Category Archives: Courage

The dinner nanny + other Mondo Beyondo dreams you might have thought were impossible.

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Ben’s happy toast.

Sometimes you hear a story that you will never forget. It rearranges you and changes how you think forever.

During the Opening the Creative Channel retreat in October, we played a round of Storybowl. As we passed the bowl around, everyone got a prompt to tell a spontaneous true story from their life. Nicole’s prompt was this: A wish that came true.

She thought for a moment. And then told us the most awesome story.

First, I should mention that Nicole is the mother of two small kids. She also has a big time corporate job where she works long hours and is in charge of a lot of people. At the time when this story unfolded, she was so exhausted at the end of each day she could barely move past 8pm. Some nights she would sleep on the couch downstairs so she wouldn’t have to make the trek all the way to bed. It was so extreme that she and her husband started to wonder if their was something medically wrong with her. But after rounds of tests the doctor simply said, “You have a demanding job and two small kids.” Ah yes, that.

And then she had an idea. She wrote a Mondo Beyondo list and created a new dream called “Dinner Nanny.” In Nicole’s words below:

I am a dreamer. I love to dream about my ideal life and then make that happen. All of the wonderful things in my life started as detailed dreams. Andrea and Jen’s Mondo Beyondo class made my dreaming even stronger. And it was after taking Mondo Beyondo that I created a new dream that I called “dinner nanny.” Because the #1 thing in my life that I liked to do the least was making dinner during the week. Not just making dinner but shopping for and thinking about dinner. Especially thinking about dinner.

I thought, what if I hire a culinary student to plan and shop and make our dinners during the week? But then I pushed the dream further. What if I hired someone to take care of dinner and the laundry? What if I hired someone to take care of dinner, the laundry and tidying the kids’ rooms after school? Who could pick up the kids from school when I’m traveling for work and give my husband a break? Who could allow us to go on a date night once a month? Who could dogsit when we’re out of town? Who could drop off the library books and dry cleaning? Who could get the oil changed on the car every 3 months? Who can water the plants so they don’t die in the summer? Who could ask me if I ate lunch that day or exercised?

I made a list. I showed it to my husband. He said “There’s no way you can ask someone to do all of this.” I said, “Let’s see what happens.” I posted my job description on a site called Barefoot Student, which is like Craigslist, but for college students.

I hired the first person I interviewed. Her name was Deirdre and she had worked in a restaurant. Deirdre knew her way around the kitchen. Deirdre made delicious food. Deirdre was really great with my kids. Deirdre instantly made life better. Our friends said, “You look different.” My husband explained, “It’s the dinner nanny.”  

The dinner nanny transformed Nicole’s life! It freed her up to play with her kids when she got home. It gave her more energy and vitality. It allowed her to be more present for the parts of her life that mattered most.

The dinner nanny has become a symbol of ease for me.

Of asking for help and actually receiving it. Of allowing ourselves to imagine what we might need, articulating it, and possibly even getting it. But you know what? Letting ourselves want what we want is its own muscle. Can we allow ourselves the full breadth of our desire?

Getting it or not is an entirely different matter.

Can we allow ourselves to want what we want, whether we get it or not? This is a big edge for me. And probably why this story inspires me so much.

Maybe having a dinner nanny for you is someone who comes in to cook dinner twice a week. Maybe it’s deciding to have pizza delivered every Tuesday night so you can play with your kids. Maybe it’s just having company more often so that the evenings are more fun…

Dinner nanny has simply become shorthand for, how can I bring more ease + joy into my life?

Kids or not, where would you like to invite more ease + joy into your life? What would your version of the dinner nanny look like?

 

P.S. The next session of Mondo Beyondo starts January 6th! Join us.

 

 

 

Things to remember.

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Handful of seaglass, Baker Beach, SF

Don’t miss this. Pay attention. Wake up. Be kind and gentle.

