Mother's Wisdom Deck
I mentioned this deck. Unfortunately, it's out of print and challenging to find at a reasonable price, but I do occasionally see it decently priced on various thrift book sites. There are so many cool decks out there that could be used similarly - search "affirmation decks" or "oracle decks" at your favorite bookseller.
Um, excuse me.....super wise wisdom AND a Keanu Reeves quote?? Yes, please!! Honestly, you are very likely to hear me say "yes, please!" to almost anything this wonder woman proposes! I'm so excited to offer you Myla Rugge's interview today. Myla is a powerhouse - founder of Mom Prom, champion of moms everywhere, and one of the few people I know who can tell you the VERYTRUETRUTH about motherhood, and have you laughing and agreeing while you listen! Myla has been a friend for several years now, and I'm thrilled she agreed to participate in this project. Take a minute to check out her deliciously deep dives into some great questions, and I'm sure you'll see just how wonderful this amazing woman is!
What do you think of Myla's answers? Do YOU have a favorite Keanu Reeves quote? How about a fave super hero? Share in the comments and let us know!
When/how do you find time to play?
I try to play a little every day. If that’s not possible at least once a week. Sometimes it is wearing a tiara or a rainbow headband to the grocery store. Sometimes it is making my friends laugh on a phone or video call by telling a story or sharing an observation. Sometimes it is chatting with the person in front of me at the grocery store or complimenting the mail carrier. Sometimes my play comes via clothing - fun shoes or a funny t-shirt. Sometimes it comes through literal play, like playing Uno or Mario Kart with my family.
Play to me is a form of self-care. It is vital that it is part of my life. It is how I move through the world. It is one way that I feed my soul.
What false stories, myths, or constructs have you believed about yourself? How have you or do you let those go or shift/change them?
For a lot of my life I was told/have been told that I am “a lot”. The implication is that I am too much – too loud, too tall, too sarcastic, too honest, too outspoken, too unladylike…. When I was younger I think some of that was true, well, not true exactly, but an understandable opinion. I was very loud, talkative and didn’t have much of a filter. Everything I thought came out of my mouth. Sometimes I didn’t know what I thought until I said it or until started talking. I didn’t understand that my words could affect people and that sometimes there were things that should remain “inside thoughts”. I didn’t have to say everything out loud.
As I got older, I learned what an extrovert was and I began to understand that talking through my thoughts/thinking was part of how I had to live. As a young adult I tried to surround myself with friends who understood and appreciated these qualities about me. As an adult I found a therapist who I could process with. Growing up I really didn’t care what people thought of me, but at the same time I kind of did. Through years of self-reflection, I embraced that there are things I am good at that other people weren’t and vice versa. I also realized I wasn’t for everyone, no one is, of course. I grew more into myself. I am not “too much”. I’m just not for everyone. Working on that concept and really internalizing it has lead me to true self-love. Now I am working on make sure I am open to feedback from others, but I filter it through what I know to be true about myself.
How do you walk through challenging experiences or grief with people you are close to?
Challenging experiences, and grief especially, are deeply personal. The most important thing I keep in mind when supporting someone (or going through something myself) is that they way someone reacts to my pain/challenge/grief is ABOUT THEM. I try very, very hard to not do that to others and to understand when people do it to me. Everyone has to go through what they have to go through. The best way I can support someone who is struggling with a challenging experience or grief is by listening and acknowledging their experience. I have practiced and, I think, become quite good at, making sure it doesn’t become about me (what it would be like to experience what they are experiencing, how I would feel if that were happening to me, what my fears are, etc.) I strive to be authentic and honest, to share my experience as a way of connecting and saying “you are not alone”, but not hijacking their experience and making it my own.
Grief is its own special thing. I like this quote by Keanu Reeves (I know, right?!? Love me some Keanu!) “Grief changes shape, but it never ends.” It is a club no one wants to be a part of, but once you have lost someone close to you, you understand that you are never healed, you are always healing. It is an active state. People often try to say things to make you feel better (“he’s in a better place” or “you’ll feel better eventually” or “you’ll get some closure eventually.”), but I often find these things make you feel worse and more alone. I try to remind myself that talking about a lost loved one is what people often want. Talking about them keeps them alive, in a way. But, really, the most important thing of all, is offering support/advice/etc. rather than just giving it. Most of the time what people really need/want is a hug, an ear and someone who will walk alongside them no matter what.
What are some of the mantras or kind words you offer yourself to get through tough times?
-Everything happens for a reason. I know this is sort of a “lie” I tell myself. I don’t truly believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that the most important thing is not WHAT happens to me, but HOW I handle/process/think about it. Crappy things happen to everybody, all the time. I am afforded privileges that some things don’t happen to me. I know that the STORY I tell myself about what has happened is almost more important than what actually happened.
-Everyone is struggling with something. This has become especially evident since I became a mom and started sharing my experiences and listening to others’ experiences. It, of course, extends to all people, not just moms. But, sitting in a circle and listening to moms from all walks of life share how they feel about motherhood and what they are struggling with has been an inspiring and clarifying experience. Where once I might have seen a mom out with her newborn who looked like she had it all together and felt badly about myself, I now think to myself “she is likely struggling with things as a mom, too”. My compassion for others has increased, which, in turn, has increase my self-compassion.
-Its about them…AKA “What is going on with this person that they need to tell me this?” This is often something I deploy when I am receiving unsolicited advice, especially from a stranger in public. But, this mantra works with everyone in my life. For example, my friend’s discomfort with my decision or idea is ABOUT HER. I’ve learned how to be more aware of the way people operate and communicate with me. That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to what people in my life have to say, I just am better at filtering it through the knowledge that it is (likely) about them and how they would feel if they were me/making the decision.
