Big Questions: What are you most afraid of? On faith, trust, and taking the big gamble

Today, enjoy a small break from strategy & economics. I’m writing in Tiffany Moore‘s Big Questions series. These are the kind of questions that lead to real dreams and true self-actualization. Will you get deep with me & nine other writers?

A week from today, my daughter, Lola, and I will be on our way to the coast. The Oregon coast. By car.

That’s a journey of nearly 3,000 miles. We plan to hit the Navy Pier in Chicago, the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Mt Rushmore in South Dakota, Yellowstone in Wyoming, and, if there’s time, Mt Saint Helens. I’ve never done anything like this before.

But that’s not what I’m afraid of.

I know I can handle myself on the road trip. I know that Lola will love it even when she’s aching to get out of her car seat. I know that she’ll be able to wow her pre-K classmates with tales of mountains, rivers, and forests. And I know she’ll have a renewed love of airplanes at the end of it.


Yes, once we hit the coast, we’ll turn back around and head to PDX. At PDX, we’ll take a red eye back to Harrisburg International Airport, leaving my car on the West Coast. I’ll take Lola back to her dad’s house in Reading. And I’ll hop a flight two days later back to Oregon.

Follow that? Good, because I’m not sure I have my brain around it completely.

Lola’s dad & I separated almost a year ago. I haven’t written about it previously because, well, it doesn’t have much to do with business. But it is truly a story of two people understanding that they want different things out of life and that all three of us would be happier if we actually achieved those things, albeit separately.

And truly, all three of us are happier. Sure, there are some scars and plenty of things to still work through. But I have no doubt, as does my ex, and as does Lola, that this was the best course of action to take.

As part of this decision, I knew I would be moving. I had high expectations for the place I wanted to live: more like-minded people, more cultural activities than going to Target, and access to plenty of other cool spots. I planned on moving to Philadelphia because it seemed easy.

But I had this nagging feeling… “If only… if only… I’d be on the West Coast by now.”

As I sat pondering this feeling in late July, I had a glimpse of possibility. What if I was missing something? A perspective, a clue, a tidbit of information. Then I saw a tweet from Danielle about an interview she did with Gabby Bernstein about miracles. Yes, that’s it. I need a miracle.

“Miracles are a shift in perception.”
“The choice is usually just about being softer.”

I watched the interview in its entirety. But those were the two lines that really got me. I finished the interview and I sat with myself. I softened my gut, I quieted my mind, and I dialed in my heart. I erased the “can’ts” and “if onlys” and concentrated on possibility.

And I saw things differently.

I had a vision for co-parenting long distance. I had a trust in our ability to maintain a sense of family across this great continent. I saw the beauty of a child who understands what is important to both of her parents.

Then I texted my ex, “I’d like to talk this afternoon about the possibility of me moving to Oregon. Nothing to worry about.”

He, of course, worried. But we had an appointment to talk about other things that afternoon anyhow and so I told him my idea. I let him in on my vision of living most of the year in Oregon while Lola went to school in Pennsylvania. I would come back to PA in November, and then for many weeks for Christmas & New Year’s, and again over the Spring. She could visit me on the West Coast in the Summer. I would concentrate on creating really quality time & amazing experiences with her. Then we would reevaluate what was best for Lola, for him, and for me.

One day at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time.

He listened and said. “I know you’ve wanted that for a long time. I think it can work. Let’s talk about it more.”

So I moved ahead with plans and arrangements and hope. Trust & faith have enveloped the entire process.

In just over two weeks, the move will be made.

So what am I afraid of?

This is a gamble. What I am ultimately afraid of is that the gamble won’t pay off.

This is what I believe with my whole heart:

“One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”
— Madeline Levine

But my fear is that my daughter won’t see our lives that way. My fear is that my daughter won’t remember growing up with the advatnages of bicoastal living; she’ll remember being abandoned. My fear is that my daughter will still let others expectations dictate her own life choices. My fear is that my daughter won’t open her own heart to miracles.

Of course, that’s not the truth. Fear rarely is.

And few things in life (and business) are as big a gamble as we make them out to be.

I have faith. I have trust. I have love. And that’s what I will offer to my daughter instead of fear.

And she’ll know that the big gamble is the only truth we can know.

Update: I’m closing the comments on this piece only because I believe each & every one of your amazing comments deserved a response and I simply can’t keep it up anymore!

One thing I want to clarify, and I think this is extremely important, is that this move isn’t about “following my dream.” For me, this is about the journey to create a new experience of life both for myself and for Lola. Lola is lucky to have a close-knit family unit in the town she has so far grown up in. But there are other things that a lacking from that experience. Both her father & I see this move as an opportunity to both pursue the life I want to live and to pursue a full & rich life for our daughter.

This post isn’t advice. And it’s not an account of a singular decision. Just like everything in my life, it’s the story of an unfolding process. It’s experimentation. I believe that life in the 21st century allows us to live with the beauty of uncertainty in a way that we’ve never been able to before. My family embraces that uncertainty and we’ll maintain the flexibility that is required of us to make it work.

