Book Club: Inheritance Part 2

It’s just been so much fun to dive into these books with you. Here are the two writing prompts I came up with from the second half of Inheritance by Dani Shapiro:

  1. Are there things we know, subconsciously, before we know them? Why do we put of pursuing the truth or acknowledging what’s happened?

  2. If we are striving for understanding and healing, maybe we must revisit our stories time and again. What story of your needs revisiting?

I’m teaching a new, free class next week. It’ll be different than these Facebook live videos - I’ll have slides (ooh la la), be a tad more organized, and I created a beautiful workbook to go along with the class. If you can’t attend live you can sign up to get the replay. Get all the details and sign up: https://www.orchidstory.com/

Book Club: Inheritance

What a treat to have the pleasure of meeting author Dani Shapiro several weeks ago when she was in town to promote her new memoir, Inheritance. I’ve loved all of Dani’s books because she dives headfirst into the pain and shows us how crafting a narrative helps to get to the other side.

Inheritance is fantastic for me because there’s a lot about genetics and ethics in the book, along with some big philosophical questions like Who am I? In this video I explain the genetics behind how it was determined that Dani’s half sister was not actually her half sister. Plus I get into the Who am I question and how it might prompt some exploration in you.

If you are considering at home DNA testing for health, ancestry or any other reason it would behoove you to meet with a genetic counselor first. Find someone here. If you have specific questions about your test results, check out my friend Brianne’s site, Watershed DNA. She’s the absolute expert and my go-to for all of this.

Underwent testing and now have a story like Dani’s to tell? Reach out to me - I’d love to help you find meaning in the experience as you weave your new identify into your life.

I’ll be back next week with my second video on Inheritance .

Me with Dani Shapiro in Reston, VA. (queue heart eye emoji!)

Book Club: The Orchid and the Dandelion Part 3

Dr. Boyce’s conclusions from The Orchid and the Dandelion are so well aligned with the mission of Orchid Story it has me dancing with glee over here. Watch my final video to understand what I mean.

Like these videos? You’ll love my weekly newsletter where I get into the stuff (purpose, self-limiting beliefs, other people’s opinions) we are all rubbing up against and take a look at how we can reframe it. If you’re looking for someone who is real on the Internet, you’ve found her. Sign up here.

Season 1 of my Sanctuary program was so successful I am running another Season starting at the end of April. Read all the details and get on the first to know list.

Book Club: The Orchid and the Dandelion Part 2

SIx Strategies to Help Your Orchid Child Bloom

from the book, “The Orchid and the Dandelion” by Dr. W. Thomas Boyce

Hand in Hand Parenting’s Special Time tool

If you love thinking in big strokes with real-life examples woven in, you need to get on my weekly newsletter here!

The next round of Sanctuary (Story + Community = Healing), my eight week online program, is coming soon. Get on the first to know list for all of the details.

The Power of Believing Hard

Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. They run the show. Our thoughts generate feelings which then cause us to act in a certain way. A lot of the time we run around on autopilot; we're not even aware of the thoughts that we have. Then we feel like life is happening to us. But what if we stop to ask ourselves what are the thoughts that are running through our heads? When we get to know those subconscious thoughts we can start to see how they aren't serving us. We can create new thoughts. When we put in the work to really believe in these new thoughts, we have the ability to change our lives. Our brains are neuroplastic, which means we have the ability to literally rewire our minds! 

I first experienced the power of my thoughts controlling my actions back when I was a gymnast. Gymnastics is a great example because it's so easy to see how it works. For many years my main skill on beam was a roundoff backhandspring. (Wondering what in the world that is? Here's a video I found on youtube.) I was terrified, absolutely terrified of doing this trick and I did it for the better part of a decade. You know what made me actually do it and then land it? My thoughts. What do you think happened on days when I thought, this scares me, what if my foot slips on the roundoff? I was unlikely to get the guts to even throw it, let alone land standing on the beam. But on days when I thought, I've done this thing a million times, of course I'm landing it, I would do just that. 

