Because We Must

child little girl with glasses reading a books

Mid-day finds me weary and sluggish. The sound of my tea kettle fills the silence. Finally the little girl has relinquished, turned-in, and quieted. She whimpered “I sorry mommy,” her new last ditch effort to avoid nap time, bedtime.

Could she possibly know what this means? And if she does, does she really think she’s in trouble? Her little apology wreaks my heart. I’m constantly shocked by her barely two-year-old vernacular. Five and six word sentences, large words like dandelion. I’m reminded of my little boy whose favorite word at age two was excavator.

We have talkers, communicators, poets and story tellers. These are our children. Little ones who beg for one more book, one more story from our mouths. They are like cups with holes in the bottom, draining out and leaving space for more, more, more.

We come from a long-line of story-tellers. Nana told stories to my husband when he was a boy. She has lamented not writing them down. And then of course my parents were/are story-tellers. From tales of adventures deep below the surface of the Pacific Ocean to stories of a young girl’s first tea party. There were always stories.

I’ve recently even discovered pages of poetry belonging to my Grandmother.

I started writing in my journals as a little girl, filling them with poetry and short stories. I had one dream for my grown up life, to be a writer, even though I didn’t really know what that looked like. In college I decided to channel my love of words into a employable field. I’d study Journalism and perhaps become a travel writer or war correspondent. I’d live on my written words.

Then one day, shortly after getting laid off from my editing job I lost the desire to write. I didn’t want to write for other people, I didn’t want to share my words. I felt as if I’d been sucked of my life-blood and had nothing left to offer. I felt like my art was a waste and it was time to grow up.

So, I simply stopped. I put my stories away. I stopped reaching out to editors and writing query letters. I gave up on a childhood dream.

I’ve since been cured of this desire to quit, but it took years and a complete overhaul in the way I viewed myself and my desire to create. I’ve realized that my desire to write comes from the heart, it’s a part of my divine gifting, and is not something that I should hide from or ignore.

Could you imagine if Mozart hid his talent or Monet viewed his brush strokes a curse, or if Hemingway failed to write his works because he classified his time putting pen to paper a waste?

I’m not, of course, putting myself the same category as these masters, I’m not working on the next great American novel, I’m writing this blog and a little memoir about life being married to a Pastor. But what I am saying, and what I do need to remind myself (constantly) is that my work is valid. As is yours.

So, painters please paint, writers you must write, creators you must create, sculpt, draw, craft, take that stunning photo, and please please share these gifts with the world. Do not hide them nor keep them to yourselves. You gift is one to be shared. Go on, create beauty, more and more beauty. Let’s saturate the world with in.

Keep creating friends, be brave as you do it.

And as always, be well.

-Rachel

Chin Up, Darling

rachelshereeSeattle, sometime in the early 2000’s. I was a teen-child visiting my Aunt. She was well traveled and well versed in big city life.

We went with friends to see Beauty and Beast at the Paramount. The play let out late but as we exited I noticed the large groups of people gathered around. City Life. At the time I was living in Big Bear, CA, a small beautiful mountain town with a population of approximately 12.

It was after 9pm and there were still lights on and people out, and noise, and life—I instantly fell in love with the city. As we walked through the crowds my Aunt leaned down and whispered in my ear something to the effect of, “put your chin up, look forward, walk determined.”

She’s always been full of great little life-lessons like this. “Walk with your chin up. Look forward.”

She has taught me things, things about life, about love, about commitment and growth, things that I hope to pass on to my daughter. She has taught be to be strong, to look forward.

My whole life I’ve watched this woman, a female professional in a mans world, the breadwinner for her home. This watching, learning, absorbing, has created in me this fearlessness, to do, see, go. I’ve always felt like the world was at my finger-tips, mine for the taking. I just had to reach out and grab.

I grew up on that “go-for-it girl-power” mentality.

The sky was the limit. I could do and be anything I wanted. I whisper these things into my baby girl’s ear. “Reach baby, the sky is the limit.” I want her to believe that. I want her to know that she is equal to her big brother. I want her to pursue her dreams, to set goals, to work hard and to get there, where ever her “there” is.

