What “Small Business Saturday” Can Mean

With American Express promoting this Small Business Saturday idea, it can seem pretty distant. Their idyllic little shops don’t look much like the family businesses in my own neighborhood. Inside our little apartment, under my name, there are two small businesses trying to get their little engines up a very big hill towards Profits: Welcoming Birth, L.L.C., and my Jamberry Nails direct sales business.

Welcoming Birth (HypnoBirthing) has cost more than it has earned, like most small businesses in their first 18 months of life. But it’s about to get a big boost! Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Childbirth Education classes are about to include a HypnoBirthing class taught by ME! Yesterday, I toured the options available for classrooms and told the coordinator what my preferences are, for space. Since my goal is to teach families that they can set any mood they want to set, to have the birth they want to have, I’ll be ok in any room (but I did request the one with the nicest lighting…) and I’m really just beyond excited to start teaching my first course in January.

Jamberry is making us some money to pay some bills! But it speeds up and slows down, like any retail business. Like every other retail business, “Black Friday,” followed by “Small Business Saturday,” followed by “Cyber Monday” are really big days for us Jamberry reps! Most of us are selling Jamberry because it’s the most fun way we have found to help make ends meet in our families. When you shop with us, you help us pay for gifts, classes, daycare. You support a larger company that manufactures in the US, recycles everything it can possibly recycle, and began in a kitchen, ideas bouncing back and forth between family. Excuse me while I get a little sentimental, but I want you to know that you can have real reasons to feel good about shopping with us.

The less sentimental part of all this is my hard-headed plan to get my family off public assistance by the middle of next year. It’s happening. Every month, I build my team and my customer base. I walk the line between annoying and fun as I ask more people to host parties, or even to join my team. This month, I am so close to a big promotion. I’m so very, very close. So I’m posting about it here, something I rarely do, because it’s what keeps buys the Christmas gifts (purchased this year from other small business and direct sellers using only Jamberry bonus money), and the gas to go to Thanksgiving dinner in another state, and the babysitter who helps out, when both parents need to write. My Jamberry earnings also made it possible for me to invest in Welcoming Birth, filing the short but expensive paperwork I needed to get L.L.C. status, and acquiring insurance, and everything else the hospital asked for.

Head on over to Facebook, and “like” my page! Find teasers for our Black Friday specials and message me with questions. Head over to my Jamberry shop and buy something small  (or large!) as a gift – I’ll walk you through every step, if you want some help! And in a week, when you see #SmallBusinessSaturday, think of me and my tribe! Go on Twitter and ask @DoNotFaint for some real-time personal shopping. Ask me how all of this works, and why it’s so much fun–maybe it would be a good fit for you, too…

blog jamberry collage

Fear Release

HypnoBirthing practitioners are supposed to end our third class (there are five classes, in each course) with a guided visualization exercise that helps expectant parents release any fears they might have about birthing and parenthood, and take back any power they’ve given away, leaving them feeling totally confident and empowered. When I got my certification to teach, my mentor and former teacher/doula told me that “something in your own life will always come up right before the Fear Release–every time.” Well, she was right. The third class in the course I’m teaching now happened last Friday, but we ran out of time. It’s a long exercise.

On the way home, that night, I got into a car accident. Minor, yes. Scary? Yes! I’m a good driver. I’ve never had a moving violation. I’ve never even been pulled over. But I was tired, and bored, and stuck in traffic at 10:30 at night, and I rear-ended the car in front of me. I re-injured my neck and upper back; we were rear-ended by a city bus, with Nathan driving and me in the passenger seat, in 2012, when I was nine months pregnant. That was one of the scariest days of my life. I had to spend twenty four hours in the hospital, wearing a monitor, so they could make sure my little guy was ok. Even though the air bags hadn’t deployed, there was a chance that the impact had been enough to cause the placenta to begin to detach from the uterine lining. We waited, and listened to our baby’s heart beat, hoping that it would keep an even pace. Since the placenta delivers oxygen to a baby, the heart rate is the best sign of that everything is ok. Everything was fine. Nathan and I needed some chiropractic care, for a few months, but everyone was fine.

But there was another accident, this time without me. And one more, the most minor thing possible, in a friend’s car. I held on to a lot of fear. I couldn’t let go of this idea that it would just keep happening. Ever since the first accident, I became fixated on car seats. We had an infant seat installed in our car, that first time, because I wanted to be ready. The last thing I wanted to worry about was whether the seat had been installed properly. (A shocking number of car seats are used incorrectly.) When I called the company, I was told that any accident at all would make a seat unsafe, and the brand recommended getting a new one.