Now, as an adult who only does gymnastics on occasion at the trampoline park (see below...), I'm working on being super intentional with my thoughts. I have a belief that I am going to make a good living and serve with Orchid Story. If I was already living that dream, what would my thoughts be? How would I approach my day? My to do list? The person who coaches me on all of this is Brooke Castillo. She doesn't know me, but I listen to her podcast The Life Coach School and implement all of the tools she teaches. If this idea intrigues you I encourage you to listen to these episodes first. 

Episode #157 Thought Creation
Episode #228 Believing Hard
Episode #248 Superthinking

Far cry from my old days but some things are like riding a bike!

Community is Worth the Search

I was sitting in a circle of about 40 people in the western mountains of Massachusetts. It was summertime with no air conditioning, but my Buffalo blood loved the lack of that frigid, fake air and felt comfortable in a sleeveless sundress. While there were a few women donning the trademark Lululemon insignias, it was mostly folks in label-free yoga wear or t-shirts and shorts. The clothes alone made me feel comfortable being there without knowing a soul. “Come as you are” would be the motto and these people would mean it.

We were instructed to write a one line response to, “Something you know to be true”. Our teacher gave us a beautiful example of the maple trees and smell of sap in Vermont. The first thing I wrote without thinking was, “I know how it feels to stand in a group of moms and feel utterly alone.”

I started to judge myself, thought about writing something else, something more positive, but I felt so at home with this group that I gently reminded myself to stop being critical and I shared it out loud. It was a deep personal truth that I had known for almost a decade, but never voiced to more than my closest circle.

We could analyze why I should or shouldn’t feel this way, but the point I want to convey to you today is that your people are out there, waiting for you to find them. Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I think the reason this particular truth bubbled up was because I was realizing in that moment the contrast of how different it felt to feel at ease with a group.

Maybe you fit in seamlessly with all of the communities you find yourself in. Great! But maybe, you are like me and while there are a ton of nice, friendly people it’s taken a lot of time to find the ones who make you feel good inside and figure out how to act when you don’t. It can be draining.

Which is why it’s so crucial to find the people with whom you feel like you can completely be yourself. It’s one of the reasons I love running this business - the people who enroll in my programs are my people! I’m sure it’s one of the (subconscious) reasons I started Orchid Story in the first place.

If at times you feel like an odd duck, this is me encouraging you to branch out. I know it’s one of those memes that we’ve seen too many times (FInd your tribe!) but maybe that’s because it holds truth. You may have to drive a distance to find them. They may be online. It may be a support group. Keep yourself open to opportunities to find them.

Actively searching for and finding community last year was good for my soul. I’m convinced it helped me build resilience for major life challenges that came soon after. When I think about the writing retreat in the Berkshires I feel full of warmth and connection. Just knowing those people are out in the world makes me feel less resistance and more positivity in my life. I think that’s what it’s all about - the connection. We all need this, require it in order to find contentment and peace. Maybe that’s why you are here, reading this. Let’s keep building this together - a community of people who believe that our stories, no matter how challenging, are our strength.

Gratitude

This one’s for my sister.


Every inch of my body screamed, "I can't do this again. I need to leave. I can’t handle One. More. Moment.” I felt agitation running through my veins, anxiety rising in my chest. Resentment and anger came bubbling up as I thought of all the families sitting down to their Thanksgiving dinners while I found myself in a room alone with my mom, inside of the assisted living facility we had moved her into two weeks prior. She was downright refusing to get dressed and come with me to join the rest of our family for the meal. Or maybe it was her disease, the PCA, that was refusing to come.

I took a step back and tried to breathe to stop myself from yelling. I wanted to yell all the time, at anything and anyone. At the squirrels who got in my way on the sidewalk, at the aide who should’ve had my mom dressed already, at my kids to put their shoes on. In that moment I wanted to yell at my mom. Then my sister, Dani. “It isn’t fair that you get healthy grandparents”, I would scream. “You get to leave for the holiday and go on date nights with free babysitters and have someone cook for you while here I am, stuck in this room.”

