Thursday, June 16, 2011

Voices: Which One Will You Listen To?

It's been months since I have written here--or anywhere. I shudder at the thought that I've let this piece of me go for many months, but I must learn to accept that, too, because what's been happening is the work deep inside that I've needed to do in order to take the next steps.

In the coming weeks you will find me at a new place on the interwebs. I will no longer hide behind a name that is not my own, and I will use my struggles, my wonder, and my love to send out a message to you all that the path to a more fulfilling life comes through simple acts of gratitude, self-love, and opening your heart to the creative spirit that lies within us all.

We all have an Authentic Voice. That gut feeling that speaks to us but we often can't or won't hear it because we have been trained to hear other voices instead: the critical voice, the doubting voice, the "shoulding" voice that all serve a purpose in our lives, but do not serve the heart or the spirit. These voices belong to the media, or our families, teachers, bosses, or friends, and while they come from a place of caring, they do not always serve our highest selves. These voices come from the fear inside of us rather than from love. It is my hope that we all--my Self included--understand that listening to that authentic voice, that creative spirit, will bring love, wonder, and success to each and every one of us.

My new baby, The Voice Foundation, kicks off its website July 1st and you can find it here:

Additionally, I will be holding the first TVF artists networking event with two of my favorite and inspiring musicians: Katie Quick and Daphne Willis.

I first met Katie Quick in 2008, at an audition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for "Nashville Star," a show similar to American Idol but with a country music focus. (Yes, I listen to country music--among many genres--and have spent plenty of evenings singing the Dixie Chicks in karaoke bars). Katie Quick and I were among a group of six people who were chosen to skip ahead of the long line because we had entered a video audition previously and had received phone calls inviting us to attend the regional auditions. We met with the producer of the show and then waited for our turn in front of the cameras. That afternoon I learned a lot about the similar path that Katie and I had been on--both former teachers, we wanted to instill in our students a sense of hope and challenge them to believe that they were capable of accomplishing their wildest dreams. It also meant, of course, that we needed to be models for our former students--an example of someone going after their dreams--and so here we were.

Nashville Star ended at the national audition for us both, but it certainly wasn't the end of our music careers. Katie has gone on to release two albums, the latest of which was given 5 out of 5 stars in Maverick Magazine. I invited Katie to come to Iowa City for the artists networking event because she exemplifies what it means to listen to that authentic voice. Her love of music and her ability to capture life experience and emotion in her songwriting is a testament to beautiful way she gives voice to her own creative spirit.

When I came back from the national audition in Nashville, TN, I was elated just for having had the experience. I wasn't lying when I talk about the times spent at karaoke bars trying to relive my days of performing--before kids, before marriage, before full-time job. I hadn't been on a real stage since 1997, and Nashville Star was my reintroduction to singing. (Why I chose to start with a national television show is something I've yet to figure out!) I'm not quite sure what prompted me to even send in an audition tape, but one night, as I was up late folding onesies and zoning out in front of the television, a commercial asking viewers for video auditions shook me out of my stuper. Going through the regional and national auditions was amazing, and it started the chain of events that led me to realize that I didn't need a spot on national TV to get back to music, all I needed was the confidence to listen to the voice inside that told me that I would be lost without music in my life.

About a year after Nashville Star, I became involved with some local musicians who helped me create and perform original music. Newly embedded into the Iowa City music scene, I went to many shows and met some incredible, hard-working musicians. While helping the White Tornado sell his merchandise, I saw Daphne Willis perform with her 3-piece band and fell immediately in love. I bought both her albums that night and eagerly awaited her third album, Because I Can, which just came out this spring from Vanguard Records. After watching her perform, I introduced myself to Daphne, and I think in my giddiness might have told her that she's the kind of songwriter I had hoped to be like. Her music is fun, her lyrics are both witty and enlightening, and she connects very openly to the human experience. I'm so excited that she is coming to do this show together with Katie.

As for my own musical journey, it is still just beginning. In two short years I managed to write enough songs to complete a full length album that we will release at the end of July. I went from the karaoke bar to the main stage at the Iowa City Arts Festival, and I did it with the support of some amazing people.

So this is why I am starting The Voice Foundation. Because to live your wildest dreams means that you have to have the courage to listen to that authentic voice within. It also means that you need a community of people to help hold you up when it gets hard, to collaborate with, and to create a space in which you can fulfill your heart's desires. I'm going to continue to share my story with you, to share the stories of others who are following their hearts, and to insist that you also give voice to your own creative spirit so that you, too, may live your dream.

Katie Quick sings "Fingertips" from her album Be the Change

Daphne Willis sings "Do What You Want" from her album Because I Can

Collectible Boys playing "Sense of Redemption" from their upcoming album of the same name.