The world is a manifestation of your beliefs, so believe good things. Things that empower you. Things that delight you. Stay in the light.

People will die. Remember this, but don’t let it paralyze you. Let this allow you to pick up the phone, even when you don’t want to. To put down your armor. To say I love you more.

Write thank-you notes by hand. The kind they will tuck into their wallet and will pull out years later. The paper will feel soft like fabric and their heart will swell. Except you won’t know this.

When you can, let people ahead of you in traffic. It’s kind and it will make you feel good + generous. It will make you feel powerful, that you could give this one good thing. So go ahead. Let them in.

Tell the truth. And by truth, I mean the messy kind. Like a few months ago when you were crying on the couch feeling lonely, tender, disconnected. And you shouted from the couch, “I need you to love me right now!” and it was the hardest thing + the truest thing you had said in a long time and you cried and cried as he rubbed your back.

Things to remember.

Eat cake when you go to a birthday party. I don’t care what kind of cleanse you’re on.

Learn the what-does-the-fox-say dance and dress up like one of the foxy fly girls for Halloween. Or the Thriller dance or the Cup Song. Learn something that’s been on your mental list – ukulele, italian, how to make kombucha – it doesn’t matter. Just keep learning.

Lay down next to Ben before he falls asleep. Take in his messy boy scent. Notice how he wraps all of his limbs around you in a kind of choke hold, but enjoy it because it won’t last forever.

All of this. It won’t last forever.

What’s on your list of things to remember?

 

Magic 42. The softening.

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I always knew 42 would be a magic number. I’m not quite sure why, but I always knew that turning 42 would be auspicious.

Let’s start with the basics.

I have never felt so loved as I did this week. Let me rephrase that. I have never felt so receptive to the love in my life as I have this week. It’s as if every pore in my being was open. I feel supple + soft.

I have softened over the last couple of years.

Let me first give a shout out to the Zoloft. It has been exactly one year since I started taking it and my life has shifted dramatically. There is a clear before and after – life before Zoloft and life after. I still say a prayer of thanks every morning when I take that tiny blue pill. Thank you thank you thank you.

Now that the wound-up, hypervigilent, fight or flight, oh-my-god-the-world-is-way-too-stimulating, what’s-with-all-the-freaking-noise-on-the-internet, nervous system has calmed down, there is so much more space.

I can let so much more in.

The chaos of  having two boys. The loudness of their cries and whines. The tactile stimulation, the whirl of them sprinting (literally) in circles around the house. The way they dive bomb me, knocking me down in a playful wrestle whenever I kneel toward the ground.

I have the capacity to hold so much more now.

I can hold their energy + embrace their bodies. I am like a wider, heartier version of myself – grounded, arms outstretched, willing to take them in. Where before I had an aversion to their intense boy-ness, kept them (sometimes literally) at arms length, I am so grateful for this new capacity.

And with this ability to hold the bigness of their energy also came an ability to let more love in too.

And I haven’t felt that so palpably until now. This birthday. This week.

It started with an incredible storytelling event called Journeys on Wednesday with my “joy buddies” Ellen + Sherry. (We take a course called Awakening Joy together) We heard amazing stories by the creators of Life Factory and Numi tea plus one of my all time favorite storytellers – Joel Ben Izzy. Then I went to Golden Gate park and rowed a boat in Stowe Lake with my dear friend and mentor SARK. We rowed and chatted for hours… If that isn’t a perfect date, I don’t know what is!

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The amazing SARK, in our row boat in Stowe Lake

Then Matt and I laughed for hours on Saturday night at a Mortified event in Oakland. If you haven’t seen a Mortified show, get to it! Kind of like The Moth, but everything is based on the storyteller’s junior high and high school diaries. Unbelievable. Hilarious. Genius. (You can watch the trailer for their documentary here)

But I’m getting off topic.

