Be yourself- W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

I don’t have any memories of being a baby but I recall this particular picture of me on my first birthday where I was standing on a chair staring at my birthday cake. My raven black hair was in disarray, framing my porcelain like skin. I was wearing this little red checkered two piece outfit with my belly peeking out of the top of the shirt. I have seen that photo so many times over the years and countless times over the years I have heard, “aww look how chubby you were.”, and “aww look at the belly” “so cute”

The dialogue that we use when we see babies is all pretty much the same, “look she is perfect” “look at those adorable chubby thighs” “he is going to rule the world someday” and my favorite (I might be quoting my mom) “she is so ugly, she is cute (because we all know that there is no such thing as an ugly baby) Babies are impeccable and we applaud their every milestone. Babies show up everyday and they smile at you even when they have sweet potatoes in their hair and a diaper full of shit. They are not self conscious, so a baby does not push you away when they are feeling gassy or bloated. They are little love machines, they want to love you and they want you to love them and they are generally quite enamored with themselves, and why shouldn’t they be? They get praised for pooping in a plastic pot.

Apparently when you are forty-three chubby isn’t as cute and way less people remark about my belly. (Thank god)

I have a lot of wonderful childhood memories. I was an imaginative child, I loved to play make believe and tell stories but I also liked to play outside all day. I loved to dance and do cartwheels and just about anything would make me laugh uncontrollably. It wasn’t unusual for me to come home with dirty or skinned knees from playing in the mud or falling off the monkey bars. The phrases I remember from adults during that time are all very similar; from parents, babysitters, teachers, grocers, “that’s not ladylike, be a lady, sit up straight, sit with your knees together, keep your dress clean.” At a certain point in childhood you start to become very aware of yourself; self-conscious if you will, and that wildly uninhibited sense of freedom and abandon becomes a memory.

When you are kid you always want to be older, I looked up to my cool cousins and desperately wanted to be like them. Then all of the sudden I was and Junior High was a whole new world to me, I had to leave the fun and safe environment of my elementary school to become a little face in a big crowd. I remember moving through the crowded hallways of my Junior High during class changes and seeing all of the pretty girls in the higher grades with their stylish clothes and puffy hairdos and for the first time I can remember not feeling “enough”

Not smart enough, not cool enough and not pretty enough. I can remember quite clearly admiring those girls in my brother’s grade. I was just entering this whole new world of Junior High but the Queens that reigned this new castle were very comfortable there. They looked immaculate and so comfortable in their own skin. I wanted to be them.

I lucked out ironically because one of the mean girls in grade nine took an awful dislike to me. There was no specific reason for her hatred for me, I just happened to be the in the wrong place at the right time and she took advantage of the opportunity to lash out at me. I became the object of her ridicule, anger and torment. It actually became one of the very best things to happen to me that very first year in junior high because I had an older brother and younger brother that harassed me constantly and toughened me up. This mean girl didn’t intimidate me as much as she annoyed me so I used my smart mouth to snap back at her and make her look stupid. That pissed her off of course and our chirpy banter stirred through the hallways during school and spilled over to after school hours and activities. I was secretly terrified of the bully’s best friend but way too cheeky and antagonistic to admit to that. My hutzpah attracted the admiration of some of those pretty grade nine girls that I wanted to be like. To have earned the respect of those girls awarded me a confidence that was unusual for a little fish entering a big pond. I have mostly fond memories of junior high but after a three-year stint it was time to move on to the huge pond, high school.

I met a guy that summer between junior high and high school and not just any guy; “the guy”. The summer of love quickly faded into the fall of responsibility and High School was a whole new ball game. That phenomenal confidence I had once had got lost in the endless hallways. I wasn’t the smartest or the funniest and I wasn’t the prettiest. I stumbled a bit and didn’t really know what crowd I fit into. The first several weeks of High School really sucked for me. I felt awkward, shy and lonesome for the first time in my school career. I eventually settled in and found several groups of people to pass the time with.

I can recall quite clearly that I used my smart mouth whenever I was feeling insecure or not enough. I felt like I was a smart girl, I had a passion for learning and I was an engaged student. I would spend hours in my bedroom studying, taking notes, highlighting and circling key words but that wasn’t always reflected during test time. I would second guess myself and erase things a lot; I rarely trusted my first thought. My oldest brother on the other hand sailed through high school barely opening a book. I remember getting a social test back and I was so excited to have gotten a 74 and a girl that I had gone to Junior High with was devastated to tears that she only got an 85. At this point I came to realize that I wasn’t the prettiest girl in this big sea and I wasn’t going to fit in with the smart crowd so I somehow had to pretend to be cool enough to get through school.

I started hanging out with this beautiful girl that really seemed to have everything going for her. She had golden hair and eyes the color of the ocean and she just lit up any room she was in. I loved her and she quickly became my best friend. I remember laying in her basement bedroom at her Aunt’s house staring up at the Marky Mark poster above her bed and wishing I was her. She seemed to be just enough of everything and by just being her friend I felt that somehow elevated me. I seemed oblivious to the fact that she was living in her Aunt’s basement instead of at home because she had troubles with her parents and that she continued to make a string of bad decisions because maybe her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I saw only what I told my mind to see. She is pretty, she is great, I need to be like her.

The summer before grade 11 I was still playing a cat and mouse game with “that guy” that I had fallen for the summer before starting high school. When he called me to come see him one hot July day I jumped on my bike and pedaled all the way there. That day changed my life!

I spent a good chunk of grade 11 pregnant after that hot summer day,  so when my friends and peers were going to parties and making great memories I was home on Saturday nights in my bedroom eating heavenly hash ice cream and watching my teenage belly  grow round; contemplating the future and decisions that no sixteen year old is equipped to make. Grade 12 was a blur at best, not only was I mourning the sudden death of my father before he turned forty years old but I was also grieving the loss of the baby boy that I had given up for adoption.

My best friend had moved away and would soon start a family at a very tender age and I struggled to fit in with people that I had nothing in common with. Their teenage struggles were so different than mine. I had tipped the scales between adolescent and adulthood and as much as I would have liked to pretend that I was the same, I never would be.

