For Now You’re Doing Exactly What You Should Be Doing

CarlyDoYou

Sometimes all we need is a reminder. A sign that we need to chill out and just keep going. Quit overanalyzing everything because what will happen, will happen. And it will be great.

I was sitting in my Thursday evening Summer class, lazily typing notes on my computer while the professor droned on, when a group iMessage from my Mom popped onto my screen.

 

She and my father had just redone their back deck and had been anxiously awaiting the delivery of their new fire pit. After three weeks of delays, it finally arrived and she sent a photo letting us know.

 

I felt that familiar pang of jealousy over the fact that I was sitting in a classroom on a beautiful Summer night while my mother sat on her new back deck enjoying a glass of wine and a dancing fire. Blah.

Just then, my Mom’s best friend chimed in with a joke about what a shame it was that the wine glass in the picture looked half empty, and look at what she’s doing this evening. What followed was a photo of a beautiful sunset on the beach of their South Carolina home. Double blah.

In an effort to one-up them (ha!) I chimed in that I was officially jealous of them and explained that I was sitting in a boring class listening to a classmate’s presentation about Egypt’s economy. He read every. Single. Word. On his presentation slides.

Just then, my Mom’s friend messaged me privately:
     Friend: “I am sooo sorry to hear of your dilemma. Completely understand

                 though. I’ve been there. Hang in…… Xoxo”

     Me: “Haha it’s not that bad in general. Just bad relative to what you guys are
            doing!”
     Friend: “I understand. Someday you’ll do the same, but for now you’re doing

                exactly what you should be doing!!”

Pause.
Oh my goodness.

Yes. I am.

I am doing exactly what I should be doing.

I’m 28 years old, working full-time and working towards two Master’s degrees in grad school on a part-time basis. I’m helping to empower young professional women in my city through our Levo League chapter. I’m trying my hardest to be the best daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, and pet-mama I can be. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.

Instead of getting jealous that I wasn’t enjoying my own glass of wine and fire pit, or my own beautiful sunset on the beach, I stashed those experiences on my “Life To-Do” list and made a promise to myself to be there at some point in my life.

But first, it’s time to enjoy the now. To bask in doing exactly what I should be doing.


CarlyHeadshotWITH LOVE FROM

Carly, Do-er, self-push-er, and Elevate 2014 Sister Carly is a do-er and activator who lives by the phrase, “Don’t you ever wonder how far you can push yourself?” She pushes herself daily by working towards her concurrent MA/MBA degree, leading the Pittsburgh Local Levo chapter and competing as a flourishing tenor drummer in a competition bagpipe band all while holding down a full time job. Her free time (haha!) is spent snuggling with her doggie-child, Nessie, connecting with others on Twitter (@carlyraepgh) and binge-watching HBO and Netflix with a glass (or bottle…) of wine..

Running a Business as a Work at Home Mama

Running a Business as a Work from Home Mother

I run a successful coaching practice from home. I have a two year old (Max) and a four month old (Juliet.) I have a nanny working 20-30 hours a week. I have a supportive awesome husband.

And I am totally wearing slippers and yoga pants right now.

Want to know how it all comes together?

Watch the video.

(and click to tweet!)

I created this video for Kate at Your Courageous Life for a book she is compiling about running a business and raising babies!

I did my best to honestly answer the questions she posed about guilt, time management, support and priorities in my own world.

As soon as she release the free book, I’ll link it up!

I wanted you to see the real deal, so I didn’t do anything differently for this video than I do in my daily routine — this is the wet hair, 2 minute make up (bb cream, mascara, and burts bees tinted chapstick) and still unpacked office that is typical of my work-at-home status. My nanny, Tawny, took the kids to the park so I could get through this without interruption (as she does often!) otherwise we might have had a surprise visit from a red-cheeked toddler with his helmet on needing a hug or a screeching hungry baby girl needing the boob.

Funny how vulnerable I feel doing video without the right lighting, make up, and full night of sleep.

But for you mamas out there, I didn’t want to pretend that things were any different then they are.

And right now, I still need to pack for our 3 week trip to Washington, coach an Elevate Mastermind Client, make dinner, figure out where my car tabs are, confirm reservations for a night at the spa with my sister and mom, and book flights to Asheville.

I’m prioritizing getting this less-than-glamourous video posted instead of worrying that you’re all going to judge me for being a bit disheveled.

Everyone’s version of “doing it all” is unique — I hope you enjoy this intimate glimpse into mine.

XOXO

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p.s. We are still experimenting with my hair color… I’m trying to return to my natural dark dirty blonde and I keep ending up a red head as the brunette lifts. If anyone has tips for me, please share!

The Truth About Finding Your Own Thing

RiseAndBe

When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up their answers are endearing. Fast forward and ask a twenty-something and it’s more like cue all the anxiety. At what point in life does the question of what you want to be start being followed by an uncomfortable “No seriously…” (never mind that what we do somehow became who we are).

