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Sunday, November 29, 2015

focus on the good : finding hope two months after a miscarriage

It's been almost two months since my miscarriage, and I am starting to feel normal. I don't know that there necessarily is a "normal" after a miscarriage, but just like having a child changes you into having a new normal, so, too, does going through this experience of loss.

I'm focusing on the good. I'm finding positive things in my life and writing them down, taking moments to appreciate what I have versus what I lost.

And yet I'm also not stopping to pick up every red or orange leaf that I find beautiful or clear white rock that I feel compelled to hold onto in my car after a walk outside. I spent weeks doing this in the beginning, I think searching for something good.

I still find beautiful things, like sunsets and the way the clouds dance in the sky. But two months later, I'm realizing I already have beautiful things in my life. I have more beauty than loss. I know this now.


I've lost track of how many weeks pregnant we'd be. Although I then stop to think about it and I know exactly. When we reached the first trimester date, I cried. But I'm starting to forget. I still wonder on Fridays when we would have turned another week, but I'm starting to lose track of the number. I find this to be positive progress.

The crying has come to a slowed down pace. It's not over. It's not gone. I still cry a few times a week now, but that's a huge improvement from sobbing multiple times a day or only going two days without crying for more than a month.

Now I feel tears forming, but can focus on the good things instead of succumb to that pain again. It's not because I'm not grieving, it's not that I'm ignoring anything bad.

It's that I'm growing, getting stronger, learning to live with the sadness inside me and focusing on what's more important: what I do have, the good things. 


I see pregnant women at work or in stores and I smile. I am genuinely happy for them. I imagine the growing baby in their belly and think how sweet they look in maternity sweaters and leggings. I am not envious or jealous. I am not angry at them for having something I do not. I'm truly smiling at their bliss, because they deserve it.

Yet a few weeks ago I escaped to the bathroom to tear up a bit and have a moment of sadness while working at a consignment sale and putting my fingers through the baby clothes. And when my husband told me that not one, but two of his friends are due the exact same day as our original due date… that was heartbreaking. To hear of someone being pregnant does not hurt, but to hear of someone pregnant the exact same day means they have something I was also supposed to have but do not.

It's weird, crazy thoughts that come and go. It's intense, ebb and flow mood swings. It's anger and disappointment, sadness and guilt. It's sometimes gratitude, knowing it could have been worse. 

I have said to a few friends, and to my poor husband who has sat patiently by my side through my hormonal roller coaster, that these emotions I've experienced post-miscarriage are worse than anything I've ever felt before. Worse than pregnancy and delivery after babies. So unpredictable.

I'm finally feeling like I'm evening out though. My moods are going slowly back to some type of new normal.


What helps me find this new normal is my husband, number one, hands down, so supportive. Just being there, making me elaborate when I say I'm fine, having patience with me when I'm sobbing, again, over something that doesn't make sense. 

And my two amazing children. I am so fortunate to already have children. My heart breaks imagining anyone going through a miscarriage at all, but especially those who do not have children to remind them of how lucky they are. 

I know how lucky I am with these two beautiful, healthy children. I am blessed. For that, I'm thankful. I focus on the good, the best parts of my life, which are these two individuals, who teach me to get up daily, to laugh at little things, to move on to important things like taking baths and eating snacks and cleaning clothes for the fall colors day at school. I cannot sit idly in my room, under the darkness of covers and crying each day. I have to get up. For them. Because I'm needed. And that is a wonderful feeling. 

I also find myself focusing on these two so much more. Really taking them in, every little bit of their hair and how it's changing colors now that summer sunlight is gone. How they laugh or the new words they can say. Which toys they are into these days and the books they ask me to read over and over again. The way they squint their eyes in the morning when tired, and how they have all of a sudden learned to ride their bikes faster or zip their jackets without help this year. I am paying attention, greater attention, taking it all in one tiny moment at a time. Because I know that life is precious. And I'm forever blessed with these two. I need to remember that. 


I have stopped feeling my stomach, as though if I hold on tightly to it I could replace what was taken away two months ago. I now see a stomach, not a holding place where a baby was supposed to be. I embrace wearing clothing that isn't maternity. I went shopping and purchased a new pair of jeans, just because.

