And yet we are human and we must feel.

IMG_2643I had a sleepless night. A beautiful soul left us yesterday at the hands of depression ~ one of the sleeping giants of our time. Depression is a silent killer and it often affects the most giving, loving and feeling people. It finds the people who make us laugh and the ones who are our pillars. The people we most often believe are strong and don’t need help – are the ones who need our help the most. The human mind, body and soul is a very complicated place. For many of us who experience the world with all of our nerve endings exposed, it can be tough to make it through the day.  It is a difficult thing to explain ~ the experience many of us have who absorb the pains of the world. We ask ourselves why we were made this way – to feel so much. Ignorance would be bliss we chant. The world today is raw and full of disconnection and of not seeing. We are all numbing to various degrees – failed attempts at not feeling. And yet we are human and we must feel.

Last night I was haunted by many of the comments I read about Robin William’s suicide. I, too, used to wonder how people could leave family behind ~ a beautiful life behind. Just choose life, tomorrow will be a better day. I was once left by a family member and it is a horrible experience and so very tough on the living. I would never wish the experience on anyone. I hate suicide, but I’ve stopped asking the questions I used to ask. As with most things in life, suicide is a deeply complicated and layered issue. We all must scream why, but perhaps in different ways than we have. I’ve been on a journey to better understanding the human afflictions that bind us. Depression. Addiction. Difference. Struggle. Poverty. Pain. Violence. The recent shared experiences of many people in my circle of life have me questioning all I used to assume about these things.

When you have children and you see their minds and souls develop in the world it is a powerful gift. If you stop and listen you realize that life is really fragile. In this hurried world, we often take this for granted. Last year, I had a life-changing experience with my son. My complicated and delicate little boy ~ the one the universe gave a second chance to thanks to tiny cow patches on his heart. From the moment he came into this world he has been different ~ from his broken heart to his strong will to not eat or sleep or take the painless path. He is not easy to parent but he unlocks the secrets of the universe for me each day. I’ve always believed that we have the children we are given for deep spiritual reasons and that, like the life paths set before us, these are tests and experiences that help us learn the lessons we are here to learn. They are different for each of us.  My son helps me see the world from new angles and I am so grateful for his road less travelled. But is it often very painful.

From the time he was given words (which was at a very young age), my son has always asked a lot of really deep questions. He intensely feels the world and he wants it to be a just world. It is often hard for him when life does not go the way it should (the pictures he has painted in his mind are vibrant and exacting pictures). When people are mean. When things don’t make sense. It affects his soul. He is my child. He has exposed nerve endings. Re-experiencing your own childhood pains through your children is a trip. It is a tap on the shoulder. This time you are the grown-up. Listen.

One day my son who loves learning was afraid to go to school. Afraid. We pushed ahead and I talked to his teacher and worked out a plan. I asked him to dig in. He did. I saw my son’s soul chip away. His teacher was slowly but surely shaming him into her tiny box. Making him feel less-than. We pushed ahead again. I called my own SST. We made another plan. We asked him to dig in. He did. Then one day after a tough day. He looked up at me at tuck in time and asked me why God made him this way. It wasn’t an innocent question. It was a question full of wanting to disappear. A question full of wanting to leave the Earth. Little seven year-old boys don’t know about suicide but they can feel the pain of not knowing their place. Can I tell you that as a mother this is a horrific feeling ~ knowing your child is in this much pain. I can tell you I remember as a child asking these questions about my place in the world and being alone. Feeling that escape was the only solution. Disappearing seems easy when you are in pain. Pain blinds us even when we are surrounded by love.

The very next day we finally stopped listening to what others thought we should do and we listened to our hearts. We pulled him out of school and figured out what to do next.  I never thought I would homeschool my child. I never thought I would remove my kid from a class because of a bad teacher. Parenthood is full of I-never-would-haves that become your reality. This is why we must stop pointing fingers because we never know what we would do until we are there in the thick of it. And maybe even if we would do it differently, we should stop the judging and the shaming. Shame is what broke my child’s spirit. As I worked with him and others to help put him back together piece-by-piece, I realized how precious and vulnerable we all are. You know what healed his soul? Being heard. Learning new tools. Finding his place. Compassion. Knowing that he is lovable with his imperfections.

