Gold with Jeanette Schneider Episode 2: Trust Your Hustle with Chelli Wolford

Today I am joined by entrepreneur Chelli Wolford, owner of Bloom, a co-working space for women.

Aside from running a gorgeous space for risk-taking women to launch their businesses, Chelli also shared a letter to her younger self in my book, LORE. It is the one most asked about during my speaking engagements and we’ll tell you why. Chelli is pure heart and soul, a women’s advocate and the sister of recording artist Pitbull. 

In our time we talk about actualizing our side hustle by making leaps from uncomfortable jobs to the unpredictable life of an entrepreneur. We get deep in our feelings with advice to do the hard work and avoid the unintentional life. 

This is a grown up conversation and covers topics surrounding sexual violence and loss so fair warning for those who may be triggered.

Please subscribe to Gold, love this episode up, share it with your friends, and leave a review. It would mean the absolute world to me, and the lovely guests sharing their gold every week. You can also find me at www.jeanetteschneider.com, on IG @ms.jeanetteschneider and on Twitter @msjwrites. I’m always on the hunt for content that uplifts, so if you have ideas or want to hear about a specific subject, leave your thoughts in the comments.

If you want to get deep in the work with me, pick up my book LORE: Harnessing Your Past to Create Your Future on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

In your ears, filling your heart.

Xo,

J

You Are Precious — Letter to My Younger Self by Kim Fredrickson

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It is wonderful to hear from women who believe in using their words and stories to help others. I was recently contacted by Kim Fredrickson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, with a beautiful story and a desire to spread her message of self-compassion. Kim dug in and below you will find the newest Love Letter to grace LORE. I am delighted to include her voice.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kim Fredrickson –

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Dear Kimmy,

You are a precious little girl. You have such a bright future ahead of you. You are likable, delightful and have a very kind heart. You are smart, hard-working and a very good friend.

You have many wonderful experiences ahead of you, enjoying life and making an impact on your world. You also have some hard times ahead, just like we all do. I’d like to encourage you to spend your time and energy on things that matter and will help you on the road ahead.

Have Fun!

Enjoy life. Do things that you enjoy, energize you and give your life. Try new things, seek out new experiences, and enjoy each day to the fullest!

Draw Close to God

God loves you and will be by your side no matter what. He created you uniquely, and He is so proud of you. Take time to get to learn about Him in the Bible, and through prayer. No matter what happens in your life, you can draw near to Him. He will help you and never leave you, no matter what.

Cultivate Your Friendships

Your friends will be a second family to you, and they will be your lifeline through thick and thin. You will have many fun and meaningful experiences with them, that will fill your heart over your lifetime. You will have struggles and misunderstandings with some friends which is normal. Do all you can to talk things through, and apologize for your part of the problem. If you feel repeatedly harmed by a friend, despite trying to work things out, you may need to say goodbye to that friendship. This is normal. Some friendships are for a season, and some for a lifetime.

Work Hard

You are very bright, and catch on quickly. Work hard at school and your future jobs. The sky is the limit for you. There will be times you will feel like a challenge is too big for you. It isn’t. Take it one piece at a time, and you will grow and succeed. The world needs what you have to offer. God has given you abilities, a compassionate heart, and a message that He wants you to share.

Work Through Your Emotions

You will go through difficult times, and have many confusing emotions. This is normal. Seek help to process your emotions, regulate them, and learn to soothe yourself when you are distressed. These skills will help you make wise decisions and stay connected to yourself. Friends, books and counselors can be great resources to help you work through the normal emotions of life. Don’t hesitate to get help when you need it.

Face into Conflict

It can be scary and difficult to deal with conflict. That’s normal. The reality is that every relationship, job and friendship will have conflicts. Learn what you think, feel and need, and share with others in ways that don’t harm you or the other person. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable during these conversations. You can work through conflict most of the time. Learn to negotiate, and stand up for yourself. You don’t deserve abuse, and can remove yourself from situations and relationships that are harming you.

Grieve Well

You may be surprised to find out that grief can be your best friend. It is God’s answer to processing loss, pain, and disappointment. You may be afraid of these intense feelings and can’t believe they are good. I know. But they are. God is an expert at grief and transitions, and He completely understands. He doesn’t expect you to have your grief processed within a certain amount of time. He is faithful to love us through difficult times.

Being able to grieve throughout your life will be a big part of getting through difficult times. Grieving difficult times will help you feel the emotions, adjust to reality, and eventually adjust to your new normal. Even with times of loss, there are still wonderful times to come.

Learn How to Forgive

Life is full of well-meaning imperfect people who will hurt you, and whom you will hurt. Work through the pain of what has happened, grieve what you are going through and seek comfort and help as needed. Learn how to forgive yourself and others. Lack of forgiveness will keep you stuck in the past and will keep you imprisoned in your pain. You’ll need to learn to forgive yourself too. It’s normal to make mistakes and hurt others and yourself in the process. You can be a good friend to yourself by forgiving yourself for being human.