I even was thankful to have an alcoholic drink at dinner last week. I never drink, but sometimes it's nice to have a drink out with a friend. I've eaten feta cheese and made a bleu cheese pasta dish that I avoided when pregnant. I've gone in the hot tub with my kids.

I'm focusing on the good. 

And here's the thing: once you go through something so very bad, defeating, hopeless… you find that there really IS so much good in the world around you. That things can always be worse. That life is precious, albeit bittersweet sometimes. 

It takes strength to pay attention to the good things despite the bad experiences… believe me, I've had my fair share of anger and hurt the last two months, questioning why this happened, why on earth any bad thing happens to any person. Moving past that is hard work… it doesn't come quickly or easily. Patience with yourself is most important.


Running has helped me focus on the good. It's helped my moods. It's helped me feel strong again, physically.

The first week of the miscarriage, I could barely walk around my work building. I was weak, exhausted, physically in pain and bleeding. Fast forward weeks later, I was walking. Then about 6 weeks later I'm running, and just completed a 5k. This race was for me a significant moment in my healing. My friend referred to it as my "comeback" race. Like I was returning to being myself, my new normal.

For me, it was about being physically strong on the outside like I felt I was emotionally strong on the inside after this experience. I wanted to do something. Physically do something with this body that I was angry at for "failing" me in some way two months ago. I wanted it to do something that was positive, something that meant something good. I needed to prove to myself that I was getting stronger, that I could move through this experience and be OK.

Note: I ran 7 days a week for 4 months prior to my miscarriage, so getting back into running a month after was OK for my body. You should consult with your physician before doing any exercise after a miscarriage. Don't push yourself until you are ready. 


I realize now that yes, I've gone through this difficult time. It was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through actually, particularly emotionally.

I'm not over it. I don't know that you ever get "over" something like this. A loss is a loss, regardless of how few weeks along one is.

At this point though, I'm focusing on the good and finding hope for my future as a mother and as a strong person. I've realized I am strong and I can get through things. Each day that I move forward past October, I realize that I'm getting even stronger.

I have moments where I feel weak and like nothing makes sense. But that's when I force myself to focus on what I have, all that is right in my world. There is way more of that than the bad. 







Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Strong is Beautiful: empowering girls by Lani Silversides


Lani Silversides is a dedicated mom who heard and saw some things that didn't sit right with her, being a mother of two young girls. She wanted her girls to learn they could be active, hard workers, determined, and STRONG, just like the boys on the playground or soccer field. She started taking photographs and talking to girls, only to find they could definitely benefit from someone helping them see how strong they really are. These girls needed someone sending them the message that they can be whatever they want to be now and when they grow up, including professional athletes. 

She created a book, My Strong is Beautiful, and other wonderful products on her Web site (listed below). More than that though, she's starting a movement among young girls, building confidence and self esteem, helping them have fun through feeling physically strong. 

I admire this work so much as a mother of a daughter who keeps up with her big brother outside and on the field! More so, I really appreciate the work Lani is doing, as I'm a school counselor who works with adolescent girls who are yearning to figure out their place in the world and find anything they are good at or strong enough to do. This work is meaningful, inspiring and important. 

Thank you, Lani, for sharing with us!

  
                                                          Images shared from Lani Silversides

One of Lani's latest ideas is an after school program for young girls. I love this! 

Here is the general description of the program:
This class will strike a balance between teaching the fundamental physical skills used in various sports (different skills and sports each week) and the life skills learned through athletics and being active, such as teamwork, communication, trying new things, etc.  The emphasis of the class will be having a supportive and fun environment for girls to learn new things and to build self-esteem, confidence, and pride.  

The before and/or after school program has been developed in a way that it can be run ANYWHERE.  So, are there high school or college athletes in your area that might volunteer and do community service to run a program at the elementary school?  Are there any moms or teachers that would run a session?  A PTO in your town that runs after-school options?  

One session is 6-8 weeks, once a week, for an hour each.  

Lani sends a kit to the coach including the lesson plans, the t-shirts, “I CAN” cards to send home with the kids after each class, and a My Strong is Beautiful book to give them at the end of the session.  