I endured some destructive judgement from my peers after I put my son up for adoption, and a decision that I had come to terms with as being mature and the best for him was turned into something ugly. There is no question that I had supportive people in my life, but the voices that made snide remarks to me about giving my baby away and those that stared at me and whispered became the loudest, but none of the voices could drown out my own voice in my head and I wasn’t really my friend anymore. I think I was truly never meant to fit in anywhere, I was meant to stand out; in a way I think we all are. We spend so much of our lives trying to stuff ourselves into boxes that were not made for us, dulling our sparkle so we are mere copies of the people that we stand next to.

I spent so much of my life afraid to stand out. I wanted people to forget that I was “that girl” so I just stayed small and followed along. When I had my girls I wanted to be a great mother, they became everything to me; leaving very little room for a relationship with my husband and no room for a relationship with me. I equated my self worth with how busy I was and how much time I dedicated to other people, I thought that self love was how much love I gave to others. I really never considered taking the time to love myself.

To be enough, I thought I had to keep giving to others and I was so tired at the end of the day that I didn’t have anything left over for me.

The months leading up to being reunited with my son that I gave up for adoption at 16, I was tormented. Would I be enough? I had these terrible feelings of inadequacy, that I should be more, do more, have more. Those feelings subsided for me immediately when we were united once again. It felt even silly that I had ever felt that way. He accepted me; he believed that I was enough!

Several years later I found myself in a spot where I was so miserable that I could barely get out of bed and I was in tears constantly. I had some wonderful gifts in my life but I wasn’t sure who I was and I still had those old feelings of shame and worthlessness. Those old voices that used to tell me I wasn’t enough came back when I was still but I was too mentally tired to keep being everything to every body. I finally realized that for my well being I had to dedicate some time to myself. That was all new to me of course but if I could tell you the single most important thing that I have learned it would be that life is all about love, it is our fundamental purpose to move through this world. We need to learn to love ourselves first, that is vital. We spend a great deal of time trying to get others to love us and wondering why things do not work out. If we do not feel we are worthy of time and love and investment in self care and self worth than why would we assume that others should invest in us. You can only give so much before your cup is empty and we all know you cannot pour from an empty cup. When we take the time to cultivate love and appreciation for ourselves, that love grows and touches every thing and every body in our lives. Instead of envying people and wanting to be them, we learn to admire them for the qualities that they possess. Most likely we see glimpses of these qualities in ourselves and when we appreciate them in others we are actually seeing a reflection. We can make choices to manage and grow these qualities that we desire to see more of. When we learn to love ourselves we don’t want to be anyone else, we can be happy for others and their accomplishments but also be quite happy to be ourselves. Comparison is the thief of joy, when we constantly hold our lives up against the lives of others we are literally stealing our own hard earned happiness.

This weekend I attended an I am enough workshop here in Edmonton hosted by Wellness on Whyte. One of the keynote speakers was the owner of Wellness on Whyte Dr. Geha Gonthier, B.A., LMT, ERYT, R.Ac.

Surviving her first cardiac arrest at 7 years of age, the doctors did not hold much hope for Geha. Through Europe’s integrated medical care, Geha met a doctor that advised her to come off western drugs and use diet and herbs to manage her chronic condition. Over time her condition improved dramatically and inspired Geha to make holistic medicine her life’s journey.

Over the last twenty years she has apprenticed with various teachers both in Europe as well as Maui on the subject of Chinese Medicine and herbs. In 2007 she received her Acupuncture Diploma after completing the program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.

Geha has been practicing and teaching Yoga and Meditation for many years. The results of that are reflected in the gentleness and care she extends to her patients. The focus in her work is the integration of body, mind and spirit, encouraging profound healing in the most subtle levels of awareness.

I had read about Geha and was excited to meet her and hear her speak. After a glowing introduction that made me even more excited to be in her presence Geha emerged as this wonderfully warm, humble and beautiful woman who spoke of her life and experiences and that nagging feeling that had travelled with her throughout her life of “not being enough” I think it is always a little bit of shock when we hear from the people that we look up to that they face similar struggles, there is something very powerful and humanizing about it. During her talk she mentions a video by British Therapist Marissa Peer where she presents the idea of “I am enough”. I have watched the talk as well and I am not sure what segment of the talk resonated the most with Geha but for me there is a part where Marissa asked the audience to swing their left arm behind their back as far as it will go and hold it there a moment. She then asks them to drop their arm and relax for a moment. She then tells them she is going to again ask them to take their left arm behind their back but this time she is going to ask them to move it 1/3 more than they did previously, just a little bit more. She tells them to take a moment to think about it and then the audience all swings their arms back and manages to move them further than they did previously. Now if you recall, the first time she asked them to move it as far as it would go. She explains that their mind did that. They told their mind what to do and it obeyed. We tell our mind things everyday. Our mind obeys. “Don’t be foolish, you can’t do that. You are too thin. You are too fat. You are not smart enough. You are not good enough, pretty enough. You are not enough”

Our mind obeys.

What if everyday we told ourselves, “You are enough. I love you. You are amazing. You are doing a great job. You can do it. Go for it.” Imagine how different our lives would be if we all believed that we are enough. Maybe you don’t have a mansion and four fancy vehicles and a pool like Suzy in High School but you love yourself, your life has purpose, you are generous, kind, compassionate and full of love and wonder. That is more than enough!

Geha’s talk was followed by a forgiveness meditation by Mandy Trapp. I was very excited for this because Mandy is the owner of Lifestyle Mediation and I had attended her salute the sun yoga/meditation class the previous morning. Mandy is one of those sincere and buoyant people that others gravitate towards. Mandy graduated from Chopra University with their top distinction of Vedic Master Educator and has brilliantly woven her Chopra education with her athletic training education, various yoga certifications, and several trips to India and Nepal where she has founded the India/Nepal Yoga Project; a non-profit organization that empowers healing in those affected by the devastating effects of human trafficking. She has worked in the Wellness Industry for over 20 years and founded Lifestyle Meditation in 2012.

During Salute the sun Mandy reminded us that the no matter what goes on the sun rises everyday and even if it is cloudy and not able to shine it’s brightest light it still shows up every single day. She expressed to us that like the sun we are not expected to shine our brightest everyday, that some days just showing up might be our best. Life is hard and it really helps to have that articulated. We are way too hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves to always be just right when sometimes it is an effort just to put our clothes on right side out!