The thing was, I really couldn’t convince my mom to come with me. While I was seeing red inside of my reptilian fight or flight brain, I knew enough to know that I was not mentally in a place where I was going to be able to connect with my mom, get on her level, empathize. Get her dressed so I could be with the rest of my family who were already together, waiting on us. So I called Dani.

Isn’t this what we do as siblings? I would do this to no one else on earth (well, except maybe my husband - sorry babe). I’m so resentful in this moment, I’m letting my emotions get the best of me by attacking my sister in my mind, I know she already feels horribly guilty about leaving me alone to deal with the situation, and I decide to call her?

And, you know what? She answered.

Thinking back on it now, I have tears in my eyes. Tears of deep gratitude for Dani. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. After months of crisis, I mean crisis every damn day for weeks on end where you are pulled from meetings at work and bedtime with the kids to take care of our mom. Off to the neurologist, the psychiatrist, the ENT. Off to the emergency room. Off to a meeting you’ve been called to with the director of the facility. It is only us. Her and I. We moved her here away from her village and so it is us and only us who are responsible. Dani has finally gotten an opportunity to take a moment to breathe. A few days where she can be with her two little kids and focus on them with her full attention because she knows that even if she gets called she can’t physically come. It’s a huge weight lifted for a few precious days. And I evidently wanted to sabotage it for her.

Not only did she answer the phone, but she answered it free of hostility, even though she had to know it was an SOS call from me before she picked up. We had been answering each other’s calls with, “What happened?” for the past two months. But on Thanksgiving she sounded happy and peaceful when she said hello. Immediately upon hearing her voice I started to relax. I put her on speaker and she spoke to our mom in the way that I wasn’t able. She soothed and listened and comforted. After we hung up, I got mom dressed and off we went. 

For years people have told me, “It’s good that you have your sister.” For a long time, I wanted to respond by saying that having a sister doesn’t make the pain go away, you know. It’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. “You’re reminding me of my sister because you want to create distance between yourself and this hardship I’m in; it’s easier to sugarcoat it with my sister rather than acknowledge the pain, isn’t it?” I wanted to say.

This year though, a deeper level of gratitude than I have ever felt before, came into my life. We have walked through the hardest days together, Dani and I. Facing the depth of this disease together, the stripping away of the woman we both love dearly has bound us together in the most beautiful way. We have chosen, time and again, not to scream at each other. Not to take our pain out on each other. But to support. To be the other person’s person. To love.

Now when people tell me how lucky I am to have my sister I close my eyes and say a prayer. Thank you for Dani. Please keep her safe. Please protect her energy and bring her peace.

Four Seasons (and Reasons) of Boston

 
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At the end of 2017 my husband, Curt, was selected to run the Boston Marathon for the Ethan Lindberg Foundation, a nonprofit supporting families with congenital heart disease. In January our family traveled to Boston to be featured in their promotional video

 

Marathon time - our family raised over $12,000 for the Foundation and Curt finished the race in just over four hours. It was a day filled with all sorts of emotions - thrilled to be part of the event, moved by the runners persevering in freezing wind and rain, gratitude for the doctors that saved my son's life (like Dr. T pictured here), and devastated that congenital heart disease continues to take so many children away from us.

 

In late spring after a routine echocardiogram for my seven-year-old son, Griffin, we were told he needed more intensive testing. We headed north to Boston again in August for Griffin to undergo a cardiac catheterization and MRI. We knew there was a chance surgery would be indicated and sure enough, it was time. This picture shows Carly and Griffin at the rooftop garden on top of Boston Children's after we got the news. 