Lani wrote: We have one starting in the New Year in Clinton, NY, Brooklyn, NY, possibly Austin, TX, and more.  I am connecting girls within each program with a “PenPal” from another program and one of the lesson plans includes drawing a picture in response to a prompt that would be sent to their buddy (i.e. what do you want to do when you grow up? OR I can___ fill in the blank, etc.).  

All girls have a t-shirt that unites them and makes them part of a team and my hope is to spread these all around the country (or beyond!).  Coming soon, my plan is also to create an online community where coaches can login to access training videos, lesson plans, and more, making it even easier to coach a program and participants of the programs all around could be connected as well.  

Here is where someone can sign up if they are interested in learning more or starting a program.  I would love to help get these going in your community!: www.mystrongisbeautiful.com/stronggirls



1. Where did the idea for your work with My Strong is Beautiful come from? What was the thought process behind this?
So this youtube video I think sums up the whole progression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCO5uRxDWng

Basically it started with signing up my 5 year old girl for karate partly because I felt like she needed to learn she could play with the boys (and something physical at that!).  I realized I wanted to try to normalize that as quickly as possible because there were subtle gender stereotypes I was seeing play out in pre-k and I could only guess it would continue to get worse as she went on through school.  

I started talking to friends who were also parents of girls who were in elementary school to ask what it was like for their daughters.  I then learned one was teased for the clothes she wore, one was told she couldn't play tag with the boys at recess, and one was teased for her big arm muscles. That is when I decided I wanted to do something about it.  

Photography is a hobby of mine, so I invited a group of girls to my first "Get out and play" photo session. I brought footballs, baseballs, and all sorts of things and just had them play while I photographed them. Not completely knowing what might come of it, I just snapped away.  Then, looking at the photos after the fact, and turning many into black and white, I fell in love with them, so did more of these sessions trying to include as many girls as I could doing all different sports and activities.  What I noticed was how much they were smiling and happy and proud to show me what they could do!
  


2. How did you come up with the title for your work? What does it mean, represent to you?
So one of the things I had the girls do was the "strong arms" pose. Again, it started with wanting to show that having muscles is AWESOME and nothing to be ashamed of. This eventually became the basis of the logo.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with all the photos, but I had experience building a website before, so I decided to first grab a domain name and I thought I'd put them all into a website somehow.  That domain name that I landed with was mystrongisbeautiful.com and there was the title for me!  The "MY" is very important because it personalizes it.  

When someone says it, it means something to THEM...not just that girl over there, or the professional athlete, but THEM. Strong has many different meanings, so I liked that.  

Showing “strong arms” (i.e. flexing) becomes a physical cue almost to get into that proud mindset, but “strong” means more than just strong muscles.  There is physical strength, mental strength, emotional strength, etc.  I liked this because it could be personalized again and meaningful in however the individual wants it to be. Beautiful was important too because to me, it has so many different meanings.  I don't mean it in the superficial way.  I mean it in the holistic, inside and out, way. 

3. What does it mean for you to "empower and inspire girls to be proud of their strong"? 

So, I want for them to be PROUD of who they are.  And I believe EVERY girl has strength and beauty.  So, the point is to be proud of their own “strong” whatever that means to them.

4. What does a strong, athletic, tough girl act like? sound like? look like? feel like? 
My hope is to teach all girls to be proud of their own strength and who they are, no matter what that is.  I want to teach girls to take on the “I CAN” attitude when it comes to facing challenges or trying new things and along the way learn the importance of physical activity and exercise!


5. What is your hope for all girls? What do you want for their futures?
My hope is they dream with limitless possibilities.

6. What are your favorite physical activities to do with girls? 
I just like to go outside and play with them!  We have a container filled with soccer balls, volleyball, basketballs, beach balls, roller blades, etc.  Just getting outside whenever possible to play with them (in the winter if it is too cold to be outside I bring them to the gym with me because I coach a varsity girls basketball team). In the summer when we go to the beach I would make hurdles out of sand and we would get all the friends involved in it.  Things like that…




7. How can moms help their girls be strong, confident, powerful, and athletic, starting from an early age? What activities do you suggest they try out?
I think being mindful of language is really important.  Helping girls develop a growth mindset is hugely helpful not just for sports but for academics and life in general.  

I have two posts on this: http://www.mystrongisbeautiful.com/get-psyched-sunday-growth-mindset-in-athletics/ and http://www.mystrongisbeautiful.com/get-psyched-sunday-growth-mindset-in-athletics-part-ii/ .