Please join us for our first networking event on July 15th at the Blue Moose in Iowa City.
Doors open at 7:00pm
Presentations and Music begin at 8:00pm
Tickets are $7.00 at the door or you can buy tickets online here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Angels Exist

A year and a half ago, my exhusband moved out of the house and sold the snowblower he had bought the previous winter. It wasn't a big deal to me at the time--it was too large for our house anyway, and he really needed the money to make the move. But when the first winter came without it--and without his help to shovel the long driveway--I wasn't so happy about his decision. I made it through the winter: paying the 17-year-old neighbor across the street some cash, and even ran out the door in my pajamas one morning to throw some money at the landlord who owns the house next door in exchange for a clear driveway. I had other help--the woman next door in her 80s would run her snowblower across the sidewalk between us and make a single path up my driveway so I could at least escape city fines and walk out of the house without needing to change my jeans. And I even once borrowed the snowblower from my friend across the street--and we promised each other we'd go in on brand new one two share for next winter.

Well next winter is here. The first major snow was overnight and I rushed to work the next morning--not getting my shovel out until dark just to do the sidewalk, and then three days later to clean up the driveway. But today, the snow's been falling steadily for nearly 24 hours. It's beautiful to watch out the window--covering everything in a glittery white. And even when I went outside to begin the shoveling, I couldn't resist picking the fluffy snow up in my hands--so light it seemed fake.

I began the shoveling job by creating a path from the back door to the garage--just enough so I could walk to the car with ease. And then I began on the driveway. My heart has been weary lately, so I had to stop every couple of rows to take a breath or two--it tires easily, I believe, because it is carrying so much worry instead of Trust. But I kept on--and while I worked thoughts passed and some I would hold on to for a minute, some I would let go of. "Maybe I should move to a warmer climate" or "maybe living in an apartment downtown would save me from the job of shoveling." And then other thoughts came and went as I watched my neighbor with her old snowplow and thought about how the houses on this end of my street are all owned by women who take care of things on their own: their houses, their kids, themSelves. And I thought about how lucky we are that we are such capable women, and also how lucky we are to have people who support us in many different ways. We may not have partners helping us shovel or snowblow our driveways, but we have family to celebrate with, neighbors to laugh with, and kids to keep us young-at-heart.

And as I'm thinking these thoughts, a truck with a plow hitched to its front end drives down my street. I stop to watch as its driver slows and I think "it would be amazing if he backed up and plowed my driveway." Almost in tandem with my thoughts, the driver hit reverse and pulled into my driveway. I looked up at him--covered in snow, red shovel in my hand--and smiled. "Let me help you with that," he shouted down to me. And I watched, wide-eyed and full of awe as he pushed and pulled the snow and drove off. "THANK YOU," I yelled into the air, his truck already making the turn off my street. And I laughed--big open laughter--and said to myself, "I'm the luckiest girl in the world!"

I finished the sidewalk in minutes, exchanged awed conversation with my neighbor, hung up the shovel and cried. So very, very grateful to the Snow Angel that helped me today and reminded me that support and love is out there in so many different ways. We are not alone. Not one of us. The world is full of just the people and opportunities we need. If you believe that what you need will come to you, if you Trust that magic can happen--then it will.

May we all be blessed in the new year. Cheers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I must get behind the purpose of my preoccupation with food. I found myself in a silent battle next to my parent's refrigerator this afternoon with my nose deep inside a Ziploc baggie. The brisket from last night's dinner was carefully laid out on slices of challa bread, topped with cheese, pickles, mayo, and ketchup. The scent was a memory: my favorite sandwich from my childhood. My mind flooded with thoughts of my father (who was sitting in the next room eating the other half of the sandwich from the baggie) and the bites I used to take off his lunch, cuddled up on the couch on a weekend afternoon as he watched TV. There is a closeness, an intimacy, connected to the scent of this brisket sandwich and I wondered what it was I actually craved.

Did I salivate because my body is signaling some need for brisket--its scent causing a hunger I've not experienced in quite some time, or was it merely the intimacy and tradition connected to the sandwich? I didn't know. I still don't. All I know is that for nearly three years I've been preventing myself from eating meat for a variety of reasons, and now for the last three months every time I smell Shay's fried chicken in her cubicle on Wednesdays or the flank steak my parent's seem to serve whenever my boyfriend comes to dinner, I salivate, battle, and leave meal time in an irritated state.

"What would happen if I ate it?" I continue to ask myself.

Would I have a panic attack because, originally, I had stopped eating meat out of fear? Fear of illness and creating a sense of control. Would I get sick--the pain in my phantom gallbladder erupting again? Would I forgive myself for breaking a rule I made? And if I made that rule, aren't I the one who can change it?

