good, not look a certain way.  She was a good neighbor, sharing zucchini fritters and extra eggplant and eggs with the neighbor.  She spent a lot of time outside, gardening and painting, sitting in the grass to grade papers or write thank you notes.  She could keep up a flower bed and loved the sight of February’s daffodils because they revealed promise for what was to come.  She almost always had a pot of soup on the stove through winter.  In the summer, she napped on the backyard hammock.  She rode her bike to town if she was in a hurry, but her schedule was usually well-maintained enough that she had time to walk to town, instead.    

Then the woman who lived in that house became me. 

Just the other day, a friend was telling me that the little cottage was the house she imagined herself living in it, and that there was a whole life she would be living if she did. 

“Yes,” I exclaimed, knowing exactly what she meant, and then I told her all about the woman who lived in my house.  Or is supposed to live in my house.  Because I do not run for an hour without realizing it.  I run for five minutes  and am aware of every second of it.  My garden, planted with seeds this year, never took off, and I have so much stuff still on my to do list at night that I return to my desk as soon as the littlest kid (who sweetly asks me to sing more to him even though my tunes are not melodious) is down.  I can count the times I sat on the porch this summer with two hands.  I do take zucchini fritters and bread and muffins to the neighbors (check), but I haven’t painted in years, after spending a few years painting gifts for everyone around me, including all of my sister’s wedding thank you notes.  My supplies are somewhere in our attic, long dried out from heat, I’m sure.  Those four great oaks keep much else from growing on the lawn of the cottage, even grass, and sometimes, I’d sink into the hammock so terribly off balance that it threw me onto the yard so I quit trying.  And though I spent hours of each day on my bike for years, my bike tires haven’t been filled with air since the little kid took up residence in the house, too.

But talking to my friend made me realize that I get to decide whether or not the woman who lives in my house actually does live in my house.  And so I decided that she does, though she has shed a few of the things that were weighing her down in my last imagining of her.  The very next day after that conversation, the woman who lives in my house really did get up to run with her dog by her side (I haven’t done this in years, the dog must have been thinking.  And because the woman was listening to The Art of Racing in the Rain (which is told from the family dog’s perspective), the woman is now fairly certain that her dog very concretely thinks and opines).  She came home forty minutes later surprised that forty minutes had passed and that she had run that long (the book on tape definitely  helped).  She made (instant) oatmeal and gobbled down an apple, and then greeted her baby with a big grin before riding the post runner’s high into her three hour teaching spiel on day 2 of class.  When her little kid went to sleep, she did, too, because she really didn’t feel like scratching one more thing off her list.  And just before she feel asleep, she reminded herself that she could always choose to be the woman who lived in her house because it was, indeed, after all those years of running past it and all these years of driving up to it each day, her house.  And even one day in the future, when the littlest cottage is no longer her house, she can still be that woman.  Because it is all really about what we imagine and decide for ourselves everyday.   

So, who’s the woman that “lives in your house”, what’s her story, and has she made an appearance lately?  What is holding her back from taking residence?

September 5, 2010 at 7:48 pm 3 comments

a little sunshine

Thought I’d offer a quick Sunshine Project Update.  When I remember to fill out the chart , it’s a great tool for me to make sure that I deliberately include things that I really enjoy or that give me a spark into each day (and that list has grown from your suggestions and from remembering things that I enjoy).  Most days, I am able to squeeze in more than five things into my day but I just stop at five once I’ve gotten those down because I just want to focus on getting the five sunshiney things in, anything else is bonus.  Below is the chart that takes me from last Thursday through this Monday. 

Are you doing  the Sunshine Project or a version of it?  If so, how is it going for you?    

Sunshine Project 

  #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

8 hours of sleep


Playing with Happy


Talking to a friend




Reading a good book


Celebrating Life




Cooking at home/ Fresh Food  


Time with someone special


Taking photographs




8 hours of sleep


Dressing up




Being productive




Playing with Happy/ Celebrating Life  




Watching Football


Taking photographs


Reading a good book




Playing with Happy


Driving in the Countryside


Early morning walk


8 hours of sleep*  Solitude*  Early morning walk*  Reading a good book*  Listening to good music*  Sleeping in*  Time at the ocean*  Yoga*  Meditation/Prayer*  Fresh food* Cooking at home*  Being creative just to be creative* Downsizing*  Change of scenery*  Hot Tea* Talking to a friend* Playing with Happy*  Sunshine*  Cardio*  Lifting Weights*  Watching football*  A New Challenge* Driving in the countryside*  Nap*  Dressing Up*  Being Kind, Helpful* Being Productive*  Time with Someone Special* Weeding* Organizing * Taking photographs* Being in nature* Laughing* Stretching* Massage* Teaching* Celebrating Life

August 30, 2010 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

As if…

Years ago, I spotted a Maxine or Cathy cartoon where the main character (Cathy or Maxine) was slumped dramtically on the couch, perhaps there was something like chocolate just out of reach, and the caption read, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  I think I am Cathy. Or Maxine.  And I bet a lot of you identify with me. 

Yesterday, a good friend and I took our boys on a field trip.  The field trip involved some driving time and so we had an opportunity to just let conversation unravel (when does that happen?) and take us wherever our (my) sometimes non-sequitor thoughts wanted to go.  And I finally placed my hand on the pulse point of something. 

First, some background…

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a woman who was asking me to speak at an event.  Sure, I said, and we went through all the details.  As we went to get off the phone, I said, “Thank you, David.”  Now, do any of you know any women named David?  Me neither.  I apologized all over myself and all I could think of as we were getting off the phone was, “I bet that gave her a lot of confidence about having me speak at her conference.” 