I want other things for her as well: I want her to be comfortable in her own skin. I want this little girl to be able to stand and walk proudly. I do not want her to shrink away. I want her to be able to smile in public without fearing negative attention or harassment from the opposite sex. I want her to know that she can lead. She can lead in her school, her church, her community, her country.

I want her to live in a world and country of equality.

We aren’t there yet. She’s not yet two, she has time before the first derogatory remark is hurled her way. But what about all the other girls? What about my grandmother who believed she’d live to see the first female president? What about my friend who recently discovered that her pay grade was a full two levels lower than her male counter-parts? What about the women pushing up against the glass ceiling having to prove themselves twice as much? What about me, who half-way through my first pregnancy was told by my boss to take my maternity leave, not because my work was suffering but because my pregnant body made him uncomfortable?

I’m an idealist, this I know. I blame my Aunts, my Grandmother, my Mother. I blame my French professor and Women’s study professor. I blame my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Anderson, and then my High School teachers, and then my first boss, and just about every woman who dared to rise, to achieve, to aspire. I just can’t help it. If they could, why can’t I, why can’t you?

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Martin Luther King Jr. 

I look to the future, in all it’s uncertainty, and dare to be brave, to put my chin up and walk forward. I listen to, and reflect on, the voices of the women around me, the ones with wisdom and stories to share, the ones that encourage me to take those steps. Let’s take them together.

As always, be well my friends.

-Rachel

 

photo cred: Carrie McGuire Photography 

Wellness, the Source

IMG_2543The thoughts that I had last night, while sinking into slumber, the brilliant ones, have faded. It’s morning now, the sun not yet risen and a fresh inch of snow on the ground, it’s just me and an empty head.

How refreshing. To be empty. How rare. On a nightly basis I struggle to fall asleep, my head so filled with ideas, dreams—I review the day, and think about the future. If only I were to spring from my near-sleep and jot them all down, create an action plan, accomplish it all, but my body is exhausted and lifting my head against the cold air a daunting task. My husband comes into bed lays his head down and is asleep in an instant. Some nights when all the dreaming and thinking distracts me from sleep, on those restless nights I think seriously about hitting him in the face with a pillow.

To be empty.

After spending most of the month of December not feeling well I’ve reevaluated my goals for 2017. At the top of my list is wellness. As a former yoga instructor and wellness coach I really thought I had a handle on wellness, but my last pregnancy depleted me in unimaginable ways and I’m only now—nearly two years later—starting to see inklings of my former well self.

What is wellness, true wellness?

For the longest time I confused wellness to be solely physical. That person that never gets sick, or can run marathons, or light heavy weights. Those people are well. Then through my yoga practice I began to see wellness as more mind-body. Healthy thoughts and healthy body working hand-in-hand.

I worked my body into submission, then turned my focus on my thought life. What was going on up there anyway? What was up with all the self-deprecating self-talk? I began silencing those voices, though I’ll be brutally honest and say that they do occasionally rear their ugly little heads.

Then, half-way through my second pregnancy (one that I thought I would rock) my body failed me. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without experiencing excruciating pain. My doctor starting using words like “restricted activity” and “bed rest”. With a 3-year-old at home the thought was laughable.

We made it, one slow painful day after the next brought this beautiful and incredibly spirited red-headed girl into the world. But the wellness escaped me. On the days surrounding her first birthday I took a brisk family walk, under a haze of discontent. I felt sad, and felt stupid and self-indulgent for feeling sad. And no matter what I did the sadness wouldn’t lift.

It was then, through a conversation with my husband that I began to peel back the layers of “wellness”. There on that walking trail I realized I’d been missing a key factor. Spirit. I’d been working the mind/body angles and neglecting my spirit. I was neglecting to use my gifts, to write, to pray, to sit in silence. I was forgetting in my busy mom-life to nourish my soul.

The source of true wellness is so incredibly deep. Deep like the roots of a 100-year-old tree, deep like a well its self. Without the depth, the soul, all other wellness is superficial, fleeting, here one day and gone the next. It cannot be maintained, the body ages and fails and as often so does the mind, it is only the soul that cannot be touched or weathered with age, illness and accidents.

So, for this new year, as I reflect and journal, write down all my goals, I put wellness at the very top of this list, but this time with refined perspective. Mind/Body/Spirit, as one cannot truly be improved without the other.

