On January 1, 2018 I re-published my “She believed she could, so she did” FB page and vowed that 2018 was the year “I could”. The year I turned 42. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the number 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”. Challenge accepted. In 2018, I believed I could… Reach my professional goals. Reach my mommy goals. And reach my Weight loss Goal. Not having reached my weight loss goal after 7 years was embarrassing to say the least. Not to mention the napkin goal I set my sight on for the spring of 2016.
Yes. The elusive napkin goal: The goal to walk across a stage, wearing a teeny tiny suit showcasing all my blood, sweat in tears sans cellulite or my dreaded post twin mommy belly. This was the only goal I hadn’t reached in the last 7 years of knocking down goals one by one. Alas my transformation has never solely been an external one. My internal transformation has always navigated my journey using resilience and humor as my very own compass. Little did I know, 2018 would be my Phoenix Year. In order to rise through the fire, one must break through the flames. Break through the fear and the unknown in order to « break open ». In her book “Broken Open”, by~Elizabeth Lesser refers to this transformation as the “Phoenix process”.
“You and I are the Phoenix. We too can reproduce way down to the bottom of a loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth. When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self—the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey. This is the way to live a meaningful and hopeful life—a life of real happiness and inner peace. This is the Phoenix process”
Looking back, I see how my Phoenix process had already begun in the Fall of 2010. Spiritually, physically and emotionally. I had rediscovered My Beloved Buddha, started moving again and was determined to finish my degrees. I even got certified as a Body Flow instructor. Britney mic and all.
By the fall of 2013, I was finally enrolled in my Master’s program and was jumping back in my Field slowly after wearing scrubs for a couple of years and returning to my first Love. Working as a BI with children with Autism in a preschool setting until I jumped right in the world of PBIS, It was in the fall of 2015 that Dan and I decided to dock our ship after almost 11 years of marriage. Some say separation and divorce is not honoring your vows. Quitting. Wanting too much. Being selfish.
For us? Accepting the end was part of honoring our vows: for Better or for worse includes sickness, death and divorce. Dan and I loved each other so much we let each other go as Elizabeth Gilbert wrote:
“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving”.
Let me make this very clear. My boys don’t come from a broken home. My boys come from a home that restructured its foundation to honor everyone’s happiness. Just like any other systems, homes go through restructure, rebuild and renew. Divorce is no different in my eyes as in this case the profit «the boy’s needs » are the main focus.
Fast forward to June of 2017. A tiny tick that would create big ravage. By the fall of 2017, the 7-year Phoenix process was almost extinguished by Lyme disease which ravaged me as a whole.
Leaving my body, my face (think you Adrianne) and my heart paralyzed in what can only be described as feeling like a burning hot towel being twisted from head to toe.
Completely devastated by what seemed to be yet another cruel Karmic Joke the universe crashed on my already ransacked sea shore that had been my 42 years on this earth. I couldn’t escape. So much for 42 being the answer to everything. No shelter could protect me from Lyme’s total devastation. Cracked, chipped and broken pieces of sea shells laid scattered.
February 2018, As I snuggled my aunt in her hospital bed fighting her last brave battle as a cancer warrior, I broke open a little more.
Within 24 hours I went from being envious of what seemed to be everyone’s Beach destinations for February break to feeling so thankful I could head up to Montreal and lay by her side. As we snuggled in her hospital bed she whispered “I’m proud of you Kiddo. I want you to know that”. She gracefully left us behind on March 15,2018 surrounded by her loved ones.
May 2018. On a Chilly Sunday Morning in Cape Cop, I asked the Universe to send me a gift. The sun’s reflection on the ocean shined through the waves of hope and a A perfect mermaid seashell was washed ashore to me. It was so perfect at first sight, I cried out loud. It was too perfect to be real.
Was this really the perfect mermaid sea shell I would pretend finding as a little girl on the murky beaches in Quebec?
I held it.
I cried with it.
I chucked it in fits of rage and meltdowns.
And it would come back to me.
I came back to Vermont transformed by the fellow mermaid’s union scheduled by the Universe. My internal transformation continued through Writing, meditation, smudging all the sage, soaking In all the salts, jazzercise, and trying to believe with everything left in me.
Another flare up.
Body. Mind. Heart and Soul.
Flames of pain, aches, depression, anxiety leaving me feeling just like my first heartbreak in high school. Having been imprinted with rejection at birth and having scored a 9 on my ACES? I have learned to dance with heartbreak from the beginning of my journey on this Earth. This latest flare up paralyzed me into my worst nightmare. A closed numb and angry soul. As June’s flares up turned into July’s fiery flames and morphed into August Ashes, I let everything just …feel.
November 2018. On a snowy Sunday morning at Sky meadow In Vermont, , I finally released it all.
And the grief.
As a mom.
As a woman.
As a daughter and a friend.
There comes a time when trusting the Universe is the only way to your Destination.
I chose to finally rise from the ashes and soar through the flames. As I started to rise through the flames: I began to really, truly notice the everyday phoenixes surrounding me.
It’s no secret the last couple of years have brought women together through walks, movements and the courage to say #me-too And « No! ». Not just during unwanted sexual advances but in everyday life as somehow saying no as equaled being inflexible, intolerable and plain impossible.
If you get anything from all of this? Try saying no today instead of saying yes because you feel the obligation to. Caution: empowerment and liberation ahead.
The following Phoenixes stories have been instrumental in my Journey and I truly believe in the magic that happens when we witness each other’s flames, ashes and rising.