Be Your Own Best Friend

The way you treat yourself has more impact on you than any other relationship in your life. Learn how to treat yourself with kindness, as you would a dear friend. Don’t allow an inner critic to be your companion. Learn how to acknowledge your mistakes without beating yourself up. Listen to your instincts and speak out about things that are important to you.

In conclusion, you are a delight! You are a precious creation with so much of life ahead of you. I know you, I know what you are made of, and I know your kind and tender heart. I hold you close to my heart, and encourage you to hold you close to yourself too.

Love Always,

Kim

Kim Fredrickson is a licensed marriage and family therapist of thirty-plus years. She loves to teach others about the power of self-compassion from a faith perspective. Kim believes that learning to advocate for yourself with kindness and compassion, just as you would for a good friend, makes living life a little easier. She is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend and Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children. She recently retired from her counseling practice when diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal lung disease that developed as a rare complication from the chemotherapy and radiation she received for breast cancer.

After being diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decided to write Give Your Kids a Break as a way to have a positive influence in the lives of her adult children and their future grandchildren. Kim wanted to help them with the challenges of parenting, when the time came. She knew she wouldn’t be around to hold her grandbabies, and help her children raise them in person. Originally it was only going to be for them. As Kim wrote, she thought others might benefit as well, so decided to self-publish it.

Kim has been married to her husband, Dave for thirty-nine years and they have two grown children. Learn more and read her blog at www.kimfredrickson.com She also writes a weekly patient column for Pulmonary Fibrosis News, Just Breathe…Compassionate Help for the PF Journey. Thousands of patients and their loved ones read her column all over the world.

You can find Kim on IG @kimfredrickson, Twitter @kimfredrickson, or Facebook

The Best Things In Life: Moving Toward Purpose

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“What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?

It is a question that continues to surface. I’ve answered it a thousand times, yet, again and again, when life seems difficult, it arises. I’ve included it in my book as a guidepost when understanding self, and offer it as same in workshops I’ve facilitated.

Yet, here I am again, ruminating on the same question.

At first, and much like most parents, I immediately answered, “My daughter,” when I thought about the best events or experiences in my life. Becoming Olivia’s mother, has been the best, albeit hardest, thing I’ve ever done. This little person made me a mother and a much better woman. I am calmer, more insightful, and conscious of the being I’m gifting to the world. When once asked what my job is, she told her teacher, “My mom is my guide and protector.”

Olivia knows I’m a banker and an author, but to her, my job is far more complex and soulful. I have written since I was thirteen years old, but becoming her mother created a focus I never had before. I always knew my words were powerful, but raising a girl in a world made for men gave them direction and clarity.

The next thing that came to mind was my faith. I was raised in a very religious family, but never once felt as if I was connected to the God of my childhood. Everything was rote, prayers were memorized, allegiances feigned. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and someone asked, “Jeanette, you keep saying ‘I was taught to believe.’ What do you believe?” that I realized I had no foundation of faith.  I was stunned, “I’ve been told what to believe my entire life. I have no idea.”

I was connected to nothing. I was jealous of those who would kneel before alters or offer their supplications to a God I couldn’t wrap my head around. I wondered what it was like to have that feeling and to believe in something. Then, in a very quick span of time I lost three friends in death, one to the messiness of life, and my husband in divorce. I needed to hurt, to bleed my stories and be stripped down to the flesh and marrow before I was ready or able to fully open myself up to something bigger than me. I have often said, “I found my faith,” but it would be more correct to say that faith found me and has not let me go.

The third best thing that has ever happened to me was finding my voice. They say you pick your parents. If I did, I picked a mother who kept me small, quiet and frightened, so that I could rise above, squeak, warble and then sing. I had to be held tight, silenced and shushed so that I could truly understand the power behind the words that sit so deeply within my chest. She once asked me not to write about her when I’d posted about being raised in the shadow of addiction. Rather than fight, I asked her to allow me to own my story. She thought I was writing about her, not realizing that she gifted me this story as it was the framework of my childhood. I’d received three messages from women who were also raised by alcoholics and addicts just that day, thanking me for finding the words they themselves couldn’t. I shared that with my mother, explaining that by using my voice I’d helped someone else.

My voice, it seems, is my most powerful attribute.

I have words within my veins like lace and cobwebs. They were put there by something bigger than me and they want desperately to be seen and heard. It has been through my daughter, my faith and my voice that they have found their way out of me and onto the page, the stage and into the hearts of others.

The best things that ever happened to me brought me to my purpose.

Now tell me, what is the best thing that ever happened to you?

Xo,

J

Back To Me: Honoring The Answers Within

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Every New Year’s Eve I assign resolutions for the coming year. 2017 was the first year I decided to instead pick a word, something I could aspire to, grow into, rather than a list to check.

I chose the word HONOR.

I would honor myself, honor my voice, honor my gut, my heart, my instincts.
I would also honor others. How they show up in my life, in love, in all things.

I’ve thought about the word HONOR so many times in these last six months, but as life goes, we tend to get stuck in the muck. We get covered over by it, suffocated by decisions, bills, frustrations and we forget the vision board, the Wish List, the promise we’ve made to live a bigger, badder life.