Be careful thinking that you are above the possibility of feeling pain so deep that you question your place on the Earth. It can happen to anyone. Life is hard and there are a lot of people shaming in our world right now. Shame is the killer. Yes, developmental challenges, mental illness, addictions and other afflictions play a role but it is how we as a society deal with these issues that matters. Shaming will never work. Let’s break the shamming circles. We are all guilty of shaming because sadly it is taught to us each day in tiny ways that grow and grow and grow.  It’s what wars are built on. Compassion and empathy will save lives and end wars. So when we hear the news of deaths at the hand of suicide and addiction we might be better served to ask how we could have better loved those around us. How CAN we better reach out to those around us? How can we better see others?  So many people are in pain right now.  Let us build each other up. Let us embrace the fact that we are all perfectly imperfect. Life is vulnerable. Fragile. It requires soft handling. It is also very, very complicated. So listen with your full heart, even if it is not your own experience. I know it is a hard thing to do. I struggle with this every day. Show up and Love.


Categories: Rants & Musings | Leave a comment

The Power of Owning Our Stories

IMG_5528I don’t believe in accidental coincidences. The universe is always conspiring and giving us fodder. It is up to us whether we take the time to listen, digest and act.

As part of my new journey into post-motherhood self-discovery and in search of making bacon, I boldly decided to attend my first BlogHer all by myself. I’m a novice blogger –and while I knew of many of the attendees and speakers, I was known by no one. Newbie.Virgin. Wanna-Be. It is what we all fear, right? I’ve been asking and asking myself whether there is room in this space for another voice. Is my voice worthy? Will people care? Will they snicker or judge?

While my main objective of the conference was to be an active learner about this brave new world, I promised myself that I was going to put myself out there. I’m not a natural networker. I’m what you might consider an introverted extrovert or a shy socialite. I love people and once I get to know you I will open up – eventually I can even become quite obnoxious. Unless I am doing research, I am not good at opening the door nor with the chit-chat that goes along with new encounters. So I needed all the help I could glean from the universe to help me be brave.

I set forth on my journey via automobile intentionally– which might sound crazy for anyone other than a mother of two small children. To clarify, I was traveling ALL ALONE in my car. I longed for the hours of forced reflection time the five-hour drive would afford me. To make my journey complete, I searched and searched for the perfect audio book companion. I stumbled upon The Art of Vulnerability by Brené Brown and knew in an instant that this might be the perfect dose of intellectual courage I needed. I loved her TED talk and had purchased her book Daring Greatly (which had been calling out to me unread on my “to read” shelf for quite some time). This audio book is remarkable and it will be a driving force in this messy journey of self and sanity. It also set the stage perfectly for my weekend with some of the most inspired, creative and brave women I have had the pleasure to play and learn with. It will take me weeks to digest all of the material from the audio book and the conference. I will be digesting and writing and digesting even more – I am sure of it. There was just so much inspired “stuff” to reflect on. All that being said, my greatest take away from the weekend is this – there is power in owning our stories. However messy they might be. More importantly because they are messy and flawed and beautifully imperfect. They are not the manufactured voices of the media. The pictures and dreams that have been perfectly crafted. The ones that make us feel so othered – so flawed.

In The Art of Vulnerability, Brown talks about the process of building shame resilience in our lives to boost creativity and to ultimately become more vulnerable (or true to our authentic selves) in our lives. Ultimately shame is the threat of being unlovable. It is the paralyzer of creativity and risk. According to Brown shame is THE poison of our world.  The key to shame resilience is nurturing vulnerability. True belonging comes when we are true to ourselves. Brown argues that we all must walk into our stories and own them. If we orphan our stories and let others write them we become mere characters. But when we own our stories we become the narrator and ultimately have the power to write the end. This came to life for me during the BlogHer conference in so many ways. I was moved and motivated by all the brave truth telling. Brown also talks about how, when we see vulnerability in others, we see courage but when we think about vulnerability in our own lives, fear and the threat of weakness takes hold. We fear the critics and the cynics – the people ruling our world right now. I love this quote that Brown uses throughout her work.