Mandy led us through a forgiveness meditation and I don’t know if you practice meditation or if you have ever been a part of group mediation but it can be very powerful. It is a pretty good assumption that people attending an I am enough workshop are seeking similar things so the energy in the room is mighty. The first group meditation I was ever a part of was during a talk with Deepak Chopra and it is a formidable memory.

Mandy presented a short talk on some of her own experiences and builds on Geha’s talk about being enough and that moment in our lives when things change for us. She asks us to go back in our mind to being a baby and introduce ourselves, she then asks us to find ourselves at that moment that things change, when the rules of the world have changed and look at and sit with and speak to that person. The meditation led us through the mantra “I’m sorry. I love you. I forgive you. Thank you.” So, I found myself mentally sitting face to face with a fresh faced but scared and lost sixteen year old girl. I apologized to her, she forgave me. I love her and she thanked me. To say it was moving would be under stating it. That morning I had had a major blow out with my 17 year old daughter and I pictured her carrying around this hurt, resentment and anger and not really knowing or loving herself and my heart broke into pieces and tears spilled uncontrollably down my cheeks with my head bowed to my heart silently repeating I’m sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you. . As I reunited with my 16 year old self, I searched for a way to help my daughter.

Geha had quoted one of her own teachers in what she told me sums up our human purpose in one broad stroke, “Tomorrow we die, today we love”

Love is the most important thing. We need to breath from our heart, communicate from our heart. Our heart is the center of our spirit, our inspiration and our soul. We crave acceptance and approval from others but we need to be able to love ourselves and embrace our enoughness without waiting for others to give us praise or tell us that we are good or loved.

My job right now is to love myself so am able to love my daughters and hold space with them through their struggles. To not sit in judgment of them, just in love and encourage them to always be their own best friend.

Tomorrow we die, today we love.

Love yourself. Be yourself. You are enough. You always were.

Part of Me-W.I.S.E. Project 2017/Tenacious Tuesday (Self Love)

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In the summer of 2012 when my daughters were 7 and 12  I took them to see Katy Perry’s Part of Me. To say that Katy was at the height of her career would not be an understatement, she played to sold out shows in arenas in 124 cities all over the world during her yearlong California Dreams tour.

There was an Alice in Wonderland-esque meets fairy-tale feel to each show and she played both Alice and the Princess flawlessly. Many a pink tutu, ruffles, lollipops and glitter were exhausted during every performance. It was everything I would have expected from a live Katy Perry Performance but so much more.

Filmmakers Dan Cutworth and Jane Lipsitz gave fans a unique experience which was a culmination of backstage pass,  front row fantasy and raw human emotion. Perry never faltered in her commitment to her fans, giving stellar performances night after night, all the while defying exhaustion and facing some incredibly challenging difficulties in her personal life.

In October of 2010 Katy married comedian Russel Brand; embarking on her first career altering tour just four months later in February of 2011. Perry went to remarkable lengths to fan the flames of her marriage, often taking her only days off to journey across the Atlantic to be with Brand even though he was unwilling to put forth an equal effort to stay connected to her and their marriage.

As the tour wore on Brand continued to push for a family but Perry was not in a place to commit to being a full-time mom. She continued to sacrifice her time and her health for a man that appeared to want to exert a certain measure of control over the young songstress.

I know for a fact that at 7 and 12 years old, my daughters were not impacted by the movie in the same way that I was. I watched a woman in the throes of super stardom, lift herself to the an amazingly high throne in the pop music industry and at the very same time get broken up with; in a text, moments before having to get ready to go onstage.

I watched the movie again this past Friday and I recall her being rushed to the stage while her team was quietly uncomfortable, wondering if the singer would perform. They attempted support and encouragement but it was apparent that they were uncertain as to what exactly was going on and how to react to it.

Katy, faced with the reality that her marriage had crumbled, doubled over sobbing a couple of times on the way to the stage. She was overcome by grief and sadness and as a spectator, having watched her vulnerability unfold and her marriage emplode, it was gut wrenching. You could almost feel the tightness in her chest, the heaviness in heart, I must admit I choked back some tears myself.

As they say in the biz, “the show must go on” and it did.

Katy  was on a platform under the stage, in Brazil I believe, and tech was waiting to rise her up. As she was waiting she wiped away tears, and then spun the candy embellishments that rotated across the chest of her dress, nodded to be lifted up and plastered on the best smile she could manage under the circumstances.

Ready or not, it was time to be Katy Perry the star, Katy with the broken heart would have to wait.

I was so moved by that moment. Her pain wrapped itself around me like a blanket.

To this day, I cannot fathom how Katy was able to will herself to perform that night. I think society is somewhat programmed to believe that stars are exempt from feelings, that somehow money and fame trumps pain and anguish. On the contrary, I cannot imagine enduring that type of all-consuming heartbreak in the public eye.

Strangely, that performance may have been the best one of the tour, possibly of her career. She was able to connect with the audience and her own lyrics in an authentic and emotional way. I am certain the love and energy of the crowd that night and the nights following must have helped  to keep her together when the cards were falling down all around her.

Some tough times followed but in adversity Katy Perry found redemption. She made her mess her message!

When Katy Perry released her album Prism, she said that the title came from her letting the light in. In the midst of a crisis she found her identity and the genuine need for self-love.

For several reasons, I became a bigger fan of Katy Perry after her public despair and the transformation that occurred following that difficult time. I heard an interview subsequently where she said, “What I need is self-love, first and foremost. I think everything follows in such a fantastic way after you have that love for yourself.

We give little pieces of ourselves to the people we love, but when we truly love ourselves there are parts of us that can never be taken away. Our worth, our value and our sense of who we are as a person, independent of our relationships.

You can temporarily chain a heart but you cannot break a soul.

Have you experienced heartbreak? Have you been able to let go of the pain and grow from it? Do you view vulnerability in relationships as a strength or a weakness?

My Michelle-W.I.S.E. Project 2017


Womanhood.

 It means different things to different people and I would not presume to tell you what it should mean to you anymore than I would expect you to define it for me. 

This morning my youngest daughter (she is 12) was getting ready for school. I was getting ready to work a volunteer casino and was hurriedly answering a text from a friend who wanted fast advice. I had asked my daughter if my shirt looked Ok and then realized that I should change to a red shirt “in solidarity” of those participating in a day without women. I said to her “It is International Women’s Day. What does that mean to you?”