I have very much felt stuck in the muck and I have been searching. I’ve been searching for answers, for someone to save me, for someone to have it all figured out, be it a friend, a stiff Bourbon “sexy rocks” (which just means a big round ice cube), a psychic, a book, a visionary, a guru, a vacation.
Oddly enough, every book that has found its way into my hands lately has been about taking your own lead, trusting your own instincts and intuition. So, I buy another book, unconvinced. I watch talks online, I go to bed early, I bathe in Epsom salts and Lavender, I journal and then I wake up and I search some more.

Until this weekend when I found the answer I was looking for, but not in the way I expected.

For the past ten years I have made a pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City whenever I visit. It began as a way to connect with something grander, which also scared the ever-living-bejeezus out of me. I lit a candle, I prayed. It felt good. Something about Saints felt comforting. They were human. They’ve messed up. Better to ask for absolution through someone who could be like, “Look, she’s trying.”

I know my Saints, where they are placed throughout the cathedral, and they have brought me great comfort for a very long time. I prayed to one for my daughter. Another for my family. Another for my own pains and plights. As I entered St Patrick’s on Sunday, steps sure, and a calm I’ve never quite been able to explain settling over me, I found each of them to be behind plastic sheeting, covered in scaffolding. I would leave one, defeated, simply to walk behind the alter to find the second and the third all covered, kept away and under construction.

I stood in the middle of this grand place of worship, hope and peace feeling as if I’d been abandoned, how is it that only MY Saints are under construction?

Then I sat down, and while prayers were offered for peace in our current global climate, the tears came as I said a real prayer. The messy kind where something in you breaks open and you realize you’ve just been found. The prayer, the offering that doesn’t require circumvention, a team, a conduit, a guide, I get it. I don’t need to search outside of myself. I need to honor myself.

I’d allowed myself to get caught in the noise, other’s opinions and smudged words and intention. No more paralysis while I await the person, the book, the Saint or sinner to tell me where I am or where I’m going.

I am the person. I am my guide. I am my best advocate and advisor. I just forgot.

In my almost obsessive searching I was led back to…. me.

A thought leader may inspire. A friend may provide comfort. A prayer is a beautiful way to connect to that which is bigger than you.

But, without our inner compass, our compassion for our soul’s wisdom, our connection to whatever you call God, our respect for the answers within us, we are merely lost and looking, searching.

And, as the Delta Sky Cap told me today as he searched my name while checking me in for my flight home, “….And my dear, you have been found.”

I smiled, “Yes, I have, thank you.”

Be led back to yourself. Then HONOR that beautiful, alchemical self that is likely equal parts stardust and dry shampoo. You already know the answers.

Trust them.

Co-Parenting: My Daughter’s Two Mom(s)

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These are Olivia’s moms. Plural. I’m on the right. Jess is on the left. She met my ex-husband two years after our divorce and now they have a little boy named Luke that my daughter loves more than me. She told me so and I adore her for it. Nothing makes me happier than to hear her voice become nurturing and sweet when she talks to her brother. As moms of siblings, Jess and I are nailing this co-parenting thing. Olivia has recently tried to order another brother or sister and Jess announced that it was my turn, “You’re up, Sister Wife.”

“I’ll pass, thanks.”

Jess has a killer sense of humor and we spend every Christmas morning together making our weird little family work.

She also loves my daughter which makes me love her. She sent me a text several months ago to let me know she was concerned about some of Olivia’s comments surrounding body image and beauty, “She said no one cares about smarts. Not ok.” She immediately changed messaging in their home and asked for advice, “Liv is gorgeous, but she’s also brilliant and hilarious. We need to talk about how smart, clever and funny she is and dad is on board. No more telling her how pretty she is…”

Jess was there for Liv’s school orientation, she’s there for school plays and once she was there dealing with a bully when I was on a business trip. She picked Liv up that day, handled the fallout and was ready to go toe to toe with the parents if needed. The best thing I could have ever hoped for was that my daughter would be surrounded and raised by strong women who want the absolute best for her in life.

This is unusual, I know. It shouldn’t be.

Mutual friends give each of us the heads up when we may run into one another, concerned for a scene or an awkward encounter and we both laugh. Sunday night we ended up in the same suite at TMobile Arena to see the wonder that is NKOTB. Jess immediately gave me a hug when we saw each other, “They warned me you were going to be here and I was like, ‘I like Jeanette! We’re cool!'” Other mutual friends have called me before big events to warn me I’ll run into her and my ex-husband and I immediately announce, “I love Jess.”

When people respond with confusion or say, “I couldn’t do that,” I argue that you can, but you have to get out of your own way. I often remember the advice I was given in the required parenting class I had to take when I filed for divorce, “You have to die to the relationship you had and create a new one. You are in the business of raising a child together. No more who did what.”

