Following My Own Model

Ok, I have figured out how to add the audio piece again.  The point is to be able to hear it.  The video is just the same picture throughout so you can focus on the words.

For those of you who are familiar with my SPEAK model for self-advocacy, you will know that it is the core of my work. For those of you who are not familiar, you can read about it here.  After months of working toward my dream of having a successful small business, I have had several moments of doubt, feeling overwhelmed, and small flashes of wanting to just give up.  I can’t give up.  I won’t give up.  I know this is the work I am meant to do and all of my future clients will not receive my services or be impacted by my experience, education, and drive if I stop pursuing my dreams.  On top of that, I will not have been true to my model.


It is a step-by-step way to be a successful self-advocate. On my journey, I have been reminded by a few people that in my pursuit of forming a business to serve others with this model, I too have followed the steps. Having no background in business, marketing, website design, blogging, social media for business, and video production, I have jumped in and educated myself in all of these areas.  I am not a professional in any of them, but I have researched, tried and failed, and had hours of discussion to gather information from experts.  I have sorted through advice, asked questions, and changed my focus a number of times. I have been uncomfortable, unsure, excited, and proud.  Right now, I am writing my 21st blog post!!

Every time I have gotten to a point of frustration, I have pushed forward and reached out for help.  I have been Self-aware, identified my Problems, Evaluated by researching and constructing solutions, Acted on my plans through networking, asking for help from others, and finally pushing myself so hard to KEEP GOING.

Because I followed my model, I have learned a lot about starting, building, and maintaining a business. I have formed an LLC, opened a business bank account, decided on promotional  products, made awesome business cards, and met with business mentors.  To continue to grow and learn more, I attended events and retreats and made connections with people with specialized knowledge. I have created a website and blog, opened social media accounts, cold called businesses, published articles in a popular online publication, and have spoken about my services with confidence. I am proud of what I have accomplished.

The thing that has continued to keep me going is the support of others.  People are showing up when I ask for help. Not only are they showing up, they bring gifts! From the kindness of their hearts, people have shared their successes as a way to guide me, created my beautiful logo, volunteered to help me create a marketing strategy, and helped me design a beautiful website to invite much needed business. This is no accident! It truly does work to advocate for yourself! I open my heart through vulnerability, kindness, humor, and honesty.  Those things have brought abundance into my life! They have taught me to practice gratitude, help others, and keep on my path of self-advocacy. As I write this, I am filled with joy about sharing my experience.

Not only have I experienced this generosity in my business, I have experienced it from caregivers and friends on a regular basis.  It certainly feels like magic, but it is not.  I have created this life.  I have pushed through hard times. I have faced terrible illness. I have never given up completely.  This is because of you.  Everyone reading or listening to this had been a part of my success. I have created this model to share what I have learned and what guides me on a daily basis. I refuse to navigate my life alone. I will advocate for myself for the rest of my life. Please take a moment to consider all of the things I am writing about and see the relationship between what I have created, and the amazing outcomes it has produced. I invite you to think about how self-advocacy plays a role in your life. Please share something in the comments to inspire and engage with others about your own self-advocacy. Don’t forget that the most important part of the SPEAK model is to KEEP GOING.

Be Well



Community and Vulnerability

I am extremely lucky to have never really felt alone in life.  I’m not sure luck is the right word.  I am lucky because sometime early on, I learned to reach out to others and ask for help.  I learned to be persistent and resilient. Community is the key to my success. In a previous post, The BEST Medicine, I  gave readers a glimpse of my awesome community and support system.  Building community takes courage.  It takes vulnerability and asking your people to Show Up because you would show up for them.

This week, I am featuring a post I saw on Facebook by Hamilton Simons-Jones. This post took courage and vulnerability and he called on his community for support by being open about his experience with pain.  Hamilton is doing all kinds of cool things in New Orleans to empower his community.  You can read more about him here. This is what he wrote:

 I have been experiencing lower back pain and sciatica for the past six weeks. It has been really frustrating. Basic tasks like putting on my shoes or getting in and out of a car feel Herculean at times.

On the one hand, it is deeply humbling. It reminds me what an incredible blessing simple things in life are: picking up my children and holding them, kicking around a soccer ball, touching my toes, having sex with my partner, even rolling over in bed. It also demonstrates what an incredibly loving family I have. Even my daughter helps me with my shoes in the morning on the bad days.

On the other hand, it is really scary. Am I facing a life in which I will never be able to do these things again? Why is it that any number of treatments – stretching, meditation, massage, chiropractic treatment, heat, ice, Chi Kung, varying forms of physical activity, not sitting, etc – so far have only brought temporary relief, if any. Why does the pain move around and show up sometimes and not others? What exactly is wrong with me and what am I DOING wrong?