Fall

This week we will travel to Boston for our 4th trip in 2018 for Griffin's open heart surgery. My heart is aching and I'm scared, but when I reflect on traveling to Boston for Griffin's birth I realize what a long way we've come. Back then, we had no idea what Griffin's life would look like and now I've had the great honor of being his mother for almost eight years. This disease truly affects everyone in the family and traveling far away for care takes a big village. I know how fortunate we are that we can make this happen.

I'm taking a little break from writing to focus on my family so you won't get my newsletter for the next couple of weeks. In the spirit of my new program, Sanctuary, I'm challenging myself to find a moment of sanctuary each day while Griffin's in the hospital and I'll be posting them on Instagram with the hashtag #orchidstorysanctuary. 

This time of year can feel overwhelming for many of us; I invite you to come join me on Instagram and share your own version of sanctuary with me. I'd love to see how you create safe, warm, and inviting spaces for yourself amidst this busy season. 

Finally, this year has held so much goodness and growth for Orchid Story. I want to say thank you to each of you for reading these words, sending me sweet notes, taking my workshops and classes and giving me all the good vibes. My hope is that by sharing my own stories of finding strength in my struggle you feel encouraged to do the same. 

Grace for the Messy Middle

However you visualize your Heroine's Journey, (I've found it to be a helpful way to put things in perspective) the Dark Night of the Soul, aka the Messy Middle, is part of it. It's a human experience shared by all of us. In my role as a caregiver for my mom with dementia, I am smack dab in this place. It's kinda a tough spot. In case any of you are also here with me, I thought I'd share some things I've been thinking about. 

The Cocoon
Awhile ago I listened to an interview with Britta Bushnell, PhD on the Atomic Moms podcast. She talked about confronting the unknown by drawing upon the mythical story of Inanna, the Sumerian mother goddess of Heaven and Earth. It's essentially another version of the Hero's Journey, with a goddess as our guide. The messy middle is a big part of this story. Being in this place is critical to transformation. Eventually we will emerge as a beautiful butterfly. For right now though, 

🦋 The length of time is unpredictable. 

🦋 We are patient.

🦋 We surrender to the process.


Asking for help
For many of us, it's sooo hard to ask for help. Why? For me I think it's the fear of hearing "no" in response. Guess what? People do say "no". The kind-hearted, "Let me know how I can help!" people. Our brains like to turn this into a big deal: why should anyone help you? you're never going to get this worked out, you might as well give up. everyone is too busy to care about your problems. Sound familiar? The flipside is that if you get the courage to keep asking, there are people who say "Yes!" with the most generous, beautiful, compassion. Just last week I had a friend say no and a friend say yes. The yes was a big one - our neighbors used their airline miles to purchase flights for our family (!!). Still, my brain keeps returning to the no. We have to remind ourselves of the good around us, redirect our minds to focus on the positive. 
 

This little nugget popped into my head last week and I've been trying to keep it in the front of my mind:

Let me hold your story for awhile so you can rest. 


Doesn't that feel like fresh air? We can think of "me" as G-d or the Universe or the Divine or a friend, but I don't think it has to be a person. We all need the opportunity to set aside our burdens for a moment to catch our breath and look around. 

This brave person shared her story with me.

Remember the prompt I sent out a few weeks ago: What is one thing that motherhood has taught you this month? Our friend Michelle wrote on the prompt and sent it to me! You guys - this is what I have been asking of you and one of you actually did it - YAY!! Please use Michelle as an example and try it. You don't have to send it to me, but if it's as awesome as I think it will be, I would love to share it. I really hope to add other voices to this newsletter on more of a regular basis. 


Questions by Michelle Small

The other night I saw something that just didn't seem right.  I ask, "What happened today?"  Silence follows.  I ask, "Did this happen at recess?  Who were you with?" She stares at me with her lips as straight as a line and her eyes completely glossed over.  I tell her I love her and I am only trying to help and she holds her hands up to her ears and walks away.  Exhausted, I want to just yell after her “Fine! Forget it!!”  I look down and there is my five year old, laying on the ground incredibly lethargic - an instant sign sickness is coming since he rarely ever is still for more than 20 seconds. 
 