You have to forgive the past, shed the hurt and there is no room for jealousy. You also pray the woman on the other side is secure, mature and willing to recognize your role as a parent. She has to be willing to meet you in the same place. Before Jess there were girlfriends who were uncomfortable with my frequent conversations with my ex-husband, our Christmas morning tradition that was created both out of divorce and a joint promise to our child, the photos we would text one another as milestones or memories were achieved. Those who have never had kids don’t realize that the ex doesn’t want your man anymore. She doesn’t show up to insert herself in your relationship or remain on his mind. She just wants him to be a good dad to their child and it takes a secure woman to understand the difference.

There is also a hell of a lot of respect. Jessica makes it clear that I’m mom and what I say always goes. She will always defer to me. I also back her up when Liv is in trouble with her and we both recognize that we need breaks. We all know that we are healthier parents when we have vacations, time to work on our own relationships and interests. It brings us back to the most important person in the equation with a much stronger, healthier mindset.

I always prayed that the woman that would end up in Olivia’s life would love her (almost) as much as I do. It would be the best thing for all of us.

We lucked out.

And Liv lucked out. She has an(other) amazing woman in her life and a baby brother that looks at her as if she herself hangs the stars.

And, if I’m honest… another thing I didn’t expect, but which has been a pleasant surprise?

I love Olivia’s brother too.

Life can be beautiful in all it’s weirdness… as long as you let it.

“Love, Me” featuring Emily Nolan

The Love Letters project began a year ago with Jessica Moore’s letter to her younger self. I found that as I got to know the writers I was privy to insights and gems readers were not. I had questions about their struggles and how they overcame, which they very openly shared. I wanted to make the experience more dimensional for everyone involved and began filming interviews over the summer.

We had fits and starts as we worked through storylines and production, but the result is gorgeous. I am so excited to debut the very first “Love, Me” webisode featuring model and author, Emily Nolan. We sat down in Phoenix in August to discuss her love letter (see below) and I was taken by Emily’s willingness to be vulnerable and her deep faith in something Divine. She was a few weeks out from a breast explant and spoke so openly about her lifetime struggle with body dysmorphia and what she hopes to share with every woman and girl.

**Please see submission guidelines if you are interested in sharing your love letter**

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Emily Nolan –

Dear Emily,

You are eighteen years younger than I am and you’re already so incredibly smart, strong and beautiful inside and out. You are the greatest gift God’s ever given the world and you are perfect just the way you are. You were born to be a brave leader. And, most importantly, you’re a fierce lover. You lead with love so divinely well; it’s a special gift you’ll always had unlimited access to. Use love as much as possible.

Dear warrior, use your bravery to listen in to who you are throughout the years. There will be challenging moments that make your heart break, sadly, and you’ll need to be there to love yourself fiercely. You’ll need your friends and family, too, to lean on for help, because you can’t do everything, always. Sometimes you’ll need help. Everyone does.

Those moments of listening to yourself feel like “listening to your gut,” and choosing not to believe in a bully or someone else’s unremarkable opinion of who they think you should be or what you should look like. Later in life, you’ll know those brave moments to be God’s grace. Which is also your own divine grace.

You’re a child of God, Emily. Your parents’ divorce and the bullying at school, and other moments to come that might make you feel icky and sad inside, they do not decide your worthiness. God does. You do. And because you get to decide what a miracle you are, continue to be brave enough to listen in and honor your own inner voice that says, “I’m awesome!” This way, no one will be able to rent valuable space in that precious little noggin of yours. You are a holy vessel. Be brave enough to always believe that. It’s not arrogant to think your God’s greatest gift, its love. And remember, love is what you’re best at.

You’re strength is in being bravely unique. You’ll feel that looking like everyone else is boring and has very little divine purpose. Like, what in the world are we accomplishing here by trying to look pretty? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? Like who’s on second base and how we’re going to get the third out?

Your fierce bravery will be a rising tide that lifts all boats. Most of your girlfriends are waiting for you to make the move, to feel good enough, just the way that you are, and to allow them the same feeling by being brave enough to own it. They’ll thank you for your courage and permission to be beautiful, just the way they are. And they will support you immensely in the years to come. That bravery you own will make you feel full and good and happy. You’ll say things like, “I’ve never felt closer to God. I’ve never felt closer to myself.” Little me, you were born to be pretty brave.

Being an athlete has taught you that your body is a tool to be used for movement that’s fun and life-giving. Your body is not meant to look a certain way, it’s meant to work! To be useful! Being an athlete makes you a leader; leadership and teamwork will be as important to you as going to school and learning. All of the leadership training you’re getting now, by wearing heavy catcher’s gear every weekend, shouting directions across the field to your teammates, committing to team goals, attending every practice, calling the signals and telling your teammates what to do when the ball comes to them, conflict management with girl drama, all of these skills will be absolutely necessary in your life.

One day, you’re going to have enough courage and leadership skills to believe in yourself. You’ll believe that you can teach women and men and girls and boys that they’re great enough, just the way they are. You will share your love with them in so many kind and gentle and generous ways.