At BlogHer, I was grateful for the kind and loving faces that made being a newbie easy. I enjoyed the exhibition hall – especially The Mrs. booth that celebrated our worthiness. I was inspired by the keynote speakers. I was educated by the 10x10s and the breakout sessions. It was all pure magic. But no one could have prepared me for the Voices of the Year speeches. Note to the BlogHer organizers – tissues on the tables would be a good addition. I was rocked to my core by the messy honesty that each of the presenters honored in their words. They dared greatly. They own their stories and we are better for it. I invite you to read their stories here for the words speak for themselves. Sadly you will miss the added vulnerability and passion that comes about through live readings and spoken word. Open your mind to their truth telling, even if it might not be your own. Especially if the truth collides with your own. Listen. Reflect. Several of these pieces took me on a journey that dramatically changed my position on several fronts – specifically addiction, recovery, belonging and racism. I am forever changed by my time spent with all of you BlogHer14 storytellers. I now know the answer to my question – is there enough space for new stories? The answer is a resounding yes.

HUMOR: “Leisure Suits, Braces and Beanies: My Life as a Dodgeball Target,” by Parri Sontag


HEART: “More Than Words, by Kristin Vanderhey Shaw


HUMOR: “First Reason Not to Get a Tattoo: Your Mom Probably Has One,” by Tammy Soong


OP-ED: “America’s Not Here for Us,” by A’Driane Nieves


HUMOR: “7 Awesome Things About Having a Physical Disability,” by Meredith Bland


OP-ED: “We don’t start with needles in our arm,” by Janelle Hanchett


OP-ED: “Sometimes, I Still Wish I Was White,” by Phyllis Myung


EXPLORATION: “It’s All One Life,” by Ashley Garrett


HEART: “My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story,” by August McLaughlin


EXPLORATION: “Letting the stupid little ni**er go,” by Grace Sandra


HEART: “A Bridge That Is Any Bridge,” by Jenna Hatfield


EXPLORATION: “The View From Here,” by Lisa Page Rosenberg



Categories: In Search of Bacon, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mommy Sabbatical

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“Trust that your soul has a plan and even if you can’t see it completely, know that everything will unfold as it is meant to.” ~ Deepak Chopra

When life finally presented me with the opportunity to be a mom, I was 35 and had spent ten years successfully climbing the corporate ladder and another five years teaching at one of the top universities in the state. I was confident and successful.  In the land of fertility, I was practically running out of time, but in the midst of my PhD dissertation, my husband and I decided to give it a shot.

I got pregnant instantly and started planning motherhood. I read parenting books like a scholar and plotted out how I would feed, sleep train and raise my baby.  I had no doubt that I could teach, finish my dissertation and raise my son with good organization and planning. It all seemed so manageable when my baby was contained in my belly. Despite my detailed birth plan, I gave birth via c-section thirty-eight weeks later. The universe gave me this perfect little boy. Motherhood was pure bliss.

Two weeks after I brought my son home, my life changed dramatically.  What we thought was a minor heart murmur in our son, turned out to be a significant congenital heart defect that would lead us down a challenging path as first-time parents. All of my well thought out plans became silly as we focused on keeping our son alive. At three months of age my son had successful open heart surgery.  He healed like a champ and despite some minor challenges, he was thriving and back on track by the time he hit one.

When you are in crisis mode you don’t really stop to ask questions about your role in society or think about questions like identity.  You just survive.  At the time I just did what I do, I dove in and put everything else on hold. Without thinking about it, I put me on hold. That is what all moms do to varying degrees. When the dust settled and I was faced with the questions of what to do next, I was head-to-head with a tough predicament. A year out of the program and teaching made transition tough. I missed teaching but also felt like the universe was telling me to spend time with my son. If I look back now, I know there was fear too. Fear of getting back on the bike, fear of losing time with my son and general fear of being caught in in-between spaces.

This is the story of my life.

Life landed us in a new town and so I did the most logical thing, I decided to just commit to the stay-at-home-mom gig.  I convinced myself that I was just about to try to get pregnant again and so it would be best to just wait. Fertility issues and the hustle-and-bustle of life took over. One year became two and before I knew it, I was looking at eight years.