Is it when you’re a fresh-faced 18 year-old off to conquer the world and your parents are a little overly excited about your future (AKA regaining their financial independence)? Is it during your first interview when you’re asked where you see yourself in 5 years? Or is it when someone innocently asks you as a way to cue up conversation? Either way, it’s pretty obvious that while “superhero” is cute at 5 years old, it’s unacceptable when you hit double digits.

I always had it in my mind that when I found my calling in life I would just know (Hint: It’s not after the so-called quarter life crisis, which I now believe just merges into the mid-life crisis, then maybe ends?…Anyone? Anyone?).

Being easily distracted by all the bright, shiny things, it was important for me to believe that if I kept looking I would finally find it. So when I was down on myself for feeling like I’d been chasing something that didn’t fit yet again, Molly asked me what I thought it felt like to “find your thing”. How did I think all these people I’ve identified as “doing their thing” feel about it?

I imagined it to be like finding “The One”.  That when found, these successful, happy, owning it entrepreneurs must feel connected and passionate, just bursting with creative awesomeness every day. That they’re living life turned “on”.

Obviously I’m very realistic with my idea of finding your thing.

The problem was drawing a comparison to every one else’s highlight reel and brainwashing myself into thinking there really is only one thing I’m meant to do with my life. Both fallacies set me up for failure.

 Because comparison is the thief of all joy, y’all (insert all the quotes).

But more importantly, who says we’re meant to be only one thing? The reality is that all of us have hundreds of skills, passions and definitions of who we are and what we want to do throughout our lives. It would be obscenely boring if there was truly only one perfectly defined checkbox of who we’re meant to be, a box that we are expected to discover sooner rather than later in life. This idea is just begging to welcome all kinds of dissatisfaction. And while a healthy does of dissatisfaction can be good, that’s only if it’s served with an equally healthy dose of self-love.

It’s important to acknowledge this unrest as the pursuit of evolution, not definition.

If you feel like you don’t know your next move, much less what you want to do with your life, rather than feeling dejected or giving up, use this as a reminder your path is meant to be evolving. Let go of the belief that you have to find “your thing” and instead embrace your “thing for right now”. Spend time discovering who you want to be and trust it will lead you to what you’re meant to do.

A great exercise Molly uses to open our hearts and minds to who we are is to free write without stopping, editing or judging for one minute. We write as if someone were to give an introduction to who we are. Next set the timer for another minute and rewrite the introduction, but this time not using any of the definitions included in the previous example. Then again. And again until you start to feel comfortable accepting your own limitless potential.

I love this exercise because I can feel myself start to shift and expand the mold I’ve subconsciously been using to restrict myself. It takes the pressure and stress from trying to pick this one great path and gives us permission to fully immerse ourselves in the path of right now. At the same time it allows us to acknowledge the many paths we may want to explore, permitting them to be opportunities we may tap into in the future, or even to use as guideposts that help our next thing emerge.

 So go ahead, this is your permission to grab a pen and paper and just be.

 

 

Mallory200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Mallory, soon-to-be-mama and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Mallory is a dreamer, a seeker of inspiration and curator of life’s beauty. A researcher by day, professional pinner by night, she’s often distracted by shiny things and has marked 2014 as the year to end her 90% completion streak starting with giving birth to Zee Shrimpress and launching the first addition to her multrepreneur portfolio – a luxury baby boutique – because who doesn’t love ridiculously cute, tiny things?  When not honing her mad visualization skills with Zee Hubs, she can be found celebrating a circular life in Los Angeles with Puffin Muffin (puppy) and Skittler (cat).

The Joy of Surprising Yourself – and Others – with Who You Really Are

Surprising

This past weekend, at almost 35 weeks pregnant, I drove to Vancouver for the SeaWheeze Half Marathon and walked 13.1 miles.

Was this planned? No.

Did I train for it? No.

What happened was I got up Thursday morning, decided to try and walk 5 miles, and when I did so successfully, I figured I might as well give the half marathon course a shot. Maybe I’d get 7 miles in and have a story to tell my son someday: “I didn’t walk the whole thing, buddy,” I’d say, showing him a picture of me at mile-marker 7, “but I did show up and I put forth my best effort. And that’s what’s most important.”

And yeah, I do believe that’s true. Just showing up can be—for me, at least—the hardest part. I signed up for this race back in January, before I even knew this little life would be accompanying every step I take. When I found out I was pregnant, I knew my plans of running were shot. Even the thought of walking it? Crazy talk.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been the cautious, look-before-you-leap, rule-following type.

Even as a child, I wanted things to be black and white and as painless as possible. The idea of walking a half marathon (at 8 months pregnant) is not something that jibes well with my personality…at all. First, you’re supposed to train to RUN a half marathon. Who wants to be the girl walking at the back? Not only that – is walking even ALLOWED?