I also want you to know that you’re brave enough now, to ask Mom for help, whenever you need it. Bullies, diets, body image, questions about your body, questions about boys and friendships, ask Mom; she wants to see you win, not suffer in silence. She wants to elevate your bravery, lift you up! That’s her medicine, let her support you. Never feel ashamed to ask her questions. Talking to Mom is always going to help you and you’ll feel so good you did it. Your thirty-year-old self promises.

You are a remarkable young woman, Emily. I love your pigtail braids, dirt smeared across your chin from your catcher’s mask, and your fierce bravery, going onto the softball field shouting out positive affirmations to your teammates. You’re going to use all of these lessons in the next eighteen years as tools to inspire and motivate others to keep moving forward on their own journey until they find the light, which is essentially the love, for everything and everyone, including themselves.

You’re a complete magic trick—how could your precious, pure spirit be so perfectly tucked into that beautiful, capable Earth Suit of yours? I just love you so much. You are a miracle. How could you not be, Emily? You’re a child of God. And you are perfect, just the way you are.

I love you forever,

Emily

Emily Nolan is the author of My Kind of Life.com. She’s also a model and the founder of TOPLESS yoga. #TOPLESSbyemily is a bras on, bellies out self-confidence event used as a tool for self-love. This event is about exposing vulnerabilities by practicing radical self-acceptance.

Emily’s effort to share what is real and authentic in media was the catalyst for the #HealthyBellySelfie social media project contributing to the global conversation around body image.

Emily publicly speaks about her journey through 10 years of disordered eating, plastic surgery, body dysmorphic disorder and shame. She believes that honesty in conversation can spark individual transformation. 

Emily is on Instagram and Twitter @iamemilynolan and Snapchat / Periscope @MyKindofLife_Em

Dear Younger Camille by Camille Di Maio

 
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When we first introduced Love Letters I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough content. I wanted to post a letter every week. Just like having a child, your babies have a way of telling you how to raise them. I’ve learned to let the letters come when the writers are ready and the result? Stunning.

Each writer has dug in and I’m so humbled that LORE is entrusted with such heartfelt missives. It is as powerful for the writer as it is for the reader.

Big, beautiful thanks to the gracious Camille Di Maio.

She dug in.

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Dear Younger Camille,

It will take you months to write this letter. Not the actual words. You will type those out in minutes. But, it will take longer to commit to them, curate them, share them.

Because it’s not a simple thing to bleed on to paper.

I will tell you the end first, or at least the end as it sits here at forty years of age, which once seemed like an unimaginable ancientness to you. The end is good. Very good. And, you’ve only found two gray hairs, so four decades really isn’t as decrepit as you think.

But, if there were more, you would have earned them.

You won’t have a friend until you’re fourteen. You will have vampire-like teeth and Coke-bottle glasses and be picked last in gym class. The girls in seventh grade will write a public declaration of dislike. You’ll become the reclusive kid who spends all the time in the library. Your friends will all be fictional and their names will be Nancy Drew and Anne Shirley and Jane Eyre and Christine Daae. You will live in their worlds, pouring over their words.

You will fall in love with a guy who tells you that he slept with someone behind your back because he “couldn’t wait for you any longer.” You will spend years convinced that you are only worth the sum of your female parts.

You will love the theater, but you will be cast as a chorus girl time after time. You will accept that you are not the one with the most talent, and enthusiastically support the show with your bit part contribution. Until one day, you will audition for a lead role, and your performance with your partner will be so moving that the other people auditioning will give you both a standing ovation. And yet, neither of you will get even a small role in the production because of the director’s personal friendship with the eventual leading lady. (Who, by the way, grimaces when she has to kiss the leading man.)

You will be assaulted by someone you tried to be nice to when no one else was. He will wait until you are alone and he will press you against a wall and try to force something on you that you don’t want, even rubbing hundreds of dollars in cash against your cheek as an offering. You will get away, physically in tact, but emotionally scarred. You will tell the police, who will say that they can’t do anything since there is no evidence. It will be more than a decade before you can hear the words “Dominican Republic” without shuttering because that’s where he was from.

You will move across the country after a devastating unemployment. You will be hospitalized with a serious illness in which you almost lose your unborn baby. You will be threatened by someone who tells you that he is going to kill your children. You will mourn the suicide of someone in your family. You will have a chronic health issue that often makes your days painful.

You will emerge so very strong.

The bullying will teach you to be kind. The cheating will teach you to be loyal. The loss of the lead role will teach you to never give up. The attack will teach you to know how to defend yourself. All of it – every moment that seemed bad at the time – will be a lesson that will build character, fortitude, and faith.

And, there will be good moments. Oh, will there ever be. You will ride on a camel in front of a pyramid. You will meet Mother Teresa and a pope and a Beatle. You will eat oranges under the Eiffel Tower and step on the cobblestones of Pompeii and swim under a waterfall in Hawai’i and straddle two continents while sailing in Istanbul. You will co-found a very successful business. You will sign book contracts for the novels you will write.

But much more importantly, you will find genuine love with a man who treasures you. You will delight in four children who bring immeasurable fulfillment. You will have friends that outnumber the stars. And you will discover that every sorrow and every joy is part of a plan for your life by a power higher than yourself. A plan that has meaning and purpose shaped by its highs and lows if you only keep faith as everything unfolds.

