A Video of Gratitude: Thank You

Last Sunday I was looking through the many photos of the women who have taken part in The Revelation Project these last two months.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for somehow stumbling into this whole thing that all i could do was listen to the song ‘Thank You” by Alanis Morissette over and over… and then somehow was able to put this video together to capture what I wanted to express.

Thank you to all of you who’ve been willing, all of you who’ve been touched by this, and all of you who’ve continued to follow our progress.  I can’t even tell you how much it’s impacted me and infused every part of my world. My thoughts, my conversations, even my dreams.

I hope you enjoy the show….

Revelation Project Part VI: Sarah Fernandez

I’ve known Sarah for a few years now, and never realized that she is incredibly shy around the camera.

She gives the impression that nothing ever phases her, and has the ability to maintain a level head in some of the most frightening circumstances (…she used to work for me, trust me, frightening!) When she arrived with her sister Meg to be photographed for the project she seemed a little nervous and when the camera came out, she looked like she wanted to vanish-  “form of: INVISIBLE!”  but alas… this project is about being seen not about disappearing. Because part of the agreement is to have your photographs published on face book I’ve heard lots of feedback that Sarah’s photo’s were inspring for many women who saw them.  I found her interview answers just as inspiring so I’ve pasted them below in addition to some of her photos ( for those who missed them.)

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Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Ever since I was very young, I’ve had four goals: get married, have children, own a house and have my own business. At 34 I now have all of those things, but the last one, my interior and event design company and blog, Chateau & Bungalow, is still in its very early stages and I’m trying to figure out how to make it what I want it to be while working several other jobs, taking care of my two kids and getting the bills paid.

What is the biggest challenge that’s ever faced you as a woman?

I would probably have to say body image. I’ve never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t do something because I am a woman, but I’ve always struggled with being happy with the way I looked. In high school I remember thinking I was so fat even though I was a varsity athlete and was 30 lbs lighter than I am now. Now it’s my goal to look like that again!

Are you a mom?

Yes, I have an almost 5 year old son, Teddy and a 2 year old daughter, Carolina.

What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to our gender?

I think most importantly, we need to look at how much woman really do in this day and age. It’s no joke that we should all be running around with super hero capes on. While there has been a shift over the past several decades of men becoming more involved in child rearing and even becoming stay at home dads, most of the women I know are doing all of the scheduling for their families, arranging for childcare, paying the bills, cleaning the house, grocery shopping and much more, all while working part or full time jobs and trying to squeeze in some quality time with their husbands, children and friends. It’s no wonder that we take care of ourselves last.

What’s your idea of a great “girls night?”

Hanging at someone’s house with a lot of wine, a lot of laughs, no place to go and no kids interrupting.

Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of the Revelation Project was a good idea right now?

I know I have the talent to do what I want to do, but after mostly being a stay at home mom for the past 2 years, I’ve really struggled with projecting the image I want when I rarely wear make-up, am living in the same pair of jeans each day, and am not really happy with the way I look.

About the shoot: What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and what were the results you were expecting?

I always love the idea of having great photos taken, typically with my family, but in the end I’m not usually happy with the way I look in them (back to that body image issue). But, I really needed some new head shots for work so I was just hoping I’d get one decent shot and I’d be happy.

How did you feel during the shoot and was there anything in particular that made you feel more or less relaxed or open to the process?

I wasn’t really nervous during the shoot, but I hate posing for pictures so it took me a while to find my comfortable spot. It helped that I knew Monica so well and my sister was there so there were a lot of laughs. And by the time I left, I felt like I’d known Robyn forever even though we’d only met a handful of time. It was the closest thing I’d had to a girl’s night in a while.

Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot?

Anxious. Excited. Tense.

Three words for after ?

Anxious. Excited. Relaxed.

Three words for when you saw the results ?

Happy. Excited. Surprised.

After you left but before you saw the results – did you have any thoughts about the experience?  What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home?

