Truth or Consequence

I often wonder if I have anything meaningful to say, to write about. Sometimes, I believe that I don’t because there are things so much more important than my life and feelings. Ya know, like this bullshit in the White House or immigrant children being detained at the border (or, or, or - pretty much everything in the world is more important than my privileged life in the U.S.).

But then I remember a passage in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert that talked about how her friend went to help some women that had been in prison camps. Her friend was worried that she wouldn’t know how to help these women deal with the traumas they faced. When she got there, she was surprised to find that the women were not asking her how to come to terms with war or dying. They talked about love - why he said he’d call but didn’t, whether he really loved her, if he was having an affair. In other words, the experiences and the feelings I have aren’t just mine. Nor do those you have solely belong to you.

They all - in some way - speak to a larger, more universal truth or consequence.

And that inspires me to write past the limits of how I think other people will receive my writing. Will they be offended by something I say? Will they feel welcomed and at home with my words?

Will they go digging online until they find that I have made the most insignificant statement about them in a piece like 3 people have read? Will they see this and text me about it?

I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter.

Everyone is always going to think something about you. Certainly, everyone always seems to have something to say about what I do - how I write, what I write, how I parent, how I believe. And the truth is, I hate it when people say negative things about me. Who doesn’t?

But what I’ve come to learn is that as long as you let other people have control over your life, especially if that comes in the form of having to moderate who you are and what you’re about so other people don’t feel threatened or uncomfortable, the longer you will find yourself doubting the sanctity of your own relationship with life.

The more times I stop myself in the middle of shrinking, the easier it gets. Just like not wanting to rock the boat and becoming less of yourself so other people don’t have to face being uncomfortable with themselves is a habit, so is not shrinking.

I don’t always succeed at this. In fact, I find myself moderating my words quite often. This isn’t all bad - I know I have a quick tongue when I get upset. I’m learning that so often whatever it is I want to say isn’t really worth saying and I’m glad I’ve learned to bite my tongue. But there are other times when I lean too far in the other direction, choosing docile compliance rather than to start World War 3. I’m learning to find the balance, the correct timing, and the grace to sit with my discomfort.

It helps to remember that, one day, I will process all of this through pen and paper or fingers and keyboard and I will be better for having had to learn the hard way that some people’s opinions really just don’t matter. You just do you, boo. This is the only life you get in this body - do you really want to spend it worried about what other people think of you? Or do you want to spend it breathing in all of the magic around you and loving fully every moment you can?

♥ CV


Monday Morning in San Francisco

The rain of last night still hangs in the air as I make my way down Guerrero; it has mercifully ceased. With a full two days of work and a book launch party ahead of me, I knew that this morning was the only time I would have to write on this trip. So I pulled on jeans and a green velvet top, layered on a coat and a scarf, and shoved an umbrella in my bag – just in case. Down Guerrero, left on 15th, right on Valencia. The coffee shop sign can’t be seen from the sidewalk, but the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans gives me confirmation that this is my stop.  

I walk through one side of the open double doors and am met with a massive interior. There’s a U-shaped coffee bar, chairs and tables line the wall, and, in the back there is a coffee roasting machine. Being the me that I am, I bought a vape pen at a dispensary and accidentally, let’s say, vaped one too many. Now I am too high on sativa and my head floats just above, just detached from my body. I wait in a short line, while texting Mika about today’s “crisis” which I will get to in a minute. The line moves but I don’t, and I’m left standing in the middle of a very San Franciscan-feeling coffee shop looking at my phone. I am in the clouds, though, and as soon as I realize I laugh and walk up to the counter and say, “what flavor syrups do you have?” I immediately regret the question as the barista (barrister? It was a dude.) looked at me with a slight but perceptible glint of judgement in his eyes. “We actually don’t. We keep it pretty simple here.” Of course they do. That makes sense – what kind of coffee shop that roasts Its own coffee is going to dump chemical- or sugar-laden syrups in their masterpiece? I order a latte and we chat about me being from Atlanta – he says it’s a cool city, I say I want to move to San Francisco.  

The air feels breathable, unlike at home. Everywhere I look, there’s something different to look at. I have more creative thoughts in an hour walking through San Francisco (and New York, for that matter) than I do in a whole month in Atlanta. (I get that this isn’t everyone’s experience – there are dozens of brilliant, prolific artists and writers in Atlanta who seem to get inspiration aplenty. But me? It feels suffocating to be in a city where it takes 20 minutes to go two miles. I’d rather walk those two miles and be exposed to the grittiness of one block, the glamour of the next. It’s in those moments in between the moments – you know, the brief eye contact with a homeless man on the way to meet a friend, for example.) My brain surges with inspiration for story ideas, and I wish my muse silent until I have access to a pen or my computer – I don’t want to forget anything.  

I get my coffee from the counter and ask another barista for the Wi-Fi password. “We actually don’t have Wi-Fi,” she smiles. Of course they don’t. And I am instantly enamored with Four Barrels. I think this would be my coffee shop, if we were to live in the neighborhood. “Guess I’ll write offline,” I smile back.  

With no internet on my computer, I bypass the habitual procrastination that happens before I finally begin to let my words flow. The coffee is easily the smoothest I’ve ever had, and I am thrilled to learn that I can get coffee I enjoy without enhancing it with artificial flavors. I didn’t know what this would be about, honestly. I just let my fingers lead the way via my internal muse. It helps that the music is melodic, the buzz of chatter mild but energizing, and the level of elevation I’ve found myself at.

Which brings me to the “crisis” I mentioned earlier. I assure you it’s not a real crisis, and one that I must acknowledge is very privileged. At any rate, I momentarily turned back to my existential panic of “this or that”, or in other words, trying to decide what I want to do with my career. Do I keep on the digital health path? It is certainly fulfilling, not to mention lucrative. I can see a future for myself in this. Or do I intend to veer off on my own again, this time pursuing writing essays and books? This has been my lifelong plan, regardless of how many times I’ve placed it on the back burner. When I write, like I wrote my reflections on Cusco or like I’m writing right now, I feel a surge of life force that I don’t get from anything else.

It's unclear why I feel like I must choose. This was essentially what my only new year’s resolution – to feel good ­– was intended to safeguard against. It’s my thing – feeling the absolute need for an absolute decision and then torturing myself while I try to “figure it out.” It is no longer interesting to me to partake in this pastime. I set out to change this by committing to pursuing what feels good and letting go of what doesn’t. Right now, both writing and my professional digital health/PR career feel insanely juicy and delicious and fulfilling. It feels good to do both, so why do I force myself into this pressure of choosing? Mika reminded me of this, as she does, and I am pulled off of my merry go round and back into reality which is: I can do everything I want to do in my lifetime. Any other belief is born of scarcity and lack, not love and abundance.

In regard to wanting to move to San Francisco (or New York), I truly feel that I do. I couldn’t have answered this for certain even a month ago but now I can say that moving to one of these great cities would be a catalyst for even more joy and bliss in my life. I’m leading toward left coast living because California has always felt like home to me. I came to this when Mika posed the question: “The logistics may be complex but is the decision?”

And it’s really not a hard decision: if it were solely up to me, David and I would move to this glorious, walkable, creative, tech-y city and revel in the adventure of it all. Logistics are always figure-out-able. Once a decision is made, the Universe has a way of conspiring with the energies of the world to deliver what is asked for.

Look, I know San Francisco has flaws. All cities do. But the pros deeply outweigh the cons for me. The foggy sky, the dirty sidewalks, the shops and restaurants that have more history than I do, the ornate homes pushed up against one another and painted bright colors – all of the elements of San Francisco combine to create a sensory experience for me that leaves me breathless and blissed. Shouldn’t life leave us all more breathless and blissed?

 I can’t say for sure that we’ll move. I have so much to take into account, namely David’s feelings on the matter. Since Journey is moving to California with her dad, it really makes a lot of sense for us to move, too. What I can say for sure is that I want this with every ounce of fiber in my being. I want all of it – the good, the bad, the weird.

It's Monday morning in San Francisco. The coffee shop has light streaming in through the sunroof. My heart is full, my mind is buzzing, and my coffee is all gone.

 ♥ CV

Chasing Mountain Magic: Remembering My Time in Cusco

Darkness had fallen, the sky draped around the Vilcabamba mountains like a mother wrapping her child in a blanket. The inhalation moved air to every cell of my body and as I glanced upward, the deepness of my breath surprised me - as though my lungs were being filled directly from the cosmos. I leaned into the feeling of fullness, allowing my eyes to consume as many stars as possible between blinks. Mesmerizing, brilliant, absorbing, the sheer amount of light pouring down from the night sky was like a fireworks display of astronomical proportions. I couldn’t tell what was moving in the sky and what was my corneas playing tricks.