I give my daughter some space for a moment while I try to get my son to get up and put on his pajamas, knowing tomorrow I will likely be taking him to the doctor’s office.  He refuses so I ask him “What hurts?”  “How do you feel?”  “Are you hungry?”  He stretches his arms out and whines, “Momma.  I want momma.”  I give him a hug and then he lays back down.  I let him lay there while I go search for the thermometer and check on my daughter. She is in tears and yells, “Don’t ask me anymore questions!!!  It is too hard to talk about it!!!”  

Reflection on my quest to help them both, I am realizing that asking a bunch of questions - a strategy that always helps me and also my students with their comprehension - is not always helpful.  In motherhood, I am learning, sometimes silence can produce the answers.  Sitting quietly with my son after taking his temperature (he didn’t have one at the time), I was able to check in with my gut feeling to know he needed to go to the doctor (he wound up having a high fever the next morning and an inflamed throat that needed medicine).  Since the blow up with my daughter, I have stopped the constant peppering of questions and wait for her to cue me she is ready to talk.  Amazingly, last night, she asked if she could read to me a part from a book she was reading.  This book is one I actually recommended to her and, for the first time EVER, she took me up on the recommendation, AND now she wants to show me a part she likes and connects with.  I feel like I finally have a win.  

I learn and grow by questioning, but I am learning that isn’t how my kids necessarily learn or grow.  It also does not seem to be a method to helps them to open up to me about what is going on in their lives.  For my kids, the more questions I ask, the more unwilling to share they become.  My daughter gets tense and stressed and my son just flat out ignores me and/or dances around (sometimes with underwear on his head) repeating my question or words in a sing song voice and refusing to answer them (He is feeling better today!).  

It is SO hard for me, but I am learning to look for those opportunities to sit in silence or just side by side, waiting for them to be ready to share.  I won't stop asking questions, but I will start pausing more before I do.  It will help me decide if the questions I am bombarding them with will produce the answers I am hoping for.   

A Frowning Smile

I've had a rough week full of disconnection with my nine year old daughter. Today I noticed she was getting dressed without prodding, brushing her hair and doing what she needed to do to get out the door on time for school. I was so proud of her and she seemed so beautiful and precious to me in that moment. I made eye contact with her and smiled. Not a huge wide-toothed smile, but I felt my facial muscles move into the place they go when I smile.

She stopped in her tracks when she saw me staring at her and said, "What?" Let's just say I sensed some venom in her voice.

I just love you and I'm proud of you.

Then why are you giving me that look?

I'm smiling at you babe.

That's a frown trying to be a smile.

Here I was showing up with the absolute best of intentions trying to connect and she still didn't see it this way. How bad must it feel when I'm reacting out of a place of anger or irritation? It was a reminder of perception and how much our kids feed off of our energy. We have to literally ask them the question to make sure we are on the same page.

This applies to all relationships in our life. With our partner, at work, with our friends. Unless we have the courage to check in, "You seem a bit off today, did I say something that upset you?" we could be two ships sailing on different rivers, in opposite directions.

I wrote today's post in response to a podcast interview question from the amazing Maria Alcoke of The Engine Mom podcast. Use this question that Maria asks all her guests as your writing prompt for this week:

What is one thing that motherhood has taught you this month?

For those of you without kids, simply substitute partnership or yoga or nature or life for "motherhood". I’d love to read your response - email it to me!

The Messy of "And"

I think and write a lot about living in the “and” of life. That’s the place where seemingly conflicting or contradictory feelings arise and the idea is to allow them both. Just because a feeling feels icky or maybe not what you “should” be feeling, you still allow it to be there and co-exist with your other feelings. I think we often stuff our feelings so quickly that we might not even notice them. We were told as kids, “It’s not scary” or “Stop crying, there’s nothing to be upset about” or “Everything is fine” and we ingest this for life.