Car seats are expensive. I wanted one that would last. The second one did last, until Walt was too tall for it. I actually won a free seat. It expired–the giveaway was apparently an attempt to get rid of very old stock. We bought a third seat, because it is not safe to use a seat that’s expired, even if it just came out of the box. Or… is it? The answer depends on who you ask, when it comes to seats straight out of the box, but again, the warranty would be void after the expiration date. I was thrilled to get an amazing deal on that third seat, and I was excited that it would last a long time. Of course, when Nathan took a sharp curve and was distracted for a moment, he hit a pole at just the wrong angle; air bags deployed, and the car was totaled. That sounds worse than it was–Walt didn’t even cry. Nathan wasn’t hurt. The car just wasn’t worth as much as it would cost to fix it. New car. New car seat. Expensive. Again, I bought one that would last, this time until after Walt wouldn’t even need a booster seat anymore! It transformed into a booster seat! He would use it for five years!

I held on to my fear, and I expressed it through my obsession with Walt’s car seats. I put all that anxiety into making sure we had the best seat we could reasonably afford, that it was installed correctly, and that he was buckled in properly, every single time. Nathan listened to years of correction about tightening the harness enough, and sliding the buckle up high enough, without ever losing patience with me. On Saturday morning, less than twelve hours after the accident, I went car seat shopping again. I found another great deal, although the price tag was still higher than I would have liked. Again, I tried to force myself to feel safer by thinking about how long my child would be able to use the seat–he would need four more inches of growth in his torso (it doesn’t matter how long his legs are, for safety or comfort) and twenty more pounds, before we would have to do this again. I pretty much just insisted to myself that one child could not possibly need yet another car seat! This one would be a good-luck charm! We were safe! Gosh darnit! Safe! Right?

fear faith

I drove to teach again, last night, and this time, we did end our class with the fear release and power exercises. I knew that I was facing some big fears by making the drive again. I drove the rental car our insurance company provided, since the dent I had made in the front of our car had made it difficult to completely close the hood. That was scary, too, because I hadn’t ever driven a car that big, before. This massive SUV seemed to have too many blind spots, and the fancy camera showing me what was behind me, when I put the car in reverse, did not make it easier to park. Even so, it didn’t occur to me until I was actually reading the script that I was hanging on to *years* of fear about my family being in danger.

It had never occurred to me that I could let go. We are good drivers, with a good, safe, car, and a properly installed car seat. We are human. Things happen. But we aren’t in mortal danger every time we’re in the car. It’s not a foregone conclusion that accidents would keep happening. I had totally lost my perspective, and had never held on to the fact that none of the accidents had been serious. My pregnancy had gone on perfectly, ending with the perfect birth I had planned and visualized. No one had actually incurred serious injuries in any of these accidents. The car seats we had replaced may still have been safe–it was usually a technicality and a warranty issue. We never saw any wear and tear on the seats and, more importantly, our precious boy had never needed any medical attention.

As I spoke the words in the script and guided the family through the imagery that would help them release any fears and limiting thoughts they might have about the birth, or becoming parents, I visualized the release of my own fear. As they imagined their perfect birth, imprinting the outcome they wanted, visualizing their own son safe and happy in their arms, I pictured Walt, safe in my arms, as he always has been, at the end of every journey. I chose confidence over fear, and I held on to the image of my family, safe and sound, as I drove home (carefully).

Just as I tell parents who take my class–it’s in the script!–it may take more than one exercise to release big fears and doubts. Of course, I don’t bring my own fears into my teaching, and my students weren’t aware that I was dealing with my own big fears and doubts. But thanks to the eerie timing of last night’s class, we all got a very good start.

“The Family Rock” – Helpful and Problematic

I’ve named my job in my family as “rock,” but that name needs a post of its own, to talk about the problematic associations of that image. First, here’s why I use it, and why it’s helpful to me:

  • If you lean on a rock, it supports you. My partner in life has been so supportive, and I want to offer that same support to him. And: parenting. A toddler needs to lean. Hard. His world is expanding and changing fast, so he needs Mama and Dada to be stable.
  • It takes some extreme conditions to crumble or break a good rock. I have given enough of my time and energy to questioning whether or not I’m good enough as a daughter, friend, spouse, parent. You know what? All the drama in my life still hasn’t broken me. I want to know that I am enough. To just exist, as I am, without striving for a perfection that will never exist.
  • If you go somewhere else to do something else, a rock will still be there, when you come back. My family’s income, balance, and happiness depend on my spouse going out and doing a lot of things, in the coming year or more. Finish a dissertation. Find an academic job. Move to who-knows-where. A lot of change is going to come, and when it does, I would really like to have had some time to be still. I want to be comfortable, no matter where Nathan’s work takes him. It’s one thing to lean on each other for support, but I have been doing most of the leaning, which is something else entirely. I was beginning to feel like I couldn’t stand on my own. I can. I will.