I was worried I might get in trouble. (I kid you not; this is how my brain works.) Second, pregnant women (especially in the third trimester) are supposed to take it easy. What if I gave birth in the middle of Stanley Park? What if all this childbirthing prep with my team of midwives was for naught and my sweet little boy was welcomed into the world by an Australian medic on a bicycle who doesn’t know the first thing about labor? (Ok, that’s cheating, I didn’t imagine this person beforehand, she’s actually someone I met on the course…who told me to please not give birth along the sea wall of Stanley Park because she was not trained in midwifery.) And third, walking from the house to the car is enough to make my pelvic bones sigh in agony. Why would I put myself through the pain?

Well, the simple answer, I think, is because I woke up on Saturday morning believing I could walk a long distance and be safe. Believing I could breathe through the pain. Believing this was something I had to try, if only to prove to myself that I have the courage to try something I never before would have believed I could do.

The more complex answer has to do with the matter of childbirth. Um, hello – that’s happening in less than five weeks. This body has to give birth to a tiny human (with, we are assuming, a rather large head, given the size of his parents’ skulls, Lord help me). I’ve always known I wanted to have kids, but when it came to the subject of birthing said kids, I always chose the route of denial, the route of “yeah, well, I guess we’ll deal with that when the time comes…” Well, friends, the time is upon us. This kid is coming whether I’m ready or not.

And sadly, when it comes to pain, I’m kind of a wuss. I prefer the terms “low pain threshold” or “highly sensitive person,” but who are we kidding, I cry when I stub my toe and want my husband to kiss it (my husband, a physician trained in emergency medicine, does not, in fact, kiss my boo-boos, which is probably best for the both of us). Once, when I was three, I tripped on the sidewalk, skinned both my knees, scared the neighbors with my screams, and very earnestly asked my mother if I was, in fact, going to die. This is what we’re dealing with here.

So, anytime the topic of childbirth came up between my mom and me, the message was clear: there’s no shame in getting an epidural.

And thank goodness for my mom’s wisdom, because I still hold that statement to be true. There is no shame in any way a woman chooses to give birth to her child. Only she knows her body and her history, and I am not one to judge either way.

But here’s the thing: when I first got pregnant, I was pretty convinced on the day of labor I’d march into the hospital and demand the drugs: “Give them to me now and do with me what you will!” The sentiment was just get this dang thing out of me. But I have to tell you, over the past 8 months, something has changed within me. Spending time with this new little love and watching my body metamorphose into a living, breathing cocoon for his body to be knit together has been the most beautiful, empowering thing. (I know, I know – some of you are probably humming “pregnant women are smug” right about now, and I’m SORRY. I really am. You can skip this part if you like.)

The more I get to know this new body of mine and the more I read about birthing and breathing and the beautiful design of a woman’s body to bring new life into the world, the more confidence I have that I CAN DO THIS. No longer do I want to march in and throw my life and the baby’s life exclusively into the hands of a doctor. I want to be an active participant, working with my midwife and team of nurses to create the best environment we can to facilitate the birth of my son.

But friends, I will be the first to tell you that this does not necessarily mean I will give birth without drugs. Or that I won’t end up with a C-section. Or that I will be disappointed in myself if I do march in and demand the needle just as soon as the anesthesiologist can get his butt in gear, any more than I would have been on Saturday if I had walked 5 or 7 miles rather than 13. Medical interventions and the care of good doctors are not something to be ashamed of, nor is non-medicated birth an issue of courage over fear. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But for me, it’s an opportunity to try something I never thought I would, or could. And I think I want to take it.

My word this year was “Flourish,” and the main sentiment behind the choice was that I wanted to lean into being more of who I truly am, unafraid of surprising or disappointing others if I acted or spoke in ways they aren’t accustomed to. And while I have to chuckle at the reaction some family members have had in the wake of some of my decisions (mostly pride mixed with disbelief), what’s even more illuminating is the way I have continued to surprise myself.

As introspective as I am, I thought I knew myself pretty well (INFJ, Enneagram 4, harmony-seeking koala FTW!). But in the past few months I’ve heard myself saying “I might be a crazy person, but I think I might try to….” more times than I’ve ever said in my entire lifetime (even more times than during my semester abroad in Sydney, which included skydiving, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, camping in the outback, and kissing Midwestern boys, just so we are clear). For some reason I feel it’s necessary to add a disclaimer to all I’m attempting to accomplish as crazy in their scope, apologizing, almost, for taking the path less expected. And yet I am deeply, passionately committed to seeing what kinds of creative solutions I can come up with to accomplish all that is burning in my soul.

But maybe I’m not crazy.

Maybe I am more ambitious than I ever knew.