I’ve always sort of had one foot out of the stay-at-home-world. I still cringe at the title. It is so “not me” or so I told myself. I’m not sure why I have struggled so much with the role. During my eight year sentence I have worked freelance gigs, opened etsy shops, taught art classes, started a company and volunteered for everything under the sun just so that I could say I “did” something and “was” something.

People stopped asking me questions long ago. It was the weirdest thing about becoming a stay-at-home-mom. I stopped being interesting to other people. It sounds trivial, but it was really tough for me. I found myself trying to slip in stories about my life “before” but I felt like a fraud. I also felt my brain shrinking – literally shrinking. I never had social anxiety until years into my in-home mom position and then I found myself constantly second guessing my talents, intelligence and accomplishments.

I’m sure you are asking why I bothered to stay at home if I hated it so much.  The truth is I love it. I mean it is imperfect and hard but I am so grateful for all of this time I have spent with my children. I started off thinking I was doing  it for the benefit of my kids, but the truth is, it has been a life altering experience for me. I have learned so many valuable lessons about life and about myself.  Even though my life these past eight years has been chaotic and out of my control, it has been like a deep meditation. Kids live so fully in the moment. As their captain, I have been forced to think about the now and just believe that the future will be there for a deeper me.

I was also lucky because when I was most desperate and lonely, I decided to join a local MOMS Club against my better judgement. Despite all my own stereotypes against stay-at-home-moms, I met the most interesting and diverse group of ladies – all with their own challenging motherhood stories.

None of us stay-at-home. We are always out there in the world doing important things with the future of this world. Some of us do paid work in various forms but all us work hard. Together we have laughed and cried at our failures and successes. We all have pieces of our selves on hold but we find joy in our lives and fractured selves.

Maybe it is because I’m entering the sweet spot and I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe it is because I see my kids are growing up so fast, but all of a sudden I realize how important all of my work has been for me, my kids and the world. I may not be interesting to people at parties.  I may not have a fancy title or a big paycheck but my feminist self has finally come to value my life choice.

The third world feminists have it right, if we all as a society learn to value childcare – the monetary and social worth tied to the work of raising and caring for children – then we will finally value women and the choices they can – and sometimes can’t – make about their role as mother. Or better yet, maybe we can start to unbind the expectations of childrearing placed predominately on women and mothers.  We can look at it as a global community responsibility. Then perhaps we can stop these mommy wars and wars within ourselves. Maybe then we can all value the roles we play within society and stop calling each other full and part time moms and working and not working women.  We are all full time moms who work our asses off and the world is better because we are a mosaic of women working together in diverse ways to raise the future.

Categories: Planet Mom | 2 Comments

Rock’n a two-piece?

I know it seems like an unlikely “artist date” and most certainly a crazy way to launch the playdates tab but it is a huge (and kind of literal) way for me to get more naked. More on braving bare tummies soon, but first let me go back a bit.

I am so grateful for my myriad of girlfriends. I don’t know how I did it, but I’ve assembled the most diverse group of girlfriends and I learn something from them everyday on how to live bold and also how to just survive motherhood. Recently, I was at the beach with one of my favorite living bold mentors and she pulled off her cover-up to reveal a bikini. Now I know this is not a big deal for many moms but for most of us with remnants of pregnancy and age draped on our bodies, it is crazy BRAVE. This particular friend of mine also wears an insulin pump. I know it’s suddenly hip now because of Miss Idaho but my friend was rocking it before a beauty contestant made it cool. She generally has this dismissive attitude about what other people think. This is why I like her. I need people around me who are brave and dismissive because it is not always one of my strengths. I tend to care way too much about “the others” and what they think. My self-critic feels safe there.

Like many of us, I grew up in a body-conscious family. I’ve struggled with my own perception of my body my whole life. My childhood nuclear family is made up of tiny people. I’m curvy and athletic – which of course is a nice way of saying I’m not tiny. I’m the square peg in the round hole. After college I lived with my Hawaiian aunty during an internship and I suddenly realized where I came from. These were my people.  Apparently I got all the Portuguese. It was very reassuring to know that I came from somewhere and that it wasn’t because I did something wrong – or was something wrong. My first priority as a mom of a girl has been to be a model of body love for my daughter. I almost always feel like I need to lose weight and I often get bummed out by what I see in the mirror but I never talk about my body in a negative way – EVER. Or at least I try my hardest. Even when I diet, I don’t talk about the food I consume. I do talk about making healthy choices and model being active but I refuse to pass along my body issues. The madness has got to stop with me.