She replied, “I am not a woman, I am just a girl.”

“You are never “just” a girl. I replied,    “You are a girl that will become a woman, a great one and I want you to become one a lot sooner than I did. Learn from my  actions but also learn from my mistakes.” 

She and I sat and talked for five minutes about what it meant to be a young woman and the responsibilities that come with being a good friend and how important it is to lift people up and not knock them down and how if she becomes someone that she would want to be friends with she will ultimately attract the right people into her life. 

I felt proud of the conversation that we shared and hopeful that through sharing my wisdom and experiences I will influence her in a positive way.

I wasn’t always a person I would want to be friends with. I am not even certain I felt a great deal of pride in being a woman. I can blame any number of things for this but I know I had good female role models in my family.

 Though I know that at the core I was always a good person my actions did not always portray that. I wasn’t confident enough to have a sence of who I really was and this was apparent not just in the friendships I formed but in my behaviors.

If I had a friend that I admired I would like what she liked and dress like her. If I had a boyfriend I mistakenly believed that I should be everything that he wanted me to be. For much of my young life I fumbled around not really knowing who Michelle was and I am not going to lie, it led to some questionable decision making. 

I forged false connections with peope based on all if the wrong things. Gossip, sharing other peoples secrets, delighting in the misfortune of others. I know it sounds super shitty but it happened and though I am not proud of it I can say with certainty that I know the person I am today and I like her. I am friends with her. 

My Michelle, your Michelle….”me” is someone who loves being a woman. I am so excited for strong women leaders and teachers and strorytellers. When old friends have good news on Facebook I am genuinely happy for them, even the ones I know that are not happy for me. I forgive you, I was you. 

I know that people will look at me with judgement, in fact I know this to be true. Judge away because your judgement day will come and only then will you realize that the judgement that matters the most comes from you. If you can face your own scutiny and be proud of who you are I commend you. 

Social media can be such a wonderfully connecting platform but when used the wrong way it it is a shame jungle. Haters are scholling through picking you apart, disecting your life, sharing their assumptions of you. 

Does any of it matter?

Yes and no. 

For me I have reached a point in womanhood where I am comfortable with who I am. If you judge me that is on you. I blog so I put a lot of my life out there, a certain amount of judgement is expected. I have been real about my struggles as a mom, a woman and a wife. I don’t try to sugar coat things. I am gracious for my life but it is not always easy and definitely not perfect. 

 If you cannot be happy for or show empathy for another person there is a problem with you. It may hurt to find that someone has musjudged or assumed things about you but in the grand scheme of things it does not change who you are. 

The reason it should matter is because as women we are all in this together. We should support, encourage and applaud each other. That is what womanhood means to mean. If you find yourself in a place where you are not showing love, kindness and respect to the women in your life than you haven’t arrived. It is indeed an arrival, we are not born women, we become women. 

Today on International Women’s Day I am proud not just to be a woman but proud of the woman that I am. 

Celebrating being a woman, thanking women past and present who have fought and continue to fight for the rights, freedoms and equality for women does not make one ‘anti-man’. Quite the contrary. A woman who loves herself and all women enough to want the very best for women everywhere has plenty of love and compassion to go around. 

I AM every woman. You are every woman. If we empower other women, together we can accompish amazing things. 

Good Vibrations-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

I’m back.

 

I have been gone from here for almost a month and though I thought about you often I had committed to spending some quiet time with my family and though wonderful, enlightening and sometimes hilarious thoughts ran through my mind, I was way to relaxed to form complete thoughts and put them in black and white.

For those of you that celebrate the holidays I hope they were wonderful. I had a quiet and relaxing holiday with my family but we are well into the new year now and I have a feeling it is going to be a good one. Whatever may be and however it ends up-good or bad, it will happen and I will either be swept along or I will lead the way so hold on…

While I was writing my last W.I.S.E. Project Post in December I was feeling a little bit of uncertainty about where to go from there but I got a lot out of the project and if nothing else it is a reminder to seek happiness and joy in every single day and that does require effort from me. I can get easily overwhelmed by the world, media, politics, sensationalism and my own first world problems. Seeking reasons to be happy has been good for me and something I hope to continue always.

A very important thing that emerged for me during the 2016 project was energy. I would like to think that I possess good energy and I quickly began to discern the things and the people that energize me and the experiences and people that are constantly in the withdrawal line taking my energy and depleting my balances without adding anything meaningful to my life.

I have believed for some time that our physical body is just one small part of our being, and I also believe that our physical body could not exist without the spiritual life force that perpetually guides it. The different parts of our bodies, energetic and physical are coupled together and effort as one, exchanging energies with the environment.

I know, I know, some of you are reading this and wondering what kind of hippy dippy mumbo jumbo I am trying to sell you. I am not trying to market anything at all, I am simply sharing with you that I am learning more about life force energy and how it connects our mind, body and spirit and how I can use that knowledge to lead a better life.

Last weekend I took my daughter and her friends to the trampoline park. I was sitting on a sofa in the corner reading an enriching article and a Muslim woman asked me if she could sit down. I have to admit, on a glance I am often quick to assume that a Muslim woman and I would have nothing in common, but that is not always the case. This particular lady was full of good energy and her eyes sparkled with it. She had a beautiful little boy with the most stunning brown eyes and he had dumped nacho cheese all over her, him and the floor and she was attempting to clean it up. She chatted amicably to me as she did and her beautiful boy charmed me with his almond shaped eyes and his magnetic smile. The minute they left I went back to my article and if there wasn’t a smile on my face there was one in my heart. A moment later two ladies came and sat on the sofa beside me, there was plenty of room but I felt immediately crowded. The energy had shifted quickly. The ladies were close to my age and they were talking about their friends in a very gossipy and malicious manner. They were reading private messages aloud from their texts and Facebook and making comments calling their “so called” friends idiots and stupid. It made me extremely uncomfortable to the point that I had to bite my tongue and refrain from telling them how horrible their behavior was. Their kids came over as they were out of breath and needed a break. One of the women was quick to shout at her son to “go away, stop pissing me off. You only have an hour so go play and stop wasting my goddamn money!” The kid told his mom that he needed to catch his breath and she continued more of the same tone and talk to make certain he stayed away from her. The other mom seemed to agree with her friend but quietly told her son to just walk around if he needed a break. When the kids walked away the one woman continued on her rant, calling her son a ‘fucking idiot’. At this point I felt like I was going to explode and I wavered between saying something and minding my own business.  Ultimately I decided to mind my own business but I was affected by it. The most vocal woman suggested they download Tinder ‘to make fun of people’. The other woman asked why she had been on Tinder (a hook up site) when they had both been married for years and she replied that it was ‘fun to check people out and make fun of them’

