Zodiac Women: Virgo

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Aug 23- Sep 22
The helpful perfectionists. Glowing skin. Pulled-together women. They get things done. Very sensitive.

Wonder Woman Wednesday: Meghan Williamson

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—————————————- Today’s Wonder Woman Wednesday I’m featuring on of the most incredible women I’ve ever had the chance to meet: Meghan Williamson. The things this woman has done at her young age are mind-blowing. It’s been an honor getting to have her in my life and I’m so excited she agreed to let me interview her.
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Name:   
Meghan Williamson

Business Name and Location:      
Pine Knot Projects    
Harrisonburg, VA

How did you get started doing what you’re doing? 
Growing up, I only wanted to be an environmental policy advocate. 
I went to college and then Washington DC pursuing that path, and ultimately became frustrated with the national policy making process, and the lack of real conversations and alternative paradigms.
I came back to Western Virginia trying to answer questions like how do we build sustainable economies? 
What would honest and effective environmental policy even look like? Ever since then, I’ve been playing in jobs that try to help me answer those questions.
Every year, my answers get a little more radical and a little less mainstream. I seem to have to reinvent fairly regularly.

What is your mission statement?
I work on projects that build alternative systems that address issues of sustainability, equality, and community. Early on, that was about building more local economies in which business are locally-owned and engaged in local foods, alternative energy or similar environmental focused activities.  These days, I’m more comfortable talking explicitly about which systems we also need to exit: 
How can we move investments away from Wall Street and into local communities? 
How can we become less reliant on the formal monetary system, and more inter-reliant on each other? 
What laws and power structures keep us from building fairer, place-based, regenerative communities?

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Who do you usually work with? 
Almost anyone who wants to work with me.

What parts of your job do you find most challenging? 
Too much computer time.  And recently, I’ve also felt too geographically scattered, doing work in Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Waynesboro.  Sometimes, when you’re trying to be place-based, you have to actually narrow down and BE place-based. I haven’t always been good at that.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? 
The days when I remember we have more options, more beautiful ways of being in the world, than our dominant culture and media tells us we do.

What accomplishments are you the most proud of? 
Quitting.  I’ve had a number of jobs that were well regarded, in which my accomplishments were recognized and appreciated.
It’s sometimes seductive to want to stay in those comfortable places.  My decisions to leave haven’t always made sense to my family, or even myself…and they aren’t always easy. But I do find that when I’m willing to start-over, to pursue new edges even when there’s no clear new path forward, that’s when I grow the most.

What’s your favorite testimonial you’ve ever received?
A client once walked into my office and said

“Someone told me, if you have a crazy idea, come here.”

 
I’ve always felt deeply honored when people trust me enough to share their dreams or their hopes. I try to honor that, to respect their bravery. I think we all want to build a more beautiful world. & so few people tell us that we can.  

What’s the most effective way you’ve found to promote your business?
I try to live well in place, and to support other people’s desire to do the same. Projects, and the resources to pursue them, have grown out of that.

What motivates you? 
We’re actively ruining the world.
A global species extension in underway. There’s more plastic in the ocean than plankton right now.
Our climate is destabilizing, we have no real memory of what intact ecosystems even look like, industrial expansion strips the land and resources away from indigenous cultures that were thriving long before us, and our food makes us sick.
We traded all that for what? Big houses, long car commutes, and a lifetime of staring at screens under florescent lights?  
I’m over it.  Let’s do better – for both ourselves and for all of those (both human and nonhuman) who are dying for our livelihoods.

What cheers you up or encourages you when you’re down? 
Finding time to be silent and alone, preferably in less civilized places. There’s so much noise and energy in the world that’s actively destructive. Just finding space apart from it helps me hear my own thoughts.

How do you best take care of yourself?
When I’m at my best, I have time to put my hands in the dirt, to cook my own food, to set my own pace. I find that my least-scheduled days are also my fullest.

What is your favorite way to be healthy? 
Cut the sugar, ditch the car, eat food that lives here, and love somebody.

What is your greatest strength? 

I’m stubborn.

Who inspires you?
So many people. I think we’re all walking around with tiny grains of truth in our pockets, and I love how often someone totally unexpected shares one with me.

What have they taught you? 
Again, so many things. If I had to pick one for today, I would say that my partner, Kurt, is teaching me to be kind. Or maybe we’re teaching each other.  