-Be curious rather than judgmental. I usually do this by asking what questions. And to remind myself that my reaction to something is telling me something ABOUT MYSELF. Listening and paying attention to that can be hard, but when I do I ALWAYS learning something.
-When I’m 80 will this matter…? Sometimes things in life can get really stressful or I can get really focused on something that I am worried about. When this happens I try to take a beat and ask myself “When I am 80 years old will this matter?” I think Brene Brown has a version of this where she asks “Will this matter in an hour? A day? A week? A month? A year?” For example, when I am 80 will it matter that we are late to this orthodontist appointment? Or when my kid is 80 will it matter that he did 3rd grade online or miss three days of school to go on a trip? Probably not. This question helps me (re)gain perspective.
-This too shall pass, even the good. This reminds me to savor things when they are going well and to remind myself that nothing lasts forever. This one really helps me embrace that everything changes. This mantra calms me a bit and helps me have faith that things will be okay.
-Just try it…for a week. Sometimes I get stressed about how to solve something or what to try because I worry that the solution is the right one. Then I remember, “oh, right, I can just try it for a little bit and then if it doesn’t work I can try something else.” It is really freeing to realize that the trying is the most important thing, not finding a perfect solution the first time or ever, really.
-Notice. Pay attention. This is the key to mindfulness for me. Not meditating or breathing or whatever. Just noticing. It helps me be present in the room with my kids or relax in nature or be able to appreciate what is happening in my life. Sometimes I’ll challenge myself and think, “I’m going to go into the kitchen and notice five things about Rob (my husband).” It is always an eye-opening, rewarding experience!
-You can’t control how other people feel or behave. I can only control how I feel and behave. Embracing this has changed my life, especially my relationships.
Where do you find and connect to community?
Fun fact about me – one of my superpowers is creating community. I often am creating community for myself.
Seattle Mom Prom – Working on this all-ladies dance party, for the last fourteen years, has put me in touch with all kinds of women that I have learned so much from. The event itself is all about creating an environment where women can have fun, feel safe and connect. For me, Prom is really about creating community. There are many things I do (and don’t do) before and during the event to emphasize that “we are all in this together”. I am intentionally creating a space that allows for women to connect, including myself. It is EVERYTHING.
The Breakroom – This is a moms support group I co-founded and ran off and on for six years. It is a space where moms can talk about how they FEEL about motherhood rather than how to be a mom. I am in the process of relaunching it in the fall.
Zoom Reunions – When the pandemic started, I reached out to some old friends and started having a weekly Zoom call. Then I started a call with the women from my high school basketball team. And then I started another Zoom call with people I went to high school with but hadn’t spoken to in decades. That call became a bi-monthly call. All three calls have happened for over two years and have no signs of stopping. During the hardest days of the pandemic I needed to have nostalgia and FUN in my life. These calls helped me cope with the uncertainty we were all feeling. They help(ed) remind me of where I come from and what I have already survived.
Mama’s Comfort Camp & My Momma Network – these are two closed/secret Facebook groups that I often lurk in, but don’t post in. I find it really helpful to have a safe place where moms can share their experiences and get support. I get so much insight from hearing about the experiences other moms are going through.
Myla Rugge is a community builder, researcher, educator, life-long learner, and creator of FUN! She is passionate about helping people – especially, moms – with whatever they need. You can learn more about what she’s up to at www.mylarugge.com
Monica gets into so many great topics in her interview - chronic illness & cannabis use, perfectionism in parenting, body image, books, and more! Originally, I met Monica through the local birth community. Over the years, we stayed in touch even as things changed in our lives, and not too long ago, she participated in one of my Seeds of Connection cycles. Monica is a deeply caring and passionate person, and I think you'll connect with some of her answers.
Do you have thoughts about cannabis use? How would you answer the questions Monica chose? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
If disability or chronic illness is part of your experience – will you share how this affects how you navigate the world and interact with others?
In my early twenties I was diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases (lupus, RA, fibromyalgia, and chronic kidney disease). Initially I followed the advice of all my providers and before I knew it I was on over two dozen medications and I didn't recognize myself in the mirror anymore. I struggled to form relationships with others, I struggled to be a good mother. I tapped out emotionally from my marriage assuming if I was repulsed by my body and my attitude my husband must be as well. I dove into roles that left me severely depleted and depressed (but served others) because I was attempting to prove my existence was worthy. I became more and more sick, and gained over 100lbs due to depression and meds which further plummeted me into the idea that I needed to be a worthy servant of others or my life served no purpose. In 2014 I did something I swore I never would; I tried microdosing cannabis, and it changed my life.
I'm now a huge proponent of cannabis for those with chronic pain. Not only has it helped my body physically but emotionally I'm in such a healthier place. Instead of bitter and depressed I show up in love, acceptance, and abundance in the way I interact with myself, my family, my husband, my friends and my community. All of this has had a positive effect on the way my chronic illness manifests both physically and emotionally.
While I still have flares that require me to have days I'm rendered incapacitated those flares used to last weeks. Where I used to be so depressed and push myself further and further into flares, cannabis has allowed so much emotional healing that I now am able to create and hold healthy boundaries. Sometimes that sounds like "I'm really sorry I can't make it to girls night. I feel my body needing extra rest, and I work really hard to avoid flares. Enjoy, and I hope to catch you next time.!" And sometimes that means I push my body to do something I know will exhaust me but plan accordingly with extra days of rest after.
I used to spend months on end crying myself to sleep, disappointed in what my body isn't able to do that others can. Perpetuating self hate because my body was "failing" me. Through healing I've come to understand that my body has navigated trauma my whole life, and at a certain point that unhealed trauma manifests as autoimmune diseases. And while I may never be able to "cure" myself, through cannabis, connection with others, and lots of shadow work I've come to be proud of what my body is still capable of in spite of all its been through. I have even modeled for a boudior photographer to showcase body positivity which was a huge leap for me.