As appalled as I was later that evening I was contemplating the times in my life that I had been that unhappy that I spent my free time with people I thought were friends, gossiping about other friends.I am sorry I was ever that person, but I was. Maybe not to that degree but I certainly was guilty of sharing secrets, breaking trusts and talking about people that I called friends behind their backs. I don’t ever want to be that person again. We are all guilty of a little bit of mindless chatter, I am not perfect and neither are you but I like to think that for the most part if you are my friend I try to have the best of intentions and I hope you will do the same for me.

Misery loves company, people that are unhappy take solace in the fact the others are unhappy too. Unhappy people share their unhappiness in the way of bad energy the same way that happy people share their good energy. It would be impossible to never be affected by negative energy, it is like getting a cold…you didn’t want it, you didn’t ask for it, but you have it all the same. There are precautions you can take to not get a cold. You can wash your hands frequently, you can refrain from shaking hands with someone who has a cold, don’t share drinks. In the same token you can take steps to make sure that the majority of the energy that you exchange is good energy and you will find that the more good energy you put out into the world, the more you will get back.

I actually just had a discussion with my boss today about how last year I started spending a lot of time by myself, I wasn’t even joining my coworkers for lunch. I needed to take a step back and find myself in the silence and sort out my own energy and find a way to be sympathetic to the stories and problems of others without taking them upon my shoulders. It was something that I had to do to heal myself and I feel really good about it. When I was learning to distinguish between good and bad energy I spent more time with my family and my dogs. I got my energy from the sun, the grass and the trees instead of noisy, crowded places.

I have been feeling inspired to further research energy and learn more about how our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellness are all affected by the functioning of our energetic body. I know that there are many different ways you can look after your energy and there is one that has always fascinated me and that is Reiki. Many years ago I had a Reiki treatment and it was such an intensely energizing and healing experience that the memory stayed with me. I have been trying to get my husband to go for a Reiki treatment so that he can let go of some of the negative energy that weighs him down. He has tried Energy massage that works with chakra balancing and he thought is was a positive experience. I decided to explore the universal life force that is Reiki on my own as a means for personal growth and to keep myself in optimal mental and emotional health. I am pleased to say that I have obtained my Reiki level 1 and I plan to continue through the levels and hopefully in the future I can attend workshops and do some practicum and maybe share the gift of Reiki with others.

I have some other fun stuff that I am working on but I am trying not to overload my brain. I do have a tendency to get really excited about things and take on too much and then I feel stressed and lose interest. I will keep you updated on my journey and I really hope that if any of you are excited about something you are learning or you are engaged in a new activity  this year you will share it with me.

One thing I decided too do a little differently is alter the W.I.S.E. Principles. I think they were really good to keep me focused during the beginning of the project last year but focusing on them took me away from my initial pursuit to be more mindful and find joy in the present.

Instead I would like to use the W.I.S.E. acronym to describe myself or an aspect of my personality that I am proud of and elaborate on that somewhat throughout the month. You can creatively choose your own.

The W.I.S.E. project will continue to be a way of life, a means to focus mindfully on the moment, to invite abundance into my life by being grateful and to invite joy into my life by being present. Breath in-be present, breath out-be free!

A couple attributes I came up with quickly are Warrior, I am actually doing a Warrior goddess course and I think that without knowing many of us are warriors, I am insightful, I do not remember dates or facts or history the way some people do but I am intelligent and I am often keenly intuitive. I am strong, I know this without a shadow of a doubt, I think it is common for people to be fearful and doubt their strength but once you know…you know! I am eager, always eager to be better and to learn new things and to love the people I love with my whole heart.

W-Warrior

I-Insightful

S-Strong

E-Eager

Be W.I.S.E. friends!

 

 

 

All You Need is love-W.I.S.E project 2016

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Artist unknown

I am an just ordinary girl in an extraordinary world but I set out at the beginning of this year wanting to paint my surroundings in bold and vibrant colors and live a life full of joy. Truthfully I know I am not ordinary, I always knew. Even back when I was nine years old sitting on the old wooden step at my country home with a notepad and a pencil and imagining all the wonderful things that I could put on that page…I knew. Somehow with time and circumstance I lost myself or perhaps I gave pieces of me away and I never really got them back. Today I call myself a work in progress but I have reunited my mind with my soul and it is a much nicer place to be.

Thanks so much to the universe for keeping me on my toes with your constant challenges this year. I would like to believe that I have passed all of the damn tests and that we are about done with this nonsense. I “womaned” up! My warrior spirit cannot and will not be broken. I am tired though and never mind that I have been insanely tired since 1999,  the complete mental drain of the past several months has left me a new kind of tired that I didn’t even know existed and no matter how many weekends I spend in my pajamas, curled up in fuzzy blankets the feeling has not been alleviated.

My husband and I realized last night that he has been gone for eight of the last twelve months. His struggle with depression and being away from his family and my struggle to try to be more compassionate than I am hurt and lonely has definitely changed us.  Had I  not began this little project I started  almost a year ago and made a conscious effort to live mindfully and seek joy and be grateful I really am not sure who I would be right now.  Some days were torturous. The loneliness, the uncertainty and the longing has been difficult, but mingled with all of that has been a sense of gratitude for what I have and the people that I love and those that love me unconditionally.

In short, I think the project has been a huge success.  Focusing on the present instead of the past or the future is really difficult and takes a lot of practice and though I am not a master by any stretch of the imagination I have made leaps and bounds. Had I not learned to be mindful and practice meditation I would not have been able to sleep at night through these demanding times and the insomnia would have rendered me useless.  I have a job, a family and three beautiful pets that depend on me so I occasionally need to sleep.