From the blog: I think the easiest example to share with parents is when your child draws a picture (one of hundreds over time that you are probably going to recycle when they don’t notice) and you say, “Wow! You are such a great artist!” You may actually be doing more harm than good. Your child might now have expectations that every time she does something, she actually needs to meet those standards you have set of being “Great!”.  This type of reaction and praise can actually prevent them from trying new things in the future for fear of it not going perfectly.   Instead of praising your child with how great the end result is, what you could say is, “Wow, you must have worked really hard on that!”  Or, you could comment on specifics, such as “I like how you used green and blue stripes there”. It is still a form of praise, but with very different results for the future. By commenting on how hard she has worked, you have now shown her that you are pleased with her effort or the process rather pleased with only the outcome.

So basically, comment on effort and process, not outcome, such as “You worked really hard at that.” Also, if they first respond to something with "I can't do it." you can respond by adding the word YET and emphasize to keep working on it.  If you pay attention to this, I think many will find how often they praise their young kids with how great they are at everything they show you (I was totally guilty of this!).  So, paying attention to your language I think has the greatest ability to impact the mindset your kids have.
  
9. You feature strong girls on your Facebook page. Can you tell us more about these girls you feature, and how someone might refer a girl to you?
Anyone in the world can submit a photo to be part of the strong girls gallery on the website.  Each week I feature a photo and will email back and forth with parents where I ask them to ask their girl their favorite activities, their ultimate dream, and what they want to be when they grow up.  I love documenting their responses and hope families will submit photos and come back and do it again as they get older. 

Did you see the recent Q&A on the blog with Maddy Evans, a professional soccer player?  She is the first in a series of Q&A’s that I am doing with elite, professional, and/or Olympic athletes.  The point is to share their story of how they got to where they are and the reality is they were once just young girls running around outside or driving their parents crazy with a ball in the house! 

Below is a drawing Maddy’s mom found.  Doesn’t that put things into perspective? Look at her now! I believe in the importance of teaching our girls to set those goals and dreams and it can be anything they want!


10. What do you offer as far as products, free resources, etc. on your Web site? 
There are activity sheets (ranging from easier to research necessary!) on the site that can be printed off.  I have some high school students working with me to create more and would love to have more school clubs or groups make some of their own to contribute to the site!  

The blog also includes advice for parents, athletes, and kids in the realm of sport psychology (goal setting, mindset, practice, gratitude, etc.).  There is also gear (t-shirts and hats) with the strong girl logo (submitted photo of two girls below wearing one of the shirts).  

And there are books.  There is a link to my book, My Strong is Beautiful (also on Amazon).  There are also a number of Usborne books.  Usborne is one publishing company that has some great sports and action sticker books that have girls as the main characters as well as health related non-fiction books.  

Any proceeds from purchases go directly toward improving the site and adding resources. 



11. Can you describe the work you did for your book - photographs, etc.? Where can they purchase the book?
You can purchase the book on amazon or find the link from my website!  After reviewing the pictures I realized I wanted to do more than just have them on a website or on social media, so I wrote the book, with the emphasis on "I CAN" and then paired each line with a photo.

12. What is the one message you hope young girls take away from your work?
Be proud of who they are and dream big.  

13. What is your advice to a mother raising a young girl?
Keep an open mind about what they can be playing with or doing for activities and what they are capable of. Also, modeling is so important.  

Look at the books that you have in your house.  Are all the girl characters dressed a certain way or playing a particular role? If you have any with sports are they only male characters? Girls need to SEE all that they can do and be, and become.  And kids like to imitate what they see a lot, so being mindful of what they are seeing in picture books is one thing you can do.

What we have for toys, clothing, and books, can all shape their views of what is possible.  A big reason for making the book was because I realized how hard it was to find strong female athlete characters in childrens books.  My girls sleep with the book now.  They like to read a page, like "I can run" or "I can balance" and then demonstrate the activity.  They are seeing real life images of girls doing these activities.  The photos are also intentionally black and white in the book.  I didn't want color of the outfit to distract at all from the action. 