That mindset shift has allowed me to show up for myself and others in a space of love and gratitude instead of depression and depletion. With that mindset shift, I can truly serve others while also serving myself. I can interact with my environment and others from a place of wholeness and grace without the self loathing and anger that used to propel me.
Are you a parent? What has parenting taught you about caring for another person or being curious about them?
One of the hardest and yet most beautiful pieces of living with chronic illness is being a mother. In 2019 our family endured a horrific trauma. It required that I step up as their advocate and protector in ways I could have never imagined and during a time where stress wrecked havoc in my body. It meant that I put the role of their mother above any other title I valued including doula, daughter, friend,family member and wife. It required my husband to do the same.
And in doing that something beautiful came out of such darkness. Our children felt deeply loved. They started breaking out of their shells and living in ways radically different from what we ever witnessed. Ways that felt undeniably true to themselves. We broke free from the mundane of everyday life and found time to sit and talk and truly listen to one another. To gain curiosity about the way we all believed, our dreams and our passions. We sat with one another in such incredible pain and rawness and found ourselves concluding the conversations feeling heard and respected instead of burdened with disconnect.
Caring for one another in such a monumental time of need was transformative. We all found that we could be open and honest with one another, no longer fearing that we had to abide by these social norms we had expected of ourselves when we tried to give the illusion of being "perfect". For a long time I did everything I could to be a "perfect" parent. I read the books, I exhausted myself trying to meet the unrealistic bars set by pinterest-perfect parenting, I hid my illness from them and my chosen medicines in fear of being judged. And in a lot of ways I look back and see how trying to play perfect prevented me from being the version of me they needed.
When I took perfectionism out of parenting I learned I could have age appropriate open and honest conversations with my children about my needs as someone with chronic illness and in return they could be open and honest with me about their needs. We began to care for one another in deeper and more genuine ways than ever before. We eliminated the need to beg or plead for that support. We leaned into the practice of caring for one another so much so that it became natural and effortless. The more I dug deep into caring for myself, I realized I showed up as the mother they needed. But I also saw the more I openly cared for myself the more I caught them doing the same. Before I knew it, all these things I used to think I needed to escape the proximity of my children to enjoy (yoga, meditation, reading quietly, alone time) I could now practice freely right at home and with boundaries they respected. And then I started noticing they would enjoy these tools with me and alone. By caring for myself openly and in front of them they saw the shift in how I am able to show up as their mother and in return that they also have the tools to care for themselves and others. And that has been so beautiful to witness through the eyes of parenthood.
Is it difficult or easy for you to show up as yourself and be deeply “seen”? Has it always been like this for you?
My entire journey being documented for anyone to see has definitely forced me to question how I show up as myself and what it feels like to be deeply seen by both those close to me and complete strangers. If you asked me 3 years ago if I would be openly using and educating others about cannabis (especially as a mother), that I would be brave enough about raising awareness for body positivity that I would be modeling as a plus sized boudior model, or that I would openly be sharing my struggles and triumphs of living with autoimmune disease while navigating raising children abuse survivors I would have resoundingly said "absolutely not!!!". And yet here I am, walking this path with a raw honesty I never thought myself capable of. What I've come to realize is the more I show up as myself, the less I care about the opinions of people who would rather tear me down than choose to "see" me and grow with me. I used to be paralyzed by the anxiety that one day everyone would realize I was not this perfectly happy, had it all together version of me I exhaustedly pretend to be. Now I celebrate the good days and learn from the bad, and have love for those doing the same.
Now my circles are so much smaller and I work hard to show up as my most true self. Some days that's someone who has it together and is full of joy and connection. Other days that's someone who is really struggling and needs some space and communicates that in a healthy way. But everyday it's beautifully imperfectly me, and for that I'm really proud of my growth. My life is filled with genuine connection and people who choose to love and accept me and my family in our wholeness.
There are still moments where the old thought processes creep in and I feel the judgement of being a mom who uses a still stigmatized form of pain relief, or the worry that there may be more judgmental comments on one of my modeling images than there is empowered, or that people may think I'm weak for sharing the challenges I face health wise or the things my family has endured. But then I remember this isn't about pleasing everyone. Because for every person who chooses to close their minds and judge there are so many others opening their eyes to my journey and truly seeing me! My hope is that they see their own ability to heal and help others do the same through me showing up as my truest self.
What are your experiences or relationship to your body and “body positivity”?
I grew up with a mother who yo-yo dieted her whole life. By 13 she had me adhering to a MLM "nutrition" scheme furthermore instilling the idea that my body was "too big" . While I may have had more curves than some of my classmates my size 5 body yearned for love. Struggling with autoimmune diseases and infertility in my 20s coupled with four term pregnancies and many more losses I continued on a journey of hating my body. In 2010 I did my first boudoir shoot as a gift to my soon to be deployed husband. I remember feeling so scared and ashamed during the shoot, but man when I received those images I never felt so beautiful. However I quickly fell back into self loathing. As I took care of myself less my weight continued to balloon until I convinced myself I was meant to look like a disheveled mom for the rest of my life.
My hatred towards my body came up over and over again as I worked through years and generations of trauma. And before I realized it my young daughters were beginning to judge their own bodies or deal with classmates judging them. This was a huge wakeup call for me. I didn't want to follow in my mother's footsteps and raise daughters who felt unloved in their own skin. But I knew I couldn't bullshit my way through teaching them body positivity. I had to walk the walk. So I started doing little things to take care of myself. I nourished and styled my curly hair instead of throwing it in a frizzy bun. I began to wear clothes the accentuated my body instead of hiding behind baggy clothing. I started incorporating nourishing food and vitamins in my diet and committed to outdoor adventures instead of staying behind saying I needed "rest". Not only have I gained confidence in myself, but I see that shine in my daughters. One of my biggest commitments to sharing body positivity has been modeling for Lilac & Fern Photography. Nicole strives to empower all bodies to feel celebrated, and while I was incredibly nervous it's become an amazing outlet to challenge how we define beauty. For ourselves, for our children and for a society deeply confused by what we've been conditioned to believe is desirable.
