Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What the World Needs Now. . .

I think almost everyone has heard it. And, according to the 1965 popular song sung by Jackie DeShannon, what the world needs now is love - sweet love.

What can I say, my lovelies? I disagree. I think the world needs more than that.

In the world today, where war rages, race and religion divide us, spiritual and political ideologies make us think that our neighbors are our enemies, what could this world need more than love, you ask?

In my opinion, the world needs YOU, my darling.


That's right. The world needs you!

Alive, blessed, fully-present. This world needs people who can see, can speak, can dance, can march, can invent new and better ways of being.

This world needs you. Every single person who reads these words. It needs your great ideas, the love from your tender heart, your strong arms that hold your children, your determined feet that carry you through this life, your beautiful voice that sings songs of triumph, joy, and sadness.

You do not have to be more than you are. You do not have to do more than you already do. You are seen by this Universe, you are known, you are beautiful and you are loved. And, most of all, you are not alone and you are so vastly important.

Don't think so? Allow me to convince you.

Take a moment and think about all the great leaders that have come from this world. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Einstein. These names and people are our legacy as the human race. These are the shining examples of us as a human family.

I used to watch "Def Poetry Jam" and I loved the poets on it. Some beautiful quotes that ring through me come from here. "Don't let the universe regret you." "Be worthy of your ancestors."

As humans, all a part of this species, all of the names I mentioned above? They are our ancestors. What a beautiful legacy to try to live up to, no?

And think about those people, how each had teachers and food preparers and trash collectors. Every single one of these people had a vast support network of people around them. And those people may not have had any clue as to the part they were playing in human history!

Who made the pencils that Einstein wrote with? Who wove the blankets Mother Theresa used to comfort children? Who made the paper that held Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speech? Who was Marie Curie's teacher? All of these unnamed people, by just doing what they did, helped and supported these wonderful icons of love, of freedom, of kindness and discovery.

So, no. I don't think that all the world needs is love. I think it needs more than that. I think this world needs every single person, doing what they do with love in their heart. You never know who you may be supporting.



A girl comes through your shop line and is 3 cents short for ice cream? You give her the 3 cents and, later in her life, she goes on to become an EMT who saves lives on a daily basis.

A boy receives a building block set for Christmas from a stranger? He goes on to become the next Frank Lloyd Wright.

Oh, my dears, never think that you are of no use to this world! Never think that you're alone, unseen or under-appreciated. We visionaries, we are out here. We see what you do and we say prayers for your safekeeping and strength at the end of every day.


The bracelet I wear on my left wrist

To the hands that sewed the beautifully comfy, maroon pants I'm wearing now, thank you! To the heart that composed the song I'm listening to on my IPod, thank you! To the arms that harvested the rice for my Chex this morning, a million thank you's! To the legs that walked the fields and produced the coffee in my cup, there is no amount of gratitude that is adequate enough for you!

Just by going about our lives and doing what we do, and maybe doing it with kindness, we enable such wonderful leaders to rise. We enable Virginia Woolfe to write. We enable Alex Grey to paint. We allow Betty Friedan to march.

And what a beautiful thing to be a part of, this life that we have been given. No matter the circumstances.

So my dears, I am Visionary Bri. And I am telling you that what the world needs now is you, dear soul. Just you.

And please remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.

Love to All,


-Bri


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Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Begin

Someone commented a couple of weeks ago, wondering how I center, myself to begin creating. This commenter said that they wasted their first 10-15 minutes just trying to figure out how to begin. I'd like to answer this commenter, now, because I think we all struggle with this from time to time.

Dear Anonymous Commenter,

I understand what you're saying. My process tends to be a bit erratic. I don't sit down every day at the same time and write. I know writers and other creatives that have that kind of a process, but it doesn't work for me. I will tell you about "how" I go about writing and I'll give you some suggestions that may help you. Take from this what speaks to you and leave what doesn't. All of us face this issue, at times, and we all have our little quirky ways of trying to deal with it. Do what feels right for you.

First, my process for creating anything starts with an idea - as all things do. I know writers that sit down at the page or artists that stand in front of the paper and don't know what's going to come out. That's okay, if that's you, but it's not me. So, I start with an idea and I come up with things to write about all the time. I keep a list of them in the back of my sketchbook so, if on a particular day I know I should write, I just select one that speaks to me at that time and go.



How do I center to begin? Well, first of all, my enviornment is very important for me. We all have our preferences. I need to be able to be in a place where I can have laser-like focus, then back off and give myself a "brain break." I like to write in a local bar, for this reason. I can sit in a booth and have my reference materials scattered around me while I focus and sip coffee, or I can go to the bar and have a friendly conversation. Then, back to the task at hand.

If I'm unable to be at the bar I prefer, I write sitting in my bed. Now I know that all the sleep experts say not to do anything in bed but sleep, but that' s never worked for me. My bed is soft, it's comfy, my back is supported and I can have something on Netflix in the background for noise.

Now, for timing. I find myself to be almost completely 100% unable to create in the daytime. No matter the project, when the sun is up, I just can't bring myself to focus on it. I like creating at night. I like that all things become possible in the dark and the shadows, that things become more intimate in the dark. I feel like I can hear my inner creative voice better when the glaring light of day is done. This normally means that I don't get to sleep until 2 - 4 am, but it's the schedule that I work best on.

As far as the actual doing goes, like I said, I have an idea in my head so I've already got some idea where I'm going to go. What I hear when you say that you "don't know where to begin" is that you're afraid you're going to begin "wrong." And let me tell you something - that's what editing is for. That's what proofreading is for. Please let go of that fear of being wrong. Just jump in. Writing begins with just one sentence. A piece of artwork begins with just one sketched line. There's nothing in the RULES OF WRITING (which we're all afraid of breaking) that says those first little attempts have to appear in the finished product.