A snow-capped mountain sloping down into hills and small valleys, filling lakes, and reflecting the spring moon back into the atmosphere. A row of rustic mountain huts. Horses tied to a post. Me, standing there feeling as though I’d been turned inside out - my soul swirling around my skin. Everything felt so magnificent and, instead of feeling small or inferior in comparison, my heart opened to a different reality: it’s all inside of me. The mountains, the galaxies full of dancing plasma, the sky and the moon and the howling echoing in the distance. All the separation I’d put between myself and Life melted away and I was left with only the truth of who I was.

I had come to Peru, to Cusco, to those mountains because one day - out of nowhere - I had the overwhelming urge to go. Machu Picchu had never been high on my list but in that moment it became the only place I needed to go. After a quick “hey, you don’t mind if I dip out for two weeks, right?” call to David, I had booked a return flight, reserved a room in a hostel in the center of Lima, and paid for a 5-day trek to Machu Picchu. It felt so right, like the entire Universe had given its blessing.

Time both crept and flashed, making it all the harder to hold on to. Vegan curries and Argentinian men, accidental party hostels, the markets where you can buy fresh smoothies next to a stall selling fragrant coriander, basil, and huacatay. Then there was Kundalini and community dinners and meditations and lying about in a sun-soaked yard. Those moments taste like mint tea now, a tingling memoir of the most gentle time. There was Jake, who I felt like I’d known forever, and Sunni, who radiates light in such a special way. There was Gabby, who felt like a sister to me. And there was Vento, an elderly Chilean reiki master whose energy preceded him and lingered behind long after he left.

After my aforementioned one-night stint at a rowdy party hostel, I trekked across town and up a flight of stairs so steep I had to stop and catch my breath every few steps. The altitude was never my friend. At the top of the hill was an unassuming door that led to the Healing House Cusco. This yoga studio cum hostel for the, let’s say, more spiritually inclined. It was woo woo: there were yoga classes throughout the day and a full range of energy healing services available. I was in love from the second I pushed open the heavy door and stepped inside.

My time at Healing House was pure magic. It is where I met all the people who impacted me on this trip. It was a sacred container, cradling my growth. It is where I was handed a mirror over and over again, the people in my surroundings reflecting back to me all that which I felt was broken in myself.

I enjoyed telling people I was doing the Salkantay Trek. In Peru, it is one of the standard travel questions: where are you from? How long are you traveling? How long have you been here? Are you doing a trek? It seemed to elicit an enthusiastic response, though every time I said it I felt a tug of anxiety. I didn’t want to leave Cusco’s magical, pulsing energy. I had so easily matched the city’s cadence, to leave felt like a punishment. And so I left on the trek with only the slightest amount of resolution.

We took an old bus up through the mountains, stopping at a literal shack of a restaurant for a breakfast of eggs and cold bacon. I was eating vegan at the time, so was left to eat a couple pieces of toast. Looking back, I wish I’d just eaten the food put in front of me. The ride was not unpleasant. I mostly zoned out looking at the landscape rattling by.

We arrived at the base of the mountain around 2pm. We hiked up and across to see the glacier-fed lake. My lungs burned the entire way up, causing my breathing to become slow and deliberate. I stopped dozens of times, needing a full 30 seconds to refresh my oxygen. Finally reaching the top, I was able to really absorb the crisp intensity of my surroundings. I felt good - it was hard but I had done it. There was no stopping me. I felt high on life and mountain air.

Downhill went easy on my lungs but caused my already troublesome knees to ache and burn more than they ever had before. I guess I hadn’t taken into account the impact of carrying a backpacking pack while going up and down hills. It took everything in me not to cry right there on the side of the mountain. Not only was I in pain but I was embarrassed. The following two and a half hour trek to the mountain huts we’d sleep in that night were miserable. I alternated between anger at myself for not having prepared better and anger at whatever inspired me to go there - why bring me all the way out here just so I could fail?

By the time the triangular wooden huts came into view, dusk was approaching and everyone was worn out, starving, and cold. We claimed our huts, two to each, and set down our packs. Some stretched out on their sleeping bags, some beelined for the showers. I sat down on the floor and furiously journaled how I was feeling. If I didn’t let it out here, it would come out in some other way that I’d most likely regret. I felt only slightly better. The leader of the group called out a ten-minute warning for dinner and all of the hikers still in their huts filed up a slight hill to the dining hall.

Gathered around a wooden table, we passed pitchers of boiling water to one another and snacked on trail mix while waiting for dinner. Everyone swapped notes about the first day of hiking and got more acquainted. There was a couple from Australia, an American guy who proudly and openly told us he voted for Trump, a very sweet nineteen year old girl who was also having a hard time with the altitude, and a handful of others that have faded into the past. Everyone was friendly and talkative but I felt as though all the words hung in the thickness of the air and pressed against my mouth and nose. I floated there, answering questions and throwing in a well-timed laugh for good measure, all the while feeling suffocated.

Relieved when dinner was over, I headed out before anyone else, eager to take advantage of the empty showers. Walking down the slight hill, we arrive again at the beginning. This is the moment I looked up and felt the surging power of the infinite universe melding into me. I felt at once whole and broken apart, like the pain had to crack me so the light could fall in and heal me.

After seconds or minutes of stargazing, I can’t recall which, I laid down in my hut. The infiniteness I’d felt under the stars still lingered but anxiety began to rage:

There was no cell reception - what if something happened to Journey or David and no one could reach me? What if something happens to us out here and I die in Peru, three thousand miles away from my family? What kind of mother would I be? What kind of wife would I be? Traveling at every opportunity, wanting more out of life than the ordinary, being adventurous - these were luxuries afforded to people with no responsibilities - why was I pursuing this? Why had I felt called to come here, to this beautiful, punishing mountain if I was just going to be so miserable? What was the point?

I closed my eyes and was engulfed by the darkness, flecked with glimmering constellations superimposed on the backs of my eyelids. It’s as if I’m falling backward into space, the floor spinning ever so slightly underneath me. I press my fingertips into the ground to reassure myself. I let go, allowing my eyes to roll back and my muscles to relax. It is in this moment I am sure that I want to turn back instead of finishing the trek. It was never the trek I was supposed to do; it was the stars that brought me all the way out here. And I get that it may sound crazy but lying there with pure mountain air filling my lungs and the stars hanging securely in the sky, I felt like I saw the vastness of my being for the first time.

Seeing how expansive I was, and how easily I became one with the cosmos, shook me awake: I didn’t want to spend another second on this earth doing things I feel like I should do. I should finish the trek, I should eat vegan, I should feel guilty for not living with my daughter. I should grow my business this way, I should forgive my mother, I should be happier.

I’m one with the cosmos for fucks sake - why would I waste my precious time on earth in this body finishing books I don’t like or tearing up my body just to prove to a group of strangers that I’m not a quitter?

The stars and I talked all night and when the sun rose not enough hours later I said my goodbyes and traipsed back to the bus stop where I’d have to wait for a drop off so I could catch a ride back. I passed three hours with writing and playing games on my phone. When a van finally arrived, I secured my spot in his front passenger seat, said muchas gracias, senor, and settled in for the long, stuffy ride back to Cusco.

I spent my final week in Cusco fielding questions about why I was back early from the trek, eating curry, drinking red wine, and talking into the deepest hours of the night with the temporary family I had found.

On my final night, I stopped at the pizza shop at the bottom of the stairs to Healing House. Waiting for the pie I ordered to share with friends back at the hostel, I sat and stared off into space, attempting to digest how the trip had unfolded. A woman came in and sat a table away to wait for her food. She pulled a can of Peruvian beer out of a plastic grocery bag and held it in the air toward me: “do you want this? We’re leaving early tomorrow and I have this one,” she nodded to her open beer. Totally caught off guard, I laughed and said, “ya know, I could really use a beer.” We started talking, each sharing our experience of the Salkantay Trek. When I told her I had felt called to do the trek but quit after day one, she looked me in the eyes and said “that’s incredible that you had the strength to honor yourself in that way. Maybe there was no reason you were brought here only to turn back, or maybe you turning back was the lesson you were brought here to learn.”

Both of our pizzas were sitting at the counter now. We wished each other well and walked away from each other, each a little different than when we sat down.