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What’s the best advice or wisdom you’ve ever received? 
Plenty of people told me growing up that life is short, but I never knew what they meant until I watched someone I loved have his life, cut short.  I don’t think it does much good to say it, but maybe we can try to remember it: Life is short. These are the only days we get. How would we behave differently if we remembered that?

What’s your best productivity tip? 
Do the things that make you happy. Do the thing the 10-year-old version of yourself thought you should do with your life. Live the life that you imagine. Remember that every single moment we are producing something. We don’t have to “be” productive any more than we have to “be” human. We just have to choose how to spend our moments, and for whom.

Favorite book?: 
I have no idea how to answer this question. Books are like friends – I need them all, for totally different reasons. I read The Culture of Make Believe this year.  It’s hard, tragic, long, shattering, and I think everyone should read it.

What is your biggest goal for 2015? 

Say more true things
 

{Please send a photo or two of yourself at your happiest! And tell me a little bit about the photo(s)}  

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— The photo with the braids is on a bicycle tour with Kurt in Idaho, after we’d spent about 2 months peddling together, camping out every night, and visiting strangers and friends working on sustainability projects around the Pacific Northwest.

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— The other photo is me being content with simple things and good friends. 
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Thank you SO MUCH, Meghan, for letting me get to know you better. You are someone I definitely look up to and what I love most is how deep your passion goes and how much joy you bring to others along the way.

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Savanna’s Testimonial: Pregnancy Massage on PlanetJoy

Savanna has been coming to me for a couple of years now and she’s due July 31st. Before she got crazy busy with her new baby, I wanted to ask her some questions about her experience with pregnancy massage.

As soon as Savanna told me she’d found out that she was pregnant, back in February, I decided to take a prenatal and postpartum massage course. The class was a wonderful experience (I got to work on a woman the day before she was induced!)

Together, Savanna and I have had a lot of fun practicing and perfecting the most amazing pregnancy massage experience.

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Name: Savanna

Age: 27

Did you have any objections or skepticism about pregnancy massage?

I actually was a little bit skeptical.

While I am a big fan of massage, I was skeptical about whether or not I could still enjoy it if I couldn’t lay on my back or stomach.

I wasn’t sure exactly how it would work or if I would just have to lay on my side the whole time.

Mainly I think I just didn’t know exactly what to expect so I was skeptical about whether or not it would be as comfortable or relaxing as a regular massage.

What were some of your concerns or worries?

I was mainly worried or concerned at the beginning about whether or not it was completely safe for the baby.

I had read some mixed reviews online about the safety especially for the first trimester.

I had also read that sometimes massage made morning sickness worse.

(*Special note: the reason massage can have a bad rep for first trimester is that the first trimester is a very sensitive time and many women do not end up carrying to term. When something happens and the pregnancy is terminated, the massage is not a direct cause, but all the pain from losing the baby can often lead women to search for a cause. Because of this it’s important to work lightly and check in a LOT with the woman to make sure she feels comfortable, healthy, and safe.

Also, in the case of losing a baby, massage is excellent for mental health and emotional healing.)

What were you hoping would happen?

I was hoping that my skepticism and/or worries would be for no reason and that I would enjoy pregnancy massage as much if not more than regular massage.

Why did you choose to come to me (instead of someone else)? What made you trust me?

I had already had good experiences with your massages so that helped.

Also I know that you are always reading and researching so I knew that you would be well versed in what was safe and unsafe for both me and the baby.

Plus knowing that you went to the effort to take the pre-natal class was reassuring as well.

But even without the prenatal class I was confident that you would do your homework and look into what was and wasn’t safe for pregnancy so that was reassuring.

What can other people expect? Juicy details, please! What were some highlights of the experience?

Pregnancy massage is obviously somewhat different than a regular massage, but it is also the same in many ways.

With the physical changes that pregnancy brings come a lot of aches and pains, and you need a relaxing massage more than ever.

Despite what I originally had thought, the massages can be just as relaxing as a regular massage, they are just a little different.

The “cloud” was also very nice. (*A special combination concoction of pillows to prop you up so you can have your head, neck, arms, and feet worked on. Feels like floating on a cloud….) 

Because I was propped up on pillows I rarely felt nauseous or lightheaded.

When I did I always was able to be adjusted in a way that alleviated that feeling.