When I was 15, I took an amazing weekend writing retreat with the absolutely incredible Pat Schneider. (I recommend every single one of her books, so get them all! They're one of the best resources out there.) Pat introduced me to timed writing, encouraged all of us to just get our hand moving, to break through the fear of doing it "wrong" and just be ourselves on the page. She encouraged us just to show up, to tell our truth and to let that be. At first, it was scary. I looked around the room at all the other people who were so much older than me. They were just scribbling away. Finally, I just took a deep breath and wrote, "I don't know how to do this. I'm afraid that all the other people in here are Shakespeare and I'm just some stupid kid babbling on the page." I was honest. I stayed with my first thoughts (the ones before the fear, the most honest ones) and wrote them down. Eventually, the fear fell away because I realized that even Shakespeare didn't get it write the first time. Iambic pentameter doesn't flow from our mouths or thoughts naturally. Even the greats have to work at their craft. Also check out the books by Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron. Very great ladies!

 Sometimes, when I have something deeply personal and intense that I want to write about, I picture a friend in my mind. At the top of the page, I write "Dear (Whoever I'm Writing To)." Sometimes it helps me to pretend that I'm telling this story to a close friend because if you can sit and tell your close friends a story and have them saying, "Really? What happened then?" it means that you're a writer. That's all writing is. It's telling a story.

Imagine that you've got a good friend or someone you love sitting in front of you. You want to tell them this story, you want to give them a message. Don't worry about "passive or active voice." Don't worry about punctuation, about spelling or grammar. Just get your thoughts on the page. Just be honest and make sure they person that you're picturing is someone that loves you, that cares about you and that fundamentally approves of everything you do. If you don't have someone like that in your life, pick someone famous or from history that you think could understand you.

When I'm writing, sometimes I write to Changing Woman, White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman, The Magdalene or Tori Amos. If I'm writing about something especially strange, in my head, I will talk to The Blogess. All these women, I think they would understand me. I think that we could be friends, if ever given the chance. Of course, some of these women may not even exist, but it doesn't matter to me. It works. Then, during the editing process, I go back and erase, "Dear Whomever." It allows my voice to flow out of me, to be sincere and it allows me writing to sound like I am actually speaking to you, my reader.

In short, don't let the fear of not doing something "correctly," get the better of you. Begin. Just begin. Jump into it, flounder around, do it poorly. It's okay. You can always go back, later, and erase a sentence or change a word or rework a line. At the beginning, nothing is set in stone. The most important thing is to get your thoughts out of your head and down onto the paper or into the file or whatever. If you don't, they will never ever be shared with the world and your unique perspective piece of human history will be lost forever. And what a terrible thing to lose.

My dear, no matter who you are and no matter where you are. Be brave! Be strong and allow yourself to mess up or be vulnerable. I believe in you and I hope this post helped.


Until next time my loves, please remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel,


Love to All,


Bri


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Friday, January 18, 2013

Childhood Wishes Can Come True

No matter how silly it may seem later, as little children, sometimes we see things out in the world that we want. And, sometimes, the things that our little child hearts desire are a little strange. We've all had this experience, I'm sure.

When a friend of mine was little, she wanted a calculator and she wanted to work at a grocery store. In her child-mind, she wanted to press the buttons on the cash register. She just thought it was the coolest thing and she wanted a calculator so she could add things up. Luckily, my friend had an understanding mother who got her a calculator and my friend spent hours with it, adding up the numbers in the phone book. She was tickled to death to be adding up those numbers.

In my childhood, I asked my parents for something I'd seen on television. I wanted a Ronco Food Dehydrator. Oh, how I wanted that thing! I watched the infomercials (still a hobby of mine) and pined away for the ability to make my own fruit roll-ups or turkey jerky. My little heart wanted this so badly!

Me at 7 years old with our dog, Sasha,
wanting to make turkey jerky


To this day, I'm not sure why my little heart wanted that food dehydrator, but my parents (confused as they often were by my antics) probably wrote it off as "another one of those weird things Bri's into, now." This has happened more than once over my lifetime, so far.

Years passed and I never got my food dehydrator.

This past Christmas of 2013, my friend, my father and I were talking about dreams. It's a favorite topic of mine. We were talking about holidays and years past and the topic of the "one present I never got, but really wanted" came up. Of course, I mentioned the food dehydrator and my father said, "You still wanted one after all these years?" You betcha. I sure did! My father asked me, "Why?" and my answer was the same. "To make turkey jerky and fruit roll-ups!"

After all these 20-some-odd years, all the locales, all the achievements and all my adventures, the little girl in me still cried out for this thing. The little one in me still wanted the self-sufficiency and fun and healthy snacks that this device offered me.

The days of counting toward the holidays passed and I forgot all about the conversation with my father.

Christmas morning came and a large, slightly heavy box was placed in my lap. And what do you think was in that box?

You're right. It was my very own food dehydrator! Sitting next to me, hubby gave me a look of confusion as I threw my head back and laughed. My father had heard me and responded. I gave my father a huge hug and we laughed some more.

My lovelies, if you don't make your dreams known, then there is no way that the people who love you can help you make them a reality! If you don't tell your friends and family, look for a mentor, or hire a life coach to help you (I'm still working on setting that aspect of this business up). it's going to be a lot harder to get what you want. Asking is always good. The worst they can say is "no."

And, the best thing that can happen is that someone will be in exactly the right place at the perfect time to help you. Then, you get to your dreams / goals / wishes that much faster! Ask, my dears. Always ask. Let the world conspire to give you everything you want. Believe that it can happen. Or you can muster your own fortitude, guts and resources and get yourself your own damned food dehydrator! *wink*

Tonight, I started and finished my very first tray of beef jerky. Isn't it beautiful? Next batch is turkey jerky!

My very first batch of beef jerky in the dehydrator


My happy face, makeup-free today, after the jerky-fying had begun


So, my gorgeous dears, what is it that you want? What does your heart sing for? What did you never get as a child that you still want, to this day? It's not too late to get it or achieve that dream. Leave a comment or email me at brifloorwilson(at)gmail(dot)com and let me know what your inner kiddo still wants, no matter how "silly" it sounds. I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time, please remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.


Love to All,

Bri


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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is a Visionary?

Merriam - Webster defines the word 'VISIONARY' like this:

noun
1
a : of the nature of a vision : illusory 
b : incapable of being realized or achieved : utopian <a visionary scheme> 
c : existing only in imagination : unreal
2
a : able or likely to see visions 
b : disposed to reverie or imagining : dreamy
3
: of, relating to, or characterized by visions or the power of vision
4
: having or marked by foresight and imagination <a visionary leader> <a visionary invention>
— vi·sion·ar·i·ness noun
Examples of VISIONARY
1. She is known as a visionary leader
2. He had a visionary experience.