Last week I left work because I wasn't feeling well. I treated myself to a tai chi yoga massage from a dear friend who began his practice a few months ago. It was amazing. In the midst of it, I fell into a meditative state and as I paid a little attention to the thoughts coming and going by, I noticed there was a theme. There is sacredness to all living things and this idea is important to me. It is also an adjacent meaning behind my refusal to eat meat. But there is also the idea of appreciation. I couldn't remember the last time I gave thanks for a meal, and I knew this was a place I needed to start. Instead of fighting my food, I need to be grateful for it. Gratitude will bring a different energy to the table--or as is often the case--to my standing in the corner of the kitchen. Gratitude for the sacredness of the food, the energy, the nourishment that is before me.

My boyfriend recently told me a few stories about his meals in East Africa that he had experienced. In these stories I learned that he had bought live animals at the market, learned how to slaughter them, and then cook them for his meals. He also shared with me that he was taught special prayers to give thanks and honor the animal before the slaughter--understanding that their life was a gift to him for his nourishment. Now, I could go into all sorts of details about the problems I have with the power principal here, but I won't. The point is, that there is a sacredness to each and every living thing and to be grateful for it makes a difference in my mind.

Now, will it make a big enough difference for me to change my eating habits again? That remains to be seen, but as I lay in my meditative state last week those were the thoughts that gently floated by: that there was something in the meat my body needed, and that if I gave thanks to the animal who was going to fill that need for my body, then it would be okay.

Ah, this all sounds a little crazy, I know. But I struggle with making sense out of the purpose of my condition. I don't even remember what it feels like not to care about what I was eating...and I don't mean that in a gluttonous or immature kind of way, but just to be able to sit down with a plate of healthy food with good flavors and eat it without worry of one sort or another would just be unbelievably freeing...

Fear of Food

Monday, November 8, 2010


I keep wanting to retell the story
to capture the moments leading up to the first kiss:
The broken glass, the gentle rain, the train whistle
--and the hints of spring
the feel of your corduroy jacket on my fingertips
as I lace my hand through the crook of your arm and ask, "is this all right?"

It is more than all right.

I keep wanting to relive the dance
in kitchen of the rented cottage on the lake.
Freeing me from fears and
quietly scribbling freedom across the inside of my wrist
so that I can remember what it is like to choose
at any given moment, what it is I desire--and then live it.
and across the waves I say, "I really like you."

I more than like you.

I keep wanting to replay the song
our voices mingling through the air
--alighting a room of people who shared the moment
the story; the dance
watching me, watching you. with eyes that say:
Yes, I too, more than like you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Early this morning, thanks to the marvels of the Internet, a friend I've not seen in more than fifteen years posed a question on the Facebook status I posted about being okay. "Are you centered, too?" she asked "Are you grounded?"

Indeed, I am not--as illustrated by my trip to the MD's office yesterday afternoon--my first in years. If I were grounded, centered, balanced--well then, I wouldn't be feeling foggy or like I'm falling, and then panicking about the fact that I feel that way. At work yesterday, right before eating lunch I felt light-headed and out-of-it. I figured it was probably low blood sugar, having only had coffee and a banana for breakfast and a tootsie-pop for a mid-morning snack. So I ate a protein-packed garden burger, voraciously, and waited for the feeling to fade. When it didn't, I worried. My heart raced, my fingers and toes tingled, my breath quickened. I got up to walk to my friend Shay's cubicle and felt like I was falling over. When I got to her extra chair, I didn't want to move again.

I'm usually quite good at calming myself down, having had years of practice. As I sat in Shay's cube, I focused on my breathing, I massaged my neck over the aortic artery to slow my heart-rate, I distracted myself by helping Shay with the work she was doing on her computer. But each time a new wave of fog passed through me, I panicked again. And then I cried. Right there in cubicle land for all passersby to see. Another coworker who asked if I was okay, called the head of the first responders team in the building who came to look me over. It was utterly embarrassing, and at the same time relieving--somebody else was in charge.

Eventually it was decided that I should see the doctor just to get my vitals checked, and since I didn't feel I could drive, I called my mom who left her busy work schedule to come get me. I cried more. By the time I reached the office, I was steady but weak. 

Shay texted me: Feeling any better yet? call or txt when you can.

I replied: I'm ok. I think I just overdid the "I can handle this."

And I can handle this. This of course being the new formation of family. With my exhusband now living 800 miles away, and my worries in the middle of the night about how the kids will be affected, how they will navigate long visits with their father over school breaks and summer, how I will survive their absence when they go, it's no wonder I feel like I'm falling and stumbling through a blinding fog.