An Ode to My Prozac

The orange bottle wrapped in white pharmacy instructions sits next to a mug that reads Mercury Is In Retrograde. It holds Four Pilot G2s and some of those old school Bic’s with the different color options. This little stash of necessities also includes a bottle of jasmine body oil, a deck of affirmation cards, and a bottle of super strength CBD oil.

Take 1 capsule by mouth every day, the bottle directs. The day I picked my prescription up from CVS, I felt disappointed in myself for needing an antidepressant again. I’d been off of my old medication since April - I didn’t believe it was working, and I wanted to see what would happen when I wasn’t taking anything. For awhile, I felt better. I had definitely been given the wrong prescription based on a diagnosis that neither myself or my therapist felt was accurate. Removing that medicine from my system seemed to reset me to a steady baseline - one that was very, very low (but at least I wasn’t having terrible mood swings, right?). But as the months wore on, I felt worse and worse. Everything felt awful - even the things that I wanted to be happy about felt like they were pulling me into a thrashing sea of fear and overwhelming sadness.

Eventually, I found a new psychiatrist, one that really listened to my concerns and was thoughtful in his approach to diagnosing me.

Have you ever been on Prozac?, he queried. I shook my head and rattled off a list of other antidepressants I’d been on over the last decade. You’re going to love how you feel, he assured me. It’s an SSRI, so it blocks the reabsorption of serotonin so you have more of it available to you.

At that point, life felt so unbearably heavy that I was willing to try anything. But as I walked out of my psychiatrist’s office that day, I thought Why couldn’t I just pull myself out of it? I’d been meditating daily, exercising regularly, working on healing past traumas, eating a vegan diet, and even trying reiki and hypnosis to work past some of the pain that I thought was keeping me depressed.

Needing medication felt like I had somehow failed.

I had accepted the idea that all I needed to do to “cure” my mental illness was heal my gut, spend more time outside, and forgive my past. While working on those things certainly didn’t hurt (and maybe even helped on some level), they turned out not to be all that effective in helping me find my way out of clinical depression.

For three months now, I have taken a Prozac every single day. I’ve also started a low dose of Wellbutrin, about two months ago. Life is better than it has been in the last decade. I wake up feeling energized and excited about the day, my insomnia and the irritability that caused so many arguments are gone, and I feel more in control of my emotions and my reactions to other people.

I still meditate (almost) daily, prioritize being outside, and eat a healthy-ish diet. I’ll admit, I cut myself a lot of slack over the last couple months because I felt so burned out from putting so much effort into managing my mental illness on my own. Now that I’m not depressed and don’t have bouts of uncontrollable anxiety, meditating, eating healthy, and being engaged socially require much less effort, if any at all. For so long, I couldn’t access a feeling of joy for even the big life things I knew should be joyful. Last night, I felt pure thrill when I nailed a hoop dance move I’d been working on.

Everything has improved in my life because of Prozac.

What I have learned is that you can drink all the green juice in the world, chant every Kundalini mantra there is, and try to manifest your way out of mental illness but the reality is that some people need medication. The chemicals in their brain just aren’t working the way they need to and prescriptions exist specifically to fix all kinds of chemical imbalances and misfires that create issues.

By no means am I discounting holistic medicine. I am a firm believer in trying natural remedies when appropriate. But I also believe life is meant to be cherished and enjoyed and lived with passion - all emotions that are very hard to access from a state of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness.

I believe now that there is no shame in taking antidepressants, and no shame in talking about it.

So many of us struggle with mental health conditions. Don’t believe me? Here’s a handy resource from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America with statistics on just how common mental health conditions are.

Accepting that my mental illness wasn’t something I could successfully cope with on my own - after many months and years of trying - was the best gift I’ve ever given myself. If you’re struggling with mental illness, I’d really encourage you to talk to a psychiatrist and be open to at least giving things a try. And, yes, sometimes it takes more than one try (I’ve been on countless concoctions over the last decade and only now have found one that works for me). It requires patience and, if you’re uninsured, cash. But the effort and expense is well worth it when you can finally access the version of yourself you’ve been searching for all along.

Today, I woke up, took a swig of water, and happily swallow the WHITE, OBLONG-shaped CAPSULE imprinted with PLIVA 648 on one side, as the label so pointedly describes it. I feel gratitude as the pill slips down my throat on a stream of cold water. This is what it feels like not to struggle.

♥ CV


Some New Year's Ramblings

Am I the only one relieved that the holidays are finally over? For a time of year that seems to swoop in unexpectedly, the last 6 weeks sure have dragged on. That’s not to say they were bad, by any means. Just long and exhausting. Now that we’re reveling in the freshness of a brand new year, I feel like I can breathe again, like I can put effort into something other than trying to navigate the sticky holidays.

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Listening to: ayokay and Quinn xcii

Loving: My new snake plant (which is also called a mother-in-laws tongue) we got at Lowe’s today. His name is Maurice. And his neighbor, the white rocking chair from Society 62.

Looking forward to: San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Asheville - all this month, whew. The Procedure launch party. Turning 30 this year.

Thinking about: What the future holds - I’m excited but trying to be mindful and stay in the moment. What I want to write about. How happy I am with the way our home is coming together. How to launch my freelance course. What my first “motherhood project” will be.

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All I really want to do in the world is to encourage other people to follow their hearts, even when it’s hard, even when they’re uncertain. I’ve definitely been in a place of fear and lack and scarcity, where the idea of following my heart felt...foolish. So I understand how frustrating and hopeless that place can feel but I also understand what is on the other side of letting go of people’s (and society’s) expectations of you.

It’s amazing. The more you do what you love, the happier you are, the better your life gets. Duh, right? But I’m not talking like you’ll just have a better attitude. I mean that life in all of its various forms will get better and better in real, tangible ways. You’ll start drawing in more of what you want out of life because what you are putting into life matches that on an energetic level.

What is it you want more of? Money? Love? Friends? You can have that. All of it. There is literally no limit to what you can attract into your life. Many, many wise people and experts on the Law of Attraction have taught this before me. And I am just so stoked on it. I’ve personally had wild experiences manifesting all kinds of wonderful things - and I didn’t do vision boards or anything. I just lived in a way that felt good - as Gala Darling says, I stayed in the vortex (aka the place where all the magic happens). The more you stay in the vortex, the better life gets. And all you have to do to get in the vortex is do what makes you feel good.

What makes you feel good? It can be so many things, ideally high vibe things (i.e. getting drunk to alleviate feelings of pain) like meditation, tapping, dancing, singing, listening to music, moving your body in any way, having an orgasm!, and so many more things!

When you’re in the groove of life, feeling good, anything is possible. There are things out there waiting for you that are so good you couldn’t have even imagined them from where you’re sitting right now.

It’s challenging to be positive all the time and I fail constantly at it. But the most important thing is to just redirect your thoughts and move on - no need to beat yourself up over it. But you know what else is challenging? Not living the life I want and feeling miserable. This doesn’t have to be hard but it does take effort. That’s worth every ounce of energy, I promise.

I’m so excited to be moving forward with that through my writing. I truly feel that 2018 was the long pause I needed to take to calibrate my spirit. Life had just been so crazy for so long and I was constantly going and going with no fulfillment and I knew I had to stop if I wanted to enjoy this one precious life I’ve been given. And oh my has it been magical. It has been hard at times and definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone but it also showed me a depth to myself that I had forgotten existed without all the personal development books and podcasts and trending types of meditation. I’ve found a cadence with myself that has brought me so much peace and clarity. I wrote but didn’t share a lot because I needed to keep things close to my chest so I could heal. But now I feel so ready to start sharing my writing with the world again. So, if anyone is reading this - thanks for being here. See ya again soon,

♥ CV

Following My Passion: Changing the Motherhood Narrative Through Storytelling

Today felt like a long, sad march away from my little love. Being a non custodial mother is not easy; there are some days I scream and cry my pain into a pillow. I didn’t scream or cry today. My heart is so full from the last four days I spent with Journey and David, my two favorite people in the universe. Journey did not cry when we said see you later which surprised me. For the last 24 hours she’d been clinging to me and saying she wants to stay with me. Instead, she promised she would write me letters and see me on spring break. Her focus was quickly turned to telling her sister about the robot we built. This is becoming her normal. Being away from each other is becoming her normal. So while there were no tears today, there was something else: a sense of permanence. That this - the long weekend visits in oceanfront hotel rooms, the long drives to and from mommy’s and daddy’s houses each spring break and summer, the constant separation from the person you love most in the world - is now our normal and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

This made me sad in a way that is so deep and visceral that I can’t yet articulate it. But as the miles between us grew and grew, I realized something: it is time to start really talking about non custodial motherhood, as well as the larger narrative around motherhood. As with any discussion of motherhood, this topic is emotionally charged, and it is complex in the way that a human brain is complex which is to say that it is, at times, incomprehensibly so.