But what is a visionary, really? And why have I been dubbed "Visionary Bri"?




The Center for Visionary Leadership says this:

"Visionary leaders are the builders of a new dawn, working with imagination, insight, and boldness. They present a challenge that calls forth the best in people and brings them together around a shared sense of purpose. They work with the power of intentionality and alignment with a higher purpose. Their eyes are on the horizon, not just on the near at hand. They are social innovators and change agents, seeing the big picture and thinking strategically.

There is a profound interconnectedness between the leader and the whole, and true visionary leaders serve the good of the whole. They recognize that there is some truth on both sides of most polarized issues in our society today. They search for solutions that transcend the usual adversarial approaches and address the causal level of problems. They find a higher synthesis of the best of both sides of an issue and address the systemic root causes of problems to create real breakthroughs."

In short, we visionaries are the dreamers of the future. We see not only what this would is, but what this would can become and we work tirelessly to make those two versions merge. We are revolutionaries, imagine-ers, followers of our gut and instinct. We guide others along to their true potential and create networks of like-minded people. With a visionary around, everyone benefits. We are the rally-points, the spearheads and the cavalry calls for new and innovative projects. Often, we feel compelled to be this way. It's a burning passion inside of us that doesn't rest for long. We dream, we create and we build because we feel that we are called to do so. Whether we make money or not, following our visions, it doesn't matter. It also doesn't matter if the world listens to us. We will keep true to our path and persevere.


But not only are we leaders, our type of leadership has its' own brand. We lead with integrity, with conviction and with an inner light that seems to shine through us. We do not stand for profits, for greed, for personal gain or for hate of any kind. What we stand for is a connectivity of all people, no matter their differences and we will not backstab others for our own gain. Visionaries are not corrupted by power - we are uplifted by it and use it well. Visionaries offer a clear picture of what is possible and we inspire others to believe that we, as a whole, can get there.

Visionaries are not about manipulating with fear, as some politicians or leaders are. Instead, we seek to empower the people around us. We seek to give them confidence and a sense of strength similar to our own. We understand that taking power away from someone only hurts the whole. We are in service to the betterment of the whole, of the entire human family.

In contrast to most leaders we see today, Visionaries do not tell people what to do. We don't push them towards things they aren't ready for and we don't dominate them. Each being has its own free will and that must not be taken away from them. Visionaries listen to those around them more than other leaders do. We are open to new ideas and perspectives that we may not have considered before.

Visionaries are receptive to change. When presented with a better method of doing something than the one we've thought of, we do not find that challenging or "insubordination." Instead, we find it to be enlightening. What a wonderful revelation!

Instead of being out for ourselves, we embody a sense of community. Other people, their knowledge and talents are our greatest assets. It is said that, "Everyone you meet knows something that you don't." We realize this and embrace it. We are willing to learn, to pull back and to refocus.


Even though we can see into the world of the future, we visionaries are interested in solutions that actually work. We don't just want things that look good on paper. We want the nuts and the bolts and the real world solutions to be reasonable and sustainable. Everything needs to be actionable and attainable in order for it to be considered a valid idea. The other side of that is that we see more things as attainable than most people do and we will happily guide others far beyond what they ever thought possible.

Again, The Center for Visionary Leadership says:

"When we see a truly visionary leader accomplishing great things, s/he is drawing on the resources of their soul and its remarkable capabilities. Each of us can access our inner resources to become a more effective leader in our own field. First we must be willing to take initiative and stand for something we believe in passionately. We must be ready to take the heat. Many of us avoid the responsibility of leadership primarily because we are too sensitive to criticism. But when we know who we truly are and we live from an inner core of values, criticism can be filtered to take in only what is true and helpful to our growth."

This reason is why I close almost every blog post with my motto: "We are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel."

If a person can find where their passion lies, they will almost naturally become a visionary. Their eyes light up, their soul opens and they develop a very strong sense of values and of community, when this happens. Their potential has been unlocked.



I have been dubbed "Visionary Bri" because of all these qualities. Through the years, friends have told me that they exist in me. When I was searching for a name for this blog, I often Googled some of the qualities that others had described in me. Time after time, the word "visionary" came up. I took it as a sign and adopted the moniker.

I've seen some criticism regarding dubbing yourself a visionary. When I read this criticism, I often think that the person is doing an awful lot of judging. Everyone's path is different. If you want to call yourself "Llama Joe," feel free. No matter what we choose to be known as, it is merely a name. A name does, in fact, help us identify traits about a person, but they're just words. I respond just as readily to plain ol' "Bri" or even "Hey, you!" Honestly, criticism reveals more about the person writing it than what they are writing about. Through criticism, we can see what filters the critic views the world through. If he uses racial slurs, that's a filter. If there's sexual shaming, that's another filter. I don't pay too much heed to negative criticism. It doesn't change what I feel called to put out into the world.

In the culture that I came from, each person has at least 3 names in their lifetime. One for youth, one for adulthood and one for being an elder. Taking different names symbolizes the different lessons we learn in each phase of life. A new name may even come after a particularly significant spiritual event.

I have had many names in my life. I've been known by many monikers for many different situations. Each were me, at the time, and each was just a word that I answered to. They did not define me. This new name I have taken, I feel, is the one that keeps me on this path the best. I am a visionary. Criticism for using that word, myself, does not deter the deep soul-feeling of connection that says, "Yes. That is the word. That is the name. Live up to it!" 


See? I deeply feel that each of us can follow our dreams, find our purpose and live this life wrapped in bliss. I believe that every person on the face of the planet can have joy and love that goes all the way down to your tiptoes. You can be fed, you can be supported, you don't have to struggle and you can have big, roaring belly-laughs and true connection with others every single day.

This is my purpose. This is my calling. Every time someone calls me "Visionary," it reminds me of this goal and this calling. Every time I hear or read that word, I am called up out of the daily life. Up and above the details of car insurance and "I've gotta eat" and "Where are my meds" and "I just HAD my cell phone." That word calls me up, calls me out of myself and reminds me of the wise self that I have and am called to be. That one word, "visionary," makes me remember, "Yeah. Higher purpose. Calling. Wise self. Don't get mired down in the details of 'the car doesn't have enough gas to get there.'" Daily life happens and even I need reminders from time to time. Thus I am, am called, and I answer to "Visionary Bri."