Maybe I just hadn’t tapped into the things that were most important to me.

And most beautiful?

Maybe I don’t need to apologize for who I am and who I am becoming: a baby-toting, grad-school attending mama with a book manuscript stirring within her.

(Click to Tweet)

I tend to believe that God created each one of us uniquely with the opportunity to grow more into who we are meant to be, if only we stop holding on so tightly to what or who we think we are supposed to be, or what the world wants from us. It’s so clear to me that this year has been one of awakening, of pushing boundaries, of opening doors, and of continually asking the question, “Well, why not?”

Because maybe, just maybe, sometimes just showing up with an open mind and open heart are all you need to finish that race.

 

WITH LOVE FROM

ECurlettElevate (1)

Erin, Adventurer, Storyteller, and Army Wife

Erin grew up in three different countries, leading her to embrace her role as a third culture kid: she loves airports, hates small talk, and feels more at home in a book than in any specific place. Lover of peppermint tea, alpine slides, Stephen King novels, hot yoga, Cadbury chocolate, and karaoke; devoted yet sometimes reluctant follower of Jesus; she lives with her husband, Tim, and their crazy ragamuffin cat, Opal, in a charming blue house in Tacoma, WA. Watch out: she’s bitey (the cat, not Erin).

 

An Ode To Turning 32

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By the time you are reading this, I will have turned 32.

What the hell, people! How did that even happen?

As a kid, I remember wanting to get older as fast as possible: to mature, to drive, and let’s face it, to be in charge. I pushed through high school, college and graduate school with a list of interesting assumptions of what I ‘had’ to do to succeed. I took all the ‘right’ classes, interned, participated in appropriate extracurricular activities (Band of the Fighting Irish, yo), crafted resumes, ordered business cards, and kept plotting each step forward. During that time, I traveled to 15 countries, earned two degrees, fell in love three times, had my heart broken once, moved to four different cities, bought a condo, and worked three internships and two real jobs.

Those interesting assumptions were sometimes right, and sometimes they were incredibly wrong. Yes, I did need good grades and references to get into my graduate program, but no, I do not need to be a political appointee already. Yes, learning a foreign language was helpful in getting a job in foreign policy, but, no, I do not want to live in another country for long periods of time. Yes, I do need to eat mindfully and exercise to maintain my health, but, no, having MS or being curvy does not mean no one will ever love me. Looking back, my youthful idealism, as well as my stubbornness, led to so many adventures, but I am sure that I did not fully appreciate it when they happened.  So, in honor of finally being my so-called ‘dream’ age, and since the blog-o-sphere is obsessed with lists, may I present to you, in no particular order…

Ode to 32: 32 reasons to love being 32.

1. Having my own space: I was able to buy a condo in Northern Virginia right as the housing market crashed, before federal government-imposed mortgage regulations, and right before the stock market tanked. Right place, right time FTW.

2. Schools out: Yay for being finished with college and graduate school, or really any education needed to qualify for jobs here in Washington, DC. Now I can go back for my PhD when I want to… if I want to.

3. I can buy my own drinks: Beyond the financial capacity, I don’t need someone else to ply me with alcohol to feel loved.  I’m getting comfortable in my own skin, and I’m finding my sense of belonging within my soul. Plus, it’s just cheaper to buy the bottle and drink with friends at home.

4. New priorities: In my 20s, my top priorities were: lose weight, get good grades, get a good job, and get a boyfriend (pretty much in that order). Going into my 32nd year, my priorities have changed and/or matured, including manage stress, go to yoga, run a marathon, develop better body image, and love more.

5. Nordstrom: I have always been a big girl. From my early teens until graduate school, I skipped the teen sizes for clothing, first to ‘misses’ and then to the maligned ‘plus-size’ section.  I hated myself for being that big and I hated shopping because the size labels were proof I didn’t belong (and, maybe, not worthy). When I lost a lot of weight in my late 20s, I still hated shopping. I continued to hate shopping until this year, when I found Nordstrom and their (now) free personal shopper service. Go do it. It’ll change everything.

6. All of the books: I’ve always loved reading. I would go to the library and check out five or six books at a time as a kid. I love that it’s ‘cool’ for old folks like me to read young adult fiction like The Hunger Games, The Giver, and/or The Fault in Our Stars. Plus, we still have our amazing ‘adult’ authors like Jennifer Weiner and Gillian Flynn, and so many more.

7. Wearing Hello Kitty jewelry: It’s ok! I promise. It’s gives my otherwise dull business suit a fresh vibe. Yes, that’s it.

8. Not quite cynical, not quite naive: The 30+ version of “Not A Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” I’m old enough to not trust everyone at their word or go against my gut instinct, but I’m not quite jaded enough to stop getting excited about Christmas, birthdays, sea otters, and romance.