My version of embracing “and” is about acknowledging and allowing the feeling. I think this is one of the paths to personal growth. I need some teachers along the way because this stuff is hard. I love to listen to Megan Hale’s version of this on her Wild & Holy podcast. Episode 12: The Underbelly of Expansion was all about how parts of us contract in the middle of expansion.

You know I always use myself as the guinea pig when I’m trying to figure something out, so I am going to use a recent anecdote to illustrate.

Back to School Night happened recently. The day of, I worked at my genetic counseling job, ran to the parking garage at 3:30pm, had my usual two hour long commute home, picked the kids up at their after care, brought my daughter over to gymnastics and then found myself in my kitchen with my husband and son. It was time to go to school for the event, but all I wanted was to sit down with them and rest. Going to school events can be challenging for me. No matter. I left with 10 minutes before the start of the session I was attending, plenty of time given the school is one mile away. Except I forgot about parking at school events. You would think we lived in Times Square. I parked about five blocks away, got out in my heels and started running. My good girl reflex kicked in and I didn’t want to make a bad impression on the teacher that might reflect poorly on my kid.

By the time I got the classroom I was dripping sweat and panting. Great first introduction. The teacher was lovely and calm, which eased my stress and I was feeling good by the time I pulled into the driveway back at home 90 minutes later.

Then my phone rang. I looked at it and saw the name of one of my mom’s caregivers. My stomach dropped, quick and hard. A very big part of my wanted to throw the phone into my bag and stride into the house to start the bedtime routine with my family, ignoring the call. Having been on the receiving end of these phone calls for the eight years since my mom’s diagnosis of a rare dementia, I have a strong hit of intuition when something is wrong. I just knew that answering the phone would lead to more action that evening. I didn’t want more action.

Let me pull apart here some of what I was feeling right in this moment:

Utterly exhausted from this marathon day and stimulated from a big shot of adrenaline knowing something has occurred with my mom.

Shameful that I wanted to ignore the call and proud that I can handle these moments of extreme stress.

Gratitude for having helpers that lovingly take care of my mom and resentment towards this disease that has taken over our lives.

I could go on. I think it’s so helpful to acknowledge and, as I’ve done here, write these feelings down. I don’t feel any shame now about these feelings. Processing them in this way is so helpful to me.

I did pick up the phone. There was an emergency. We dealt with it. Until the next phone call.

Your turn: Describe a scene where you had conflicting feelings. Then write out the actual feelings.

Dementia Made Me My Mom’s Mom, And It’s Devastating. Here’s Why It’s Also A Gift.

The Dark Night of the Soul and You

Sometimes the road we are traveling down becomes bumpy. The path narrows, the sunshine gets pushed out by the brush surrounding us. We trip over rocks that pop up out of nowhere. We can find our way through, but it feels like real effort. Every step takes thought and consideration and your mind feels full to the brim and overflowing. Am I going the right way? Did I remember to pack water? Did I pay the electric bill and find a sitter for the kids' day off and call the doctor's office again because they never called me back? 

Sometimes this is a stage of life we are passing through. It's a tough climb but we know that after we get through this tricky portion of the path we will see the sun poking through the trees in the distance.

Other times, though, we find the brush getting thicker. The rocks are becoming boulders that we need to scramble over to get by. A mile takes hours. The trail markers have disappeared and we are out in the wilderness alone. We are hungry. Hungry for sustenance and light and ease. 

We think to ourselves: One more night alone in this tent on the edge of the cliff and surely, the path will clear tomorrow. 

But it doesn't.


This is the Dark Night of the Soul from Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. I love teaching the Hero's Journey because it feels so relatable. If you reflect on your own life, have there been times of the Dark Night of the Soul? 

The thing about the Dark Night of the Soul is that what comes after it can be life-changing. Curious about that part of the journey? Sign up for my Hero's Journey workshop where we will be talking all about it.