The point is this: I am 42 years old and what I am celebrating most right now is that I have the capacity to hold so much more of all of it – the chaos and the joy. There is something my friend Brene Brown says that has always stuck with me. “You cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. When we numb those emotions, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.”

And I think it worked the same way for all of those years of post-partum anxiety. With my nervous system all whacked out, I was overstimulated by everything. I had to keep life at a distance in order to shield myself.

But over the last year, a profound softening has unfolded. An unexpected gift.

It began with saying I love you more.
Then I noticed I was allowing myself to be hugged a bit longer.
I can look into your eyes now and be with you in a more grounded way.
I can hold my kiddos big feelings and let them dissolve into me.

And as of this birthday, I can see how I am finally letting in more joy. The neuroscientist Rick Hanson teaches that when you are experiencing joy, it’s good to put your hand on your heart and say, “This is joy.” Then those particular neuro-pathways can deepen.

I have been doing that a lot this week, trying to seal all the goodness in.
This is joy. This is joy. This is joy.

 

 

 

The courage to believe there is room for everybody.

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Launching this course was a huge act of courage for me.

I had been designing the curriculum for Cultivating Courage last year and was getting really excited about the idea of a 30 day courage challenge. One day I googled “30 days of courage” (what I was originally going to call the class) to see if anyone was doing something similar. I was shocked to discover that not only was someone already doing a course by that name, but it was someone I knew! Someone in my creative circle who I have always adored and admired – Marianne Elliott. Crap! I thought.

While we hiked the following week (she happened to be visiting the bay area from New Zealand) I brought it up: “Marianne, you won’t believe this, but I have been creating a curriculum for a class about courage and just discovered that you already launched one! I would never want you to think I was copying you.”

She laughed. “That is hilarious! Kate Swoboda just emailed me about the same thing. She is launching a 30 days of courage class also!”

My heart sank. Another person in our circle offering a 30 days of courage class as well?! This was getting to be a bummer. And I was launching last, I thought. It was going to look like I copied.

Even though Marianne was relaxed about it, I was catastrophizing back at my desk.

  • They’ll probably do it better than me.
  • Look at Marianne. She was a UN peacekeeper in Afghanistan! What do I know about courage?
  • Kate’s whole website is about courage. Maybe this is her terrain and not mine.
  • They’re going to think I’m copying.
  • I have nothing unique to say.I suck. I should just quit.
And then I got a note from Marianne.
She said: “I’ve had friends totally freak out when they see someone else doing something similar to what they are doing – either because they assume they are being copied (which I think is very rarely the case) or because they think they’ll be competing.
 
I’d love to find another path through this, I think it’s magical that you and Kate and I are all in the same space geographically at the moment so we can meet in person and talk about it. And I really do think there is some powerful learning in here, learning worth sharing once we get there.”

And that’s when I had a revelation — that there was an opportunity for us to decide, collectively, that there was room for all of us. That we didn’t have to compete but could support each other instead.

I was nervous when I got to the restaurant. We chatted about life in general for a long time, then I shyly brought up the courage courses. We each took turns describing what our courses were like and we started to see what I sincerely hoped was true — that we each had our own unique voice. That our approaches were different. That there was no way anyone else’s course could be like mine, because I am the one writing it!

I also remembered that I have my people and they have theirs. And that our people wanted us. They wanted our voice, not somebody else’s.

In the midst of this conversation, I also remembered my first art wound. I was in the 4th grade and we were told to write an essay about something we were afraid of. The teacher gave the example of being afraid to drive Highway 17, a dangerous highway near our home where people had accidents regularly. I have the same fear! I thought. What a coincidence! And so I wrote about that.

The next day she held up my paper in front of the class and read the first paragraph. “What’s wrong with this paper?” she boomed.

“She copied you!” the kids shouted.

“What grade do you think this student should get?”

“An F!” the kids yelled.

I was aghast. And crushed. And humiliated. And wanted to die.