What book(s) have influenced your ability to see connections between yourself and others or yourself and the natural world?
One of my favorite ways to grow is to listen to success stories of those who've walked similar paths or navigated similar experiences. I believe shared experiences connect us in profound ways. Right now the book Call of the Wild: How we Heal Trauma, Awaken our own Power, and Use if for Good by Kimberly Ann Johnson has really helped me as I'm ready to integrate the last few traumatic years and use what I've been through to help others.
The book focuses on our innate ability to sense our needs and triggers at their most primal level, heal our trauma, and navigate life as healed and helpful individuals. In working through the book I've come to understand the ways in which myself and others are acting and reacting to life based on the ways our lived experiences have shaped us. Also in ways we connect to ourselves and the world around us based on those experiences. It has allowed me to have a better level of empathy for everyone around me and myself. Moreso, it provides solutions so I don't feel hopeless in my efforts to heal. I'm grateful to be in a place in which I'm ready and able to do the work while also realizing others may not now or ever choose to be there and that's okay too. The exercises and insights in each chapter build upon the previous and digesting the book in pieces has helped me feel connected to healing and learning to reconnect with my environment and those around me at my own pace so I carry these lessons as learned skills and not a temporary solution. I believe when people see you committed to healing and witness the positive changes at play it highly encourages their curiosity as well, and sharing this sense of wellbeing is something I hope we all benefit from.
Monica Weber (she/her) is a doula turned full time budtender, cannabis educator and Ganjier in training. She enjoys helping people discover how cannabis can help manage chronic pain and mental health while empowering people to love themselves and heal their trauma. Monica lives in Fort Collins with her husband, 4 children, 2 Great Danes, 2 cats and a hamster named Kai. Monica loves to listen to and share life stories, paddleboard and explore all Colorado nature has to offer, and laugh with her friends and family. Monica agreed to take part in the Practicing Together Project because she has found connecting with others and sharing experience has been pivotal in her own healing journey and she hopes sharing with this collaboration will help others find hope, resources and connection. Her favorite way to get creative is write and art journal, a practice she became comfortable with during Crystal's Seeds of Connection group. You can connect with Monica and learn more about her work at her soon to launch blog www.cannamamamonica.com or on Instagram: @cannamamamonica
It's been fun getting to know ACE through networking in our local birth community. She brings creativity and enthusiasm to her work as a birth doula. Our local families will be lucky to have her support! I hope you'll take the time to read her interview. I'm so grateful that she agreed to participate in the Practicing Together Project!
How would you answer these questions? If you've given birth, did you have a birth doula? Leave a comment and let us know!
What are some things that were important to you as a small child that you can still see echoes or threads of in your life today?
A familiar value I hold with early recollection is inclusivity. While inclusivity in current discourse often relates to society and humanity at large, it often shows up most poignantly for me around specific individuals in group settings. My empathy toward outcasts and underdogs (if you will) impels my most compassionate thoughts and action. Each living being is precious and laden with value, deserving of unconditional recognition, even when it feels egoically threatening to bestow it. To see myself in the other and the other in myself allows me to more deeply feel into the love that pervades existence.
What are some things you have done in your life that you are truly proud of?
This is not quite a thing in my life I’ve done, as much as it is a thing I do (or a way I am, if you will). This is my persistent tendency to see the best in others. I am a naturally trusting person who is strongly inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. The wonderful way that this shows up is that it’s so easy for me to feel deep, visceral love for others, even those I don’t know personally. Forgiveness has never been a struggle for me and excellent customer service can choke me up! The downside of this (other than a few incidents where folks have taken advantage of it) is the affect it has had on my self-esteem. My emphasis on the positive traits in others, coupled with a de-emphasis of my own, can result in psychological imbalances. Still, I wouldn’t trade the love this allows me to feel toward others for anything.
What are a few of your favorite questions to ask people you are getting to know? Why do you like these questions?
I learned of a game called Three Questions that I love using to get to know people better, particularly during hiking trips. You ask of them the following:
1) Their favorite color and three deep reasons why.
2) Their favorite animal and three deep reasons why.
3) Their favorite form or body of water and three deep reasons why. (IE ranging from rain, ice, the ocean, the Columbia River, or a bath tub)
Prompt them to introspect, paying attention to their responses and how they say them. The secret is that every answer they give is really about something else. Their favorite color represents the truth about how they see themselves; how they view their own personality. Their favorite animal is the truth about what they want in an ideal life partner. And their favorite form or body of water is the truth about their view of their own sexuality and their attitude towards sex (and some might even argue, towards life itself)
What is your relationship to or experience with your own emotions? Was emotional presence modeled for you when you were a child?
When in the grip of them, I typically struggle to put a finger on my emotions, yet I expect myself to be able to point at one on a feelings chart. I must say, I don’t know if I have ever actually felt any form of sadness, happiness, joy, or disgust in total isolation of one another. As I write this I realize my feelings are much more like a kaleidoscope—a dynamic menagerie of shifting shapes and colliding color. I wish our culture allowed us more grace and space to adequately acknowledge our feelings in real time. Or perhaps I should say, I wish I allowed this of myself. But writing prompts such as these are certainly a start; my participation a ripple toward greater understanding of the mysteries of the heart.
How does curiosity show up in your life?