But it is what I know, and aren’t writers called to write what they know?

From the time I was born to now, I feel that motherhood - in both practice and concept - has been a central point of my life. This did not begin with me. As far back as I can look into my maternal lineage (my beloved great-grandmother, “Grandma Catherine”), there have been signs of maternal dysfunction. It appears that I am the first one to look at the dysfunction, give it a name, and do the excruciating work of digging it out of our legacy. I want to do this because I want Journey to have a clean slate if she decides to become a mother, and I want to heal the incredible pain I’ve felt on both sides of the mother-daughter coin.

This is not what I set out to write about. It also isn’t what I intended to happen in my life. But all roads keep leading me back to here. Back to the nudge, then the shove that I need to write about motherhood and all its many facets. So here I am, writing about motherhood - the most tense, loaded, emotional part of my life on many, many levels.

Writing about this is not easy and it is not fun. At times it feels cathartic, at other times like I’m ripping my heart out of my body. I am scared of being judged for my decisions and my beliefs. I know that by writing about this I am opening myself up to an internet full of potential trolls and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t terrify me. I have thick skin but I am a mere human; vile hurts.

I turned to my dear friend and prolific writer, Sarah Hosseini, for advice on the matter. Do I write about this and follow my passion or do I hold it close for fear of being judged? As usual, her words struck deep:

“I think it’s normal to feel scared about it. You’re not any less brave if you decide not to put your story out there. I think protecting your peace and mental well being always comes before using your gift and talents to help others. Also, people are going to judge the living shit out of you regardless so who fucking cares. Honestly. Clearly I feel two ways about it! I’m the worst advice giver. Listen, I’m embarrassed and ashamed about some of the shit I wrote about years ago, especially parenting stuff, even though at the time it seemed to be a good idea. And women DID write me saying they felt helped. So do I regret any of it? Fuck no. It got me here. I can’t be concerned with how I’m judged on past or present art. I just put it out there because without doing so my soul isn’t full. It’s my evolution. All of it. It’s all of our evolutions and women and mothers. The people who love and support your life and art will support you. The people who you want to reach will be reached.”

It is necessary, though, and I intend to follow this path as long as I am called by my soul and the Universe to do so. My hope is that I find healing and, just maybe, help to shift the perception around motherhood - especially for those of us that don’t fit the traditional model.

I am not sure what this project will look like. It may be just me, writing on here. But I am open to storytelling in a way that has a larger impact. All that I am focused on right now is standing in my truth - no matter how it looks - and using my experiences to serve a purpose beyond myself.

♥ CV




2018 in Review

There are just 3 more nights left of this topsy turvy messed up beautiful hectic weird AF year. Are you as glad as I am that it’s almost over? It wasn’t all bad, not even close. But the last few weeks of every year make me eager for that exhilarating newness that arrives on Jan 1. It’s as though I can do anything, everything is possible. I know better than to wish away time but I find myself doing it every year.

But 2018 deserves more than a backwards glance as I cast myself into the sea of possibility that is next year. When I saw that Gala Darling did a 2018 in Review post, I decided to follow suit. There’s nothing like reflecting back on your year with thoughtful questions.

What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Visited Peru. Did an overnight hike and slept in a hut under the stars at the foot of the Andes. Bought a home! Spent 3 weeks in Spain with David.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I honestly don’t even remember what they were - surely something along the lines of losing weight, earning more money, and traveling more. Did I meet them? Yes and no, I suppose. I didn’t keep track, as usual. That’s why I’m opting out for next year. There are an abundance of things I’d be incredibly happy if I did - I could set goals up to my eyeballs. But what I really want more than anything else is to get into alignment, AKA get (and stay) in The Vortex, AKA feel good. (This also comes from Gala Darling, as well as Abraham Hicks.) My only intention for 2019 is to be aligned. (Ok, I do have a few goals (because of who I am as a person): volunteer my time more, especially at Junior Achievement; do more things out of pure joy - I already signed up for French lessons, and I’m also going to spend more time learning how to hoop; and deepen my roots where I am. Travel would be a major bonus.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope!

Did anyone close to you die?

When we were in Spain (I believe it was September 12th), I got a message on LinkedIn from my biological father’s sister. She asked me to call her and, since I really never talked to her, I knew something was wrong. She told me that my biological father died of a drug-related pulmonary embolism when his 2-year-old son jumped on his chest a day earlier. It was shocking; the only person I’ve ever lost is my Grandma Catherine, who had emphysema and was very sick (and elderly) when she passed. That was in 2007. I didn’t have a relationship with him and haven’t for many years because of his abuse - drug and otherwise. I won’t go too much into that because I intend to write about it more in depth at another time. Suffice to say that I feel free.

What countries did you visit?

Peru. Spain. In the US, I visited San Francisco twice (once including Napa Valley), LA, Virginia Beach, and New York. I’m excited for next year’s travel, too. I go to San Francisco in January for work, then tagging along on David’s work trips to Seattle and Denver, and I’m planning a solo trip for my birthday. Perhaps Sri Lanka? France?

What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

Confidence and trust in myself.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I’ve been relatively healthy - a couple sore throats but nothing serious. I’ve been taking good care of myself overall.

What was the best thing you bought?

MY PINK VELVET COUCH. Hands down!

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Giving up my freelance business to go full-time at an agency based in San Francisco. I took a role as their brand publicist and it has been thrilling to experience the growth and challenges I have so far at this job.

What song will always remind you of 2018?

Everything on my Top Songs 2018 playlist.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. Happier or sadder?

WAY happier! Praise beeeeee. ←— This was Gala Darling’s answer but I’m leaving it because YES.

ii. Thinner or fatter?

Thinner!

iii. Richer or poorer?

Interestingly, slightly poorer - I made a bit more money freelancing than I do at this job. But I’m spending more on what really matters to me and my abundance mindset is so much stronger.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

I wish I had been more present with the people I love and I wish I’d have loved myself more thoroughly. Also, solo travel. I could have used a few weeks of recharging somewhere else on the planet.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Less comparing myself to others - it’s one of my biggest struggles.

How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

I considered getting super dressed up and going out but ultimately settled on staying in with a bottle (or two) of bubbly, some candles, and each other. It feels fitting.

What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in 2018?

Aside from blanking out during a phone meeting with a new client (and being absolutely mortified) and crying on a video call with my boss (only slightly less mortifying), the most embarrassing thing that happened to me was identifying patterns and behaviors in myself that were really hard to look at.  

Did you fall in love in 2018?

Over and over again

How many one-night stands?

Zero! Married!

What was your favorite TV program?

None that particularly stand out. I really enjoyed watching a bunch of Woody Allen films, as well as movies with Natalie Portman.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don’t hate anyone. That said, there are some people whose true colors I finally see and I’m being infinitely more discretionary with the energy I lend them.

What was the best book you read?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 29 and I attended a surprise party (that someone gave away haha) that David threw me, and we went to Six Flags which was great fun!

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

My personal style has evolved so much; I really came into myself and started trying new (to me) styles that went beyond what I was comfortable with. The best part is that I finally understand that I’ll never have just one “style” (and thus will never have a capsule wardrobe). I’m a Gemini - I need a variety of outfits to fit my mood. I can go from silk pajamas and long kimono to Vans and a snapback to dazzling cocktail dress in the matter of a day. Having a lot of options allows me to present my inner world through my clothing and that feels so good.

What kept you sane?

Meditation. It truly did change my life. I started with Kundalini which I loved for a long time but then switched to gentler guided and silent meditations. I still do some of the breathwork that I learned in Kundalini, too.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Definitely the government holding immigrant children at the borders and separating them from their families - it makes me sick to think about. I also think it’s really important to limit your news consumption. The human nervous system is only designed to absorb the stress of its community - not the entire globe. As Gala said, you’ll burn out your adrenals. Be aware, be engaged, but also remember that you being able to find peace matters, too.

Who was the best new person you met?

To be honest, I didn’t mean many new people this year. I really stuck to my existing friends but only because this year asked me to do a lot of introspection. Using so much of my energy for healing meant that I didn’t have a ton leftover to give other people. I’m looking forward to calling in the tribe that’s meant for me in 2019.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018:

If you go around giving away your power, you won’t have any left. It’s your power - you don’t have to give it away. I had to learn this on so so so many levels this year through some exhausting situations but I’m grateful because now I have taken most of my power back and I no longer feel beholden to what others think of me. Taking your power back is freeing.