What little tricks can you use to call yourself up and remind you that you are, in fact, an awesomely wise and creative soul? Will signs with affirmations around your house help? Will taking a new name to be called help? Leave me a comment or email me at brifloorwilson(at)gmail(dot)com. I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time, my precious ones, please remember that we are all (every single one of us) visionaries. We jut have to figure out where we excel.


Love to All,


-Bri


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Monday, January 14, 2013

What You See, Not What You THINK You See

If you're going to be working in any art, but even especially if you want to work in 2D (that's painting and drawing and such), one of the big questions you might ask is this: where do I find subject matter?

Well, I find mine in a couple of different ways. The first is the site Pinterest. On this site, I find wonderful pictures and it gives me a place to store images that I like, all in one place, so I can reference them often. You can find my Pinterest "Visual Inspiration" Board, here. Photographs are great, if you don't have access to models on a regular basis. Pictures will show you how light falls across something so that you can generate good highlight and shadow. I also highly recommend this book. It's been immensely helpful to me.



Highlight and shadow, understanding light, is going to be what will take your art from "a three year old could have done this" to "wow!" Take notice of where the colors of a person's skin gets lighter. That shadow, under the chin? Is it really black or does it look purple?

One of the greatest piece of advice for art was given to me by Mrs. Watson, my art teacher in Jr. High and high school. This was her motto. She even had us write it on the inside front cover of our sketchbooks. And I'm going to share it with you right now. Ready?



It takes a lot of looking, a lot of studying, a lot of getting lines to agree to make a figure look proportional. Look once, twice, three times at a line or a shadow before you draw it. Really look at it. Study it. Does it arc slightly one way or another? Why does it do that? Is there a bone or muscle under there that needs to "come through," yet remain hidden in the figure? All art students start off by drawing naked people. That's because it teaches you how to distance yourself from an object, break it down into its' component lines and shadows, and then transfer that thing you're looking at on to the paper.

Before I discovered Pinterest (and when I was in art school), I compulsively collected magazine pictures. For my purposes, women's magazines and National Geographic were my favorites. I kept these magazine clippings in folders, clipped into a 3-ring binder. You could paste your finds in a notebook or journal. You could tack them up to your studio wall. Whatever works for you.

For starters, don't worry about collecting one type of image or another. If it strikes your fancy, keep a log of it. Even if you're not sure what you'll do with it, yet. As your image collection grows, you'll start to see underlying themes and elements emerge. Are you collecting pictures of women dancing? Animals? Interesting jewelry? Sometimes I combine elements of one or more pictures that I like in my art to give me an entirely new image and concept.

Just keep your eyes open and you'll find what you're looking for. What you look for, you will find.


Hope you found this helpful, my lovelies. Until next time, please remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.


Love to All,


-Bri


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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fun with Spam

No, no, my lovelies. Not the canned, meaty kind. I mean the strange comments I get from (I think) spam bots.

One of the most interesting things about having a blog is reviewing the "Anonymous" comments that come in. I try to figure out which ones are spam by looking up links that they've sent me.


 
I can tell some of them, that English is not their first language and I love the use of language. Truly inspired. They remind me of Henry Rollins' video about Boris from the Czech Republic. The use of language is so beautiful.

Before we get into my wonderful fan mail, let me give you Henry's take on it:



Now, on with the comments. And, any of my dear readers, if these are you - you know - real people? Please comment and I will not mark you as "Spam" and will publish your comment. The track back links just seemed a little iffy to me.

"Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I'm impressed! Extremely useful information specifically the last part :) I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck."

"I do not even know how I ended up here, but I assumed this submit was great. I do not recognize who you are but definitely you are going to a well-known blogger if you happen to aren't already."

"It's remarkable for me to have a web page, which is beneficial in support of my knowledge. thanks admin"

"Someone necessarily help to make severely articles I'd state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and up to now? I surprised with the analysis you made to make this particular put up amazing. Fantastic activity!"

"I'm pretty pleased to find this great site. I want to to thank you for your time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you book-marked to look at new things on your web site"


Aren't they lovely? If they are spam comments, I'm glad that all of the bots (at least) think I'm pretty darn neat!

It's all in perspectives, dearests. You can get grouchy over spam mail or, if you're having a rough day (like I did, today), then you can just say, "Well, at least the Spam Bots of the world think I'm pretty neat." Humor, lovelies. Always humor. #1 best tip for health, let me tell you.

Anyway, I hope this has brought a smile to your face and made you smile for the middle of the week.

As always, please remember that we are all visionaries. Sometimes even Spam Bots. We just have to figure out where we excel.


Love to All,

-Bri


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Pookie's Birth Story in 3 Episodes

The night before the big day, I was anxious. The list of “last minute things to take” hung on the front door, taped at eye level. Hospital bags for mama, papa and baby sat in the trunk of my black Cadillac, waiting. Hubby fell asleep sooner than I did. In the house, dimly lit and quiet, I looked around at my room and my life. In my heart, I had this immense, still sense that nothing would ever be the same ever again. Something big was about to happen to me. I was excited and nervous and scared-to-shit about whether or not I could handle all that was upcoming. Tomorrow, I knew, I would become a mommy.
 


On the morning of September 30, 2011, I woke up before my alarm buzzed. This is not new for me as I normally have very fitful sleep the night before a big event. Before the sun was up, I heaved my lumbering pregnant self into the shower. Basking in the hot water, I shaved my legs and hummed softly, to my daughter. Emerging from the shower and wrapping my hair in a towel, I woke Hubby. "It's time to get up," I said, soft and calm. We were meeting my father and his girlfriend for “breakfast” and one last store run before the big event.

Up and around. Hubby and I got all the bags into the car and left our town as the morning came into being. I would like to tell you how I watched the sun come over the horizon as we drove, but I can’t. The morning was overcast – horizon to horizon, grey clouds hung and scattered sprinklings of rain intruded on my otherwise calm and collected demeanor.


First, to Target. I don’t even remember what I had to pick up, now, but I’m sure that (at the time) I thought these last minute items would be essential for baby and I for the following weeks. Hubby slept in the car, cranky that we were up so early. 


