Category Archives: Courage

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

Ben rocking out in the kitchen

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.

 

 

On getting more help thank you think you deserve*

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I was honored to participate in the Mother’s Day Rally for Mental Health on Katherine Stone’s blog (Postpartum Progress) this year. Katherine posted letters to new moms from 24 writers who have gone through postpartum depression or anxiety. Each letter is so moving + powerful… and a must-read for your mama friends out there. So many of us don’t realize what we’re going through until we’re on the other side. We don’t get the support we need because we think we don’t deserve it, or that it’s not that bad, or we’re too ashamed…

These letters bust through all of that and share the real deal. So proud to be a part of it. Share it with the moms in your life. My piece is getting more help thank you think you deserve.

 

A Love List: What your mama really wants for Mother’s Day

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Laurie listening to Ellen

I went to a birthday party for a dear friend recently. Since Laurie had been going through some major transitions this year, we wanted to gift her something really special and from the heart. Sherry suggested we all make her a “Love list.”

A Love list is pretty simple.

1. Write down 10 things you love about this person.
2. Tell them what you admire about them, what you appreciate, why they inspire you.
3. Read it to them in person, over the phone, or put a stamp on it and send it off with love.

As I wrote my love list for Laurie, I was filled with gratitude. There was so much to love about her! and I felt so lucky to be counted as one of her dear ones.

She didn’t know we wrote these lists. We surprised her by reading them out loud, one by one after dinner, and watched the tears fall from her cheeks. She received each gift so beautifully… and we were all a puddle by the end. It was a gift to all of us.

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Lara and Sherry and Laurie

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Laurie and Lara

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Me reading to Laurie

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Me and Laurie

Have you ever given a love list? Have you ever received one? What was it like?

 

The Ruffler

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Self portrait, eyes closed

We have a “Ruffler.”

This is what Ben called him the first time it happened, the first time our car was broken into last year. We went to open the door of our car one morning and discovered that it was ajar. Trash was strewn all over the passenger seat along with owners’ manuals, registration papers, a swiss army knife, a few tampons and a number 2 pencil. All that seemed to be missing was the spare change. I explained to Ben that someone had rifled through our car in the middle of the night.

But who ruffled our car? Ben asked in disbelief.

I like calling him the Ruffler because it sounds more friendly, less like a violation and more like a person who simply makes mischief and mess wherever they go. We also have a name for this guy because he has done this to our car a good 7 times now. Every time we have forgotten to lock the doors– those occasions when I have extracted a screaming toddler from the car seat and hurriedly ushered him into the house (thus forgetting to lock up) the Ruffler strikes again.

It’s possible he is the most dependable force in my life. A law of the Universe. Pure cause and effect.

I’ve been more diligent about locking doors since the Ruffler came into our lives. Not just the car doors, but the house as well. He demands that I cross my T’s more than usual; he demands a kind of precision and excellence that perhaps I let fall by the wayside. I imagine he is a kind of angel, here for a purpose, to protect me from a much greater harm with his annoying shenanigans.

I have been tempted to leave the car door open and rig a camera in there, to film the Ruffler in action. He has left cigarette butts in the car before, garbage, and once a nice pair of sunglasses that I’m guessing he acquired from another vehicle. But I don’t really want to know who he is.

I prefer to think of him as a force or an energy, not a real person.

I prefer to think of him as someone who asks me to stay present and awake, who remembers to check the doors before falling asleep, who reminds me of the simple laws of the Universe.

 

Celebrating Myriam

 

 

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You might remember a ritual I did with a few friends last year. We gathered feathers and let them go. For Myriam, pictured above, it was a long infertility journey on her heart – a lot to let go of – but we all felt so much hope as we gathered again on the sand. We knew that baby was on its way.

I visited Myriam last week in southern california and it was my total delight and joy to photograph her, her husband and that gorgeous belly on the beach in Laguna. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Myriam more beautiful, and that’s saying a lot.

I just wanted to share these photos today, to celebrate Myriam and also to celebrate how life can surprise us again and again.

This is me, looking into my own eyes with kindness.

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Self-portrait, shot with Canon 6D

I caught myself today, telling my sister a tired old story on the telephone. You know the ones I mean –the thing you have been complaining about for years, the thing that never seems to change, the one that always brings you anguish. When I hung up today (after venting at length) I noticed how my body felt- icky, tainted, like I had just eaten an entire bag of fritos.

I think I’m done telling that story, I thought to myself.

I need a new narrative. One that’s still true but makes me feel empowered + hopeful.

I went on a photo walk this afternoon. I wanted to shake my legs and get in the mood for the Treasure Hunt course starting in a couple of days.

I found myself taking self-portraits, click click click and then peering into the tiny screen to see how they came out. Sometimes it’s hard to look at yourself, isn’t it? My skin is mottled, my eyes are too small, I should wear makeup… the critic had a steady stream of commentary. Then I remembered something that Vivienne McMaster had shared with me, a self-portrait exercise where you look into the lens with total kindness + love.

I decided to try it, peering into the camera with the kindest part of my heart. I acted as if I were looking at my own boys, tiny and perfect and beautiful. Not only did it feel good to do this, but the shots turned out so much better.

I’m not sure what this new story is. (I will have to call on one of my life coach friends for this one)

What I do know, is that the key will be starting from this place of kindness and love. From this angle, things are bound to look so much more hopeful + beautiful.