But when my girlfriend rocked her two-piece I realized I was letting my daughter down. I was letting myself down. While I have done a good job hiding my distain for my body, I have never actively celebrated my body in front of her. So I decided that I was going to go out and purchase a two-piece bathing suit. It took me one painful and long day to find a suit I was comfortable in. Of course with kids, it needed to allow for active wear and weird bending positions. I wouldn’t say that I love my two-piece but I can tolerate it. I’ll be honest, it took me some time to build up the courage to wear it. On a recent trip, I debuted  it in public. It felt really weird at first and I am pretty sure I wasn’t breathing for the first hour. I realized my stomach had not seen the sun in eight years. But guess what? I survived the experience and I’m totally better because of it. I know it doesn’t sound like a brave feminist move to buy and wear a two-piece but for me it was. So ladies, be brave and rock your two-piece…whatever that might mean to you. Get a little naked with your bad self. If not for you, for our daughters and this new generation of girls.

Categories: Playdates | 2 Comments

In case you were wondering if it was possible to throw your back out while writing…indeed it is. #oldagesucks

Categories: Rants & Musings | Leave a comment

Backpacks for the homeless.

I don’t know about you, but I always struggle internally when I see people in need – especially young children. In the last two years we have seen the numbers of homeless and struggling people increase significantly in our area. I want to help, but in ways that will do the most good. I especially want my children to understand that others in the world are not as fortunate and that it is important to reach out and help those in need. A couple of months ago, a girlfriend of mine found this video floating around on the Internet and it motivated her to put together a group of our friends to help local homeless families in need:

The event was so easy and inspired that I thought it was worthy of sharing our experience in the hopes of motivating others to jump on the bandwagon. Check out the video, then follow these simple steps and you will find it is a great way for you to lend a helping hand.  More importantly, it’s a delightful hands-on giving experience that is perfect for kids of all ages.

Step One: Organize your group of volunteers and donations

Our group was organized on Facebook among friends. My girlfriend created a special page for the group and invited friends to join. We used Volunteer Spot ( to outline what was needed for donation. We created an RSVP calendar event on Facebook for the actual event day. We also allowed families the opportunity to donate money if they were unable to attend.

Step Two: Organizing and collecting what you need

We decided to go along with the suggestions of the video and put together backpacks, but honestly you could easily assemble your own mini packs of any size (small or large baggies work great) to keep in your car ready for donations. Just keep in mind that a gift of any size is kind and helpful.

Suggestions for Backpacks:

1) Backpacks – gently used backpacks are fine. Just make sure that the zippers are in working order and that there are no large holes for stuff to escape from. We timed our event at the perfect time by mistake – early summer. Why? Because generally a lot of families are ready to get rid of backpacks. We also had a few purchased from local thrift stores. We used Facebook as well to call for any unwanted gently used backpacks. People were excited to have a place to gift the bags. It is best to get a general idea of how many bags/backpacks you will have prior to assigning the filler items.

For the filler items, we put a list of suggested items on our Volunteer Spot page and each volunteer signed up for one or a few of the items and then they purchased the total quality needed for all of the backpacks. So for instance, we brought enough granola bars for all the backpacks.

2) Toiletries – it is best to assemble all of the toiletries into large or small baggies so that you can avoid accidental leaks. We gathered items such as: soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hand sanitizer, sunblock, and deodorant. Feel free to make up your own list, but these items are very needed for many living on the street.

3) Food items – these are crucial of course. Be sure to pick food items that provide nutrition and are shelf stable.  It is important that the food won’t melt or fall apart in the backpack. We collected granola bars, jars of peanut butter, crackers, chips, fruit packs, applesauce and nuts. In addition, we added bottled water.