Feel free to copy/paste this survey and fill it out on your site! I’d love to read about your year!

♥ CV

High and Low

There are times, like right now, when I sincerely feel that I could live my entire life very happily without writing another word for someone else’s eyes. Other times, I feel that I must - at any cost - eat, breathe, and sleep writing, not only as a passion but as a profession, too. It’s this duality that causes me so much angst.

Where is the middle ground? Is there a space in which I can write when I want to, when I’m called to and let that be that? Why is this so hard to access?

Writing has been the tool I use to sculpt meaning and purpose and lessons out of the stories in my life. It feels irresponsible and selfish to not use the gift I’ve been given to help others heal, to help others create themselves. But often when I share my writing, I feel as though I am being robbed of something intimately personal. As though what I wrote about no longer belongs to me. Sometimes that is why I share my writing - to relieve the burden of carrying painful memories on my own. Other times I share my writing because I feel that I should share my writing, that not sharing my writing makes, somehow, the work less valuable.

What good does 1500 carefully crafted words do tucked away on my computer, away from the eyes who may need to hear what I have to say? On the other hand, does possessing a gift obligate you to share it with others?

I don’t believe there is a right answer; it seems to me that each creator has their own belief around this. I am still trying to sort it out for myself and my writing. It is especially challenging because writing has, over the years, become so intertwined with who I am that untangling that which I can do with that which I am feels like removing a limb. Or an organ.

I have come to the understanding that, eventually, the pendulum will swing back in the other direction. There will come a time when I am hungry again, a time when I find myself eager to share, a time when recognition and compensation for my writing will drive my work at least somewhat.

For now, I am allowing myself the luxury of writing only when the muse calls and the mood is right. For now, if I am going to write at all, it will be on my terms and as a result of a life so fully lived that the overflow must come out on the page.

Who needs middle ground when you let yourself write - and live - high and low?


♥ CV

Journal Entry: February 14, 2018

Today felt like an uphill climb. I was wound up, tense, and unable to believe in the good that is in or coming into my life. Especially when it comes to money.

I asked the Universe to show me that I was headed in the right direction. Let me land a new client so I know I’m financially abundant, I thought. That is not what happened.

Instead, I was shown a man with matted hair and a flimsy coat standing on a highway entry ramp with a sign that read, Hungry. Anything helps. I was shown a family member who is trying to make her money last longer than her month. I was not given a new client or more money; I was gifted a reminder of a time not too long ago when my money worry wasn’t that I might not be able to afford a trip I want to take but that I didn’t have enough to pay my car payment and my health insurance if I wanted to put food on the table.

I was given a mirror to see all of the abundance I already have. Gratitude for what I have washed over me and I suddenly felt deeply satisfied with exactly the way things are.

— February 2018


♥ CV

Cooking and Feminism: A Winding Road to the Kitchen

When I was a little girl, I did not fantasize about meeting a man, falling madly in love, and marrying him. I did not dream of little children running around a house with a wrap around porch or a picket fence. Yet, I did meet a man, fall madly in love, and marry him — twice. I also had a child (with the first man). Sometimes I feel like I betrayed myself and everything younger me stood for: freedom, equality, a version of feminism where women reject all social norms bestowed upon their gender. In other words, they did not cook, or sew, or wash their husbands clothing. They didn’t have husbands! Who has time for one when you’re busy fighting the patriarchy?

In my parents attempts to enforce a rather legalistic, fire-and-brimstone type of Christianity, they tried their best to keep me away from any kind of media that might lead me astray. Of course, this just meant I got my knowledge about feminism from who knows where on the internet. I pieced together a model of feminism that made me desperately want to disassociate myself with anything that might assimilate me to the women I knew: stay-at-home mothers who cooked every meal from scratch and took a sick amount of pride in how hard they “slaved away” in the kitchen. To me, standing barefoot in the kitchen with a spatula in my hand was the epitome of giving in to the very system that portrayed women as a helpful accessory to men.

It’s the end of 2018 now and the way I identify as a feminist has changed drastically. In the last ten years or so, I’ve learned about the harmful role white women play in the systemic oppression of people of color, about intersectionality, and about how to be a true ally. I still have so, so much to learn but I do feel grateful that I shed my early views of what feminism meant.

I’m holding out in one area, though. Cooking. I still can’t help but feel like I owe it to little Christina to resist becoming the kind of woman who cooks dinner. It’s a weird association, i know. Even feminists must eat; they cannot survive on the tears of old white men alone.

I joke all the time that David cooks and I clean. Which is more or less true. When I am tasked with feeding myself, David, or Journey, I resort to a sort of helplessness that comes only from my deep desire not to learn how to cook. Journey once said, “maybe we should ask David to make breakfast, he’s a little better at it than you are.” I’ve held out for nearly 30 years, why start now?

I untangled myself from my parents grasp by raising myself on Sex & The City. Carrie was my idol. Looking back, I see that the show was whitewashed and not really feminist at all. But to me, the sex, the glamour, the shoes, and, most importantly, the writing — it was mesmerizing. I craved it with a passion that surprised even me. I wanted to keep purses in my oven, opting instead for Chinese takeout and booze-filled brunches! I wanted New York! I wanted it all!

Even through two marriages (one still in progress, thank you) and a child, I have not learned to cook at an appropriately level for my age and income class. To be clear, I can whip up the basics: eggs, grilled cheese, and any recipe that has fewer than 5 steps and 10 ingredients. Technically, this means I can cook. Whether I enjoy it or can do it without becoming overwhelmed and stressed out is another matter.

I joke all the time, to everyone who will listen that I don’t cook. “David cooks and I clean up,” I say, feeling slightly, misguidedly superior. What I’m really trying to say is “I’m too busy with my career to be bothered to feed myself.” This sounds as ridiculous as it is. Not being able to cook a proper meal for my husband, child, or self does not in any way make me 1) better than any other woman, much less one who can cook or 2) a feminist.

Look, I know this is not true. I’m almost 30. I am fully aware that my vehement refusal to learn to cook and, more specifically, that I use my lack of skills in the kitchen as a way to make myself both feel and seem “other” to the women who can, is a tired narrative that is, if anything, the opposite of true feminism.

If anything, is being able to sustain yourself not an act of defiant self-reliance? Who needs a man when you have homemade spaghetti and meatballs?

Also, I have been feeling my pride in not being able to cook shrinking. I envy the women I know who can whip up a quick dinner for 6 people without breaking a sweat, who know their way around a spice rack, who don’t have such a tense relationship with the kitchen.

I’ve been cooking more these days. I feel less overwhelmed when I can assemble already cooked ingredients but I’m even venturing in to cooking things that don’t have a recipe, adding in what I think might work. Sometimes it does. Other times we do end up ordering Chinese.

I can’t promise I’ll ever be totally comfortable standing at the stove. But I am working to break up with my antiquated reasons why I can’t, won’t, don’t want to cook and leaning into the idea that, perhaps, cooking is the ultimate act of love and self-care — not a contract with the patriarchy.


♥ CV

On My Mind: Nora Ephron +

I read Nora Ephron while I lay on my pink velvet couch at 11:45am, desperate for a break from the glare of my computer screen. She wrote of the feminist movement in the 1970s, dropping Gloria Steinem's name like they were neighbors or friends who occasionally saw one another at brunch on the Upper East Side. The words and, more specifically, the way Ephron strings them together with such exquisite yet seemingly carefree mastery of cadence and tone, feels mesmerizing. Was it Nathaniel Hawthorne who said “easy reading is damn good writing”?

Another woman whose writing style I admire is the author of one of my favorite books ever (which is saying a lot) Chasing Slow, Erin Loechner. Her words are straightforward but also melodic in a way that I wish came more naturally to me. What she writes, like the beloved Nora, tucks meaning away for future generations to explore and unpack and feel deep in their bones. It’s timeless writing, is what I really mean to say. Future classic.

In any event, the reason I’m fangirling over these two writers is that I read both of them today. Just one essay from each. One in a slightly yellowed copy of Crazy Salad some things about women & Scribble Scribble notes on the media I borrowed from the library; the other delivered via email and read while I was waiting for the microwave to beep.

And I just really love great writers, and the stories they share. Reading great writers makes me want to be a great writer. We know it’s smart to keep the company only of people we’d want to be like; perhaps writers ought to keep the company only of writers who inspire them to new mastery.