I cry and I feel sadness but I also know that I have the capacity to feel immense joy and I  do. I have learned a great deal about gratitude and how it reciprocates.  You will never live a life of abundance until you learn to express gratitude for the great gifts that you already have. I have learned how creativity and purpose in life bring me a great deal of joy. I have learned that the right connections with the right people can energize me and in the same token that time spent on the wrong things with the wrong people can suck the life out of me.  I am responsible for the energy that I put out into the world and eventually I will attract the right people into my life.

I have learned that the wonders of the world are not just places; they can be things that we often take for granted such as touch, sound, smell and sight. The significance of these things may habitually go unnoticed but I guarantee you that it is these little things that you will miss the most if they are suddenly taken away. There were eight months this year that I missed the sound of my husbands voice, the touch of his hand, the smell of him after a shower or the sight of him after a long day. There are days I would have traded anything for just one of those things.

We often look at things without actually seeing them, without appreciating them and we put value on the wrong things.  The sunrise and the sunset are miracles that we see everyday and sometimes we fail to realize their worth or truly appreciate their beauty, the same as we take people for granted because we assume they will always be there. We stop noticing how bright their smile is or how they are always there when we need them.

We undervalue traits such as courage, compassion and curiosity and what would the world be without them?

We think of forgiveness and vulnerability as weaknesses instead of the huge strengths that they are. Having the courage to forgive someone, sometimes even ourselves can be so important. To not forgive, to hold unto negative feelings of hurt and shame can be an enormous deterrent to living a good life. Having compassion for others can help us see the world in a whole different light. I actually dislike the dictionary definition of compassion because it refers to it as sympathetic pity, nobody wants to be pitied, but we could all use a little kindness and concern, a little understanding instead of judgement and someone who genuinely cares for us and our situation.

Humanity needs love and compassion for survival yet we have been treating these things like luxuries instead of needs.  The Beatles told us many years ago that all we need is love.

Generosity, patience and love will take you further than money, education or social stature.

I have learned about the anatomy of trust and how important it can be to set boundaries.     Brené Brown describes trust as BRAVING in a wonderfully authentic way and I think that everyone can learn something valuable from her.

What have I learned about myself?

I have learned that I am a warrior and I will fight for the people I love and the things I believe in until there is no fight left in me. I am an eternal optimist but not in a fairy tale romanticized way. I know there is a lot of bad in the world but I genuinely believe that the world can be better and I know that there is goodness and light in me and if I can affect one person with it that is change.  I have learned that I like myself and that is way more important than worrying about who does and doesn’t like me. The most important thing that I can do for me is to be true to myself and honor my wants and needs and not try to change myself to fit into a box that was not built for me.

My December W.I.S.E. Principles are wonderful, invincible, shining and expressive.  You may interpret these any way you see fit but for me I want to enjoy the most WONDERFUL time of the year with my family. I already know that I am invincible and Christmas will not defeat me. I have learned the importance of time this year and I am elevating that above everything else. I will not be taken in or conquered by commercialism or the need to fill a space under a tree instead of a space in my heart.  I want to be a shining example for my children about the real spirit of Christmas so that one day they can share the same spirit with their family. The most precious gifts we can give each other can never be bought, only given. I want to be able to express my love, my excitement and my joy. I want to express my gratitude and my feelings about the true meaning of Christmas and one day when my kids look back I want them to remember the time and the love that I gave them, not the time I spent at the mall buying them things. My Christmas wish for all of you is that no matter how many gifts you give or receive that you continue to be grateful for the gifts that you already have and that you realize that those who give you nothing but their time are giving you the most precious gift of all.  All we need is love, love for ourselves, love for others, and love for the world we live in.

“I have found that if you love life, it will love you back”

~Arthur Rubenstein

 

Happiness doesn’t happen by accident

I discovered a lot of amazing people on the internet this year, I never found them before because I was not looking for reasons to be grateful and happy. It is phenomenal the things you will discover when you commit to gratitude and living a more joyful life.

 

Beautiful Day-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

Charlie Chaplin wrote a poem about self love in which he states “When I began to love myself I stopped stealing my own time and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. I have always felt happiest when I am making a contribution but I think at some point I started equating my self worth with how busy I was and how much I was contributing to the lives of others. Some days my biggest contribution is playing a game with my kids or cuddling with my dogs and that is OK.

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“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

 

The snow is falling softly outside my window to the tune of the little drummer boy and my heart is full of so much joy, love and gratitude. Despite the many obstacles I have been faced with the past several months I am feeling warm and full of the real spirit of Christmas.
I remember a moment last week when I was so overcome with sadness that I wondered if there was such thing as a happiness plateau? Do we manage to only create so much happiness and then we just flat line? Even as I contemplated the question I knew the answer. We can only be as happy as we choose to be and the wall that I had hit I had constructed myself with pain and fear and guilt. How can I be any happier when others are suffering? My future is so uncertain so I should be afraid instead of joyful? I am hurting so how can I still be happy? These are the messages that my heart sends to my brain to keep me just happy enough. It is my cross to bear, my mountain to climb, my plateau to surpass.
I have learned so many wonderful things this year and as I reflect on the past eleven months I cannot help but feel that despite the difficult times and uphill battles I have continued to grow as a person. I spent a lot of time by myself, I got to know me again and I took care of me when times got tough. I feel like the W.I.S.E. Principles were a good guideline, they especially helped me in the beginning months of the project when I needed something to focus on other than the bad news that filters through our TV, social media and Facebook everyday.
I think one of the biggest successes for me with this project was recognizing the importance of self love. Charlie Chaplin wrote a poem about self love in which he states “When I began to love myself I stopped stealing my own time and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.”