14. What are some words you'd use to describe your girls?
Active, energetic, feisty, determined, curious

15. How does this work you are doing for other girls help you be a strong mom yourself? 

I think I am modeling for my girls that when you believe in something you can go for it, as this started with me just wanting to do something to show my own girls what they are capable of and has turned into wanting to make a difference for everyone!  
  


Great offer: 
I don’t have any way of giving discounts on the gear or my own book that is on amazon.

But, I am an independent consultant with Usborne books (because they were one company I found had some GREAT sticker books with girl athlete characters among other fantastic empowering and non fiction books). I joined so I could have them on my website.  But, if anyone wanted a chance to earn free books, they could host an online facebook party and earn themselves a bunch of free books (they simply need to invite friends to an online 1 hour event on FB and I do the rest of the work).  It is one way I can share Usborne with others and I'd be happy to help someone share books with their friends (great xmas gifts!) and earn some free books for themselves.  If anyone wanted to do this, I could offer an extra $20 in free books when we close out their party.  h4713.myubam.com is the full selection and some of my favorites are on my website. 







Friday, November 27, 2015

Shop & Support Moms - Worthy Goods by Dory Smith Graham

I am VERY excited to feature this awesome, crafty, super dedicated mother of two, Dory Smith Graham! She runs two dynamic businesses in MAINE! She creates the most amazing items, great for gifts for the holidays or to treat yourself! So many neat things to check out (web sites listed at the bottom of this page). I can tell Dory is a down-to-earth, hard working, determined Maine gal, who so loves creating sweet surprises for her customers. She takes her work to heart and all the while is an awesome momma to her two cuties. 

Please support this super mom with your holiday shopping! She's offering a great discount below! And she's from MAINE - my favorite, of course :)

Thanks, Dory!

Discount: 
Free Shipping within the US with coupon code MOMSHIPSFREE. Coupon expires 12/31/15



Images from Dory Smith Graham



Picture above: Topless Mitts, up cycled knit rimmed with organic cotton sherpa accented with felt 'buttons'. It's cold here in Maine, when you get the chance to bare something you take it! Risqué is relative.

1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business?
I started worthygoods.Etsy.com in 2008 with 4 reversible baby slings. My first baby was 6 months old and we both loved the freedom and closeness the sling provides. 

I have always wanted to start my own business. I'm that kid with the lemonade stand, selling painted rocks, handmade perfume from a second-hand Barbie perfume maker, even selling seedlings when I was old enough to remember to water the plants. I was in the 5th grade when I had my first table at a craft fair, selling Cabbage Patch Kid flannel nightgowns my Mom helped me sew. 

worthygoods textile came along in 2009 as a way for me to purchase organic fabrics in bulk at wholesale and then retail some of these hard to find, ultra luxe organics.

2. Why was owning a business a perfect situation for you and your family? 
I can't say it's ever been a perfect situation, a young family with two working parents and two busy kids never really feels like perfection is at hand, right? But having two businesses does allow me the freedom to be available for the kids. My husband travels a lot and one of us has to be around to get Jam Girl to daycare, Mr P off the bus and have the scheduling flexibility to be home for sick days and school vacation.


Picture above: Little Trapper caps, made from new vintage woolens and lined in organic cotton sherpa, knit in the US.

Picture below: so many vintage wooden bobbins in the studio! Sourced from long-shuttered textile mills up and down the east coast & beyond.


3. What does your business specialize in? What's your favorite product? How'd you come up with the name? 

worthygoods is gear steeped in Maine style, handmade sustainably right here in Vacationland. I specialize in cozy winter hats, reversible sun hats, fingerless gloves, a line of felt jewelry & holiday acorn ornaments. 

Right now my favorite product is the Freestyle Bow Tie, a professionally tailored self-tie, adjustable and often reversible bow tie. Once I learned how tie a bow tie I started wearing them myself even! When you purchase a worthygoods bow tie, it comes with my hand-illustrated how to tie a bow tie card.

I came up with the name worthygoods back in 1997, brainstorming business concepts and ideas in the deep idle of winter. I've been hanging on to it for a long time, I really adore the name, and was not planning on using it for a handmade business, honestly. But it's been a good fit and I still am on track to open a downtown shop one day.