To this day, I am deeply afraid of anyone thinking I have copied them. I try hard to be unique in everything I do and feel horrified (the same horror as that day) if anyone says my work is like someone else’s. I was careful to not even read the sales pages for Marianne or Kate’s courses lest I inadvertently be influenced in some way by what they were creating. Crazy, right? This wound has held me back in countless ways, often paralyzing me even before beginning. (Why bother? Other people have already said it or said it better) 

As I shared this with Marianne and Kate, I could feel a new layer of that story was being healed, right there at the restaurant. We actively decided that we would not compete with each other, but would be allies instead. We decided to be examples of a different way through. That instead of feeling threatened by each other, we would choose to support + celebrate each other’s work. 

In a world where we are all vulnerable to the comparison game, the not-enough game, the there’s-no-room-for-me game, this felt like such a sweet victory.

In the end, I decided to change the title of the course to Cultivating Courage (hooray!) so as to not create confusion. This felt good and right. The whole process though was, you guessed it! an exercise in courage:

  • Courage to keep going anyway.
  • Courage to keep writing in the face of my very active gremlins.
  • Courage to trust myself–trust that I had something to say and would say it in my own unique way.
  • Courage to believe that there was room for everybody.

I’m so glad I did. This course has been such a bright spot in my life.

This is one of the many stories in the Cultivating Courage course. I would be so honored if you would join me!

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The next session begins on Monday, November 4th, 2013. Cost is $79

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My money memoir

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Dear Superheroes,

I’ve just bared my soul about something tremendously personal: money!

It’s part of the Money Memoirs Series: a free, month-long gathering for healing and truth-telling about money, hosted by my dear friend and colleague, Bari Tessler Linden. Bari is a financial therapist who leads a year-long global money school, The Art of Money.

For the entire month of October, Bari has invited some of her favorite people to share the tender truth about their own money stories. We’re bringing our money stories out into the light. To spread a message of healing, un-shaming, and love, and to create a sacred doorway into the opening of her year long Art of Money program, which will happen in the middle of the Money Memoirs month.

Click through to Bari’s blog to hear my Money Memoir: my triumphs and challenges, how money has affected my relationships and career, and what I’ve learned from it all.

I hope hearing my story will inspire your own honest and loving un-shaming about money. And, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating everyone who shares their stories with Bari, the entire month of October. Please join us for this intimate gathering as we bring healing, humanity, and empowerment to our money relationships. Click right this way to hear my Money Memoir.

When did you get the call to service?

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She handed me the note at recess.

I was 10 years old, a tiny wisp of a 5th grader. She was quiet and bookish, friendly, but with few friends.

I read the note when I got to class and felt sick – she told me that she had to reach out to somebody, that I seemed like the right person to reach out to, that I might understand. She told me that her father was abusing her. That she didn’t know what to do.

I crumpled up the note and threw it in the bottom of my backpack. I wanted it as far away from me as possible. I was angry, confused, horrified -Why are you giving me this?? I thought. I never spoke to her about it and was afraid to look her in the eyes again. I didn’t want to be the keeper of her secret.

I remembered this story last year when I attended a workshop with Rachel Naomi Remen called A Life of Service. Most of the folks in the room were medical professionals, nurses, social workers and the like.

“When did you get the call to service?” she asked.

For some, it was when they were five years old and a friend killed a beetle right in front of their eyes while they looked on in horror. For others, it was when they saw someone suffer in their lives, or discovered an injustice.

For me, it was this moment in the 5th grade.
This moment of turning my back.
This moment of not being ready to face my own darkness.

This memory has haunted me, but it has also guided the course of my life, precisely because I didn’t do the right thing.

She sensed she could trust me, that I was the right person, that I was a safe person to tell.

And she was right. I was exactly the right person. I just wasn’t ready yet.