Then again, would we even know good writing without knowing the bad?

A few words I adore from Emma Brocks for The Guardian: “You write, in part – in the main, probably – for the people you admire and they take on a much greater role in your life than their actual presence might justify. They are the voice in your head, the reader over your shoulder, the people you are trying to impress and live up to. In any given life you don't get many like Nora.”

♥ CV

This is Not a List of Books I Loved in 2018

I dip in and out leaving a trail of books everywhere I go. On the side coffee table I have In Shock by Dr. Rana Awdish, a story about a resident who survives a serious medical emergency and goes on to advocate for a better healthcare system after the horrible experience she had. On the big coffee table is the September issue of Vogue and the December Issue of Vanity Fair. I’m halfway through both of them, picking them up only when I have a stolen twenty minutes in the middle of the day. On my desk is a whole stack of books: The Patient Will See You Now, An American Sickness, The Emotionally Absent Mother, and I Am Her Tribe, a beautiful book of poetry by Danielle Doby. The poetry book aside, these are books I have been told to read by other people. Namely, my old therapist and my boss. That’s not to say I don’t want to read them; I see the value in each. But if I’m being really honest, and I have no true reason not to be, these titles are not exactly what I want to be spending my precious little amount of reading time on. I put them on my desk, aligned left behind my laptop, and allow myself the courtesy of only digesting a chapter—sometimes paragraph—at a time. At the rate I’m going, I will finish all three of these books by approximately 2024.

By now you’re beginning to see how I read books and magazines. A little here, a little there. It feels mostly like I have no choice; books seduce me. The freshly printed covers, the feel of nostalgia that sweeps over me when I pick up one I’ve read before, the dizzying deja vu when I re-read books that impacted me, all of it draws me in like a moth to a flame. This is why I’ll often create a rule for myself that insists I not by any new books or borrow any from the library or friends until I finish the ones I’ve already started.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t force myself to suffer through books I’m not enjoying. For example, I just couldn’t get into Lit by Mary Karr. Phenomenal writing, no doubt, but I was slogging through it so I gave myself permission (and apologized in my heart to Mary Karr, a true literary icon) to stop. Lots of other books have fallen into this category, discarded when my brain and the words don’t mesh. One such is Moby Duck, a fascinating autobiography about rubber ducks lost at sea and the authors quest to find out what happened to them. I picked it up in the gift shop before we headed to a remote campsite for four days. I barely read it because we spent so much time hiking to fill our canteens with water that reeked of sulfur (if you don’t know what sulfur smells like, imagine a dozen rotten hard-boiled eggs. It’s foul.), to the beach, and to use the bathroom in the woods. I vowed to read it when I got home but have only gotten to chapter 2. It’s not the book; it’s me. These publications were underneath my desk, shoved up against the wall, until last week when I got sick of looking at them and donated them to the East Atlanta Public Library.

No matter how many times I invoke a book borrowing/purchasing freeze on myself, I inevitably give up (admittedly with very little persuasion necessary). It’s not that I mean to read some 20 books at a time (I haven’t told you about the six books beside my bed, or the five I’m shuffling through on my Kindle app.). I’d love to be able to focus on one book, finish it, and then start a new one. Orderly, just how my Virgo rising self likes it. Instead I am a true Gemini when it comes to books; to force myself to commit to just one at a time is a feeling akin to the ultimate case of FOMO.

There are days when I want to read Nora Ephron’s timeless interpretation of life as a woman. These are the days when my thirtieth birthday bubbles up in my throat and I need to be reminded of all the life that lay before me. Other times, I need to dip my toe back into StarGirl by Jerry Spinelli. This book made me want to be a writer. Then there are times when I bemoan my lack of formal education in or early exposure to classic literature and I tuck myself away into an F. Scott Fitzgerald. This doesn’t happen very often; normally I spend these fragile times looking at lists of recommended classic literature reads, observing the possibilities but ultimately turning back to my tried and true YA series, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, or a book by a white woman who has marginally overcome something and has decided to write a book hyper-targeted at young Millennials. (Next year, I am committed to reading more books by women of color. Jesmyn Ward’s new book Sing, Unburied, Sing sits atop my nightstand.) You can see my hunger for words is quite insatiable. Going to a bookstore? Forget it. I cannot go into Barnes & Noble without purchasing a book to add to my ever-growing collection. It’s also challenging when I see someone promoting their newly released book on Instagram, it is at the core of my nature to want to read about all of these people’s life stories, and the stories they make up for the page.  

Occasionally I will get so absorbed in a book that I submerge for as long as it takes to finish, coming up only to eat and sleep. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera was one such book. Another was Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. It took me awhile to give myself the space to not be a read-one-book-at-a-time kind of woman. Now that I’m starting to embrace this scattered but purposeful approach to absorbing what I read, I see such value in this unpressured, unharried way. There will always be new books I want to read and old books I long to have a Saturday afternoon to dedicate to. I will always want and need to dip in for a spell, leave, and return another time. It is how my brain works, merging all that I am consuming into a creative fuel for my craft.

Often, I catch myself sitting in the feeling that I will likely never have the exquisite writing skills and style of the authors I so adore. The uniqueness of the way they each combine words and string sentences and spin the narrative of their story reminds me that I, too, can write in my own way. Pulling a bit from Karr and Franzen and King and Silvera and Didion and Lochner, I weave myself into the words that helped shape what I understand about writing and the world.

♥ CV

Another Classic: I Am Restless, Again (aka Decisions)

Arriving home from Spain at the end of a long, city-hopping September felt so good that I didn’t care if I ever traveled again. I unpacked my bags in record time and shoved my suitcase to the very back of my closet. Won’t be needing that for awhile, I thought before crawling wearily into my very own bed (well, and David’s very own bed) where I stayed for 12 hours.

That was a trip to remember but only for how awful it was. It’s Spain, so of course there were highlights: the vermouth was great, I like being able to order lots of different tapas to try, stand up paddleboarding was a blast. But what stands out in my memories is not how crystal clear the water was, or how beautiful the architecture. It was who I was for those three weeks: someone who could not see past her own suffering. Suffering, I will add, that was largely self-inflicted. Spain, a truly unique and special country, is forever marred by all the things that went wrong, internally and externally, while we were there.

It is now December and I am beginning to feel the travel itch again. I do realize it has only been about two months since we got back. If you’re a normal person who wasn’t born with insatiable wanderlust, then that might not seem like a big deal. But coming from someone who starts to get antsy if she hasn’t booked a plane ticket in more than a month, well, two months is quite impressive.

We decided that we’re going to limit our travel next year so we can pay down some debt and start saving more. We also decided (decided makes it sound certain, final but, as you’ll learn, few of my decisions are really final) to move to NYC sometime in 2020. Two-goal plan. Seemed reasonable enough (paying off debt!) yet at the same time thrilling (moving to NY!). Moving also appeared to me a perfectly acceptable alternative to the travel that I, until recently, had my heart set on. It was just as big of an adventure, with a similar balance of risk and reward.

Now the thing is that I don’t think I truly want to move to NY. I don’t want to move there and be broke because our rent would be twice what our mortgage payment is for less than half the space. And it seems miserable to have to walk everywhere in the cold, and also in the heat. And I get overwhelmed going to the mall in the month of December, so I imagine that the city I hold so dearly in my writerly fantasies is about the equivalent of that — all the time. There are many reasons why I decided I wouldn’t die if I didn’t get to move to New York. Instead, I decide, I will settle into our newly purchased home (January 2018) and make it feel like ours. I will learn to love Atlanta, for all its features and flaws.

The cozy feelings about staying have been worn off by the incessant rain we’re having. It is dark at 5 p.m. and dark until 8 a.m. Everyone is gloomy and cold and wet. Well I don’t know if everyone is but I certainly am. I think I have SAD, standing for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s basically where you’re just freaking SAD all winter because you’re not getting enough sunlight. Not only is this winter drear bumming me out, but it’s giving me anxiety about global warming and what kind of planet we’re leaving our kids.

I can’t stay in Atlanta forever, especially under these conditions. In addition to being sick of the weather, I am over Atlanta traffic. I just feel irritated at even the thought of having to drive down Moreland to get to Target. 15 minutes to go a mile and a half? Who can deal? I can’t.

So I start to feel like traveling again. I’m not moving, so I need to go somewhere new. The South of France? That would be nice. What about Thailand? Japan? The world is my, your, our oyster. Memories of Spain fade to the background and become a different lifetime. I am restless again. I am being called to go, even if only for a short while.