Miracles & all.

I’m Still the Mom: Birthing a Child & a Business

Lola has wanted almost nothing to do with me lately.

She shouts, “No! No! I want daddy!” When I try to get her out of bed in the morning or when I try to give her a bath.

My husband – being responsible for an almost 3-year-old most hours of the day – is frazzled.

I’m frazzled too. I want to cuddle up to my tiny girl and kiss her soft whispy hair. I almost long for those days she wanted me and nobody else.

As I stood looking over the edge of her crib Saturday morning, trying to coax Lola to let me pick her up – whilst having zero success – Mike sauntered into the room and said, “It wasn’t so long ago the tables were turned.

Yes, I remember.

My paranoid mind would have me believe this shift happened when I started working full-time. My intellect knows 3-years-olds are fickle and this phase has nothing to do with my choice to work. She’ll be back on my hip before long.

But I still struggle with my role as “mother,” especially in the light of Mother’s Day.

My client, Dr. Andrea Doucet, a sociologist who studies breadwinner moms & caregiving dads, wrote a Mother’s Day piece for PhD in Parenting. She shared the stories of many moms who have different views on mothering versus parenting. And it left her main question, “Are you still the mother?” reverberating in my brain.

I find my role ill-defined but my gut – literally – quite sure of my motherhood.

There is something primal there, but we needn’t define it, and setting limitations on gender-based identity discourages the possibilities within our scope of what it means to be human. Mothering comes in many blessed forms!
— Kristin, comment on Are You Still the Mother?

Many moms dream of parenting full-time and building a business during nap time. Practical circumstances and my own unyielding ambition made that unrealistic for me. While my day to day includes few traditional “mom” activities, I still feel a deep connection to motherhood and all the heart-straining, gut-turning emotions that come with it.

The primal awakening that occurs with the advent of motherhood – either biological or adopted – is the same primal awakening that allowed me to birth my business.

To deny my desire to nurture & grow my business would – for me – also deny my true relationship with my daughter.

Certainly, I do not see my daughter & my business as equal but I see a certain symbiosis in their existence. When another mom speaks of family as always her first priority, I wonder how she can see her business outside of the success of her family. It’s not a judgement call on my part but a yearning for a deeper understanding of the relationships of my own family.

I may be a business owner, leader, and breadwinner, but I am equally mother and woman. Where others see duality, I see connection. Where others see choices, I see inevitability.

My family and my business grow together. And I? I am the mother.

10 minutes of yoga: on finding your bare minimum

I have been feeling gross.

Bloated. Lethargic. Out of sorts.

I have also dropped my 4-times-a-week yoga addiction habit that I spent the winter cultivating. First it was some travel, then it was some personal stuff, then it was more travel. Cutting out an hour & a half of my day to drive to the gym, attend class, and drive back got to be just too much.

I’ve even lost my gym card.

But I’ve been doing my best to keep up with a wee bit of asana in the evenings before I go to bed. No matter how gross I feel, I try to spread out the mat, breathe deeply, and chaturanga.

I get back into my body. And my body gets back into me. 10 minutes, tops.

It’s my bare minimum. I don’t always achieve it. Sometimes I avoid even that. But I know intellectually that if I do the bare minimum, I’ll feel better.

I have a bare minimum for other things too: blog posts, answering email, making dinner, etc… I know how far I can cut down before things fall apart.

I get caught up in doing things bigger – better – faster – stronger – more XTREME. Finding a place to cut back when circumstances make it difficult to press ahead is good. Being aware of your bare minimum is even better.

When everything around me screams for more, it’s good to know I can rely on a certain bit of less.

There’s this tendency to view goals with an all-or-nothing approach.

But whether it’s yoga, or something else entirely, you can find power in just one small step.

Brigitte Lyons

You don’t have to choose between firing on all cylinders and stalling out. There’s a place where you creep along slowly, making progress but not taxing your creative engine.

Knowing what satisfies you is just as important as knowing what thrills you.

My bare minimum isn’t a place I want to hang out long. In fact, keeping up with the bare minimum helps me get back into the flow faster than shutting down. But it’s a place that’s available to me when I need it.

What’s your bare minimum? And how do you know it’s time to ease into your bare minimum?

If you are waiting to start until you have the approval of others, you will be waiting forever.

This piece originally appeared as an exclusive for my subscribers… but I couldn’t bare to not share it with you as well.

There are naysayers in our lives who reinforce our own fear of action & creation.

These aren’t people who live on the periphery or hang out in the shadows; they’re our husbands, wives, sisters, friends, parents…

They mean well – they’re not trying to squash our dreams or ridicule our ideas. They just don’t want to see us get hurt, they don’t want to see us fail.

They’ve been taught over & over again that “doing something different” doesn’t get rewarded, it gets punished.