It was also helpful that you were very open minded and always willing to make little adjustments as we went to make sure that I was always comfortable.

What concerns or worries were taken care of?

I was reassured after talking to one of our midwives who actually said not only is it safe but that they recommend massage and/or chiropractic care.

I was also reassured that you took the prenatal massage class so I was very confident that you would know what was and was not recommended during pregnancy.

I also appreciated that you were open to trying different things and I always felt comfortable letting you know if we needed to adjust my position, if I needed another pillow, etc.

What was different about this experience compared to regular massages?

The most obvious is that you can’t lay on your stomach or your back.  Other than that the experience as surprisingly similar.

The added stretches and the tummy massage is an extra perk.

What pleasantly surprised you?

I was surprised that despite having a different position for the massage it was really just as relaxing as a regular massage.

What was most satisfying about the experience?

Massages were great in helping relieve the aches and pains of pregnancy, as well as relieving the tension from stress and anxiety that comes with pregnancy.

It was nice to take an hour a month (or sometimes a couple of hours a month) to relax.

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(*Savanna, it’s been an honor working on you throughout your pregnancy. Because I’ve worked on you every month it’s been so cool to watch your baby grow.
Thank you for being patient while I figured everything out. I know you said it felt good even the first few times when I was a little unsteady with all the techniques.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better. AND it was SO COOL to be one of the very FIRST people to hear about your pregnancy!! (Even before your parents, wow.)
I can’t wait to meet your little baby and get to know her :) 

Zodiac Women: Leo

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July 23-Aug 22
Very leonine features. They appear to know how stunning they are. Not afraid to look you right in the eye.

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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Vanessa Dieterly

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Welcome to Wonder Woman Wednesday. Todays Wonder Woman is Vanessa Dieterly, my childhood best friend and a woman I have always looked up to (both figuratively and literally–I’m so much shorter than her.)

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Name:  Vanessa Elke Dieterly

Birthday:  7/12/1987

Describe yourself as you are or as you want to be remembered: I don’t know if how I want to be remembered and how I am are necessarily the same thing, haha. I’d like to be remembered as a giving person and as someone who loves her family.

Favorite book? (Or blog or podcast):  There are so many books that I love, but I’ve been going through a phase (for several years now) in which I am obsessed with autobiographical books written by women comedians. Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Jane Lynch’s Happy Accidents, Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please, etc.

And even though it’s not a book or blog or podcast, I’ve watched the video of Ellen DeGeneres giving the 2009 commencement speech at the University of Tulane more times than I can count. I think anyone who is feeling a little lost should watch it. Everyone else should, too.

Favorite quote:

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” Tina Fey

What motivates you?
Having a kid really changed my perspective on what I want out of life. I have a much different view of success now. My goals revolve around having a happy home and a happy life, and having a child is what has motivated me to live this kind of life.

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How do you best take care of yourself? What is your favorite way to be healthy?
My favorite way to be healthy is to walk to places I need to go instead of driving.

What is your greatest strength? Knowing the difference between they’re, their and there. Also, knowing the difference between your and you’re. Maybe these aren’t my greatest strengths, but I think these are important! ;)

Who inspires you? What have they taught you?
I never heard my mom complain about being a single mom. She always just did whatever needed to be done. She appreciates the little things in life in a way that few people do. I’d like to be more like that.

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What’s the best advice or wisdom you’ve ever received?
When I was pregnant with my son, my uncle said to me that everyone will want to give you parenting advice, but you kind of just have to figure out what works best for you and ignore the rest. Everything about this has been very true. Strangers in the supermarket, friends who don’t have kids, grandmas who had eight kids- they all have suggestions for how you should do things. Just smile, nod and keep doing what works for you. Also, see the Tina Fey quote above.

What cheers you up or encourages you when you’re down?
My mom and my sister, Melissa, always send me funny texts- pictures or random things they see, or just funny little thoughts that I have. They always cheer me up.

What are you proudest of?
I had a good job as a property manager that I decided to quit so I could stay home with my son. It would have been easier for me to continue working, so it was a tough decision for me, but I’m glad I finally decided to do it.

What is your biggest goal for 2015?
To stop eating so much processed food!

{Please send a photo or two of you at your happiest. (And tell a little bit about why you chose the photo(s))}

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That’s a picture of me with my sisters at the Children’s Museum of Richmond in 2010.