Next, off to a breakfast cafe to kill some time. My father and his girlfriend had breakfast and Hubby continued to snooze away in the car. I had nothing to eat. As per doctor's orders, I was not allowed to have anything to eat, drink, suck on or chew for 8 hours before my upcoming surgery. It didn't bother me. The diners around me watched as I sat there, pregnant, not even sipping water.




I was upset with Hubby that morning. I remember that quite well. Here I was, getting ready to go through this huge life change and all he could do was be grumpy and sleep. I felt that I wasn’t being supported all that well and, in the middle of the diner, it dawned on me. “I get it now,” I said to my father. “It took me a minute, but I get it. Essentially, I’m all alone in this. 

Sure, having a partner to help in this is going to be helpful. But, in the end, it’s just me. I'm the mama and I have to go through this door, alone.” My father looked at me quizzically while his girlfriend just smiled, dropped her shoulders and softly said, “Yes. You’re right.”

My soft calmness turned into a strong sense of determination. Today was ground zero. All the planning and all the reading and all the "to do," "to bring," and "to buy" lists were about to coalesce into this one act that no one but me could perform. As much as I wanted Ian's support, I was the one who had to birth this little girl into being. I was stalwart.

Time passed. My dad and his girlfriend tried to fill the time with conversation as best they could, but I had gone into a deeper place. I felt a kind of quiet, stoic resignation at the challenge that lay before me, but I didn’t say much. Silent in my determination, I was ready to meet my mama destiny.

Finally, it was time to head to the hospital. Out the door of the diner into the chilly grey morning. On the phone to my baby’s godparents saying that the time had come. I navigated traffic to the hospital and Ian finally woke up. I parked the car and left all the bags in the car, except my purse. I knew that Hubby and my father would bring them to me, later.

I don’t remember walking into the hospital, but I do remember the shiny silver elevator ride up to the 4th floor where the "Mother / Baby" ward was. I remember standing in silence with Huby, my father, and his girlfriend, all of us watching the yellow numbers light up. 


2 *bing* 
3 *bing* 
4 *bing* 




And open doors. I stepped out of the elevator, resolutely, with my chin high and my family followed me like a parade.

At the nurse’s station, they checked my I.D., checked my appointment time and walked my little parade into the waiting prep room. Coats and purses and shoes were stashed in a waiting closet. I went into the small hospital bathroom to disrobe. 


Before I put my hospital gown on, I had to remove all my piercings. Uh oh! I was in a predicament. I couldn’t get one of my intimate piercings out. I draped the hospital gown around me and opened the door. “Hubby, I need you,” I said.

The nurse was quite chipper and started to come towards me. “Do you need help getting into the gown?” she asked. “No,” I said and pointed at Hubby. “I need him.” Hubby gave me a quizzical look as he came into the bathroom and shut the door. “I need your help getting this piercing out,” I said. What a sight we must have been, but (sure enough) he removed the curved bar for me.

When Hubby left the bathroom, I heard the conversation from inside. Hubby spoke to my father. “She needed help getting one of her piercings out.” My father was confused. “Which one?” he asked. Hubby replied, “My favorite one.”

I came out of the bathroom and climbed into the waiting bed. My family and my baby’s godparents and I sat there, talking and joking. All of a sudden there were lots of medical people surrounding me. One put in an I.V., one was asking me questions about allergies, one’s sole purpose seemed to be to shine a big light in my eyes. One put some strange compression socks on me. And, just as fast as they came, they were gone.

More talking. More of my friends came to see me. Then a nurse entered the room and shooed everyone but Ian out. The time had come. Hubby sat to my left, holding my hand. I remember, finally, being very nervous. I turned to Hubby  and said, “You know? Could we just maybe wait another month? I don’t think I’m ready for this yet.” Ian laughed at me. “No,” he said. “This is it.” “I know,” I replied.

Finally, the nurse came back. “Let’s get you over to surgery,” she said. She helped me out of my hospital bed, snagged my I.V. pole and I shuffled out of the room and down the hall. My body felt numb as I approached a big wooden door with the word “Surgery” written across it in red. I can’t even remember the temperature of the tile. The door to the O.R. was held open for me. I stepped over the threshold, shuffled past all the little closets and into the bright, blinding white of the Operating Room. This was it. After years (and nine months) of waiting, I was going to meet my daughter for the first time. 




Episode 2 - The OR
My body felt numb as I approached a big wooden door with the word “Surgery” written across it in red. I can’t even remember the temperature of the tile. The door to the O.R. was held open for me. I stepped over the threshold, shuffled past all the little closets that held coats and masks and into the bright, blinding white of the Operating Room. This was it. After years (and nine months) of waiting, I was going to meet my daughter for the first time.

The Operating Room was white. Blindingly so. In the middle of the room sat a long silver table, only about 16 inches wide. It gleamed in the light. As I shuffled towards it, I didn't care that my butt was hanging out of my hospital gown and anyone behind me could see the entirety of my tattoos. As I approached the table, I thought, "There is no way that my huge ass is going to be able to stay on that thing."


The nurses led me around the table, to the far side of it and told me to sit down. It was time for the spinal. I had been concerned about the needle going through my tattoos for this procedure, but there didn't seem to be any problems, at all.

The anesthesiologist introduced himself, but I can't recall his name. He swabbed my back with some topical anesthetic and set to work. "Okay," he said, sitting down on a stool behind me. "I'm going to need you to hunch down and jut your spine out for me." I tried to comply as best I could, but hunching down and thrusting your spine out when you're nine months pregnant? Not easy to do! But I always try to be a good patient, so I tried to do as he said.

My back tattoos. More work has been done since this picture,
but you get the idea.
  
"No, no," he said. "Push your shoulders down. Hunch. Really bend and push your spine toward me." Again, I tried to comply. I felt the needle go into my back, about halfway down. A sharp ache began in my spine and I closed my eyes and began some deep breathing. "C'mon," he said. "Really push. But you gotta relax your muscles. Really hunch that spine out." Again, I tried. More sharp ache from the needle trying to go in. "Hold on," he said.