Here’s why this image is problematic:

  • If I’m a rock, am I allowed to need support, as well as provide it? I know that being stable and changing are possible at the same time. But I’m posting this on a public blog. The image works for me, in my family, at this moment, but it’s not one of those universally helpful ideas. Thinking of yourself as a rock might lead to feeling like you need to provide support, but not ask for it. That’s not balance. Serious limitation.
  • How do I mark the line between Solid Rock and Crumbling Rock or Broken Rock? What is strength? What is weakness? I spend a lot of time in therapy talking about whether or not I am successfully being rock-like. I really need that, because my therapist is a lot more forgiving than I am. She will push back against any idea that big emotions, or even getting sick, are signs of weakness. She’s good at helping me see the bigger picture, which has a lot to do with me knowing that I am capable and strong, just as I am. I need to be careful that I don’t suddenly decide that an anxiety attack has broken me, and that I have failed as A Rock. My goal is to look back, after we’re on the other side of graduation and job interviews, and feel proud of the stability I have offered my family. I have a lot of room in there to have bad days, get sick, lose patience, ask for a longer parenting break than we agreed on, when we were talking about our schedule for the week. Most important, perhaps, is the fact that I am the ONLY person who decides whether or not I have been A Rock. There is no one in my life who will throw this project back in my face and imply that I’m failing.
  • Is change and growth at odds with this job? In my family, as it exists right now, change and growth are pretty constant, and definitely encouraged. If Nathan wasn’t comfortable with me changing and growing, he’d have spent our entire relationship in some serious discomfort–a LOT has changed. When we met, I would never, ever, have thought that I would be comfortable leaving academia for a life of mothering, writing, childbirth educating, and self-exploration. And yet, here I am. We are just as happy now, if not happier, than we were when we were first married. We are good at this growth thing!

Sometimes, I give advice, in this space. I’ve written about what to look for in a care provider, and questions to ask a potential babysitter. But this is not one of those times. I remember the way my father used to speak to my mother about her role as a stay-at-home mom, and the way he used to hand down his decisions about What’s Good For The Family. It was abusive, controlling, and scary. The scariest part is that I bought into it, for a long time. I believed that my mom’s job as a human being was to cater to our needs. Pick me up here, drop me off there. I can so “no” whenever I want, but you have to do what I say. I don’t have to say “please,” or “thank you,” because all of this is just your job. Well, in what universe does someone not deserve praise for doing her job? My dad polite to teenagers at Dairy Queen, when he thanked them for handing over some pre-packaged (delicious!) “Buster Bar” ice cream treats, but he wouldn’t back up my mom, when she asked me to say “please” instead of demanding that she drop everything to take me to a friend’s house. I can easily imagine telling him about this project, being A Rock, and having it thrown in my face a week later that I had upset him and was, therefore, terrible at being A Rock.

I have spent a lot of time around verbal abuse, directed at me or at someone close to me, so I know that this particular image is one that is easily twisted into a trap. It would boil down to this: “I thought you were going to be a rock for our family, but you’re not behaving exactly the way I expected you to!” Mind-reading would, of course, be included in those expectations. The idea of someone else demanding that I be my family’s rock, for his sake, makes me feel ill.

This image, and this project, came about *because* I no longer have anyone in my life who abuses, manipulates, or uses me. I love the irony in all of this – I’m thinking of myself as an unchanging, totally stable thing, in order to prove to myself that I’m free to change, and that I have changed. I have come so far from the place I was, in college, when I actually asked my friends to spend the night with me, to make sure that my depression wouldn’t turn suicidal again, just a few days after I had been involuntarily hospitalized. I date the beginning of this journey back to the day I really heard the dear friend who pointed out that I was asking for more than my loved ones were qualified to give, let alone comfortable giving. This began the day I walked myself back into that hospital and decided that I would start healing myself with the proper help. I have healed so much that I no loner believe that I am sick.