For 2017 my friends, let’s be well together.

-Rachel

 

****photo credit Photography by Adele

 

Be Brave and Do the Work

Every few months I fall back into this self-loathing self-doubting trap. I wallow in it, this miserable feeling of ineptitude. I come up with every excuse in the book and inevitably begin dusting off my resume. I scan online job posts and of course feel even worse. What’s a girl with a Journalism degree and two little kids to do? Nothing, anything, everything?

Then I remember the trap. The cubicle chained-to-my-desk trap. I remember the freedom I felt the first time I became my own boss, and then also, the utter despair. It’s lonely logging hours at the computer unsure if you’ll ever reap the reward of your labors.

Hiker walking to mountains
I remember why I started and when I started. I was listening to a HopeWriters webinar hosted by Emily P. Freeman, I remember her words exactly, they brought tears to my eyes. I sat there with tears rolling down my face as she said this “the world needs you to come to life” “there is room for you here.”

She said it. Other people have said it. I’ve cried and nodded and agreed. There’s room for me too. But, I’ll just be honest, totally honest, it’s pretty hard to believe that sometimes. I question, is there really room? Isn’t the market, the world, already over-saturated with incredible talent. What can I bring to the table?

I think of my favorites, Jack London who “paid to live with his words” and drank himself to death at 40. Isabel Allende who had to wait until mid-life to unleash her stories. JK Rowling who lived in squalor in order to tell her tales.

Do I have the chops?

Can I live in squalor or wait until my children are grown? Can I be committed to early rising even if I’ve been up all night with a puking baby? Can I proof my posts a little better?

I get all angsty imagining Silvia Plath having to maintain an interesting Instagram feed, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez updating his Twitter multiple times a day. It’s laughable, implausible.

I was driving down the freeway listing to the auto-version of the Bible. Mr. NIV-Guy as my son has named it/him. We were in 1 Chronicles (28:20) and he said, “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged…”

Be Brave and Do the Work

It doesn’t say be brave but make excuses, be brave and check Instagram for more followers, be brave but distracted. It literally says put your head down and do the work. Now, the work is different for all of us. We all have different talents, gifts, and callings. We all have a purpose unique to us, and I truly believe that if we/I put our heads down and ditch distraction we won’t miss it.

So today, this post is more a letter to myself than anything else, but I hope you’ll use it to, let it be a kick in the pants. Get going. Do the work. Be brave. Be well.

-Rachel

As Thankful as Ever

snow-1563653

We sit on the floor. The littles and dogs playing around me. The kids—baby clad in footy pajamas and little boy in his usual Superman suit—build blocks and destroy them. Padawan training for the baby. She’s not quiet a Jedi, still learning to master the force.

My husband’s new “friend” Alexa plays Christmas music. I said I was going to hate her and she wasn’t welcome in our home, but after great display of light-dimming ability as well as finding the kids “What does the Fox say” under their command she’s welcome here.

We’re wrapped in blankets gazing out our windows, snow settled over our sweet cul-de-sac. I’m as thankful as ever, to live here, to allow my children to run and play in our big backyard, to be a part of something bigger, and yet to spend so much of my days focusing on the little and littles.

The sky brightens to a powdery blue and I can’t hardly wait to bundle up and build our season’s first snowman. The carrots are ready.

On this final post for the month of November I leave you with this: Be Thankful. Not just as the holidays roll and around and Facebook news feeds fill up with gratitude challenges, but always. In the little and the big, be thankful. For the good, swell with gratitude and for the bad, painful, ugly, be thankful as well, for without it all that goodness loses it’s flavor, it somehow becomes the norm, and quickly the status quo.

Be thankful for your car with 200,000 miles on it and the journeys you’ve had together, the old shoes in your closet and the places they’ve carried you, the sweater that has lasted you multiple seasons and the warmth it’s given. Yes, be thankful for things, but more  be thankful for people, for kindness, for the ability through your own actions and choices to influence, change, love.

I get frustrated, in a funk, irritated, and lose it—my gratitude—so easily. The clean white snow reminds me this morning to circle back, recalibrate.

I sit and count my blessings. The list is so so long. I am thankful more than ever.