At our 20 year reunion (years ago now) I wanted to reach out to her so badly. She arrived with an infant strapped to her body and she positively glowed. She was beautiful, confident, 3 kids in tow and a handsome, kind husband. I wanted to whisk her to the side and say, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I turned my back on you. But I was getting sick that night and I was afraid to get too close to the baby and all that I could eek out was a hello…

In my work now, I see my fierce commitment to sharing the truth, to being vulnerable and telling our stories. I wish I could go back and tell her, Yes, yes, me too. And maybe neither of us would have felt alone.

But this is not a story of regret.

It’s a story of gratitude- for I have spent my life becoming the person she sensed I was all those years ago.

 

Surprise wedding!

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So many stories to share, but here are a few photos from the best wedding EVER. It was the marriage of two of my dearest friends who have been engaged for 14 years. 14 years!

Originally, it was going to be a 50th birthday bash in Santa Barbara, but when it looked like everyone was coming from near and far (and the Supreme Court ruling came through) it turned into the perfect time for a wedding.

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We all kept the big secret (miraculous that 75 of us pulled this off!) and when Jacques arrived, we were all in masks.I have never been more excited (or nervous!) for a wedding… and couldn’t have been more touched by the magic day that unfolded.

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The greatest pleasure for me was witnessing the utter glee on my friend Chris’s face… to pull off such an elaborate surprise and to have it so gracefully received was the most amazing thing to witness. The love was so big, so awesome, so bright, …. it was almost blinding.

The Mama Monster

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The mama monster reared her head last night.

You know the one. She creeps up despite your best judgment. She surprises you with her ferocity. She roars. Sometimes you exit your body and watch her and think, Wow… who the heck is that? 

One of my friends said something about motherhood that always makes me smile: Until I had kids, I didn’t know I had so much yelling in me. Amen, sister.

So back to last night.

I heard a funny sound coming from the kitchen – something like rain, but more like pebbles falling, like hail. I went in to find Nico had poured an entire can of coffee beans on the ground.

At first I was calm. Oops! Let’s get those beans back in the can… “ but then he started thrashing around, sweeping his little starfish hands as fast as he could to and fro, trying to disseminate the beans as quickly as possible before I shut him down.

The beans flew everywhere – careening through the air, across the kitchen floor, under the stove.

He then proceeded to stomp around and crush them with his chunky, little padded feet.

That’s when the mama monster reared her head. “Stop it Nico!” I shouted. “If you’re not going to help, get out of here!” and I furiously tried to shove the beans back into the can, trying not to include old pieces of macaroni and dust bunnies in each handful.

I roared. But really, I wanted to cry.

It wasn’t a big deal in the end. Some went back in the can. Some got thrown in the garbage. Some are still hiding in the crevices of our home, under the oven. We will find them again one day when we move out.

But in those moments, when the mama monster comes out, it’s never really about the beans. It’s always about the exhaustion and the bills. The overwhelm and the worry. The filthy house and having to make dinner again. (Seriously? Dinner again?)

The trying to get it right and always falling short.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Ben when he was a toddler:

Ben: (whining and dragging his feet behind me as we walk home from school) I’m roaring and crying.
Me: You’re what?
Ben: Roaring and crying.
Me: I know just how you feel. I roar and cry all the time.
Ben: I’m sad.
Me: What are you sad about?
Ben: I don’t know.
Me: Why don’t you just roar and cry then?
Ben: Okay.

 

Start a Foolish Project- an experiment in aliveness.

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As I lay down in yoga recently, a line from a Rumi poem came to me:

Start a huge,  foolish project
like Noah.

It makes absolutely no difference 
what people think of you.

It felt like a message. Nothing short of divine. I had been feeling around in the dark all year for my next e-course but coming up short. I wanted to create something that would delight + energize me. Something that would be a huge gift to my community. Something that connected all of us in a meaningful way.

My body buzzed with excitement as I realized what my next offering would be– Start a Foolish Project! And by foolish, I mean awesome. Foolish projects are those things we do simply for the delight and the joy.