We had such a fun afternoon that the session itself had put me in a good mood. I felt good and confident that there were going to be some good pictures, but there was still that little voice in the back of my head warning me not to get over-confident.

When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?

I was really excited because I finally had photos that projected the image I wanted for my business.

Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?

I’ve had such an outpouring of compliments from people. It’s been overwhelming, but it feels great.

Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?

I realized I had crow’s feet! But there is a reason this is called The Revelation Project. I was thrilled that there were some great pictures, and it wasn’t that I was really upset that I had crow’s feet, but it was the first time that I really saw myself as an adult, which probably sounds crazy considering that I’m married, have two kids, and a lot of years of working behind me. It made me realize that I’m in the part of my life that I always looked forward to, and I need to start paying more attention to it and soak it all in before it passes me by.

Did you feel empowered? Why?  Why not?

Yes, it made me feel like I now I had proof that I am a beautiful person with style and that I could now put these images out there for people to see the person behind my business. I think it’s hard to be in a business that’s about style if you don’t walk the part too.

Since the shoot happened more than four weeks (yikes) ago now can you talk about the lasting impact of the experience?  Has it altered the way you view yourself or your surroundings?

Well, the revelations about the time of my life that I’m in certainly will have a lasting effect, and one that I’m so happy I realized now before it was too late. But in addition to that, I never liked being the center of attention. I wouldn’t say that I do now, but I’m not as nervous about it anymore. Two weeks after this shoot, I had the chance to go to NYC for a photo shoot with my kids for my job as a writer for TLC’s new parenting blog, Parentables. Normally, I would have been a nervous wreck, but because I knew that it was possible for great photos to be shot, it just seemed easy. I couldn’t believe how relaxed I was about it, even being on video. I think that it has given me a new confidence that will lead to great things.

Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? Why?

Most definitely! I think it should be something we all do once a year just like going to the doctor for a physical. No matter how confident or beautiful we feel or don’t feel, it’s always good to take a step back and really look at who we are and where we want to go next. I think it helps us move forward.

Do you think it’s relevant for other women?  Why?

I think it’s invaluable to all women. When Monica first posted the images that she and Robyn shot of each other, I picked up the phone and called her and told her I thought they should be doing it for every girl out there. Young girls and women too are bombarded with images of impossibly thin models and movie stars who endure hours of hair and make-up before they are photographed that it is crazy that we expect them to have a healthy body image. I’m sure that’s part of the reason that I never did. For years, I’ve thought that girls should have a chance to do a photo shoot like the models in magazines so that they could have beautiful pictures of themselves too. This is a much more affordable way to achieve that, and it’s better because Monica and Robyn make sure that the results really look like the person and show people’s beautiful personalities too.

How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?

I will definitely be using them professionally, and my husband, who didn’t really understand the whole idea when I first explained it to him, now wants to have a bunch of them printed and framed for around the house too.

What is your favorite song and why?

That’s a really hard question! There are so many. I guess I would say the one that makes me happy every time I hear it is “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. It brings back all the happy memories of the summers I spent growing up in Newport (because it was on every mix tape we ever made in the 90s!) and it was the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding.

If you could sum up the experience what would you say?

Brilliant!

Revelation: Comfort Zone

When I was in my mid-twenties I took some “life” classes in Boston that made a tremendous impression on me.

Basically the workshop was designed to give each attendee the “tools” to help them become courageous in their own lives.  Many of the exercises we were asked to do to complete the course and graduate had us do the things that scare us….

To this day I absolutely HATE that feeling of virtually stepping out on the “skinny branches” of life where I may indeed fall flat, fall hard, and fall far.  However it’s taught me a lot about what real courage is: to be able to stand in the face of great fear, and “do” whatever it is that scares you anyway ( i still consider myself a student btw).