♥ CV

Finding My Style at 29

I started to write about our night out on the town last night but got distracted looking at kimonos and jumpsuits I want to buy. Which got me thinking about style. I’ve been actively searching for “my style” for about two decades. It has dawned on me recently that I probably don’t have just one style, which is why I feel no closer to finding it than I did when I was 10 years old and carefully observing what the girls in my favorite movies wore so I could attempt to replicate the look. I’m a Gemini for goddess sake! Some days I want to wear a gorgeous kimono with a pair of stacked black heels; others jeans and my well-worn Birkenstocks; others athleisure to the max — plus everything in between. And let me tell you a secret: when my outfit is aligned with how I want to feel (i.e. bright red jumpsuit = on my game) I am unstoppable. There’s something about dressing the part that reminds me what I’m made of, I suppose.

I’m also a Virgo (rising) which means I crave order and love the idea of having a capsule wardrobe or a self-imposed uniform. I think I only like it in theory though (can you imagine how tidy the closet would be?). To only have, say, 10 items of clothing to choose from feels stressful. What if the occasion calls for something else? What if I don’t feel like wearing that on a given day? What if I start to feel suffocated of choices? And yet the appeal of not having to decide on what to wear or, at least, not having very many options to choose from is also there. I’ve considered these as potential minimalist wardrobe options: jeans, tank top, kimono, heels; only jumpsuits; yoga pants, workout top, hoodie; max of 20 items in bright tones to mix and match; max of 10 items all in black. What happens every time, though, is I remember how deeply I adore variety. The Gemini’s need for freedom outweighs the Virgo’s quest for organization. At least for now.

Since I’ve already talked about my sun and rising signs, I may as well share that my Libra moon insists that I have a taste for nice things and that I am a highly emotional decision-maker. Once, I went into Saks Fifth Avenue and just pretended I was shopping there. I fell in love with a black jumpsuit — a $575 piece of cloth that I thought I would die if I couldn’t buy. Well, I didn’t buy it and I didn’t die but I do still think about that jumpsuit and the way it made me feel to be wearing a piece of clothing that cost as much as my car payment. (It felt really good.) Being emotional about clothing is something I cannot escape; at least 5 times a year, I frantically sort through my closet because I’ve realized I have nothing to wear. Maybe I’m missing a seasonally appropriate party dress or a pair of shorts that I like or I decide I hate everything I own and absolutely have to start over. Or I’ll put on an outfit I’d been planning to wear for a certain occasion and realize that it doesn’t fit right, or look the way I wanted it to, and I will feel an inescapable amount of frustration and emotion fill my chest.

Curious as to why I feel so triggered by clothes, I trace back to my middle school days of school shopping with my parents. 75% of the time, we bought our clothes at second-hand stores. At the age I was, as the person I was, being dragged to the thrift store and told to pick out the clothes I was going to wear to school all fall was humiliating and torturous. I knew I wasn’t going to find the kinds of clothes the girls in movies wore at Goodwill. And rarely did I. Instead, I was left with a pile of musty jeans and shirts that never fit quite right. I spent my days at school feeling awkward and wishing I’d be adopted by parents who took their kids shopping at dELia’s and PacSun. To have clothes that looked amazing was to be amazing. This belief of mine was unshakable. Of course, this meant that my fragile sense of self as I entered high school was contingent on how cool I looked and felt. Since I never felt or (from where I stood, facing the mirror) looked cool, I became increasingly insecure. You may have never known it from the outside: I wore a pink and brown plaid mini skirt over my jeans in an effort to pull off my own twist on Avril Lavigne’s punk babe vibe. I acted like I didn’t care but I cared so, so much.

The other 25% of the time my parents took us to JCPenney’s or Kohl’s. My mother, being the kind of person she is, took obvious pleasure in the fact that I was having a full-blown breakdown in the JCPenney's dressing room. She was making me buy shorts but, instead of letting me get the cutoffs I wanted, she established a rule that my shorts must not be any higher than my fingertips. This was an attempt at enforcing modesty that ultimately pushed me further to the edge they didn’t want me to be on than I probably would have gone on my own. I remember being furious and embarrassed and not being able to control my emotions about it. Crying and begging my mother to let me just dress like the other girls was a low for me. I was 14 and this was such a formative time for me to be able to explore who I was and how I wanted to express myself through clothing. Dressing rooms quickly became a place that immediately heightened my fight-or-flight response. They still do at times.

It’s a wonder I didn’t end up in fashion in one way or another; my obsession with it over the years is only obvious to me now that I’m looking backward. As I round the corner to 30, I am transported back to the transient feeling between girlhood and womanhood. This birthday is a rite of passage out of being a twenty-something; I’m certain that moving into this new decade will unlock a sense of purpose and certainty in both my emotional life and the life of my closet. If you were to look at my closet right now, you’d agree that it needs some work.

The only issue with this is that I am terrible at shopping. I get overwhelmed easily, usually end up buying something that can be worn with either one or zero other items I own, and become decidedly the most critical and hopeless version of myself. I love how the right clothes make me feel but I can’t for the life of me seem to choose the right clothes. A red biker jacket I loved in Banana Republic hasn’t been worn but once because, well, what do I wear a red biker jacket with? This is a combination of problems: not knowing what to buy because my style is a scattershot at finding the version of me I want to be on any given day and a lack of both patience and logistical style knowledge (what kind of top looks best with a pair of faux leather leggings? Beats me.).

You can see my dilemma. I know it may seem obvious to some — just buy and wear what you like. It should be that simple but, for me, it’s not. The formative years of my fashion life were spent in used Levi’s and collared short sleeve shirts from a (likely to be defunct soon) department store while I hoarded clothing catalogs I signed up for on a computer at school. These were free, fashion magazines were not. For those, I’d go to the library and spend hours looking at back issues, forever perpetuating how behind I felt (feel) when it comes to trending fashion.

Perhaps it is only in my head that I am at odds with having a style that suits me. But isn’t that all that really matters — what we think of ourselves in the clothes we adorn our bodies with? If I’m not feeling the style that I currently inhabit (I don’t), isn’t it my right and privilege as a woman and a being of this earth to explore more fitting options? I think so. And I have come to understand that each phase of my style journey has served me in some way. We are meant to shed and grow new skin every so often; it’s growth. I am using this approaching birthday as a portal into the next evolution of who I am, releasing all old beliefs about myself and clothing; whatever comes next may only last for a few months or it may take root for years. I guess only time will tell. If you know of a personal stylist, DM me.


♥ CV

Your Top Songs 2018

All I really want to do is write; everything else feels like a half-hearted attempt at avoiding what I know I should be doing. Writing.

So I turn on Spotify and hit shuffle on my “Favorites of 2018” album. My heart welcomes tunes that bring me back to an array of memories, ranging from elated to lower than I’ve been before. Memories that, until I was halfway through this playlist, I had not realized could be brought to the front of my mind in vivid detail just from hearing a certain song.

Odeza and Whethan are two fairly new additions to my musical life; they’re upbeat and hopeful, persuading me to bop along. Say My Name transports me to the heat of summer — these were the songs I turned to when I was in the car with Journey driving her to camp and home again; a balance between artists I wanted to listen to and artists that were appropriate for her to listen to. Her favorite — which then becomes our “Mommy-Journey song” — is Superlove from Whethan. Hearing it again makes me long for August, for her. I close my eyes and her sweet face fills the sky behind my lids.

I’m reminded of how diverse my musical tastes are as The Band Perry plays Better Dig Two and I can’t help but sing along, loudly. Actually, I don’t know how this song got on my top songs of 2018 playlist — I don’t have any memories of playing it at all recently. Still, it takes me back to another lifetime when Ashley and I would hang out at her house in San Diego and watch music videos while the kids played. The lyrics then made me think of my daughter’s father: Here lies the girl whose only crutch, Was loving one man just a little too much. If you go before I do, I'm gonna tell the gravedigger that he better dig two. Now, I can’t remember if I actually felt that way about him or if I just really wanted to.

Light of Love clears away thoughts of the time before I was who I am now. Jar-Jagdeesh has been a go-to for cacao ceremonies; her voice is so pure and affirming. Then Sylvan Esso has a three-song stint — Coffee, H.S.K.T, Die Young. I listened to them pretty much exclusively in Mexico in 2016. I was caught between guilt and shame at that time. Also between love and lust and between who I was and who I am. It was a seeking time and Sylvan Esso’s electropop acted as my serotonin. In January 2018, they made a come back on my Spotify circulation inspiring a bought of wanderlust.