9. Skills: After 32 years of emotional highs and lows, I have devloped a fair amount of skills to handle life as it comes my way. Less Hulk smash, more inhale, count to five, exhale, repeat. Even the Hulk can do yoga.

10. DSW: Enough said.

11. Knowing enough about what I want: Whether it’s going through that last bad relationship or quitting a job, I’ve had enough experiences to say “yes, I do want to make out with you” or “no, I don’t want to analyze spreadsheets all day.”

12. Fun leather jackets: You can wear them to work. Even in the U.S. Government.

13. Lingerie: so, there are other lingerie stores than Victoria’s Secret? And they fit all kinds of sizes? and they don’t shame your body? Lingerie for everyone!

14. Seeing the world: when you’re one of those over educated, over opinionated, under loved women, there’s a lot of time to see the world and soul search. I have been to some pretty crazy places in my 32 years, and each place left its mark on my psyche.

15. Not having it all: When I was in college, I thought ‘having it all’ meant working long days and wearing stiff business suits. Now, I feel like I’ve have ‘it’ when my training run feels easy or it’s a beautiful day outside and I get to walk around my favorite spots in DC.

16. Gettin’ it done: With #15 in mind, there’s still plenty of time to get what I want accomplished. Hello Marine Corps Marathon, don’t mind if I do.

17. Dance clubs vs. Netflix: In my 20s, going out on Friday and Saturday felt like an obligation. The “you’ll never be this young and free again!!!” mantra, if you will. But in the past two years, I’ve stayed home , got up early to run 10 miles the next morning, took a nap, and then danced all night until 2am. It’s amazing.

18. Looking distinguished: People stop asking you if you’re an intern when you wear your hair in a ponytail. It’s liberating.

19. Dream guy: While I’ve always prioritized any guy’s sense of humor when considering a relationship, more superficial aspects were far more important five years ago. Now, funny, smart, and kind are crucial while tall, fancy job, and extroverted are nice but unnecessary.

20. Responsibility: My nomadic lifestyle provided valuable experiences, but they didn’t allow for tons of personal responsibility. Now, I can reminisce on my work trip to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa while making sure my plants stay alive. (RIP 15 basil plants, never forget)

21. Professionalism: Essentially, I’ve mastered the art of mentally cursing out the moron in front of me while smiling and saying “thanks for your insight and I’ll take that back to my leadership.”

22. Yoga: I am the quintessential Arlington yuppie (but with an American instead of a German car… shhh, no one tell or they’ll kick me out). I found a great yoga studio and community, and I drop phrases like “authentic voice,” “breathe,” and “true self” into everyday conversations. My defense colleagues look at me funny every time.

23. Confidence: Perhaps because of yoga, I’m far more confident in my everyday life than I was 10 years ago. I’m still a work in progress, so I guess I’ll keep going to class.

24. 90s music: I have a weird ability to remember song lyrics and when I heard the song first.  If I could forget the lyrics to NSYNC or Paula Abdul or Mariah Carey I would have the brain space to learn five languages. But each time I hear a 90s song, I can remember the exact moment I first heard it, and it’s amazing opportunity to time travel for three minutes.

25. Self-compassion vs. self-care: I’m a work in progress on this part too, but the distinctions are much clearer now. Understanding my emotions or how I can counteract stressful moments during the day is far more important to learn than simply taking a nap or going to the spa. And while eating healthy is important, I shouldn’t beat myself up for eating some pizza at work because my fatigue was bad one day and I couldn’t walk far.

26. Health insurance: I hope more and more people can benefit from having access to health care. I would be lost without my employer’s health plan, and even if I have to go to battle with them sometimes, I sleep easier at night knowing that I pay $35 instead of $6,000 a month for my MS medication.

27. Wine: It took living in northern Virginia before I really appreciated good wine… I don’t mean Olivia Pope, drink a bottle a night, wine. I mean drinking a glass while watching the sunset on the top of the W Hotel in downtown DC, or relaxing with a cold glass of Pinot Gris after a long work week.  Then there’s all the fun wine pairings, like cheese, meat, pasta, whatever. Until you buckle and go gluten free.

28. Exploration: From juice cleanses to yoga retreats and in depth conversations on politics, religion, and life goals, I’ve been able to explore different culture and ideas to get where I am today. There’s still so much more time to explore and that excites the hell out of me!

(Click to Tweet)

29. Vacations: I took my first vacation in like ten years this past May. I pushed back at work to guarantee the days off, I finally found the right person to go with, and, for the first time, I didn’t have a list of 30 things to do and visit. I spent one whole day at the beach, sitting next to the love of my life, talking, swimming, and having an amazing time. Go on vacation people! Use your paid time off for real recovery, not just for attending weddings and holidays. It’s worth the sacrifice.