I realized the other day that this particular lesson ( stepping outside your comfort zone)  has also allowed me the vantage point of KNOWING when i am in the presence of greatness.   To be able to witness someone who has achieved great things in life and KNOW that they faced their own fears in order to get where they are… even if on the outside they made it look easy.

Greatness can show up anywhere and sometimes as something as simple as someone who has the courage to be themselves, cry in front of strangers, speak out in the face of disagreement, or stop the car to help another in need.  Greatness does not have to look like being the first woman to fly to the moon, or to sail around the world.

I think it can also be things like:  being big enough to not have to be “right” in an argument even walking away finally from someone who has been treating you badly…

We all know what it feels to be outside our comfort zone, and if you should forget, I just want to put my 2 cents out there and whisper the hint: It feels like being “alive.”

 

Revelation: Where Ever She Wishes To Travel

I always get nervous before a photo shoot.  I always say a small prayer that I will be able to capture the essence of the woman who walks through the door, and that she’ll be open to the experience.  So far so good.

Today for The Revelation Project we photographed Medelise (what an amazing woman- can’t wait for her interview to come back!) who showed up with her surf board and wearing her heart on her rash guard! and two sessions back to back tomorrow.  The sessions are rigorous because in addition to being “on” with respect to operating the camera (I’m not the most technical person, or the most detail oriented person, or the most…) the most critical part for me is connecting with the woman we are photographing.  I am also the self appointed “szhusher” ( kind of like a fluffer?- oh god that sounds kind of bad) and also the “make-up” artist for those who want a little emphasis on their features. Honestly… it’s one of my favorite parts of the session because I get to play up someone else’s features, and well.. I’m kind of gay like that.

So- lots of feedback lately on the project, and I have to say it’s a little nerve wracking as I’ve been asked to define it more succinctly by a few people.   All I can really do is keep saying what it’s not.

The atmosphere is very laid back and casual, and because it’s in my home, it just feels kind of cozy and relaxed.   I think Robyn Ivy adds great entertainment value…for me, that is, and great music never really hurts.

It’s definitely not a serious or intense affair or anything.  I think I’ve realized that its whatever “she” want’s it to be.  I think Medelise wanted it to be cathartic, and so it was… as well as joyful, and fun, and poignant at times.  I’ve been trying to capture the “mood” in order to write about it but I honestly think it varies as she lets us in ( without sounding too queer).  All I know is that it’s a deeply personal experience and as i witness the “unfolding” of the being on the other side of the lens, I too am transported with her wherever it is she wishes to travel…. joy, sorrow, abandon, fear, empowerment, release. Sometimes she laughs hysterically, sometimes she cries hysterically….. but where ever she needs to go to “get there” it’s completely and totally allowed, and encouraged.   By the time the shoot is over, I no longer feel nervous.

I feel awe.

Awe that I am in the presence of HER.

The only thing so far that remains consistant about the project is

HER greatness

HER goodness

HER strength &  light…

Every. single. time.

Mommy Brain And The Drive Through

As I sat in the convenience of my car placing my regular order into the extended mouth garbage can at Dunkin Donuts for a toasted bagel (with butter) and a medium coffee (regular) I realized I must be something beyond over tired.

Once I realized I had been placing my order with Oscar the Grouch instead of the happy fat man who normally makes my brew I immediately sheepishly looked around to see if anyone had been watching me impersonate a complete and utter jack ass.

So, my kids are almost six and nine.  WHY do I still suffer from this malady we call Mommy Brain?

I’ll have you know that I USED TO BE SOMEBODY! I was goin places sister… places that spit in the face of my deepest fears (racoon. in. Denny’s dumpster).

When will I get my LIFE BAAAAACKKKK?   My BER-AAA-HAAIN?! (inspector gadget? can you hear me?)

Can I really be making these excuses?  Perhaps I need a supplement? ( dang… those things are expensive) I’m thinking I could call someone – a manufacturer of vitamins or something and offer to be their head test case.