I have always felt happiest when I am making a contribution but I think at some point I started equating my self worth with how busy I was and how much I was contributing to the lives of others. Some days my biggest contribution is playing a game with my kids or cuddling with my dogs and that is OK.
Chaplin goes on to say “Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
I love this so much, it makes my heart smile.
When you make an honest and firm decision to live mindfully and create a life that brings you joy, it is essential that you prepare to simplify. You may need to limit your exposure to media, certain friends or family members, reconsider your busy schedule and really focus on things that make you feel good.
Things do not look exactly how I expected them to look at this point in the project but to be honest I think they look exactly how they are supposed too. There is always going to be something to overcome, there will be hard times and tears. If your focus is a happy life, no matter what you face you will face it and you will be your own kind of happy. You will find the lesson in pain and you will face each day with grace and gratitude because the only way to invite abundance into your life is to be grateful for what you already have.
Because this is a project it is only fair that I tell you what I have found are the top ten things to creating a happier life.
Sharing-When we share a smile, our time, a kindness or a compliment it activates the pleasure area of your brain. Kind and unselfish actions release endorphin’s in the brain that not only boost happiness for us but also for the stranger we smiled at on the bus or the person we held a door for at the bank. It is one of many simple changes you can make that will make a huge difference in every day. You may need to remind yourself at first to make a small change each day but after awhile this will come naturally.
Improving Relationships– our relationships can be a source of great pleasure and immeasurable pain. Some relationships take more good out of you than they ever give and you need to determine whether they are healthy for you and worth it. Living a good life has a great deal to do with the people we surround ourselves with so making improvements in our relationships, setting boundaries and sharing with and supporting our loved ones is important. it is OK to express our wants and needs but it is also important that we are willing to take a deep look at ourselves and make some changes to promote growth in our most important relationships.
Energy– People and experiences can give us energy or draw it from us. We often are given what we seek in life so if we seek happiness and joy we are often attracted to people that are happy and joyful. You will start to recognize the people that give you energy and those that drain you. Dedicating a lot of time to people that are negative, attention seeking and miserable can be physically and emotionally draining. Some people, like me, draw energy from quiet times alone or with my loved ones and I am drawn to people who not only do good in the world but they seek out good as well. Everything from the shows we watch on TV to the people we follow on social media can add our subtract from our good energy.

Nature
-Nature will always give you the answers you seek. A breath of crisp mountain air, the sound of crashing waves, birdsong, trees swaying in the summer breeze, these are all things that can calm and rejuvenate us. We crave these things and often we need to get out of our head and get outside and find a little solace in the great outdoors.
Gratitude-No matter what difficulties we face in our daily lives we always have plenty to be grateful for. Nothing invites abundance into our lives more than being grateful for what we already have. People who are truly grateful for their life, for the people in it, for the sun that greets them in the morning and the moon that lulls them to sleep each night are among the happiest people in the world even when times get tough.
Science/Faith-We all have circumstances and environmental issues that work against us, even our genes which we have no control over can play a factor in our happiness but it is important to always remember that at least 40% of our happiness is intentional and that means we have complete control over it. For me, studying the science behind happiness gave me permission to be in the driver’s seat of my own life, knowing with certainty that my intentions could and would help create the experience I wanted. Faith-I lumped faith in with science and I realize some of you will not like that but I am not going to talk about religion. For many, their religion and their faith is something they are very vocal about. For me it is very personal and as I continue to grow so does my faith. I think it is important to have something to believe in and to trust, to be thankful for in times of abundance and to draw strength from in times of hardship. No matter who or what you pray to I think it is a wonderfully joyous thing to have faith!
Head of the class– We never stop being a student. If we are open to new ideas and we seek opportunities to learn and stay engaged in our lives we trigger a lifelong curiosity and our accomplishments and the knowledge gained help to boost our confidence, self awareness and overall well being. With the internet at our fingertips we have such amazing opportunities to filter through the crap we often accept as fact and commit to real learning and growing as a person.
Indomitable Spirit– We cannot always determine what life will bring us but we can be responsible for the attitude we bring into our lives. We cannot live a life free of pain or circumstance but if we learn from our pain, learn to sit with discomfort and take the lesson from it we will be amazed at how enduring and strong we are. We have the heart of a warrior and though we may be knocked down occasionally the only thing that can hold us down is our own attitude.
Accepting who you are and where you are in life– Emotions like happiness, joy, gratitude and love are the gifts that keep on giving. Though we cannot always control our circumstances and the curve balls life throws at us just when things are going well, we can work hard to take the good out of every situation because those positive feelings I mentioned above are the gateway to a spring of positive emotions. We have to be willing to accept who we are and where we are in life without comparing our lives and accomplishments against those of others. It is a skewed and damaging measuring stick. What we see on the surface and through social media can often paint a distorted view into the lives of others. It is a very small window to a much larger picture. Accepting where we are in life is a very important part of being mindful. If we are focused on the past or on the future we lose sight of the present moment which is so precious and the only thing that is available to us.
Control-people who have a sense of control over their life are the happiest and this can be a little misleading because there is so much of our lives we cannot control but you can do the things you do with purpose and meaning, whether that is being a parent, a friend or an employee. Do what you choose to do in a way you are proud of and develop a sense of who you are, knowing that there will always be another mountain to climb and knowing with certainty that you have the strength and the grace to climb it and continue to grow as a person. You will continue to grow and change every single day, you are not the same as you were yesterday and because you are in control of your life you know that this time next year you will not be the same as today. You are in control!

In the next couple of days I will post the principles for the final month of the W.I.S.E. Project 2016 and some thoughts as we head into the holiday season. Be W.I.S.E. friends.

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

 

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Seven Bridges Road-W.I.S.E Project 2016

“The sun shows up every morning, no matter how bad you’ve been the night before. It shines without judgment. It never withholds. It warms the sinners, the saints, the druggies, the cheerleaders- the saved and the heathens alike. You can hide from the sun, but it wont take you personally. It´ll never, ever punish you for hiding. You can stay in the dark for years or decades, and when you finally step outside, it´ll be there.”
Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

 

The splendid sunshine is abundant today in the Edmonton sky; and though it is slightly crisp the radiant heat of the sun and the feel of it on your face gives the illusion that it is much warmer. It is like a warrior booster for my day and I appreciate it immensely!

It has been a difficult week and I would be a fool to not mention that the last several months have been troublesome. When your spouse suffers the devastating effects of manic depression and struggles to get through each day you will struggle right along with them. You will pull yourself up, you will dig your way through the wreckage and you will fight harder than you have ever fought for anything in your life. You will feel raw and cheated and sad and angry and all sorts of emotions that you never even knew you had or experienced before. When the person you love is dancing with their ghosts it is very likely that they will not feel your arms around them, they won’t feel your love and tireless support and that can be heart wrenching. If your sadness turns to anger that is your heart putting on armor, bracing for battle. They say there are six degrees of separation and five stages of grief. I have felt all of them and a combination of them all within a five minute period. I have held on to the threads of hope until my hands were bloody.