4) Clothing materials – because you don’t know who you will be receiving the backpack, it is best to keep clothing generic and on the larger side. We added t-shirts and socks to most of our packs.

5) Reading and writing materials – these are optional materials but really add a special touch to the packs.  We included notebooks, pens and small paperback books. Check out your local library for great prices on used books.

my son packing up a backpack

filling backpacks

 Step Three: Putting the bags together  

We were lucky to have eight families who were able to come to our backpack packing day and several others who donated additional materials. We opted to meet up in a local park that had large picnic tables and lots of space. We stacked all of the goodies into piles around the tables. Then the kids went “shopping” around the tables and filled up their backpacks. They really had a great time as you can imagine. The amazing part was that our tiny little group was able to put together almost 30 backpacks. Just think how many backpacks we could all make if each of you found tiny little groups and did the same thing?

Step Four: Giving the backpacks

Our group decided to have each family take home their own grouping of backpacks so that they could each experience the act of giving. Each family plans to do the giving part a little bit different. Just like in the video, you will be delighted at the act of giving this wonderful gift to a total stranger and making their day a little bit better. It is an act both you and your children will never forget!


Our lovely group and all the backpacks!

Our lovely group and all the backpacks!

Categories: Karma | Leave a comment

Mini Safety Nets

From my first roll of film. This is me on that very first trip with papa and my camera.

From my first roll of film. This is me on that very first trip with papa and my camera.

I got my first camera when I was nine. These days cameras are prolific and attached to just about everything. My kids have been taking pictures with my phone since age two. But “back in my day” cameras were special. Kids really didn’t have cameras mainly because they needed film and that could get expensive quick. In my tween years I was into exploring and recording life – mostly through writing and sketching in journals. Pictures seemed like a logical next step, so I begged my parents for a camera. When my birthday came around I wasn’t disappointed. I remember the first trip I took with that little point-and-shoot camera. It was a trip up to Vancouver, Canada with my papa. I loved my papa but he was gruff. He was an old school cowboy type and there was just no crying in baseball. I’m not sure why I was selected to go on this trip with him. It was the first time in my life I went anywhere for a long period of time without my parents. But there I was, camera in hand, read for my first solo-ish adventure. I’m pretty sure he had no idea what responsibilities nine-year-olds were typically given. On the first day alone we drove nine long hours, we pitched a tent in the dark and then he told me to start making dinner for us. Um, OK? Needless to say the trip was a different kind of adventure. I grew up a lot that week.

I love photo magic.

I love photo magic.

I was so grateful for that little camera. Just as I have been for all the cameras I’ve had in my life. Maybe they’ve been tiny crutches. Mini safety nets. I’ve used them to be brave and venture out on long walks by myself. I’ve used them alone in big cities where I had no one to talk to about the glorious sites. On that trip, I used my camera to help steady me when I was unsure and a little scared of the unknown. I step aside from my camera to enjoy life a lot too, but I love the warm embrace of that lens. Like my books, it teleports me into a world of creativity and magic. I love the the way the light manipulates the simplest of objects and the way my lens creates a myriad of angles.

I’ve been using my camera a lot lately to be my family historian and I love that too. But as I started outlining what my year of self-discovery might look like I knew instantly that my camera would have a role. I’m not a professional. I barely know how to use my now grown-up camera. I’m not seeking a career in photography but it is a huge passion for me. I love the way the lens makes me look at things in ways I never would have without it. Just about every time I download pictures from a family trip, I notice that a few of my artsy clicks have slipped into the mix of family adventures and it always makes me smile. So alas, I will be slipping little artsy clicks into this space. I’m hoping my camera will give me the courage and the patience for long walks in interesting places. You can find some of my snapshots on my Instagram @findingcorine. Here are a few from a recent trip to Chicago.

Man versus Nature - Chicago

Man versus Nature – Chicago

Man versus Nature - Chicago

Man versus Nature – Chicago





Categories: For Arts Sake | Leave a comment


I believe in community so feel free to send me a shout out and I will get back to you as soon as I can. You can email me in the comments below or directly at You can follow me on twitter and instagram at @findingcorine. I also have another website, Crafting Creative Kids, you can read here.

Categories: Shout Back, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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