Maybe if I told them what i was doing and who I am (who am I?) they could give me some “samples” that might *work* to help me regain some of my mental faculties.  I think it’s worth a shot right? I could  report back to my audience ( I have a total of six subscribers now!) that this supplement was a lifesaver.  It might even give those who suffer some of our dignity back – trash can? are you listening?!

 

 

The Revelation Project: What it’s Not

It’s not about

Beauty (though you may find that you are)

Great skin (Dove)

Perfection (as you are,  is preferable)

Being skinny (at least jeans can offer  that illusion)

Fixing you (because there is nothing wrong with you)

Vanity (you probably think this song is about you) (don’t you?) (don’t you?)

Style (magazines will tell you otherwise)

Glamour (mall. shooting.)

Better (as if judging ourselves against anyone else is ever helpful)

New and improved (it may be more valuable to discover what’s already there)

So what is it?

We. Don’t. Know.

We just know it’s making a difference somehow.

Soul Work: How Quickly Time Flies When You are Doing What You Love

I had a really *full* day today.  Busy from waking at 6:30 ( which is when I always *try* to drag myself from bed) for my 30 minute ME time until tonight as I fall into my own bed with gratitude that I was able to manage the back to back obligations without a whole lot of tension and an aching jaw from clenching my teeth ( which is how I usually manage packed days.)

I try to think about what was different today and all I can point to is that I was not really “in my head” today but instead kind of actively engaging from my heart in everything I was doing….

Perhaps doing the things I really enjoy and that come naturally were at the center of it.   I wish I could get paid for work that feeds my soul.

This morning was spent conducting a social media workshop in my own home for friends that lasted almost three hours- so fun! Then a couple of meetings about The Revelation Project (always inspiring) and finally picking the kids up from school and spending some undivided time just being with them (shutting the phone off and learning about their day- adorable.)  Tonight we wandered over to Robyn’s across the street for dinner and so I could finish up my very first TLC Blog post on the Parentables ( cool!) with her by my side (congrats on a job well done!)  and viola… the day was over in the blink of an eye- and I felt completely in the zone the entire time.

There is something to be said for doing things you love. Why does it seem so hard to fill my day with more of those obligations and less with the ones I complete while kicking and screaming?  I wonder if I will ever make a living ( you know, money) by doing the things I really love and engaging in my day, all day- from my heart? Yeah, I wonder if that’s possible.

I sure do hope so because it was really fun and energizing.

Revelation: Grace, Gratitude and Courage

Things are getting kind of exciting in business again and I find myself bumping up against my insecurities, my fear and my past.

I realize how resigned and cynical I have become as I hold myself back from believing that something good can happen to me again professionally.  Since I closed my retail stores and finally surrendered to a disaster of poor financial planning, economic meltdown, and divorce I’ve been fattening up on slices of humble pie in the meantime.

What’s most uncomfortable for me is who I had become at one point during what I considered the height of my business’s success. I had become somewhat arrogant and aloof to those around me and way too busy cutting corners with everything in my life so that I could look like i had it all handled- my real, and terrified self crouched under the surface of this superficial veneer just praying that I would not be discovered as the impostor I had become.

I was in way over my head, and had made so many mis-steps that seemed insurmountable to fix.  Struggling to pay vendors, keep up with responsibilities of family and work, and manage an already failing marriage was simply more than I had bargained for.  My thirst for success had brought pain and hurt to the people around me, and I had no one to blame for their departure from my life but myself.

These past two years have been spent trying to get back to the me that turned down the wrong one way street and begin again.

Is being sorry for the things you’ve done in the past enough to set things right?  Do I deserve another shot?  Can I make up for the wrongs I’ve committed, and most importantly have i really learned the lessons that have been offered?  These are the questions I ask myself.

All I can do is whisper my mantra I’ve adopted since this whole thing came crashing down:

“Dear Universe please grant me the grace to accept the things I can not change, the gratitude to live each day moment by moment, and the courage to begin again”