My husband described it in the most descriptively terrifying way “You feel like someone has pulled your heart out of your chest, filled it with hornets, set it on fire and pulled the rug out from under your feet but you have no choice but to keep swinging”

I guess in reality there is a choice, you can stop swinging, stop fighting and stop holding on. You can give up on yourself or on the person you love and walk away from everything that was ever important to you. Maybe in time one of you will feel better, possibly both with some very hard work but in my case I know with certainty that I am going to put in the hard work either way and at the time when the bumpy road smooths out I want us to be travelling on it together.

Whether you are the person that feels like their mind is being held together with a weak adhesive and you fear that it could break apart any moment, you feel dead inside and unable to make a decision, you are so broken and you feel like you will never be worth fixing or you are the person who feels everything, you try so hard to be that adhesive that keeps your love together just enough to keep from breaking beyond repair and you pray to god everyday and you hope beyond any hope that you ever had, that your love can fix this, it is all consuming and sometimes your days will be in color and some days they will be enveloped in blackness. Either way it can be scary but I think for me, one huge difference is that I see a light at the end of the tunnel at all times. I know it exists and I know that I need to stay in that light at all times. How terrifying it must be to live a great deal of your life in darkness, unable to see or feel any sort of light, to not know with certainty that things will get better one day, instead of continuing to spiral into a wretched abyss of murky dead space.

The decision to start this little project called the W.I.S.E. project stemmed from a couple of things. Last Christmas I saw a baby picture of my son that I had given up for adoption when I was sixteen. Being reunited with him has been a miracle, he has been such a blessing in my life but seeing that picture sent me into a tailspin. I was once again a scared and uncertain 16 year old girl, in love with a little baby that I knew in my heart deserved a life that I couldn’t give him. I felt devastated all over again and I knew that if I didn’t deal with that, if I didn’t feel every bit of that heartbreak that it would revisit me time and time again for my entire life. So I laid in my bed and I cried for days, I wrote down my feelings, I talked to my husband and I talked to God. I sought and found forgiveness and redemption and I embraced all the love that I finally believed I deserved. I knew how lucky I was and how much I had to be grateful for but for some reason I still felt miserable. It was the end of 2015 and my mind was still very stuck on period of gloom in July when my husband had suffered the worst depression that I had ever seen. I had known for years that he had an issue, I knew that he suffered childhood trauma and that his demons followed him into adulthood and often took up residence in his tired mind. It seemed that his demons had grown with him, they were bigger and stronger now and more aggressive. The harder he tried to make the right decisions for himself and his family the more they pushed back. The person I laid down with every hot July night was not the person I married and had spent almost half of my life with, he was a stranger, a terrified little boy crying on the inside and outside he looked like a ghost. His beautiful soul was tortured and his fierce and loving heart was in the cruel hands of ruthless apparitions that neither of us understood. Even though he tried to get help he was somehow dismissed as if he was just a number, a space to fill on the appointment book and a check to collect at the end of the hour. Somehow, some way we seemed to overcome that horrible time, or least things seemed to go back to resemble some version of normalcy. I never stopped waiting for things to go wrong again and in doing that I wasn’t living. At best I was existing, going through the motions. I wasn’t happy and finally the time came that I realized that I had all the pieces of the puzzle to construct a happy life but something was not fitting together properly. Unlike people who suffer the debilitating affects of depression, happiness for me was a choice and I became committed to seeking it, learning the science of it and choosing it at all costs every single day. It doesn’t mean that I spend every day farting rainbows (only some days) but it really does give me a lot of perspective. Had I not embarked on this project I would be a crying mess on the floor and that is not an option for me. I cry and feel everything, make no mistake about that. There have been weekends recently that I didn’t even leave the house or get out of my pajamas but I have to say that there has been a power in knowing that know matter what that I can lift myself up and be OK. I practice gratitude daily and I try incredibly hard to stay in the moment.

Depression robs you of your ability to communicate effectively and as a wife who is sad and my heart is raw, I often take well meaning things the wrong way. It can be frustrating for both of us. My need to decide everything in a moment adds a pressure to my husbands already stressed mind that is not helpful in the least. I have to consciously try to slow down, to live in the present and to be grateful for the good things I have in my life and to seek joy in everything I do.

I know that I have to matter in the equation too and often I have questions that my husband simply cannot answer. This adds another element of discord that we struggle through. I try really hard to be my authentic self and stay true to me and my needs. That is why I ask the tough questions because they are important to me and in order for me to stay connected, healthy and well I occasionally need a little bit of reassurance. I take time to breath, meditate, laugh, rest and cry! Those are the things that I need. No matter what you face and how hard you decide to fight it is essential that you take care of yourself.

I am majorly kicking my ass today because my old co-workers in Ontario are hosting a reunion this weekend and I am not going. Working with them was such a fantastic time in my life and though I had an opportunity to go I didn’t book it because I wasn’t feeling up to being around people. Many of these women helped me through all sorts of things during my young adult years and I should have taken solace in the fact that today would have been no exception. We all struggle and though our problems may vary, the scars that they leave on our hearts are similar and when we share our stories we are able to own them, instead of allowing them to own us. Sharing with the people that we care about strengthens our connections and we let those that we love know that they are not alone in their struggles. This has been a lesson learned for me indeed.

The last several months have been a succession of waiting to exhale. Today I am going to enjoy the sunshine and try my best to stay in the light.

Whatever you are going through, please find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. If you allow your pain to be a teacher you will get stronger than you ever imagined. When your heart is broken that means that you have had the courage to love, to feel. That is so much better than being numb. You are one of the good ones so just breathe deeply and follow the path with the light at end. It may seem far away and it may seem unattainable but as long as you keep it in your sights you will be OK. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but you will be better and stronger in the end.

Every battle I face I tell myself that I just need to build another bridge and get over it. I am currently on what the Eagle’s refer to as the seven bridges road. If I have to I will knock down the bridge, kick off my shoes and wade through the muck; heart, soul and hamstrings to get through and do what needs to be done. I will cross that bridge when I come to it. (pun intended)

 

You may be unsteady but W.I.S.E. friends never forget that you are unbreakable.

xo

Michelle