30. Falling in love: Once or twice or 100 times. Any heartache feels worth it when you find someone amazing to share your life. Of course, it would be nice to get a heads up from the universe that love will happen, but I suppose that takes some of the surprise out of the whole situation.

31. Friends: The Mindy Project has the best quote about friendship “Best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier.” I have best friends from every phase of my life. I love that my friends from home (Kevin, Ellen, Annie, JB, and Noah) will always remind me of my weird high school phases, that Erika, Alicia, and Nicole still help me deal with life drama like they did when we were in college, and that my DC family (Kristin, Nikki, Tom, Manmeet, Jonathan, Sung and Cassandra) keeps adulthood fun instead of lonely. And of course, my new best friends, my awesome Elevate sisters!

32. The future: Making this list reminds me that I still have a long road ahead of me. I have time to figure out the next five or six steps in my career, I whether or not I do yoga teacher training, and when exactly I get to take over the world.  How fun is that?

Enjoy the rest of summer everyone!

 

moe headshotWITH LOVE FROM

Maureen , soon-to-be marathon completer, 2014 Elevate Sister.

Maureen is a hopeless optimist, reformed tomboy, and has a strong and snarky voice of reason. She roots for the underdog, which comes in handy being a Notre Dame fan. When not discussing U.S. foreign policy, Maureen organizes fundraisers for her favorite charity, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, attempts to hold crow pose for more than two seconds, and is still trying to figure out who talked her into running a half marathon this spring. If not at work, yoga, or running, you can find Maureen watching shows about handsome vampires or discussing how cute sea otters are.

I Believe In Miracles

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It’s no secret that the introduction to Mamahood comes with the gifts of indescribable, heart bursting love and joy.

It’s heralded into your life bringing uncontrollable smiles whenever you gaze at your cooing bundle of joy. Which is good because that makes it harder for untrained observers to decipher between those and the smiles of delirium while you teeter on the edge of euphoria and exhaustion.

This is right where my dear friend Bri Seeley found me when she asked me to participate in her blog series asking the question “what does it mean to you to be a woman?” This simple question has since evolved into an incredible book project, The Inspirational Woman Project, but at the time I was just trying desperately to remember “big words” so I could be somewhat presentable in the blogosphere to support my friend.

With baby cradled in one arm, I awkwardly tried to help her latch while balancing the phone against my chin and shoulder. As Bri sweetly asked her questions about new mamahood and how it’s changed my perceptions of being a woman, I struggled to form coherent sentences realizing this was the first time I’d actually talked to an adult about more than boobs and poop in the last few weeks. So needless to say it wasn’t the most eloquent contribution to her series. While I rambled on in the official interview (see also: fail on that “somewhat presentable” goal above), what I really meant to say is…

 

Being a woman is magical. Having a baby is pure wonder. The experience of feeling the first flutters of the life, watching your body evolve to sustain it, and to give birth to a perfect, tiny human is beyond words.

Being a woman is powerful.

(Click To Tweet)

 

For me it has been about defining and redefining myself.

As a child I was a marine biologist, a musician, ballerina and fancied myself an expert in Greek Mythology. As a young adult I was an artist, an athlete, a political (well high school and collegiate) heavyweight and scholar. As a professional, I’ve been a consultant, project coordinator, sales manager, researcher and mentor.

But through it all I was an achiever, a doer, a climber. That was my life. It was the one I felt I’d been grooming for even from my earliest of Type-A, overachieving, captain of everything days. Days that started with turning my Malibu Barbie into CEO Barbie who drove her pink convertible into her New York office, long before Mattel introduced Entrepreneurial Barbie might I add.

Having a baby didn’t mean losing that identity. Being a mom just adds another role, another layer to who I am as a woman and what I can accomplish. It’s expanded the definition of my capabilities in ways I couldn’t previously fathom. It’s made me realize the innate strength we’ve been given as women. Because whether I’d ever have given birth to our daughter, whether you ever choose to become a mom, I know now that it’s within our ability. This realization surfaced the most glorious of truths to my conscious.

That whatever dreams we may be chasing from corporate to artistic to maternal, we, as women, are capable of true miracles.

(Click To Tweet)

 

What will be yours?

 

PS: : Bri Seeley’s blog series on what it means to be a woman has transitioned into a project and book called the Inspirational Woman Project. Check it out for more inspirational women!

Mallory200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Mallory, soon-to-be-mama and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Mallory is a dreamer, a seeker of inspiration and curator of life’s beauty. A researcher by day, professional pinner by night, she’s often distracted by shiny things and has marked 2014 as the year to end her 90% completion streak starting with giving birth to Zee Shrimpress and launching the first addition to her multrepreneur portfolio – a luxury baby boutique – because who doesn’t love ridiculously cute, tiny things?  When not honing her mad visualization skills with Zee Hubs, she can be found celebrating a circular life in Los Angeles with Puffin Muffin (puppy) and Skittler (cat).