The mental illness I live with does not make me sick. I took control of my healing journey by giving up control to a bunch of doctors and nurses I had never met. I can call myself A Rock, because I have so much freedom to be whatever I am. I am comfortable with paradox. All these things exist at the same time. It is only from a place of great safety that I can use this language, without fear that someone will use it against me. rocks

I Am A Rock: In Which Anxiety Does Not Win

My new job: be the family’s rock. Two reasons. 1) I want to feel more independent; I have consistently leaned hard on the people in my life for help, out of a dire need for emotional or financial support that really doesn’t exist as a pressing need, anymore, thanks to all the progress I’ve made, everywhere in life. 2) I want to see my husband do the work he needs to do (namely: write a dissertation) without seeing guilt on his face for leaving me with household tasks. Example: cooking. I’m a terrible housekeeper and not a great cook, but I can feed myself and my kid. Especially since the child has decided to subsist on a diet of yogurt, grapes, apples, and chicken nuggets that come frozen, in a box. [The pediatrician promises us that he has never seen a malnourished child who was consistently offered a range of foods, and we do offer! He has seen issues with dinner around negotiating over what an how much a kid will eat, so we’re going the “CTFD” route, especially since the toddler is still nursing.] Nathan is better at most household tasks than I am, but letting him do something simply because he does it better than I do creates an imbalance that just grows. He’s usually so happy that a task is simply finished, he couldn’t care less about any imperfections. I’m the one who would rather not do something at all than do it imperfectly, often feeling like those imperfections reflect flaws in my character.

Lately, therapy sessions always involve some sort of checking in on my progress as Family Rock, and my therapist is a darn good cheerleader. She helps me look for the progress I’ve made, and she’s gentle when she points out that I’ve reverted to a behavior that is going to lead to an imbalance, again. If I’m particularly anxious and ask to sleep in, on a morning when I’ve said I’ll be with Walt, that’s a slippery slope. Because Nathan will say ok, and I love sleeping, and soon I will have slept away his most productive morning hours.

Yesterday’s therapy session involved assessing how much anxiety I was feeling over some issues that had come up a couple weeks ago and over my car accident. When the answer was, “Wow! I’m doing great, all things considered!” I decided to take on The Insurance Company and Do All Accident-Related Things. By 6 pm last night, I had arranged for the car repairs, the tow to the car repair place, the car rental place to pick us up, and gotten the name and phone number of everyone even remotely related to my claim. Nathan could have done a lot of this. It’s his name on the car. But I did it. Anxiety did not win. I wasn’t even anxious about talking to people on the phone! It helped that they were all really nice. Apparently, I’m the only one who wants to be hard on me for having been at fault in the accident. Everyone else keeps surprising me by asking how I’m doing, and whether I feel ok. Which is the response *I* would have, if I knew someone who had been in an accident, no matter whose fault it is. But anxiety and depression lie, and a favorite lie in my head tells me that I don’t deserve the same kindness and understanding that other people deserve. Well, I shushed that voice! I accepted the help. I took the paths of least resistance. This morning, I did it again, and calmly related exactly how and where I feel injured. I asked for them to pay for chiropractic care. I may not need X-Rays and a neck brace, and the air bags may not have deployed, but that doesn’t mean I should be in pain or deal with more headaches. The one appointment I went to on Saturday made a big difference! And wouldn’t you know it? Paying for the medical care in our premium entitles me to more appointments, with the bills sent to car and health insurance companies, instead of me.

My husband doesn’t usually tell me what’s going on without prompting, when he’s extra stressed about something specific, so I didn’t know, until he casually mentioned that he would be up all night grading papers, that he had to have a whole lot of midterms graded by TODAY. I can’t tell you how excited I am that I spent all that time on the phone, clearing up about 100 clerical errors before we could even get to what was covered or not and how to start making repairs, paying bills, etc.

I’m not sure how to explain this Rock thing to other people, except by example. I do have important jobs: I parent, I write, I teach HypnoBirthing, I make money selling Jamberry. They are simply not time-sensitive the way my husband’s job is, which means that my job in our family can include working out when everyone gets to do their things. My things shift around. This way, I can make sure I get to do them, without sacrificing the sleep and sanity of my partner or child. I don’t even have to sacrifice my own sleep or sanity (that certainly would not do anyone any good, since the consequences to that are pretty drastic).

My point is that being a Rock and taking on this job of ensuring balance feels really great, because the people I love, including me, all feel better, when I do this job well. There’s a nagging, nay-saying voice in me that says “Women always have to do this job! It’s a trap!” But I want to remind that voice that since I took on the Rock Job about six weeks ago, I have done more in my professional life than I had in the previous six months. My whole family was out of balance. We were all showing signs of wear. Today, we all seem better-rested, even though the adults did not get much sleep last night.

If one must have one's car towed, the excitement of a two-year-old child seeing a car drive onto a truck really softens the blow!