My family told me about a book by Dr. John Sarno. It suggests that most back pain in responsible, motivated people is due to unconscious repressed emotion – anger, fear and anxiety – not slipped discs, spinal problems, misalignment or weak back problems. He says if we can recognise this, the pain will disappear. And my responses to various treatments so far suggest he is right.

My back pain, my colleagues at Converge, the staff at Rethink and my family have helped me to think through the ways in which my life is out of alignment with my values and commitments. It brings me back to something I have come to at various times in my life as driving so many of my daily activities and ways of being – a deep fear of my own inadequacy. That underlies so much anxiety in so many of us – drives me to a lot of doing without paying attention to who I am being and what the experience of that is for me and others. It means working too much and doing everything I can to show I got it handled without admitting vulnerability or uncertainty. And it hurts, physically, and cuts off joy and love, emotionally. I found that this sciatica is advancing something I have been doing for some time amidst running a growing business and family – shrinking my world and isolating myself. I have less and shallower communication with fewer people, and a shrinking range of physical motion and movement. I am thankful for the ways in which these last few weeks of pain have presented a physical manifestation of my reality that I cannot deny. I cannot continue to live with it either.

So over the next few weeks (for starters) I will be “truing up” my life – engaging in different types conversations (less on the transactional and more on what really matters), being in more communication with people, reorganizing my commitments, expressing what I haven’t been expressing (across the emotional spectrum) in order to have the back pain disappear and improve the quality of my daily life. I look forward to you joining me on this journey and appreciate your support and patience. And for those of you who are skeptical or disagree with this view of back pain, you are welcome to. Please don’t share that skepticism with me right now. You can tell me you told me so later but right now, I need some space to follow this course without doubt. With love and appreciation…

Because he is going about his struggle in an honest, authentic way, he was happy to let me share this with you, my readers.  It is affirming to know others are reaching out to their communities in both times of joy AND struggle.  Thank you, Hamilton for being an example of this.

Be Well

Sister Support

I have written a lot about my mom in my blog, so you all have an idea of what an amazing support and caregiver she is.  I haven’t written much about one of the most amazing and supportive people in my life: my sister, Marie. Marie has a huge heart, is a loyal friend, and always has my back.  She never acts like my illnesses are a burden.  I can call her in tears and she will do her best to make me laugh – she is usually quite successful. She gives really good, realistic advice. She knows when things are tough and doesn’t try to make them better.  She empathizes and lets me know she loves me and hopes things will get better.

Marie is a barber.  One of the things she notices about people is usually their hair.  She has an eye for a good cut and knows how to make people look classy. We have always bonded when I am in her chair and spent the time laughing and sharing the latest stories of our lives. She is arguably more funny than I am – which is a hard pill to swallow. She has a way of connecting with people in an honest, humorous way. She uses these qualities to support me in all areas of my life.

Going into my surgery, I didn’t know I had cancer. It was scary to go into the operating room not knowing what parts of me would be removed and what my diagnosis would be. The morning of my surgery, my sister supported me in a way only she could; she made sure I had hair that would survive a few days in the hospital.  Hours before, we sat together, both feeling a little anxious, while she braided my hair and reminded me that no matter what, everything was going to be fine.  We have been through a lot together and we were going to get through whatever challenge I was about to face.

Let’s face it, cancer is a bummer.  When I was first diagnosed, I set to work discovering what parts about it could be fun. When I learned I would be having chemotherapy, I was actually excited I was going to lose my hair.  I knew the best way my sister could join me on my journey was to give me cute, outrageous haircuts before I lost all of it. The best part was I could get more than one haircut and it didn’t matter how short it was.  Trust me, this is very freeing and an excellent way to give up control and get comfortable with a new look. I love spending time with my sister and can only imagine how scary it must have been for her to find out I had cancer.  I think it is much easier to be the patient than a caregiver.  My sister was so strong when I was diagnosed.  The first time she cut my hair was very emotional and therapeutic for her.  Right then, she was part of what was happening was able to have a piece of control and a way to join in the fight.

Bonding over my many hairstyles was not the only way Marie supported me.  We were fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot of time together.  She came to a number of my chemo appointments.  Those appointments took up the entire day, lasting about six hours each time. She sat there and did whatever I needed.  Unfortunately, I can’t recall all the details of what we did thanks to the toll chemo took on my brain.  I do remember how it made me feel to have her there with me, though.

I am extremely grateful and lucky to have such a kind, hilarious, and loving family.  I never want to take advantage of the fact that it takes all of the individual family members to create a whole family. My sister plays her own unique roll and we would not be complete without her. Obviously, my sister and I disagree sometimes and get on each other’s nerves, but she was the first friend I had and I know she will be the first one to defend me, love me, and make me laugh through hard times.

Make sure you let the important people in your life know how much you love them and appreciate their support.

Be Well