A few days later, I was talking to a woman that I don’t really know about African hair.  She was asking what we do for Happy’s hair and telling me that her friend who had adopted a child from Ethiopia was having a hard time finding a barber.  We have a friend who has adopted an Ethiopian boy who lives in their city, and they, too, had a hard time finding a barber but, finally, did.  I mentioned that I would be happy to help link the two families up as her friend might finally be able to find a bartender.  Yep, you read that right.  I suggested a bartender for that woman’s problems and not a barber.    

I’ve never been flakey and yet… the tiredness I feel since becoming a mom is unlike anything I’ve ever known.  While I love being Happy’s mom (because, seriously, how could I not), I do miss the effervescene, spirit, pluck, efficiency, focus, generosity, thoughtfulness that I once had.  Especially because those traits weren’t just ones that I enjoyed, they were ones that I felt really defined who I was, how I was in the world. 

Fairly often, I get an email inviting me to do something.  Half the time, it’s something I want to do, I feel called to do.  Half the time, it’s not.  When it’s not, it’s not so hard to say no.  I mean, I have a finite amount of time available and already can’t do what I want in it, how can I say yes to something that I don’t want to do.  You all know this situation, too.  But when it’s something I want to do, I struggle.  Because I want to do it, I feel called to do it, it’s something that jives with who I am as a person.  And so I say yes.  And then, often, the night before, I think, “Why did I get myself into this…” and that’s the tiredness talking.  Because they next day, I do it, and I love it and, just for a moment, I see a glimmer of the girl I used to be.  And I am so happy to see her, to see a shade of myself, that I almost want to cry in joy, relief, and maybe a little sadness, too.  And I am so happy to have had a moment where I could most be the person that I want to be.   

As my friend, Jen, and I were driving down the road on our field trip, I said, “I want to be the woman after the event who is excited and happy that she did it, not the one the day before that is dreading why she signed up.”   

Sometimes, I wonder if a week at some spa with early bedtimes, late wake-up times and loads of self-care would solve the problem, would bring me back to myself.  But I think all that would happen is that I would return home to my life of working at home while raising a child at home and the depletion would just return.  I thought that going vegetarian might help, but not really in any dramatic way.  I think it just is what it is for the duration, ya know.  It’s a new normal that I have to adapt to, that so many of us have had to adapt to over generations. 

Earlier in our drive, Jen and I had talked a little about Beautiful You and some of the exercises in it.  She asked if I do them now.  And some I do and some I don’t– but many of them I have had to do over time to get to where I am in terms of understanding that my body’s appearance doesn’t define me.  But, over the years, I have so confidently come to understand that the person within defines me and now, with the exhaustion and with the busy-ness, I am not quite certain about this person within.  When Jen asked me about using the Beautiful You premises, I was reminded of what I need to do to cure what ails me internally.  I want that spark back.  I need that spark back.  And, sometimes, just acting “As If” can get you there.  So today, tomorrow, next week, next month, I am acting as if.  As if I already have all the energy I need.  As if I already have all the rest I need.  As if the personality that used to come effortlessly to me still does.  Because the only way I can get it back is to be it.  I have decided that instead of missing the woman I used to be, I am just going to be her. 

How about you?  Any ways that you are acting as if these days?

July 30, 2010 at 7:44 am 4 comments

What I always want to remember as a parent

“We are all just one phone call away from living a totally different life,” said Kelly Corrigan at a speaking event I went to last week (you might remember that I recommended The Middle Place a couple years ago and her newest book is an equally good read called Lift). 

Too often, those phone calls are tragic.  They bear news of children or parents lost too young or cancer or some other unthinkable tragedy.  But when Kelly said those words, my mind went instead to the phone call that we received that changed our lives just two summers ago.  The phone call that let us know—though we had only decided a few weeks before that we were ready to start a family but by ready to start a family, we meant after we traveled to Italy and Alaska and renovated the little cottage that could (so ready to start a family in 2010, we thought)— there was a baby boy in Africa who was the son we were waiting for.  He was born just weeks before, perhaps even the same day that we were walking on the beach saying, “alright, let’s go for it.”  And since that phone call, every decision we have made has been with Happy and his needs in mind. 

Corrigan talked a good deal about parenthood during her visit and much of it reminded me of basic tenets I want to hold both true and at the forefront of my mind as I parent the irrepressible boy that Happy is.   She talked about how when she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, she called her parents and she knew that they would come because that’s what parents do.  May I always be a parent who comes. 

She said “what a bold and dangerous thing it is to love a child.”  May I always remember the gift, the opportunity that I have been given — chosen, at what might seem like random but what I know was inspired– to parent Happy.       

And though we can’t “live at altitude,” as Kelly said, that space above our grounded Earthen existence that lets us always keep things in perspective, may I always remember that my job as a parent is to give Happy a “run at happiness.”  He’s there now, yes, but may BF and I always do the hard work to help him make the choices that will keep him there and do the emotional work that will help him process difficult experience and climb out of it with a gift and not just a wound.

May 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm 1 comment

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What does it mean to be beautiful in America? For years, pop culture has insisted that beautiful women are tall, thin, and blonde. So what do you do if your mirror reflects olive skin, raven hair, and a short build? Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina offers a provocative account of the struggles and triumphs of Latina forced to reconcile these conflicting realities. Rosie Molinary combines her own experience with the voices of hundreds of Latinas who grew up in the US navigating issues of gender, image, and sexuality. This empathetic ethnography exemplifies the ways in which our experiences are both profoundly individualistic and comfortingly universal.
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