They are things like creating a wish tree or hosting a Storybowl. They might be organizing a bubble flash mob in the park or a book club for people who only read self-help books. A foolish project might be buying that pink ukulele that caught your eye and learning to play it. A foolish project could be deciding to make 10,000 hats and give them away.

Foolish projects make us feel alive.

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Here’s my foolish project:

I am going to gather a group of women here in Berkeley (you’re invited!), hire a choreographer and learn a cheesy dance routine. Emphasis on cheesy. Then, we’re going to flash mob it! Yes, like in those you tube videos. Doesn’t that sound like so much fun?!!!

Foolish projects appeal to my sense of play, my desire to feel alive + my love of stories. No matter what happens, you will always have the story about that time you were in a cheesy flash mob, right? Even if it was a total disaster. It really doesn’t matter.

What’s your foolish project?

Maybe you do something like my friend Maya Stein who decided to celebrate her 40th birthday by bicycling across the country dragging an old-fashioned typewriter and holding spontaneous poetry workshops.

Or maybe you are more like that woman I heard about last year that was craving community. She decided to drag her rarely used farm table to her backyard, hung some twinkly lights and extended an open invitation to her neighbors for a potluck dinner every Sunday evening at 6pm. She transformed her entire community this way.

Join me + discover the foolish project inside of you.

 

andrea

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This 5 week course begins July 1st, 2013.

Early bird registration available now for $79!

If you are in the Bay Area and want to be a part of my cheesy flash mob, you are more than welcome. The more, the merrier. (superherosf@gmail.com)

 

 

How to Be Legendary

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Ben rocking out in the kitchen

Ben was in a talent show at the local toy store last year.

When I asked him what he’d like to do, he said he’d like to perform one of his songs. His “songs” at the time were a mashup of jewish folk tunes and heavy metal. The likes of which this world might never have seen before!

He practiced outside the toy store with me, “Hine ma tov uma-na-im… (and now insert growly, deep, heavy metal voice) shevet achim gam yavat…”

It was, in short, awesome.

Ben was so excited to get on stage when we entered the store that he insisted on MC’ing the whole thing and asked if he could perform first. As I sat in the audience with my iphone video all ready to go, I saw the surprise in his eyes. It was fear but it was also surprise at how scared he actually was. He didn’t expect this at all! As a result of the sheer, unexpected terror, nothing came out of his mouth.

You can do it! all of us called out. The entire room of kids cheered him on. But he crumpled, literally, and fell to the ground. I can’t do it! he shouted from the floor.

Another kid went instead and did a fart song by putting her hand inside her armpit. (Super impressive I might add) Then a boy who was great at yo-yo did his thing.

Ben was ready to try again. I readied my camera, said a little prayer and all of us cheered again, but he was terrified and ran off the stage.

“Try starting with your back to us!” I encouraged, and that seemed to help. He started his song with his back to the audience and eventually mustered up the courage to turn around. He improvised a song, a hilarious mix of metal and rap and jewishness, and we all cheered when it was over.

He was a bit mortified by the whole thing.

But here’s what I want to share with you: Ben is now LEGENDARY at Mr. Mopp’s toy store in Berkeley. Every time we go in there, the owner says, “Ben! We loved your song at the talent show! You have a lot of fans here.” Other employees will literally come out of the back and gather around. “Ben is here! Yeah, the one from the talent show!”

They love him.

And my guess is that they love him because he was brave.
They love him because he was human.
He was afraid and he went for it anyway.

He sang a song, his song. And even though he couldn’t quite look anyone in the eyes when he did it, he did it anyway.

Ben once asked me what a legend was. I told him it was someone that people talked about for many years after they were gone, even hundreds of years, because they were so extraordinary. “Like Jesus?” he asked. “Yes. Like Jesus. And Miles Davis.”

“I want to be a legend,” he told me.

I think he’s well on his way. And he is teaching me that being brave + vulnerable is key. The crowd loves you all the more for it.