Drake crashes in with In My Feelings and God’s Plan. Ayokay makes my heart ache with Kings of Summer. The lyrics are so relatable to me and at the same time different than anything I’ve ever experienced: Just a couple kids livin' on our own (on our own), Summer nights, Love 'em how they take so long (so long), Run with the feeling, Of being alive while we're still young. The lyrics remind me of the life I wished for at seventeen, never failing to make me wistful for moments I’ll never own. San Holo inspires thought of that week this summer when I first heard the song Light and played it on repeat until I was singing the lyrics in my dreams.

Yellowcard helps me come home to myself; their lyrics are imprinted on the adolescent version of my hopeful heart. “Do you remember how we used to get so high? It didn’t work at first, we tried it two more times, and we could breathe the windows down….it’s a new place that we have found. I was up late writing books all about heroes and crooks..” I croon along with one of the very first songs that took part in my overall emotional development. Sure Things Fall was my sophomore year anthem, the lines from Lights and Sounds creating worlds within me. Ocean Avenue still makes me long for the long-lost teenage romance I never had. As I observe and write that, I am made aware that nostalgia seems to be a common thread in the musical retelling of my life and, more specifically, nostalgia for dreams never acted upon, chances never taken. This makes me pretty sad. I don’t want to spend my life wishing for things to be different than they are in each moment. One of my biggest fears is that I will be on my deathbed and feel that I wasted my life. It occurs to me that I may be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, my fear of living a life that is less than (less than what? I don’t know.) is keeping me always thinking about what’s next, unable to fully immerse myself in the present.

I’m brought back to the taste of cheap merlot and Spanish words swirling in the air around my tipsy head. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was Cusco’s intoxicating altitude but I distinctly remember feeling like I belonged there, in that country, with that group of people, at that party, in that conversation. It was maybe the first time in my life I had this feeling. That party of transplants and travelers was the first time I heard Jorja Smith; her enchanting voice wafting in and out and around my being as if I was being cloaked in the melody. Jorja has become my soundtrack for those days when I feel most alone.

Rising Appalachia, who I always turn back to when I am homesick. Flux Pavilion who can get me up and dancing with just a few beats. Marian Hill. G-Eazy. Halsey. Elle King. Ookay. Andy Grammer. We won’t forget where we came from, the city won’t change us, we beat to the same drum. Dirty Heads. Droeloe. Bassnectar. I’m immersed now. The individual memories glued to each song weave into one and I drift in and out of then and now. I am reminded of where I came from and all the steps it took to get where I am today.

♥ CV
P.S. you can listen to the playlist here.

P.S.S. I fell asleep listening to the playlist. David told me this morning that he came home and my phone was tucked underneath my pillow blasting Herobust. LOL.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mother

There’s a story I tell my daughter about the day she was born. “I never had a baby before so I didn’t know how long it would take. By the time I got to hold you in my arms, I had been in labor for 18 hours. I was so hungry I thought I might eat you up. I told your dad “put Journey down and go get me a cheeseburger!”” Journey giggles and snuggles up to me. She’s heard this story a dozen times before but never tires of it. She asks after one retelling: “why didn’t you eat a cheeseburger before you had me?” I tell her the truth: “no one told me I needed to; no one told me that you only get to eat ice chips once you’re admitted to the hospital.”

That’s not the only thing I didn't know before I became a mother. At 21 years old, I had never held a baby (that I can recall). Most of my friends were still falling drunkenly into bed at 4 am, not getting up at that time to feed a baby. Those early days of motherhood were terrifying; I was certain that I was doing everything wrong. Am I feeding her enough? Should I vaccinate her? (The answer to that question, I firmly believe now, is yes.) Does she need playdates when she’s a month old? At what age will she start talking? Those early days were also sweet; I would nestle my nose in the rolls of her neck and inhale a big whiff of fresh baby smell. I carried her everywhere, not wanting to miss a single moment. That preciousness I felt often carried an undercurrent of uncertainty. What if I’m not a good mom? Can she feel when I’m frustrated and overwhelmed? Can she tell I never planned on being a mom?

Fast forward to today and everything is different. She’s turning eight this month, I’m turning 30 next year. I’m disappointed to report that the feeling of fucking it all up has never gone away. The sweetness has transformed into something new: a mash-up of rushed FaceTime calls, two-week visits where she sleeps in my bed and doesn’t want to leave my side, grief for what once was, and hope for what can still be.

She lives with her dad, which is really a story for a different essay and is also part of the reason I’m sure she’ll need massive amounts of therapy as an adult. This piece is a good place to start, if you want background. In a nutshell, life took us on twists and turns that ultimately ended in me leaving Journey’s father and moving across the country with her. Even more twists and turns later, I relinquished primary custody — but never my parental rights, to be clear — and she went to live with her father. This is a simplified version but if you really want to know more, you should read the article I linked to above — it explains everything in much more detail.

As Journey’s birthday is in 9 days, I’ve been reflecting on this, well, journey of motherhood. Not knowing I should eat before going to Labor & Delivery was just the tip of the iceberg made up of things I did not know before becoming a mother. Remember the Titanic? It wasn’t the visible part of the iceberg that sunk the ship, it was the unseen mass of ice underneath the water. An iceberg is such an accurate metaphor for motherhood. There are all the things you do and say on the surface: the kisses, the stories, the meals, the funny stories you share about mispronounced words, the sad moments when children miss their dad. Then, there are the things that happen internally that may never see the light of day but have the power to capsize the ship of motherhood and plunge you into icy waters: the self-doubt, the feeling that everyone else knows exactly what to do and you are a total failure, the existential exhaustion that comes with being the sole provider for another human’s every physical and emotional need.

Why did no one ever talk about what was underneath the surface of motherhood? Is that not written into the Girl Code? It should be: Thou shalt not let other mothers think they suck at being a mom when you also think you suck at being a mom.

I felt wholly unprepared for motherhood when my daughter was born. Maybe it was because I wasn’t ready to be a mother. Maybe it was because my own mother, ever staying true to who I know her to be, didn’t even seem to care that I was pregnant (I believe her words were “Um, can you call back tomorrow? It’s almost midnight.”). Her and my step dad flew over San Diego, where we lived at the time, to get to Hawaii — while I was in labor. Maybe you had to be mothered well yourself to be a good mother.

There are so many things I wish I’d known before becoming a mother. Namely, that none of us knows what we are doing. That would have been revolutionary to hear all those years ago. Let me repeat this for all the moms in the back with baby puke on their shirt: no mother on this Earth knows what she is doing. We are all making it up as we go, trying not to screw up our kids too much. I also wish I’d known that kids don’t need or want a perfect mom, they just want a present mom. And that postpartum depression is a very real thing and if a doctor tells you “it’s normal, just give it time” you should find a new doctor who takes the mental health of mothers seriously. And that it’s ok if sometimes you don’t really like your kid. And that, first, before you are a mother, you are a human, and that means you are allowed to have needs and dreams; you are allowed to make mistakes; you are allowed to change your mind. And that sometimes you need a good cry. And that you will absolutely grieve the person you used to be because you will never, ever be her again. Mostly, I wish I’d have known that bad mothers don’t worry about whether or not they are a bad mother, they just don’t.

Of course there are other, more trivial things that would have been useful to know: it’s ok if she eats Cheerios off the floor, being exposed to germs is good for her immune system, always pack a change of clothes and extra wipes because inevitably, one day, you’ll be at a gas station and realize that not only has she pooped in her diaper but that the poop has oozed up her back and into her hair.

But I wanted the meat of motherhood. I wanted to know that I wasn’t the only one pushing up against icebergs that felt bigger and more destructive than they looked. I’ve learned over these last eight years that there is no one to blame (and believe me, I’ve tried to lay blame everywhere I could: myself, my mom, the media) for all the things I did not know before becoming a mother. No amount of hoping and wishing will bring me back to the first time I held my daughter in my arms for a do-over. I am learning to accept that, and to accept my version of motherhood for what it is: trial and error and tears and too many see you laters and an immense, unshakeable amount of love.

So while I don’t exactly know how to parent an eight-year-old (and especially one who doesn’t live with me), I feel a certain amount of peace about not knowing. I know now that motherhood is just one giant game of fake-it-til-you-make-it and that I am capable of figuring it out. Being a mother doesn’t come with a checklist. There’s no manual to refer to (is there??). There is only each moment and the decisions we make to love our children and raise them the best way we know how.

♥ CV