You will be given a platform to encourage and inspire others to overcome their difficulties.

Because that’s what it’s all for. None of it is about you. You are an instrument. You can choose to play the sour notes of negativity and self-pity that will compose a cacophonous dirge. Or, you can play the sweet notes of love and the robust notes of determination that draw people to something good, something eternal. And, in that eternity, there will be a joy beyond your comprehension and an absence of all pain.

Until then, chin up, shoulders back, use sunscreen, lay off the Diet Pepsi addiction, and wash your face every night. Forty is closer than you think, and it will thank you.

Camille Di Maio lives in San Antonio with her husband and four children. She’s traveled to four continents and most of the states, and is always planning her next trip. By day, she is an award-winning real estate agent, and by night, she is an author. She does pretty well with little sleep.

Camille loves belting out Broadway tunes at a moment’s notice, shopping at farmer’s markets, and will try anything that doesn’t involve heights or roller skates. Her debut novel, The Memory of Us, is available on Amazon.

Her second novel, Before the Rain Falls, will be released in spring 2017.

Find Camille on Twitter @camilledimaio, Facebook and Instagram or at her website, www.CamilleDiMaio.com.

Balance Deconstructed

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When people talk to me about balance I want to throw things at them.

For real.

Certain words have become catch-alls, cliches, if you will, and full of well… nothing. If you google “quotes on balance” everyone from Buddha to the dude that just taught the yoga class with the crazy abs has a quote about how you must find this thing, it’s something you create, not a destination, blah, blah, blah. 

I’ve decided they have no idea what they are talking about and have simply surrendered to a cultural norm.

I have a love/hate relationship with cliches and quotes. I’ve come to think of them as fillers. They are sugared words, glazed and mostly well intentioned. I do believe that life experiences create these phrases and ramblings and some are incredibly beautiful, insightful. I also think that the person delivering the quote has no idea of the history or intention of the person quoted nor the inner workings of the person they are hoping to help. Maybe it came from a man who survived a war, the death of children, syphilis and amputations and you are telling a clerk at Target. Maybe it was a Taoist who had never experienced love and a divorcee is your audience. Maybe it was a writer with a drinking problem and a thesaurus, the odds are high. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t care for the copy/paste quality of them when they’re offered in a prescriptive fashion. I sometimes wonder if they’re not proffered as a very kind exit strategy from conversation, a way to acknowledge, but remove the need to dig in and truly relate.

When I was in my early twenties I remember ruminating on the word “balance,” wondering what my life would look like when I achieved it.

I still have no clue.

So, I’ve decided to take the power away from the word, dear God, please don’t offer me another quote. I’ve decided, instead, to deconstruct it and make it less zen idealism and more of a word with letters, realizing that no matter how you look inverted, you probably struggle with balance as well, so let’s just call a spade a spade. Instead of striving for this otherworldly word that is seriously just some vowels and such, I have divided my life into my roles as a mother, career gal, woman, friend and writer. I consciously strive to simply be present in each of them. I have days when I’m running between things and Liv wants a mama moment. Rather than snapping that we’re in a hurry or telling her that I have chores to do, I stop and remind myself, “THIS is my life. I am living it right now.”

It helps to reframe things.

My life is not whether or not I get laundry done. It is not whether or not she eats yogurt for breakfast tomorrow or I’ve checked a box from a To Do list that never really needs to get To Done. It is the extra smiles and moments we spend snuggling. It is the living that makes a life, the interactions, the blessed conversations she wants to have right before bed when she relaxes into her prayers and tells me who she is and who she’s becoming. It is not the fact that it is three minutes past when I told her to be quiet. It is when she asks God to make sure her heart stays kind and that our dogs will stop stealing her food. It is the sweet moments when we’re at Target and instead of telling her to behave and be quiet while she yammers on in the cart, I catch my nugget sweetly say I’m a great mom and I’m really pretty, can I buy you these cute pajamas, mom?

Sure, baby.

I have caught so much just by reminding myself that THIS is my life.

I have also realized that in order for me to be my most present, most engaged self, I must first take care of myself. This is something I require of myself. I fill up my bucket first and those close know that while I may work my tail off and love my daughter like my life depends on it, I also find a way to run to the gym, hit a yoga class and take small trips to fill up my soul. I am healthier and happier for others when I am taking care of the person that does the taking care.

I learned the hard way.

When I was going through my divorce and running in fifteen different directions I was anxious, sickly and a raging insomniac. I didn’t even like me. We have a tendency to think of ourselves as “selfless” if we put everyone else first.

Nope. Forget that right now, drop it, email me if you need a pep talk.

My loves, the best thing you can do for the people that depend on you is to take care of yourself first and foremost. They will benefit from your enhanced health, mood and overall demeanor.

I promise, Get on it.

Give yourself the space to forget things. To leave the dry cleaning at the cleaners. To be out of dryer sheets. Forgive yourself if your body says nap when your clock says gym. Turn your To Do list into Suggestions and Reminders. The only person in between you and YOUR life is you.