If one must have one’s car towed, the excitement of a two-year-old child seeing a car drive onto a truck really softens the blow!



A Holiday Giggle

I took a survey for the BlogHer Visionaries panel (a fancy name for “take this survey for a chance to win money” and ‘if you have lots of Twitter followers you will maybe be chosen to Tweet for this company for pay,” which hasn’t happened to me, yet) and the following question came up:

I have highlighted the funny options for you.

I have highlighted the funny options for you.

I’m choosing to find this hilarious, and not really depressing, because Festivus (see: Seinfeld) is included. But really, research people? People are choosing Black Friday and Cyber Monday as holidays to celebrate? I like shopping. But that’s just confusing.

Out of curiosity, which of these do you celebrate? I picked Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. I don’t really *celebrate* New Year’s Day except that I try to do as little as possible. Please, if you celebrate Festivus, do share!

The Toddler Wants You To Know!

Walt, age 2, just RAN into the living room, after his bath, still in his birthday suit, to show me “han! han!” [sounds like “hand” without the “d” – not like Han Solo] touching his wrinkly little palms with his wrinkly little fingertip. “So I said “What happened to your hands?” And he held them out, palm up – they were pruney from the bath! He had never noticed this phenomenon! What could it mean?! I was appropriately excited with him! Cool! The bath makes our hands all pruney! That’s amazing!

There are a lot of exclamation marks in my life, these days. It was one thing to watch this child develop as a baby. “Oh, wow, he now KNOWS that he has HANDS! He didn’t know that, yesterday!” I mean, the day your kid becomes fascinated by his own feet? That’s a fun day! But this is an entirely new level of awesome.

Now, my child knows that he is learning. And he wants me to know that he knows. This is not all adorable amazement at discovering things I don’t remember learning. Sometimes this is “Mama! Dada! Mama! Dada! Mama! Dada!” until BOTH of us acknowledge that he has, indeed, added one block to his tower. And we have to do it all over again, when he adds another block. How many towers can he build in a day? My husband said today, exhausted, “He didn’t stop talking. The whole trip to the store. Hours.”

Both of us found this after-bath moment extra-endearing and adorable and restorative, because today was a hard day. When he runs up, face lit up with pure excitement, and shares a discovery, it can light us up, too, for a minute. Just enough to keep going, on the hard days. I’ll probably think about tonight, every time I take a bath, for a long time! I hope I think about it during every bath, forever. “Mama! Han!”

24: Mushy Brain, Sore Back

24 hours ago, I was pulled over on the shoulder of a busy freeway, waiting for a very nice state trooper to finish processing the legal version of: Anne-Marie wasn’t paying attention to traffic (bored, tired, spaced out) and rear-ended a very nice couple from Rhode Island with a reference to the Bible on their vanity license plate.

I could not have been going faster than five miles per hour. But it is such a shock to hit another vehicle. I went a lifetime without knowing that sensation, until, at 9 months pregnant, we were rear-ended by a city bus. Including that, this makes my third minor collision (no air bags = minor? even with a city bus?) in two years. My CAR was in a major collision with a telephone pole, but I wasn’t in it or driving it. This was the first time I was the driver, though, and I was in the car alone. So I went from never even having been pulled over, let alone a moving violation, to a stupid, stupid accident.

We know our chiropractors very well. I went, first thing this morning, with my sad story and sore neck and upper back, and then cooed over the first birthday pictures of one doctor’s “new” baby.

That’s why I didn’t post yesterday or get anything written earlier today.

And yes, we got a new car seat. The old one was no longer under warranty, after the accident. I hate car seat shopping. It was made easy by a major company slashing prices because a logo changed–ok with the old logo? Great! Take the display model for 40% off! Yay. Because that was money I really wanted to spend?

I’m really tired, now, and I’m going to sleep and heal and nurse my wounded pride. So much for that spotless driving record. And just in case you were wondering: an app for an insurance company is, in fact, a really handy thing to have. Download it and know how to login, before you need to know this.


Throw[way]back Thursday!

I forgot to felt write today, thanks in part to having had a migraine for 48 hours, until sometime this morning. But I got sucked in to a genealogy project. Having borrowed my father-in-law’s fancy account with all its international access to all kinds of documents, I was able to uncover this pretty cool document. Thanks, to whomever scanned it and uploaded it to the internet. My ancestor was a Scottish Merchant Marine, certified, until he earned enough to buy a farm in Wisconsin, where he had quite a few children, including the amazingly named William Wallace Ferrier.

merchant marine cert