The utter bombardment of everyday life can at times sap me of my curiosity for knowledge, new experiences, or connection. But one incredibly steadfast form of curiosity I have is the desire to deeply understand others. This often comes up during conversations where I’ll find myself probing to clarify what is being communicated, both verbally and non-verbally. I’ve heard that curiosity is actually more a function of the heart than the mind and this feels true for me—the more open my heart feels, the braver and more equipped I feel to explore reality.
Alexandra “ACE” Eberle (she/her) is an artist, birth doula, and mediator. She enjoys relieving suffering in others, navigating them toward joy and fulfillment. Ace lives in Seattle with her partner and two cats, Jacket and Jughead. Ace loves to snowboard, ride her motorcycle, and to play tennis and the drums. Ace agreed to take part in the Practicing Together project because I want to network within the doula community. Her favorite way to get creative is through sculpting and painting, both within the oil medium. You can connect with Ace and learn more about her work at www. alexandraceberle.com or on Instagram @alexandraceberle
Oh, this beautiful human makes my heart so happy!! Years ago (8? 9? could it actually be 10??) I casually gathered a group of women in my home to create together 2x a month. I'd had a baby not too long before and was desperate for both a creative outlet and community. I put the word out and a few people said "yes" - including a few folks who were new to me. Alyssa was the friend-of-a-friend who I'd met a few times, but didn't know well. This serendipitous connection became a chance to get to know her. That time was a season of tremendous growth and healing, and I love that Alyssa was a part of that time with me. It was the earliest rumblings of what would eventually become Seeds of Connection, but of course I had no idea of that at the time. If you take a minute to read these answers and get to know her a little, I'm sure you'll agree that she is a very RAD person. I'm so thankful she said "yes" again to this guest interview!
What do Alyssa's answers spark for you? Leave a comment and let us know!
What does it mean to you to move toward healing? What types of things support your healing journey?
I got a head injury in 2010 and another in 2016. I’ve spent the last 12 years working towards healing. In the beginning of both injuries I spent so much time at the hospital working to make my brain and body get back to as normal. I’m fairly certain though that the best healing happened when I stopped pushing to be normal and just worked to find the best parts of life again. When I settled into where I was and stopped trying to be perfect, I learned how to be content and I was able to let my soul heal. I’d say my faith, my tribe, and my team were the best supports along the way. In the beginning, I was so mad at God for everything I’d been through. As time went on I found that my faith changed and deepened and became a framework for how I see the world now. My tribe, are the people that came around me when I couldn’t be there for myself. These people were my family and friends and my supports and ultimately my lifeline. My team are the professionals who taught me how to stand and to walk and to thrive again. The doctors, and nurses, and specialists who used their expertise to move me forward.
What are some of your favorite ways to fill your cup, recharge your batteries, or take care of yourself?
I love paddleboarding, x-country skiing, and playing pickleball. Moving my body just makes me smile and really charges my batteries. Being in community with friends, learning from them and celebrating life with them and sometimes crying with them too fills my cup. Taking time to pray and meditate, doing yoga in the back yard or just sitting on the back porch overlooking the garden seem to be the things that bring me back to my best self.
Do/have you worked with a coach or therapist? What makes this work meaningful to you?
I see a therapist and I am a therapist and I’m so thankful for therapy in my life. It’s a breath of air to sit with someone who I can be 100% authentic with and not have to risk judgement for what I have to say (and I say crazy things sometimes). I always leave his office knowing I’m ok and the world is too. I learn so much about myself and I learn how to be a better human from my therapist.
What are your thoughts about consent? How does consent show up in your work?
Everything I do as a therapist is based in consent. So many of my clients have been unable to give consent or consent was taken away from them. I get the honor of helping them find their voice and have a place to practice giving consent (or not giving consent and having that be respected). I also do animal assisted play therapy and my favorite part of the therapeutic process is in watching the consent process between the animal and the client. Animal, client and therapist can choose when/if/how to consent and that choice is always valued and honored. For instance, if Lucy (the dog) starts licking her lips and yawning (a dog stress signal) or walks away, we instantly stop the activity and move a different direction. If the client says they are done or want the dog out of the room. We instantly stop the activity and leave the dog room. And if I see unsafe behavior or just feel like something is off in the room. We end the activity and change directions. Yes means yes and no means no and both are equally valued in my line of work.
Do you have any spiritual practices that are meaningful to you?
I define spiritual as what makes your soul come alive. While religion is a spiritual practice for me, it has to be a religion that brings life to my soul and to the souls of the people around me. I also think paddle boarding is spiritual, and art is spiritual, and writing is spiritual. Sitting in the garden between the basil plant and the cherry tomato plant with some cheese and balsamic vinegar for garden tapas is spiritual. Having a deep conversation over a cup of coffee is spiritual, and talking with my clients is spiritual too. Watching the sunset, and petting an alpaca, catching snowflakes on my tongue and hiking with my family are all spiritual practices that make my soul come alive again.
Alyssa Bowman is a marriage & family therapist in Greeley, CO. A little about her care philosophy: My goal in counseling is to create a safe, collaborative and supportive environment for individuals, couples and families to explore strengths and challenges and to discover pathways toward positive change. I strive to meet clients where they are and help them move in directions they hope to go. I believe play is the primary language of the child and therapy with children should be done in the context of therapeutic play.
You can learn more about Alyssa here.
....or where I share my thoughts on growing dahlias AND myself.
If you're just here for the purty flower pics, scroll to the bottom!
Heads up on content: contains references to depression
I've been growing dahlias for a few years now. This year I decided to really go big and we took over our front yard (where there is soooo much sunshine! also, who actually *needs* all that grass???) with 3 big raised beds and 60+ plants.
These dahlias have given me so much to think about this year.