There’s No Such Thing As Ready

NoSuchThing

I know two things to be true:

1)      I really want to have a baby someday.

2)      The idea of having a baby scares the bejeezus out of me.

 

I’ve had what you’d call “baby fever” for years. My heart skips a beat when I hold a newborn. I coo over tiny shoes and socks. I actually enjoy Facebook updates from friends chronicling first words, first steps. There’s no downside to baby fever.

 All the delight, none of the responsibility.

However, as conversations with my husband about our future family have become less and less hypothetical, my excitement and my anxiety have risen in tandem.

For instance, do you know how expensive daycare is? I’ve got a pretty good idea.

How do people afford babies anyway?

Where will all the extra stuff go in our apartment?

How will I handle the mess?

Seeing as how I’ve killed so many plants, can I be trusted to keep a human child alive?

That’s just the first few months. The perils of growing up are limitless, alarming. What happens if she doesn’t have any friends? Or he becomes addicted to drugs? What if she inherits my anxiety? WHAT IF HE JOINS THE YOUNG REPUBLICANS? (Seriously.)

The first step is admitting you don’t have a problem, as in

“Lauren, this is not a problem that you have right now. Take a deep breath and calm the eff down.”

 

I’m no stranger to being anxious in the face of change, usually because I’m afraid of making the “wrong” choice. That fear is magnified in this situation because having a child is the one – and let’s be honest, the ONLY – life choice that can’t be undone. That child is yours and yours forever. You can’t send him back when it gets too hard. You can’t say “I changed my mind about being a mother. Sorry it didn’t work out. You have until the 15th to vacate the premises.”

There’s also a selfish part of me that doesn’t want to give up the many advantages of being child free.

  • I like nights out with my girlfriends
  • and sleeping in on Sundays
  • and Netflix binges.
  • I like spending an entire day reading a book because it’s just that good.
  • I like my marriage, and these sweet newlywed years when it’s just us.

 

There are still so many interests I have yet to explore, and passions that are just starting to emerge. If I have a child, will I ever practice the piano? Become a better photographer? Master gluten-free cooking? Where will I find the time or the energy for these pursuits when I am responsible for another person?

And wow, forget about all the things I have yet to do – what about my spectacular laziness? I can’t even summon enough energy to wash my makeup off before bed.

 

Finally, there’s that tiny nagging voice inside that tells me

“You’re not a perfect human yet. What makes you think you can raise one?”

But then, just when I start to believe there is no reason on God’s green earth to ever procreate, I think about a tiny little baby with my hazel eyes and Sam’s blond hair. I think about a toddler who calls me mama and runs into my arms when I walk through the door.

I think about all the joys, sorrows, triumphs, and fails that come with being a parent and I think:

Yes. I want that.

 

It is so easy to get sucked into a shame spiral of negative thoughts and fears. The only thing I’ve found that works is to step back and remember a few items:

 

  • There is no perfect timing, or perfect parenting.
    (Click to Tweet)
  • You don’t have to be the most actualized version of yourself before taking the leap….You just have to be present, and loving, and willing to make about a million mistakes. 
  • There will be days when you want to tear your hair out and days when you truly believe the sun rises and sets around your beautiful family.

 

Take a deep breath, open your heart, and you’ll know when it’s time.

(Click to Tweet)

 

LaurenHeadShotWITH LOVE FROM

Lauren, Gender Studies Buff, and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Lauren is a lifelong learner, a Broadway musical enthusiast, a chocoholic, and a recovering perfectionist. She is also a Women’s and Gender Studies buff and building community with like-minded ladies is her jam. She is thrilled to have the privilege of participating in Elevate 2014 and to cheer on this group of truly impressive individuals as they kick ass and take names. You’ll find her on Capitol Hill with her husband Sam and her spunky Cavalier Bess Truman.

July Happiness + Coconut Moments

Jackson's Joy

 

During our most recent Elevate virtual retreat, Molly read us a poem by Paul Hostovsky entitled “Coconut” from his collection Bird in the Hand.  I highly recommend it.  You can check it out here.

It explores the concept of happiness, and reminds us that it is available to us in every simple, beautiful moment, if we are open to it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately, as I’ve reached the halfway point of my Elevate journey.  When I sent in my application for the year-long program, I was not “looking” for happiness.  I thought I had it, and on some levels, I did.  I was really looking for more.  More friends.  More money.  More productivity and creativity.  Better health.  I wanted to see action in myself.  I was looking to check some boxes off my lists of goals.

And though I have, in fact, checked many boxes, I realized I was missing the mark.  I’m not saying it’s bad to want more.  External objects and achievements are worthwhile goals, but they, in themselves, do not bring true contentment or happiness.  It’s really the process that happens in moments when we connect our lives externally and internally in appreciation of its divine goodness and rightness and timeliness.