At that point, a nurse came over. She stood in front of me and placed one hand on each of my shoulders and she began to push down as the anesthesiologist dug in with the needle, more. The thought raced through my head, "Now I know what one of those stress squeezy things feels like." 


Obviously not my back, but this is what happens

More pushing. The needle dug around in my spine sending sharp pains and aches all over my back. For 20 minutes, the anesthesiologist and the nurse worked in tandem, trying to get my spine to open up enough for the needle. When it finally did go in, there was a mad rush.

"All right, quick. Swing your legs up on the table, here, and lay down." Quick? That word doesn't apply to a big ol' preggo lady. Still wanting to be a good patient, I grunted and groaned and got myself fully on the table as fast as I could. (Imagine a hippo trying to do this and you'll get a good idea of how "fast" a pregnant woman can move.)
 
Sure enough, I felt secure lying on the table. Apparently 16 inches wide is just enough for a procedure like this. When I was fully layed down, a bustle of movement began to happen. They put the drape up, right above my breasts so I couldn't see what was going on with the surgery. Two perpendicular supports came out from under the table. My arms were taken and my arms were strapped down at the wrists like a crucified woman. It was here that I began to get a little bit scared.

I looked to my left, toward the door, hoping to see hubby. I wanted him to come in and tell me everything was going to be okay. That I wasn't, in fact, being transported directly from here to the psych ward or some other such nonsense that a pregnancy-addled brain comes up with. 

Sure enough, in walked someone in scrubs and a face mask. From the eyes, I knew instantly that it was hubby. And not only was hubby coming through the door, there was uber-awesome-bestest-ever-OB doctor. I was filled with relief.


Ex hubby's most comforting eyes

 Hubby came and knelt down by my head. I was so happy he was there. From this point on, things get a little fuzzy in my memory. I don't remember anyone saying, "Ok. You're numb. Let's begin." All I really remember is hubby being next to me and my being interested in all that I could see (which wasn't much).

I do remember hearing uber-awesome-bestest-ever-OB explaining to someone how to use a certain tool. The hospital I gave birth in was a medical teaching hospital, so this didn't surprise me, at all. In fact, I remember calling the bestest-OB, "Well, I'm glad I could help you learn how to use your new toy!"


Later, I would learn that he used a particular spreader on me for the first time. He said that he was so pleased with it, that he would never do another C-Section without it.

The next thing I can remember is hearing the nurse. "It's a girl!" We'd already found out the gender, so that wasn't a surprise, but the very next sentence made me giggle. "And look at all that hair!" Sure enough, Pookie was born with a full head of blondish brown hair.

Then, panic began to set in. I couldn't hear her! She wasn't crying! She wasn't making any sound! In my head I began to plead, Breathe, baby. Breathe! Tears came to my eyes as I watched the nurses carry her over to the weighing and measuring station. Breathe baby! C'mon! Breathe!!! I my head, I prayed to every god there has ever been. Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Inanna, Ra, White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman. I told them I would do anything they wanted. Anything! I'd even become a nun if they would just let my precious little baby breathe!

Then, I heard it. Her first cry. I can't tell you how a sound, when you hear it once, can embed itself into your permenant memory. I can't tell you how every fiber of my being, from that one sound rejoiced and latched onto the particular timber of her voice. In an instant, I was a mama and I understood every single lion who protected her cubs. I understood every bird that pretended to have a broken wing, so as to lure predators away from her nest. I comprehended the fierce and unparalleled need protect and to have this one little being be safe.

They brought her over to me. I looked at her tiny red face and I was in love. Head over heels, over the moon in love. And no other love, not even that I have for hubby, could ever match it. Then, away she went. "She needs to go the NICU," they told me. And I began to cry, again. What was wrong? What did I do? Is she okay? 

Tears fell from my eyes. I looked for hubby, panicked. He had been taking the first pictures of her and he placed his hand on my forehead. "I'm going to go with her," he said. I nodded my head and he followed the medical staff out of the room.

I could do nothing. I stared at the white ceiling and tried not to sob. Tears ran from my eyes, down the sides of my head and into my ears. A nurse that I will be thankful to for the rest of my life saw me crying. "It's going to be okay," she said. "She's fine." She layed her hand on my head and she stroked my hair, but nothing would stop the tears. I was afraid that if I actually sobbed, that I would do something to mess up the doctors who were trying to stitch me up.

So, I made no sound. I squinted my eyes and I held in my sobs. At 30 years old, my world had just begun and, now, I felt like it was ending. My baby! I want my baby! is all I could think. So much time and years and not being sure if I could even have a baby. Then the miracle of find out she was on her way. All the struggle to help her grow. It couldn't be over. This couldn't be it! If she wasn't okay, I didn't know how I could live past that moment.

Again, I prayed to any god that would hear me. Anything! Anything you want! Just make her be okay!


The next thing I remember, I was in my recovery room. Family and friends surrounded me. They gave me some information about what had happened. Sweaty and shaky, I had only one thought on my brain. One driving need. Get. To. My. Baby.





As my family talked to me and made sure I was okay, I was focused on moving my feet. I was Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, hyper focused on one task.



When I was able to move my legs, I pressed the call button. A nurse came in and I said, "I'd like to see my baby, now." The nurses moved me into a wheelchair. Still sweaty and pale from the anesthetic, I made the monumental move from bed to chair. Now, it was off to the NICU. My baby awaited me. . .  
 

Episode 3 - Perfect and Failing

The Precious Pookie, 10 seconds old

When I was able to move my legs, I pressed the call button. A nurse came in and I said, "I'd like to see my baby, now." The nurses moved me into a wheelchair. Still sweaty and pale from the anesthetic, I made the monumental move from bed to chair. Now, it was off to the NICU. My baby awaited me. . .   

Throwing up from the anesthesia of my medically necessary C-Section, I kept insisting. "No, no. I'm fine. I'm fine *hoy* Take me to her. *blaaaargh*" as I threw up in the pink square plastic tub they'd given me. The voice in my head, my mama instincts had no concern for myself. There was only one directive in my head. "GET. TO. THE. BABY!"