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And here’s a picture of me with my family.
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Thank you, Vanessa! You’ve always been a Wonder Woman in my eyes, ever since we were little. Now you are so grown up. Where does the time go? It was wonderful to read what you had to say about your life and what inspires you.

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The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (a review)

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So, I REALLY wanted to review this book The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer and the goodreads app is being bratty and I can’t figure out how to do it on their website….I was, however, able to rate it 5 stars.

But, I would have rated it 20 if I could.

I have never been an Amanda Palmer fan. There’s so much music out in the world and I just haven’t ever listened to hers.

All I knew about Amanda was from a few articles online that I’d glanced over about how she was an awful person for making a bunch of money and not paying her musicians…..or something like that. Okay, noted, I won’t listen to her. Moving on with my life.

Also, it bothered me that Neil Gaiman left his wife for her. (As though I’m personally invested in his life and have a right to any opinions on the matter….it turns out that Amanda and Neil have a completely gorgeous relationship which I totally adore now.)

Then I heard AFP on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. She seemed really cool. Funny. Smart. And knowing the caliber of people Tim Ferriss is drawn to, I appreciated her instantly.

I wrote the title of her book down to read later.

At the library I stumbled upon it in the new book section and thought HOORAY! Fate has led me to this very moment.

But, I had no idea.

This whole year my lesson has been VULNERABILITY. Becoming broken so I can blossom. Learning to trust that other people will be a safe haven when I’ve fallen and can’t get up.

It took about a page for me to fall in love with Amanda Palmer. Her openness is so beautiful. So often we live so closed off….afraid to expose ourselves to each other.

Amanda Palmer lives the life I’ve always wanted. Not because her life is easy (one point of the book is that her life isn’t) but because she lives in such a way that she brings others in around her to support her when she’s falling. And she lives to support those who support her. She loves to really SEE people in a world where no one ever feels seen anymore.

I realized I hadn’t watched Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, yet, so I immediately pulled it up. It made me cry. It was such a gorgeous presentation.

Then I listened to her music. The first song I ever heard was I Want You But I Don’t Need You. I was HOOKED. My goodness this is my kind of music. Song after song the presentation and the “Sylvia Plath-esque” lyrics made me so completely happy.

The whole book I felt like I was sitting in Amanda’s living room, being told a story while we sat on the floor together in kimonos and we munched on hummus and pita bread.

I was amazed, yet again, at how important it is to really listen to where another person is coming from. We just can NOT judge people based on other people’s opinions of them. We must go to the source with open hearts.

Her book reinforced the idea that it’s only when you let your guard down that other people trust you enough to let theirs down, too.

It opened up wonderful nighttime conversations with my best friend.

“I think it’s just because she’s SO open.&that’s what the book is all about.How we CRAVE that feeling of REALLY connecting….it’s an addictive feeling when someone trusts you enough to tell you everything.”

“People can only try to understand what you give them. If you don’t give anything, they don’t even get to try….”

“Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to reach out &touch somebody on a deeper level….to let someone really know you.”

Now the theme is continuing. I went to an acupuncturist in town, Emily Hedberg, and I felt like she really saw me. It made me feel so loved. She could see how I am so protective of my heart&what a hard time I have trusting people. I remembered so wanting to just be held and listened to when I was little….it’s amazing what our bodies remember.

When she talked to me about vulnerability, I told her about the book.

The cycle continues.

The gift must always move.

When you love people enough, they will give you everything.

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Wordy Wednesday Writing Exercise: Tandem

Driving around in your beat up cadillac you play my favorite songs and reach over to brush some hair out of my face. Ever since I got my hair cut shorter, curls stick out in weird directions like television antennae. At least I’m getting good reception. 

Last night you took me out for lobster on your tandem bike. My feet kept slipping off the pedals….at one point I think I was even trying to drive us backwards. But, you kept your head up, guiding us safely, as always. 

We stopped at the top of the mountain and breathed in new perspective. I said, “Look how my glasses change color when I tilt my head. Are they rose colored or is this my blue period? Are we half full or half empty?”

(I was resisting the urge to throw myself off the edge of the scenic overlook.)

I’m tired of pedaling uphill all the time. Even with you in the lead, it’s hard work. 

I’m learning to ask you for things. I gave you my hand to pull me back from the edge. “I can hear snakes in the grass and I think it’s time to leave.”

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