Some call it joy.  I call it magical.  Because that is how it truly feels to me when I recognize and acknowledge it.

Connecting the outside world with the inner workings of my heart, and being present for these events consistently, has been my soul’s work this year.

(click to tweet)

I now count my moments of joy with a gratitude practice.  In honor of the poem that brought it about for me, I call them “coconut moments”: those things in a day that bring a smile and a sense that, though everything is not checked off my list, everything is not as I fully wish for myself and others, though there is still adversity in the world and though I’m still grasping for “more” sometimes, that moment is available and full of magic.

Whether it’s watching my beagle delightfully hang his head out the passenger window, admiring the beauty of a butterfly, cheering a baby frog testing its new legs out, noticing my Wonder Woman figurine that reminds me to embrace my inner badass, or whether it’s savoring delicious homemade pizza, acknowledging these “coconut moments” brings me more fully into my own life and call for revelry!

Today, this is my truth: life’s magic is here for me to experience fully if I am willing to notice and participate.

(click to tweet)

Tell me, what are some of your “coconut moments”?

LeighWITH LOVE FROM

Leigh, Lover of Leg Warmers and Zumba,   2014 Elevate Sister

Leigh is a native Texan physician living in Houston.  She is a proud aunt to two smart, amazing and sweet little girls and a mama to a very naughty but charming 10yr old beagle named Jackson.  Currently practicing in an academic setting providing mental health services for a busy county health system, she has a special interest in treating eating disorders.  When she is not working, you can find her swinging her hips doing Zumba, stretching them in yoga class or trying to decide between her favorite beverages: green juice, coffee, and wine.

 

Cheering For The Underdog

Advice

I’m a cheerleader. When I was little I used to go to Seahawks games with my binoculars trained on the Sea Gals. When girls in our Middle School started a cheerleader group, I crafted my first Mission Statement to persuade them of how this group was my destiny bestowed upon me at birth and illustrated by my awesome side split. Think Shark Tank, with a higher “high pony” and bigger bangs – it was the 90’s after all.

Cheerleading is my thing. If it’s motivating a friend, giving career guidance to a mentee, creating strategies with zee hubby – then I’m jazzed, creative, 100% committed, take-no-prisoners, inspired. Inspiring. So much so that in the course of “finding my authentic calling”, I’ve often been told I should be a Life Coach.

But that’s where things start to unravel, because how in the world could I be a Life Coach when I cannot figure out my own life!?

How is it that being a cheerleader comes naturally when cheering for the other team, but that booming, spirited voice becomes frail and disappears into muffled background when rooting for my own team?

How did I become the Underdog by default?

When it’s my life, my dilemmas, my dreams – that I’m too scared to claim – all the sudden all that conviction and grounded belief gets wiped out and replaced with fearful, self-doubting, indecision.

It’s frustrating. It’s maddening. It brings up bile in the form of shame that I fight to force down. It makes me feel lazy, and I end up condemning myself over every little action not aligned with accomplishing the dreams I should be honoring and goals I should be setting. Why did I just watch the sexy vampires on CWTV for two hours (okay maybe three)? How did I just spend the whole night on Pinterest? Did I really just take a nap and waste half the day? I have no dedication. I’m not committed enough. I don’t have what it takes. I’m creating my own destiny of being stuck.

Wait a minute.

 When the hell did my cheerleader become a terrorist?

When I let her. Though it is seemingly difficult for me to make decisions in my own life, I’ve begun to realize that by not deciding to move forward, I am deciding to stand still.

So if I’m making all these decisions anyway, why not start paying attention to what I’m deciding?

Now here I am about twenty years after my first mission statement, reclaiming my inner cheerleader. Reinstating my personal mission statement that “this” is my birth right. Instead of ridiculing myself over every little indiscretion on my goals, I shall proudly cheer for every win no matter how big or small.

 

Writing down my daily intention – GO!

Taking 30 minutes to finish an action on my plan – Fight!

Saying no to something asked of me, but not aligned with my values or goals – WIN!

 

Instead of letting indecision be my decision, I will decide. I decide to make this my official re-commitment to myself and to continually choose me for the win every time.

 

Mallory200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Mallory, soon-to-be-mama and current Elevate 2014 Sister.

Mallory is a dreamer, a seeker of inspiration and curator of life’s beauty. A researcher by day, professional pinner by night, she’s often distracted by shiny things and has marked 2014 as the year to end her 90% completion streak starting with giving birth to Zee Shrimpress and launching the first addition to her multrepreneur portfolio – a luxury baby boutique – because who doesn’t love ridiculously cute, tiny things?  When not honing her mad visualization skills with Zee Hubs, she can be found celebrating a circular life in Los Angeles with Puffin Muffin (puppy) and Skittler (cat).