4. What do you love best about working for yourself?
Beyond waking up and immediately being able to get to work (coffee & pjs, yes!) I enjoy using a broad skill set, writing copy for Etsy and my new website (Launching Thanksgiving week!), product photography, pattern drafting, graphic design, selecting fabrics for upcoming seasons. Plus it's the perfect excuse to indulge my fondness for office supplies and packaging. I love the element of presentation.

5. When working, where do you work? When do you work in the day/evening? What's your process for working? Things you do daily, a routine?
For the most part, I work out of my home. My studio is a finished room in my basement that is jam-packed with fabrics for worthygoods & worthygoods textile as well as sewing machines, cutting tables, packing & shipping table, etc. I work every day that I'm home. I'm hoping to rent a studio where I can lock the door and go home- taking a mental break for a bit. I am also a member of SevenArts, a 6 member local artisan gallery in Ellsworth. There we share a small shop where we sell our merchandise as well as a very few, select consignment artists. I work there one day a week, bringing in totes full of my studio to get work done there during the day between sales.

6. Take me step by step through working with customers. Do you do anything special or unique, wrapping, specials, etc.?
I'm fortunate to have so many return and repeat customers at worthygoods and worthygoods textile. Any packaging I use, I make an effort to find recycled, reusable, or otherwise sustainable boxes, bags, twine, etc. I stamp whatever I can with my hand-carved worthygoods rubber stamp for branding. Include a little "thank you" to everyone. 

At worthygoods textile I include a little sample gift- either a swatch of fabric or an extra vintage wooden spool or bobbin, as well as a 10% off coupon for the next purchase.

7. What is your success rate? What do you think customers would say about your work, shop?
I'm not sure how to answer that question. Both shops have grown in different ways every year. I call that success. I consistently get five star feedback with lots of exclamation points at my Etsy shops, that's so rewarding. At SevenArts, I can get feedback in person, I've found that customers adore my new woven logo labels that I sew in to product. It looks like a vintage Maine license plate from the 90s so it's got that serious Maine feel as well as a vintage vibe. 

8. Why do you think people should shop in your store, and why should they support moms who work for themselves?

You should shop at worthygoods if you are interested in supporting a sustainable, small, Maine business. I'm all for entrepreneurs, moms, dads, anyone that's willing to stick their neck out there and try to support themselves via their own ingenuity. I say support the people that are making the effort to hire local, pay livable wages, mentoring future small business owners and investing in their own communities. 

9. What are your items to sell?
worthygoods textile: Global Organic Textile Standard certified organic cotton fabrics that are made right here in the US. Vintage and antique wooden textile mill bobbins from industrial era fiber mills.

worthygoods: Freestyle Bow Ties, Topless Mitts, Mini Mitts, Little Trapper hats, The County hats, Spring Training hats, a line of felt, velvet and antiqued copper jewelry. Acorn Felt Ornaments are super-popular this time of year. 


Picture above: Freestyle, adjustable & reversible bow ties, madras reversing to seersucker. Completely hand-tailored with several colorways available.


10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother?
Owning and running worthygoods and worthygoods textile models qualities that will help my kids in their own future endeavors. Responsibility is the main bit, being self-motivated is another super-important skill-set, but the most important is those positive reward signals you get from trying, and trying and trying and then finally succeeding in your efforts. 

I want my kids to be able to be self-directed, self-motivated and creative problem-solvers.

11. What do you think would surprise readers to know about you?
I am a goldsmith. I worked as a goldsmith for a very small, but widely know, family jewelery  business for 10 years. It was such a wonderful job, I'd like to do it again, too. I love working with flame and gold and gemstones to make pieces that will last for several lifetimes.

12. What is the coolest thing you've ever experienced as part of working with this business?

I sold a Little Trapper hat to Farrah Fawcett! 

13. What is one of your favorite gifts to give someone for the holidays? 
Felt acorn ornaments are one of my go-to gifts, they make a great little gift on their own, but they also are adorable as a gift topper. They last beyond the holidays and aren't too "Christmassy".


14. How many kids do you have? Give us one word to describe them.
I've got two. I would describe them each as my favorite. ;-) 


Web site: worthy-goods.com
Facebook worthygoods: facebook.com/worthygoods/
Facebook worthygoodstextile: facebook.com/worthygoodstextile/
twitter: @worthygoods1
Instagram: @worthy-goods