Forgive yourself. Love yourself. LIVE.

Balance be damned.

 

 

 

 

 

Insecurity Is A Waste of Time

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A few times over the last few years I’ve been asked for a favorite quote or expression that is important to me. Once was for a female small business owner who was building her own blow dry bar. She wanted a wall of famous women’s quotes to act as a backdrop for women who’d just had their hair done. A few months later I stood before it while celebrating the opening of Blowout Dollhouse with a proud new business owner.

Last week I was asked again for quotes for an event where I’ll be speaking this week. I took a few days, mulling over all the gifs and pretty sayings that decorate my phone and my office. I again found myself drawn to the same one and I always smile to myself when I share it.

The back story is a good one, if I do say so myself.

It was roughly four years ago. I’d flown in from one city to realize that while changing out dry cleaning to fly to another, divorce was on the horizon. I wiped tears as I headed to West Palm Beach. I sank into the Florida humidity upon arriving, feeling as if my home state was going to help soften the blow. I had to get it together and fast. I was going to spend a weekend with the most successful women in financial services. They wore Laboutins and sparkling things, all brains and verve. I was intimidated in my state.

I prepped for my mission: looking like them. I would seem poised and polished while my insides were caving in upon themselves. Yes, definitely. They wouldn’t notice that I didn’t belong.

Then a funny thing happened.

They were honest about all the things on my mind. There were maybe twenty men to the thousand women and my God, how women speak differently when we are around our sisters. Yes, there were talks about economies and global trends, but there were also talks about how you have to take time for yourself, how it is hard to juggle career, marriage and children, solidarity sister.

One woman shared that while she had gotten kids to school, ran meetings, thawed dinner, made soccer and took a red eye out of New York, all she wanted to do was fill her brain with mindless drivel. She tucked herself into an InStyle magazine. Her seat mate, however, had her laptop out and was making notes while flipping through graphs and reports. After realizing they were heading to the very same conference, she told the very focused woman, “Wow, I feel incredibly lazy.” The woman laughed and I will never forget what she said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m the keynote speaker tomorrow. I just had a baby and she’s sick. My husband has been sending me updates every few minutes. This is the only time I’ve had to prepare.”

She was the Chief Economist for a large firm.

They then talked babies and balance.

She nailed her keynote.

Every woman at the conference was her most beautiful, natural, smart and nurturing self. These women were so enlightened and encouraged by the way a male-dominated industry feels when the men aren’t in the room. When women come together to inspire one another, to make you feel less alone, less anomaly, its a beautiful thing.

We talked about the guilt, my God, the guilt. We talked about marriage and personal relationships, messy and glorious, I try so hard to be present. We talked about the children we were raising, I try so hard to be present. We talked about who we become when the men are in the room, the layers we put on, the children we forget for a lunch meeting, because you can’t be a mom. We talked about the health concerns we don’t share with our male colleagues and clients, because then you are a woman. We talked about how you are scared to take maternity leave, because then they look at you with the wondering, soft eyes.

The weekend ended with a final keynote by Diane von Furstenberg. She had a Power Point presentation with pictures of herself as a child, as a Princess, as a mom and finally, the pinnacle photo of the wrap dress that turned her into a design house. She talked about her regrets as a mother, her role as a grandmother, her career frustrations and failures.

When asked what she lived by, what drove her to continue, she said as self-confidently as you can imagine a former princess to espouse, “Insecurity is a waste of time.”

Isn’t it just?

Can you imagine if every woman in that room confidently owned each relationship she had and all the hats she wears, no insecurities? I think through conversations I’ve had, meetings I’ve walked into, moments I’ve silenced myself and worried that I was too… something. Too soft, too hard, too feminine, too masculine, too talkative, too expressive, too… all the things that make me who I am.

There sometimes comes a time in your life and in your career that you find your value. And, most will tell you even when you find it, life has a funny way of saying, “Are you sure?” and offering you missteps and ego to dig through so that you finally find your footing and say, “Yes, I’m sure. This is who I am and what I do well. And you know what? Here are the things I don’t do well. I’m going to own them too.”

Ms. DVF herself, in her very poignant, clipped comments, asked us to learn who we were, all our iterations, and own them. Own who you are today, find your why, your reason, your gifts.

Then stand up and introduce yourself.

No apologies allowed.

 

Dirty Little Liar: Beating Negative Self Talk

BreneBrown Quote

I was an awkward kid; string bean skinny, butter teeth, a plague of freckles and the fairest skin most people have ever seen. Some joked that I was so fair you could see my blood flowing through my veins. I had a lot of nicknames, none of them kind.

My sister was “the cute one” and I was “the smart one.”

I was confused when an adult neighbor looked at me as if he’d seen me for the first time when I was about thirteen, “Good God, girl. You are going to be a knockout when you’re older.”

I thought he was gross.