When we were planting them, it was long, hot, dirty work. Identifying the tubers we dug up last year, sorting out the ones that didn't save well over the winter (luckily I only lost 3 or 4 due to rot or mold), moving dirt into the beds, digging holes. There's dusty bone meal, there are slimy worms. We were hunched over, and lifting, and getting up and down, crouching, and twisting, and generally moving our bodies in all kinds of ways that weren't comfortable and definitely were not what we are used to!
We got all those dahlia babies tucked into their dirt beds, markers identifying what was nestled in below. It was a couple of really intense days of lots of work. And when we were done, we got to stand back and proudly survey our work.....lovely piles of DIRT.
So we were dirty, dusty, tired and achy and all we had to show for it was dirt, and hope. From there, all we had was information from past experience and from guidebooks and friends - which all told us to wait and trust that these flower babies would indeed grow and bloom and add something beautiful to our yard and life.
I keep coming back to this process of planting dahlias. It has reminded me of another season in my life of a different kind of planting, and growing, and waiting.
Several years ago, I found myself in a pretty dark place. Lots of things had shifted in my life. Things that had been central to my identity had been lost, or changed in major ways. I found myself wondering if I actually knew who I was anymore. I felt disconnected from myself, from my partner and family, and just generally from my life.
I felt adrift and unmoored after a huge shift in my perspective of faith, after leaving a life of immersion in toxic religion (hello, any other exvangelicals??) I wondered how I could find a connection to spirituality without religion. Because of health reasons, I'd had to step away from birth doula work, which I loved and was a huge part of my identity. I wondered how I would be of service in work that felt meaningful to me. Our family had recently moved from a very rural area to a much more urban one, and I felt disconnected from nature and from a community. I'd been diagnosed with MS for some time, but the reality of how it had physically affected me really came crashing in. I wondered who I was now that I wasn't a fully able-bodied person any more. My big kids had grown up and were out in the world doing their thing. My "babies" were pre-teen and becoming more self-sufficient by the day. All of it compounded until I was truly in a deep state of depression.
For those who have lived with depression, you'll know that it can really take over every part of your life - mentally, emotionally, physically. It is hard and all consuming.
Luckily, I'm privileged to have a supportive partner and friends and good health insurance. Therapy and medication helped a lot and brought me out of the darkest parts of that time. But for quite a while, it felt like there were "cobwebs" of that darkness clinging to me that I just couldn't shake. I still needed to explore my identity and who I was now that these big transitions had happened. I'd lost many of the tools I'd previously used for coping and comfort - prayer, worship music, the easy community that can happen when you show up once a week with the same folks. I'd lost the identities that helped me feel like I was doing good in the world - mothering a big family, doula work, a community that I volunteered in and gave to.
I had no idea where to begin to get these feelings to shift or to begin to find my way back to myself again. I decided to begin saying "yes" to anything that felt even remotely interesting or appealing. For so long, struggling through depression, nothing had felt doable or lit a spark for me, so I thought that might be a good first step - follow my "yes", follow that spark when I felt it.
I started exploring tarot and learning how to work with tarot and oracle cards and I began to plant seeds of getting in touch with my intuition for the first time. Toxic religion had taught me that my gut feelings my thoughts, my wants and needs were compromised by my "sinful nature" and that my own inner voice was unreliable, I should only listen to religious leaders and an extremely old (and overly translated) book. I began to see that my intuition was right and good and that my gut feelings could be trusted.
Another spark came when I first learned about Hakomi and on a whim I signed up for a workshop. That led to a deep dive and studying somatics and mindfulness as it relates to listening to ourself and others. People assigned female at birth often have so many reasons to disconnect from our bodies. Our bodies can feel unsafe because of assault or objectification, or the pressures of our cultural beauty standards. Somatics helped me begin to see a mind-body connection that was strong and wise. So I began planting seeds of connecting with my own body, and listening to and honoring her.
I had used art journaling in the past, but hadn't had much of a creative practice for a while. I began to create, work in an art journal, paint and doodle - just for the fun of it. In doing so, I frequently used tarot/oracle cards as part of my art journaling process and began to gain a lot of personal insight into what was happening for me. Art journaling allowed me to observe my experience and find interesting connections. It helped me plant seeds of nurturing my creativity and gaining insights into why I did some of the things I did.
Mindfulness had always been a part of the way I facilitated support groups, but I began to get curious about bringing it into my daily life. I started do mindfulness exercises when I thought about it throughout my days and I noticed a difference in my reactivity and my ability to re-center myself when something tipped me over. I could see that mindfulness was a small, useful, and very accessible tool to help me be with my emotions - even when they felt big. It helped calm me when I felt like the chaos of life was going to drag me under. And it helped me not to "check out" or turn to numbing behaviors when things got hard. Mindfulness helped me plant seeds of being more present in my own life.
I read the book "Saved by a Poem" by Kim Rosen and it brought poetry to life in a new way for me. I wrote my first poem when I was about 4 years old, I used to read poetry with my Nan, and those were treasured memories. I started to memorize some of my favorite poems and I found myself reciting them at times when I previously might have found prayer helpful. Poetry and all the beauty and wisdom it holds is a kind of scripture to me, I found it comforting and sometimes challenging or bringing new perspectives. So much of poetry contains universal truths. Poetry can be a conversation with someone I will never know that helps me see the world in a different way. As I continued to work with poetry - reading, writing, and memorizing it - I could feel that I was planting the seeds of a new kind of spirituality for me and a connection to something that was bigger than myself.
What does all of that have to do with dahlias?
During that season of moving myself out of the darkness of depression, I was doing all of these things. I truly was working hard to pull myself out of those last cobwebs of that pit. It felt like I was working hard. I was frequently uncomfortable. I was moving my mind and emotions into different configurations that were not familiar to me. I was trying new things and pulling out old ones - sorting through to get rid of the tools that no longer were viable for me, to find the fresh ones that would sprout and help me grow.