When I first started blogging, my husband didn’t get it. I told him I was building a business, that I was working, that I was trying to contribute to the family.

Each time I opened the laptop, I could feel his disapproval. It weighed on me. I felt guilty for researching artists while breastfeeding (what the heck else was I supposed to do?). I rushed through writing in the evening so that he could putz around on Facebook.

I made every accommodation I could while still working towards my goal.

Little by little, things started to change.

“Working” went from a euphemistic put down to a legitimate call to arms. Small victories brought larger ones.

I’m going to tell you that it wasn’t easy to change his mind. In fact, I never really did.

His support doesn’t come from understanding the work – it comes from seeing the results.

In fact, I asked him, “What advice would you have for someone who’s struggling with getting started or keeping momentum because of unsupportive people around her?”

He said, “Tell her to just keep going. And leave a trail.”

Wow! Sometimes I DO remember why I married him. Yes! Leave a trail of results. Leave a trail of ideas initiated. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs so your naysayers can come find you in the forest of success.

If you are waiting to start until you have the approval of others, even those closest to you, you will be waiting forever.

You need to start so that you can show results. Results matter.

It doesn’t mean you need to succeed at everything you do. In fact, I’ve failed a lot on this path. You can fail and still have results that mean something.

In fact, failing gives you an incredibly valuable result. It’s one thing you no longer have to try, one thing not weighing on your consciousness of ideas.

When I work with a client or compose an email to send you, it’s always with results in mind. It’s not enough for me to communicate a message. I need to say something that creates a result for you.

The goals I have, the blog posts I write, the projects I start – it’s all to create a result. Sometimes the results are financial. Sometimes they’re mental. Sometimes they mean my family doesn’t see me for awhile and sometimes it means they get sick of me.

The result is the key.

People – yes, even that cantankerous person you’re thinking of right now – respect results.

Even if they don’t understand how the result was achieved. Even if they disapprove of the process. Even if they can’t imagine living that way or never imagined you’d live that way.

The result is what lasts.

But you have to get started to get a result.

{image by Erin Tyner}


door 212

There’s a phrase, “she’s come unhinged.”

Literally, the supports have worn away. What has held her up, allowed her to function – it’s no longer there.

I envision a door, leaning, busted and sad. The cold breeze creeps in through Winter. Hot, stagnant air flows through in Summer. The wood in the frame rots and decays.

I’ve felt that way. I’ve been the door. Off her hinges.

Here is the thing
to remember:
the moment you notice,
you are back.
— Colleen Wainwright, Unmoored

In high school, I took Prozac for a little while. It made me feel weird. Frenetic. Unnervingly happy.

Happy is not the same as joyful.

If I took it too late in the day, I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning. Sit, straight up – wide awake.

I didn’t like it. It was unnatural.

Maybe it “fixed me” but I still felt broken.

After college, while attempting a more conventional life, I spiraled down into depression again. I knew things weren’t right but I didn’t know how bad it was. I went from a size 10 to a size 0. I slept til 11am. I substituted caffeine for joy.

One day, in the stock room of the bookstore I managed, the words, “I just want to feel like I did on Prozac,” came out of my mouth.

That was it. I knew.

In that moment, I was back.

It took much longer to paint the door and hang it back on it’s hinges. Apply the WD40. Weather proof the cracks.

Anything that has come undone and be redone. Anything that has been unconnected can be reconnected.

Yes, even you.

{ image by Aunt Owwee }

my pilgrimage: thoughts on Etsy & social media

image via Etsy Labs on flickr - click for more info

“Etsy… is a place?” One of Megan‘s students asked her.

“Yes, it’s a place,” she replied.

Etsy is a marketplace, a state of mind, a verb, and, yes, a very real place in Brooklyn where everyone looks so very, well, Brooklyn.

Traveling up the elevator, walking through the industrial hallways, entering the Etsy Labs, I couldn’t help but think how far things had come since my mom was putting food on the table through her sewing business. Could she have even imagined in 1992… or 2000… or 2004… that there would be a multi-million dollar company that encouraged people to come, hang out, and craft at their headquarters?

I think not.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the Etsy Success Symposium organized by the lovely daniellexo (above) and facilitated by many other fab Etsy admins.

Right now, I find myself in the midst of a rather beautiful & expansive discussion of social media – it’s relevance & “realness” – and my experience at Etsy just makes me more confident of my theory:

social media is as real as you make it.

I can tell you that when I hugged daniellexo as soon as we met, it was real.
I can tell you that when people said, “Are you…. Scoutie Girl?” adding how much they loved the blog, it was real.
I can tell you that when I put faces to Twitter handles and Etsy shops, there were no strangers, only friends.

The gratitude I feel for all the relationships I have nurtured through digital means is very real and very deep.

To me, arriving at Etsy was both a manifestation of a lifetime spent making, doing, and appreciating craft and a reminder that I have much (and many) to be thankful for.