As they wheeled me down the hall, I heard other babies crying. As we got closer to the NICU, one sound stuck out from all the rest. That cry! I knew that cry! That one cry above all others, I heard her

Of all the babies on the floor that night that might have been fussing, it was her. From hearing her voice, just once, I could pick her out of a chorus of crying infants. Somewhat more high pitched, I knew the voice of my daughter and I felt it resonate deep in my bone marrow. That cry called out to me and echoed through my spirit, back to the dawn of time and our coming into being amid starstuff. I knew that cry by instinct and I couldn't get to her fast enough.

"That's her! That's her! I hear her!" I told my friends who walked beside me, overcome with excitement.

The nurse wheeled me into the perpetual twilight and quiet of the NICU. In there, it is still. Time stops. There is no outside world that exists. There is just mama, family that's with you and this tiny little miracle that has just come through you into this plane of being.
  
The nurse wheeled me past other infants and to the platform where my Precious Pookie lay. Tubes came and went from her. A heart monitor blipped and she lay there, slightly inclined on her back, her hair curly with dried gook. I didn't pay any of that notice, at the time. She was the most perfect thing I'd ever seen in my life.

When the nurses gently placed this precious thing into my arms for the first time, she looked up at me, her beautiful cerulean eyes looked right into my soul and they spoke to me in silence. "Oh, mama. There you are!" She let out a sigh and started to cuddle down onto me. I removed my hospital gown from my upper half and held her against the soft skin and strong bone of my chest.

I could feel her cheek against me and I knew she was listening to my heartbeat, the booming, never-ceasing rhythm that now beat just for her. I tucked her head up under my chin and I just bathed in the glowing, timeless mama-baby light that we created, together. I now understood what the hospital meant when they said, "Supporting the baby-mama dyad."



Holding Pookie for the first time

How perfectly happy I was in that moment. How absolutely blissed out I was. How could I, a messed up girl with faults and imperfections, have created such a perfect little being? Straight from Spirit and into my arms, I felt like I'd never known peace or joy until that moment.

All the years I'd run around the country, written and made art. All the friendships and relationships and burned bridges that come along with the process of living? None of them mattered, anymore. For some reason, Spirit found me worthy enough, with all my faults, to gift me with this little girl with her perfect fingers and adorable toes. With whisps of brownish-blonde hair and a smile that charmed everyone she met, she was the closest thing to heaven I could think of. . .

And, in that moment, I knew real fear. Fear of falling, fear of flying, fear of being alone, fear of being unlovable? All these fears and doubts were trivial, now. Now came real fear, gripping fear, the fear of taking this infallible little being that had been entrusted to my care . . . and fucking her up.

And I knew that it was only a matter of time. I knew me. I knew that the day would come when I would say the wrong thing or make the wrong choice or something would happen that was beyond my control and her world would no longer be perfect. Because I know that I am human and I mess up. And I know that the world isn't always softness and doesn't always treat us kindly, no matter our circumstances.

It turned out that Pookie had an air bubble between her lung and her chest wall that made it difficult for her to breathe. They couldn't tell me why it happened. She was only in the NICU 24 hours and the bubble went away on its' own. During the overnight, she tore her oxygen tube off her own face. The next time I held her, she pulled out her feeding tube and set straight to nursing.

My little one was born with a strong will. To this day, that continues. She knows what she wants and is very definite about it. She has no problem voicing her desires and is very clear about them.


Two months later, still blissed out

This week, I read some articles and it got me thinking about failing as a mama. Did I fail my baby in some way? If I'd done something different, would she not have been in the NICU? It turned out perfectly fine, in the end, but that first day was one of the scariest I've ever spent.

Amy from Pregnant Chicken Blog wrote this:
You are in the trenches when you have a baby. To the untrained eye it seems pretty straightforward and easy – you feed them, you bathe them, you pick them up when they cry – but it’s more than that. It’s perpetual motion with a generous layer of guilt and self-doubt spread on top, and that takes its toll.
Feeling like you also need to keep on top of scrapbooking, weight loss, up-cycled onesies, handprints, crock pot meals, car seat recalls, sleeping patterns, poo consistency, pro-biotic supplements, swimming lessons, electromagnetic fields in your home and television exposure, is like trying to knit on a rollercoaster – it’s f*cking hard.

Leonie Dawson also wrote this:

"I had tomes of bibles. All the ways I should be parenting. All the hard, hard lessons I needed to know. There is no test greater than this.
How does one ever prepare for the momentous task of becoming a mother? The answer? One cannot. You only go there. And then you sink and swim, sink and swim. But oh, those tomes. Those bibles. I thought it would be easy. Easy if I did it this way.

I read all the books while I was pregnant. Before I was pregnant too. I wrapped myself in a haze of:
if I only do this perfectly and differently from how I was raised,
then my baby will be perfect
and she will never suffer
and will never ever go through any pain or discomfort
and all will be right in her world."

This week, I saw these posts and it caused me to want to write about this. My dearies, I'm a mama and a stepmama, so I'm right there "in the trenches" with you.

When I brought this sweet, this perfect, this most beautiful being into this world, I told my father that it wasn't fair, but that I finally understod. It wasn't fair because, now, my heart was out in the world, outside of my body and I had very little control of all the things that could happen to her.

I read all the books. I took all the classes. I had done everything my OB said and, now, here was my little Precious Pookie, fresh into the world, taken away from me and given a feeding and an oxygen tube. What happened ?!?

I was tormented and plagued by my own perceived failings.

Oh, my mamas out there. Leonie Dawson spoke in the post I referenced earlier of how she judged other mamas. I will never lie to you, my dear readers. I judged. And I judged hard. Before that moment of actually being with my Perfect, Precious Pookie, I had it all figured out.

I sneered at women who didn't breastfeed or didn't breastfeed as long as I thought they should have. I growled at women who told me that I should encapsulate and eat my placenta. I downright yelled at television documentaries who's message to me was that my medically necessary C-Section was going to scar both me and my baby for eternity. And that an "orgasmic" or "water birth" was the only right way.

Before that moment with my daughter, I was the perfect parent, as all people are before they actually have children. At the moment of first meeting my daughter, I knew for certain that I was the most incompetent parent in the world. And she was less than 15 minutes old.


Pookie's birth annoucement photo - 1 day old
The face of the little being that changed my life

Today, Pookie is almost 16 months old and what a long trip it's been for the both of us. Yet it seems to have flown by. Then, she was unable to stay awake for more than 1/2 hour at a time. Now, she's toddling around the kitchen, playing drums on the clothes washer and she is able to communicate her wants. From a "ba-ttle" of milk to "bites" to "Doodle," he favorite teddy bear.