Every so often, I'd have a flash of understanding exactly *how much* work I was doing. I'd "stand back" and give my life a look, expecting to be so proud of all I was doing, but honestly there wasn't a lot of growth yet. I'd planted lots and lots of seeds, but my body-mind-soul still felt a bit like I was just surveying a big ol' patch of dirt. I would wonder when things in my life would feel more bright and colorful. Just about the only thing I could do was to lean into the things friends and teachers told me - it would get better, things would bloom - just have patience and keep watering all the things I'd planted.
Watering a dirt patch over and over and just hoping that they are right is not an easy task when it comes to dahlias or personal growth and healing. It's dirty and muddy and there are worms crawling in it and you *know* that you've put a whole bunch of work in, but you are still just looking at dirt. It takes hope and commitment and trust that the process WILL work. I learned that community makes planting seeds and being patient easier - knowing that others are a little further along or have walked the same path is incredibly encouraging. I was lucky to have a community of people who kept showing up for me on the regular, kept reflecting back to me the work they were seeing, and kept reminding me that I would indeed bloom again.
Spoiler alert: I did.
Those seeds I planted led to deeper connections to myself and my identity. I began to see more clearly who I was in this world again. Those seeds bore the fruit of deeper connection to the natural world and community, to my body, my intuition. Those seeds helped me nurture a connection to something bigger than myself outside of religion, and helped me see that I was a whole, wise, capable and creative human. And eventually, those seeds began to coalesce into meaningful work I could offer the world through Seeds of Connection.
So my dahlias are beginning to bloom and I'm thinking back to early summer when my back was achy and my fingernails were caked with grime, and all I could see out my front window were piles of dirt. But I believed in my work and I trusted the process. It leads me to thinking of that season many years ago, where I was doing new things that weren't always comfortable, and I chronically felt like a hot mess. When I surveyed my personal internal "landscape", it felt like the equivalent of looking at piles of dirt. Back then, I don't know that I truly understood what exactly I was doing or how to trust the process, but looking back, I'm so thankful I planted all of those seeds for myself. The work of it was challenging at times, but there were sprouts, and growth and blooms eventually.
In this season, I'm looking at my dahlia patch as they are beginning to bloom and open up and I'm thankful for the hard work I put in - even when it wasn't very gratifying at first. And I'm reflecting on that time of diving in to mindfulness, somatics, poetry, art journaling, and aaaalllll the other seeds of connection & healing & growth that I'd planted and feeling so grateful to my past self for that challenging work and for sticking with it until it bloomed.
And much like dahlias, or collecting seeds from plants, that investment keeps bringing joy and color and blooms to the world, now through Seeds of Connection groups and my other work. More importantly than that, I understand myself more deeply, I feel grounded (even in the chaotic dumpster fire that life can be sometimes!), and I LIKE myself and what I bring to this world.
So have a look at these dahlia pics, maybe think about what seeds YOU might like to plant in your life. I'm curious: would a Seeds of Connection group help support you in your next steps toward healing and growth?
There is a fresh new Seeds of Connection group SPROUTING next week!
Galaxy cycle begins Thursday, Sept 1st....and there is room for YOU.
Come learn, grow, heal, and plant seeds in community with us!!
Don't mind me, I'm just over here fan-girling all over the place! Today's interviewee is someone I DON'T know, like, at all. So imagine my surprise when this super cool person - who just happened to have created one of my VERY favorite oracle decks (Coastal Curiosities) - said "yes" when I asked if she were willing to participate in this project!! I'm so thrilled to offer you answers from Lennox Rees, and to have a chance to get to know her a little myself, through the magic of the interwebz. Check out the 5 questions she chose, have a read, and then be sure to go check out the upcoming Coastal Curiosities Oracle Deck 2nd edition.
Here's a post over on Instagram where we used one of the cards from the Coastal Curiosities deck as a starting point for discussion and art'ing in a Seeds of Connection group.
Leave a comment here on the blog and let us know what you think of these answers, or how YOU might answer these questions! Do you have a fave oracle deck? Which one is it?
How does curiosity show up in your life?
Curiosity shows up throughout my life because I take the perspective of remaining a "student." I love learning about new things that I can apply to my everyday life, whether that's about my artwork, job, interests/hobbies, or animals!
Do you have any practices you use for self-reflection or self-inquiry?
I use journaling paired with tarot/oracle cards for self-reflection. The combination of strong visuals of the cards with physically writing down my thoughts and reflections in the journal really helps bring me closer to myself. It helps guide my intuition to set goals/affirmations/challenges for my mind to pursue or focus on.
What is your relationship with the concept of “boundaries”?
My relationship with "boundaries" is a deeply rooted concept because I've always had a strong sense of what's fair and unfair. I follow my gut along with knowledge/learnings gained from past experiences to ensure I protect my mental and physical well-being and look for others too.
Do/have you worked with a coach or therapist? What makes this work meaningful to you?
I have worked with therapists in the past. I find the work they do to be meaningful because it allows me to release mental burdens and blockages. To speak openly about the past, present, and future and gain tools to navigate traumas is essential work.
How does art and creativity show up in your life?
Art and creativity show up in my life in almost everything I do. The designs I create for my job, collages I make for my tarot/oracle decks, the content I consume, and even how I get dressed and style my outfits are all creative choices.