I know, deep down, that we'll all be okay. We are tremendously good at surviving. But for some reason yesterday, the weight was too much, and I was thankfully lifted by friends, family, and coworkers. I can't do this alone, and I am lucky that I don't really have to. The village comes to me when I need it--and I need to do better at asking for it. I need to turn "I  can handle this," into "We can handle this, and I'm so thankful that you are here." 

I need to handle my Self with as much care as I handle my children. I need to ground myself--my spinning thoughts, my eating vending machine lunches, my stiff and trembling body letting me know that even though I'm taking measures to slow down, there are other things I need to pick up to support mySelf. To ground myself.

And my kids wake now to start a new day. My son is always first to hug me in the morning with the strongest of arms, and I'm reassured with a new day. A little nervous, too, but I'll get through this day. And the next. And the next. And soon, it won't just be "getting through," it will be rising above with my feet firmly planted.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


"I don't need you to follow in my footsteps," I tell her. 
"I need you to take your own steps."
This is all of the conversation she wants to hear, 
But it is enough.
Like the time I told her:
"Your greatest gift to me is for you to Love yourSelf."

And I tell her this because I fear that I don't love enough. 
Because I don't love myself enough. 
Because I can not be who I think I should be, 
and instead am working on Loving who I am.
and wishing everyone else could too.

Like the Yoko Ono wish tree in D.C.
That's what I wrote: Peace can only be found
If each individual in this world Loved themSelves
well then, there would be no space for hate,
for fear,
for anger,
for jealousy.
These things would become obsolete.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Too, Shall Teach

I am trying to remember that this, too, shall pass. I feel stuck and frustrated much of the time--a common theme in my life, especially right before a big shift. And I am trying to go easy on myself, because I get scared that I will spiral downward every time I don't feel like getting out of bed, or when I cry--consistently--about the claustrophobia of my job, or when I stuff myself with M&Ms regardless of whether or not I actually want to be eating them.

Having seen myself in bad shape before, I know the signs and I know that I am lucky to have people in my life to reach out to and experiences to hold in my heart reminding me of how far I have come. Like the fact that I no longer deadbolt my door at night, look out the window, and worry about who is lurking outside only to come back and check again hours later. Or that I no longer stay up late and watch TV until I fall asleep because it is the only way for me to get relief from my thought patterns. Or that I no longer starve myself out of fear that what I eat will make me sick, and that my hands no longer bleed daily because I have killed yet another layer of skin with hand sanitizer or scalding hot water.

So I realize I have made great progress, but there is still work to be done.

Last night, after I lifted a piece of flank steak my dad had cooked to my nose and breathed in its delicious scent, I was asked why I didn't just take a bite (I've not eaten meat in years--after having deleted it from my diet because it was deemed--in my mind--unsafe). The question comes up for me more often now as my cravings for meat become stronger. Two days ago, I nearly took a bite of my daughter's chicken nugget. I thought to myself "I could just take a bite. I could chew it and I could taste it and then I could spit it out," and as I type those words I know that it sounds ridiculous, but in my head it makes sense that it wouldn't harm me if it didn't make it to my stomach.

And so last night, as I salivated and cut the steak in pieces for my daughter, my mom says to me, "You could have gotten professional help, you know. Actually, you still can," and I remind her that I had been seeing both a therapist and a nutritionist at the time I was at my worst. She struggled along with my struggle, as mothers do, because I insisted on helping myself in "nontraditional" ways. Instead of popping pills, I dug into an exploration of what purpose this new anxiety served. I came up with a lot of things, actually, many of which you can read about in other essays and here on my blog. And doing that helped, a great deal, and I believe created more sustainable change, as my life is richer and my relationships with people more open and honest.

So on days like today, when I struggle, I remind myself that I handled things in my own way and I've gotten better, but I also know "full recovery" is not a term I can use. I am  uncertain that it is a term that would ever even make sense because I can't go back to not knowing things I now know. I can't go back to being who I was before I became afraid of food. I created a whole new set of rules and regulations and habits around food--many of them actually good habits--and I don't feel like it's even possible to have the same relationship I had with food prior to this experience of fear. Nor do I want to, because of who I have become as a result.

This experience is a great teacher, and I remember this, too as my frustration grows. These days I am tired, a lot. I am tired because my life is very full of activity, and I am tired because I don't serve my body well. I am tired because I am not writing enough, and I am tired because I eat cinnoman rolls for breakfast. I am tired, because I give out my energy to Others, and I am tired because I don't reserve enough for myself. But this too, shall pass, and I will remember to take my own advice and that is:

to Be here. Now.

to Love my Self as fully as I love Others.

to be patient with Change.

to take walks or make phone calls when the broken record in my mind begins to weigh me down.

to remember I'm better than I was, and tomorrow will be greater.

to Let Go of expectation.

to get out of my own Way (by acknowledging and then releasing Fear).

and to Breathe.