Doodle used to be my bear. I bought him when I was 21, at the F.A.O. Schwartz in Chicago, the Christmas before the store closed. At that time, I named him FAOS (pronounced "Faus" as in "Faust" without the 't'). But Pookie claimed him as not only her own, but as her favorite. And she dubbed him "Doodle." At 31, now, nothing could make me happier than to give her something, anything that brings her so much joy. There is nothing of myself that I wouldn't give her, just to see her merry little soul light up with joy.

Through this time, of Pookie's first 16 months, I've learned a major lesson. As mamas, we all do the best that we can with what we know and what we have, at the time. We are human, so we will mess up, but our love for our babes is so deep, so strong, so powerful, so ingrained in us, that there is hardly any way (at all) that we can, in fact, fail as mothers. If we are truly in love with our babes and let that love be our guide, our heart will set us on the right path.

In these 16 months, I've let go of the mama I thought I should be. I didn't make Pookie's baby food from scratch. We use disposable diapers. I breastfed her until I needed to be on medications for my Lupus that turned my milk toxic. I kept my nipple rings, but took out my 10 gauge tongue bar 'cause it was chipping my teeth. Pookie has no set schedule. When she's tired, she goes down for sleep and I let her sleep as long as she wants. Her favorite food is bananas, so she gets one every single day. She's terrified of the noise shopping carts make, so she stays at home with her Papa when I need to go to the store and I don't wipe her down with hand sanitizer whenever she touches something that may have one germ on it.


My father, Pookie, and Doodle Bear
Christmas morning, 2012

My point is that, now, I'm allowing myself to be the mama that I am and the one that Pookie needs me to be. I am not the mama that I or anyone else thinks I should be. The parenthood mental scorecards? They're gone. Now, I've beaten myself up less and just do the best I can for her, day by day.

I also judge other mamas way less, now, because I don't know their story or their situation. One day, I hope all women and mamas can see that we each, no matter what philosophies of parenting or ideologies or politics divide us, are trying to do the best we can for our babes.

Every birth story is empowering to us, even if it doesn't fit in with what others say we "should" be doing. Every voice of every mama deserves to be heard. We should not be ashamed of any of it. It's a trial by fire, no matter how it happens. And every child deserves a mama that may not be perfect, but is the perfect mama for them.


Until next time, my lovelies, please remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel!


Love to All,

-Bri


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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Frogs in Tutus or Whatever's In Front of You

I'd like to share with you a big secret about living your dreams and building a great big, full, awesome creative life.

Ready?

Here it is . . .

It doesn't happen overnight.

I know! Shocking, right?

"Now, Bri," I can hear you saying. "I already knew that." I know that you already knew that, but that is just the point of this post, starting with what you know.

Believe it or not, something that simple is the way to start. Start with what you know. Do you want to write? Write about your life. Write about what's right in front of you. Write what you experience every day because only you are living your life and ONLY YOU are thinking your thoughts.

The most amazing thing about this common and best approach is this: you're not the only one. No matter what you're thinking, someone else has thought it before. But that's not bad. See? You're not alone. No matter what you've thought or you're experiencing, there's someone out there who is going through or has gone through the same thing. They can relate. That's what art is about.

Art and being creative is about communicating a message in your own way. And, once you put your message out there, a thousand people will resonate with it and a thousand people will think, "Oh my gosh! I'm not alone! I thought I was the only one who thought putting tutus on frogs was a cute idea." (Or whatever your idea happens to be.)

I just came up with that image in my head on the fly. I Googled it and look what I found:


See? Apparently someone liked that idea enough to make a stuffed frog in a tutu. No matter what you've come up with, there's someone who will agree with you and your projects that you put out there will resonate with them. It's a wonderful, splendifferous fact, my lovelies.

Take, for instance, being a mama. I'm a mama and I talk about it way too much, I'm sure. But my Precious Pookie is quite literally the best thing that's every happened to me and words cannot describe how much she lights up my heart. But children can be frustrating. That's okay. Take whatever you're frustrated, angry, annoyed, joyous, or excited about, take that experience and make something with it.

This week, I found this video that illustrates my point:




Dearies, none of us is alone in this world, but no one can tell your story for you. No one has your unique perspective, your particular spin on a topic. Only you have the power to tell your story and unveil your truth.

Still don't believe me? Look at this:



It's still a frog in a tutu, but it's vastly different from the first one. So get out there, my bright beautiful ones and tackle that project you've always dreamed of completing. You can do it! The frogs and I have faith in you.

And, until next time, please keep in mind that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.


Love to All,

-Bri



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Friday, January 4, 2013

Carry On

Oh, my lovelies. This life can be trying sometimes, can't it?

We are capable of wonderous things, but we slip along the way, don't we? We say the wrong thing. We step on toes. We get upset and say things we don't mean. Ah, the crazy ride it is that we call "life."

I know it's not always easy out there. I know that times can seem bleak and uncertain and downright, boots-knocking scary. It's okay, my lovelies. Breathe. Deep breaths. It will be okay.

In the middle of our darkest times, I know it can feel like the whole world is crashing down around you. I know it can feel like the stars have fallen out of alignment, the tides are all wonky and even the cement under your feet seems unstable. I have been there, dear ones.

I've been right where you're standing - in depression so bad that getting something to eat from the kitchen seems to take so much energy that you just don't have. I've been right there - not leaving the house for weeks. No matter how bad you feel, no matter how bleak it seems right now, I'm going to tell you something both amazing and true.

It gets better.

Listen. . . do you hear that? On the wind.

Do you hear that?

It's the universe and it's singing to you, singing through you, thumping in every beat of your perfect, gentle, tender heart. Do you know what it's saying? It's saying . . .



No matter how bleak or how sad things get, no matter how hard or trying or difficult the road, always remember that your story can continue past this ugly funk. Always remember that there can still, yet, be dreams and sunshine and laughter. It will come back around.

I promise.

And you can bank on that, babies!


And to close and send you to the weekend with joy, a song. "Carry On" by Fun.



Until next time, please remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.


Love to All,


-Bri


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