Lennox Rees (she/her) is a graphic designer and collage artist. She enjoys inspiring people with her artwork and designs through tarot and oracle decks. Lennox lives in Astoria, OR with husband and her mother along with 5 rescue pets: 2 pit bull sisters, 2 goat brothers, and 1 tortoise. Lennox loves thrifting, fashion, watching anime, playing video games, and reading graphic novels. Lennox agreed to take part in the Practicing Together Project because she enjoys learning about other people’s stories and perspectives. Her favorite way to get creative is to pull tarot/oracle cards and create collages. You can connect with Lennox and learn more about her work at www.helloivyly.com or on Instagram @helloivyly.
The interview this week is from one of my favorite humans in the birthy world - Sharon Muza. I met Sharon when I was a newer doula through networking in the birth community, and through one of her amazing class offerings for birth professionals. I think what I love most about Sharon is that she is so unapologetically herself (my VERY favorite side of her is "Cranky Sharon"!), and she's also so warm, funny, and supportive - of both the families she serves and the birth professionals who learn from her. I hope you will find some time to read Sharon's answers to the 5 questions she chose and get to know this awesome doula/teacher/human a little better!
How would you answer these questions? Do you appreciate or have thoughts about Sharon's answers?Leave a comment here on the blog and let us know.
What are your thoughts about consent? How does consent show up in your work?
I work with pregnant, birthing and postpartum people. Consent is a key factor (dare I say, *the key factor* in a positive experience for a family that is welcoming a new baby. Shared decision making, evidence based information delivered simply and respect that each family makes the decisions right for them. Respectful treatment and communication and centering the parent’s voice is key to being able to provide consent for care during the childbearing year. In my childbirth classes and when working with my doula clients, I keep this front and center.
What are 3 things someone should know about you at the beginning of a friendship or relationship that would help them understand you better?
I love that I care about the earth, people and animals. I love that I am a hard worker and I am willing to challenge myself to do hard things. I am not afraid of failure - but I do not like to fail. I love that I am generous with my time and my knowledge and I love that I believe that others can do hard things too.
What are some things you have done in your life that you are truly proud of?
I have raised and supported two daughters to young adulthood, mostly as a single parent. I have created and grown a successful business made up of many moving parts and I do every single task, myself and I believe I do it well. I have become a “neat” person after a lifetime of being a horrible, messy person whose messiness created great stress and turmoil. I vote. Every single time. Without fail.
Is it easy or difficult for you to ask for help? Has it always been like this for you?
It is hard to ask for help. But I learned that I can do hard things, including asking for help, shortly after I became a single parent and had to ask a friend for a very big favor. I felt horrible in asking, but they were so gracious and helpful and the end result was so positive. I learned the lesson that it is OKAY to ask for help and while I still try and be as independent as possible, I do ask for help when I feel it is necessary.
Sharon Muza (she/her/hers) has been an active perinatal professional since 2004, teaching Lamaze classes to thousands of families and doula-ing in Seattle, WA. Sharon is also a trainer of new birth doulas and childbirth educators. She blogs professionally on perinatal topics. Sharon enjoys facilitating discussion around best practice, current research and its practical application to maternal-infant health and community standards. She also loves creating and delivering engaging and interactive learning sessions both in person and online
It's easy to have a love/hate relationship with social media, but this week's interview is a great example of something I love about online spaces - I get to connect with some of the coolest people!! Andrea and I bonded over our love of coffee after I posted a pic of my fancy espresso machine. She is just an all around lovely human, as far as I can tell (she is definitely not giving off any axe murderer or timeshare salesperson vibes!). She is a creative person, an entrepreneur, and someone I hope to meet someday in real life....hopefully over a cup of great coffee! Check out these questions and answers and get to know Andrea Chebeleu!
Leave a comment here on the blog and share your answers to these questions! Or come find them being posted over on Instagram and join the conversation there.
What are some of your favorite ways to fill your cup, recharge your batteries, or take care of yourself?
I love to curl up in the corner of my couch and cuddle with my kitty (Beatrix Potter) as I scroll through TikTok (which feeds me lots of ADHD, Art, Entrepreneur and Cat videos) just as much as I love getting myself out side, preferably in the presence of big trees and bonus if the ocean is nearby. Most often the couch wins but I aspire to increase the amount of time nature wins.
How does curiosity show up in your life?
As an artist curiosity shows up when reaching for old forgotten supplies as I combine them with current work. My favorite internal prompt is “what happens when…”
When/how do you find time to play?
I feel like I play daily but it is sort of tied up with work so the boundaries are not clear. I like to get away with a creative girlfriend in a local hotel lobby cafe and pretend we are staying there as we art the afternoon away and nibble on fries.
If you are familiar with the framework and resonate with the concept of “love languages”, how do you most like to give and receive love?
Words of affirmation fill me up while my partner is an acts of service guy so by doing things I know he will appreciate I tend to get my affirmation and it is a beautiful thing.
Is it easy or difficult for you to ask for help?
It is difficult for emotional things but not for tasky/project things.
Has it always been like this for you?
Andrea Chebeleu, owner and artist behind A Work of Heart Studio in San Jose California, started in 1998, loves her daily creative practice and sharing knowledge of materials and process with others. She finds great joy in breaking down seemingly complicated processes into simple steps and has adopted a guiding principle of "First, Not Only" attitude which she passes on to every student. The attitude of "first, not only" gives us permission to playfully explore without fear. Pre-covid times Andrea taught in her studio in San Jose and ran the adjacent art supply shop full time. The shop is still open but many classes are currently happening via zoom which makes taking awesome classes even more accessible to students worldwide. Andrea is a mom to 3 grown children and a wife to an engineer husband who loves to indulge her in the latest tech gadgets the latest being a laser cutter and 3-d printer on which they design one of a kind custom products to include in class kits. When not focusing on art and the business Andrea enjoys fostering kittens for her local county and takes pride in placing each and every furry baby in loving homes. Check out Andrea's website: www.aworkofheart.com or find her on Instagram: @aworkofheartstudio