I never thought of my appearance because I was ugly. I knew I’d have to rely on my wits and developed a biting sense of humor to compensate for what my mama didn’t give me. When I did get attention from boys I was suspicious and then I shrunk from it. I had faith in my smarts and a quiet confidence that may have been ill-placed, but served me well. I relied on being a nerd with the hopes I’d land an equally nerdy husband. We’d make informed decisions, listen to NPR and have the best jokes; a match made in nerd heaven.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realized attractive, popular boys were interested in me. I remember the first time a very good looking 20 year old made it clear he wanted to take me on a date. I was the girl that looked over her shoulder both ways to see where the pretty girl was, and upon realizing I was alone pointed to the center of my chest, “Me…?”

I don’t get it…?

Many years later my husband would tell me that a colleague once said, “Jeanette has no idea how pretty she is, does she?”

He’d smile, almost proud, “She’s my ugly duckling.”

So, I turned into a swan, yada yada, good for you.

Well, not exactly. While the little girl in me is happy that my freckles faded, Crest invented White Strips and self tanner doesn’t stink as bad as it did in the 90’s, I’m still an ugly kid on the inside. I just feel a different kind of pressure and I think every single woman knows it intrinsically. While I would like so much to tell you that my brainy confidence transitioned to every other part of me, you can be like me too, I suffer from an ugly little secret:

Negative self talk.

I notice the things about myself you may not. I’m self conscious about the little gap in my teeth, the way my right eye looks a little squinty when I smile, the lines that are coming with age, the size of my waist, the fact I have no pigment in my face after I wash my make up off and I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I don’t really recall negative self talk when I was a kid, Is this a grown up thing? I would like to return it, please.

I’ve tried a few things to combat it and at my best I tend to defeat the beast. At my worst I typically whine until a girlfriend tells me to get my head in check. It’s like a little flash bulb goes off, Oh yea. This is me being mean to myself.

I thought I’d share in the hopes this may help when your inner critic decides to show up with a magnifying glass.

I try to be thankful for my body in this moment, knowing in ten years I’ll wish I looked like I d0 today. I thank my strong legs for keeping me going, my healthy body for creating a life, my clear skin, my freckles for being only lightly freckly. I thank my smile for not only being large (One of my nicknames in high school was The Joker. Let’s move on…), but bringing light to those I love when they see it.

I try to be aware of the negative self talk that sneaks up on you. These are the things you didn’t consciously realize were there, but something stirs something deep. A rebuff or a rejection has you suddenly questioning whether you are lovable or worthy? A question or criticism suddenly makes you question your intelligence or motivation? See it for what it is in the moment. This is war talk. It is your dormant inner critic. Don’t allow it to fester. Do the work if you need to, but do not start to believe it. It is a dirty liar. I give you permission to treat it as an enemy.

I try not to obsess. At all.

My right eye will probably always water and staring in the mirror for fifteen minutes, hating it, worrying about my soon to be off-kilter eye makeup, is silly. Throw the extra mascara and liner in the makeup bag and get the day going. I’ve learned to love my watery eyeball. It gives me character and I will always have a conversation starter, “No, I’m not emotional. My eye just waters. Allergies.”

I deserve to love my life and sometimes that means the taste of decadent things. I also feel strongly about health, so I don’t overindulge, but I’m not going to make myself feel bad because I ate pasta. It was delicious. It’s in the past. Let it go. Tomorrow I will make (mostly) good choices.

I refuse to be mean to myself or anyone else. I may say, “I should probably hit the gym more and eat cleaner,” as opposed to staring at myself in the mirror, “Look at your disgusting (enter body part here).” There is never anything positive about bullying yourself or anyone else for that matter. One of my girlfriends and I recognized that we were in the habit of pointing out what we hated about ourselves to each other a few years ago. We were doing it in front of our daughters, so we created safe phrases and compliments to get each other back into check and remind ourselves that a dimple here or there was not what made a woman. If she started in on herself I would smile, “You have beautiful eyes. You are such a good cook.” If I did, she’d respond, “You are such a great writer. You have such a beautiful smile.” We only had to do it a few times before it stuck.

If someone else feels the need to tear into another individual, I refuse to be part of that as well. You don’t know the struggles and negative self talk of others. Let them figure out their own path and quiet their own dirty little liars. You do you.

I smile as I write this, thinking back on an encounter with my daughter and our Target cashier a month or so ago. Olivia is four and as the woman was ringing us up, she asked very loudly, “Mommy, why is that lady so old?” I tried to give her a look she hasn’t yet realized is the “be quiet” look, so after the second time I had to handle it.

I leaned in, “Liv, what you are saying may hurt her feelings. Don’t say it again and we’ll talk about it in the car.”

We did. She understood that if she wanted to tell the cashier that she had a nice necklace or she liked the color of her shirt she could do that, but saying something about her being old or having wrinkles may not be the nicest way to interact with someone. A few hours later I was on the phone with a friend, laughing about how time was flying. When I got off the line, Liv was ready to have a talk with me.

“Mommy, we don’t tell people that we’re old. It’s not kind.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You told that person, ‘We’re getting old.’ Maybe that wasn’t the nicest way to talk to her.”

Or to myself.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Be good to yourselves, friends.