Healthy Lifestyle inspiration.
Real “She Believed she could so she did” inspiration.
Read not to understand.
Read not to analyze nor judge.
Rather to truly see the journey behind each other’s daily presence.
Here is my way of saying Thank You.
To the women who are longing to transform?
Have already begun their own Phoenix process?
Have crashed and burned but yet continue to rise through their own Journey?
Who believe, even only through other strong women’s eyes?
Who don’t believe all day everyday but still believe a little every day?
This is for you.
We see you.
We believe in you.
Time to rise you beautiful badass Phoenix.
Time to believe in you.
Call that friend.
Apply for that job.
Speak your truth…Your tribe will stick around.
Continue to rise.
She Believed she could, so she did.
Central Vermont’s very own Soul Coach anchoring Light and yoga poses one Journey at a time.
When I was an early teen, I was driving with my mother in Bridgewater, Mass. and she told about what a ‘calling’ is. She said it’s different than a regular ‘job’-that it’s something deeper, something that calls out to you and that includes both passion and purpose. She asked me (at about the tender age of 13) if I knew what my calling was? In my early 20’s I was introduced (by that wonderful Mom) to a yoga center in that same town, and took my first yoga class. The minute I walked in the door at Maha Yoga Center, I knew I had come home, and I knew I had found my calling. I started taking yoga classes there regularly and fell deeply in love with the practice when I was about 24 years old. I would come home from an Ashtanga Class at Maha and over-enthusiastically perform the primary series in the backyard where my boyfriend and I were living at the time. I was so over the moon about this yoga thing- that I would make him suffer though watching me ‘do’ poses, trying to explain and show him everything I was learning, all the while sweating profusely and breathing heavily. I got a little detoured from my yoga dream- graduating from college and then going on to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Education. I think my parents were a wee bit surprised when I moved to Burlington Vermont from Massachusetts and decided to embark on a month-long yoga teacher training in 2000. Whatever happened to that Masters we helped pay for????But, that ‘calling’ had begun to haunt me. The call to open a yoga studio & community healing arts space. Fast forward to my move to Montpelier, Vermont and I opened Yoga Mountain Center (now Embodied) in the spring of 2003. I owned and operated YMC for 11 years and enjoyed almost every minute of it. It is still thriving under a new name and ownership. When I started out, I had a ton of passion, but absolutely zero business experience. Somewhere during the path of selling my business, I realized that I had another calling- to be Life Coach. I got my Life Coach Certification a few years ago, and feel like I have dropped even more deeply into my passion and purpose.I am absolutely in love with my work and am deeply humbled by the clients I work with each day.My coaching office is directly across the hall from Embodied and it’s a perfect symbiosis between my yoga teaching practice and coaching practice. Other passions of mine include teaching meditation, writing & blogging, leading retreats and facilitating women’s soul support groups. Right now, I most enjoy working with clients who are going through a big life change, crisis or transition and are wanting to fully trust their own experience, fine-tune their inner compass, and live wholeheartedly and joyfully. I recognize that this takes great courage and is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been there. I often say to my clients, “Sometimes you have to be willing to be uncomfortable in the service of your vision.”I feel radically blessed in my life & grateful that someone, very early on, encouraged me to find my purpose and follow my heart.I know from that deep soulful place in me that you can too. Thanks Mom!! Come visit me at http://anjalibudreski.com
Central Vermont’s very own Joanna (her other half is Chip) & Successful Realtor turning dreams into homes.
I had always been interested in houses. My father was a builder, my mother a designer (she drew the plans and Dad built them), I’m married to a contractor, AND I had bought two properties For Sale By Owner that went wrong and I needed a lawyer for each. I worked for a law firm and learned so much about Vermont laws and regulations. That experience helped with a very a natural transition to becoming a Realtor. My husband and I have been a great pair when it comes to investing and fixing up properties. We’re about to begin renovating another property. It’s been a fantastic run over the past 15 years. Come visit me! https://www.c21jack.com/realestate/agent/martha-lange/
Successful owner of Do or Dye Salon, proud wife, daughter and mama.
Hi my name is Nealsa Spooner. I have been in the cosmetology industry for 10 years. My mom is a cosmetologist and I grew up at the salon as a little girl helping my mother take out perm rods and rollers on her customers. My passion for cosmetology grew when I became a senior in high school and I decided to pursue this field by going to cosmetology school. This is when I knew I wanted to work in beauty, it was challenging, fun, something different every day, yet came very naturally to me. I graduated school and immediately began working for a chain salon. I enjoyed it but realized there was more out there for me. That is when I began working for myself and really studying the industry and that is when I knew I wanted to own my own salon. 6 years later my husband and I own a salon where all of our employees and customers feel like family. It’s fun to go to “work” every day. It was a lot of work to get where we are today and I wouldn’t change 1. Come visit us! https://www.doordyesalon.com/
Central Vermont’s very own fairy Godmother, Coolest Badass Friend extraordinaire, proud mom and Grandmother.
In 1997 a dear friend of mine told me she had been diagnosed with Breast cancer…..I had always worn wigs for fun and to just change up my appearance…..she showed up on my doorstep one night…it was raining…she was crying…she had purchased a wig that looked like ROADKILL on her head…she was having her first date/outing with her husband since losing her hair…she told me she felt so unattractive and sad…..I took her up to my room where I had all my wigs on heads everywhere ….I’ve always loved makeup so I asked her if I could make her eyes pop and give her some lip color…I then found the perfect style of wig for her face…color/style…..she was so ELATED…she said “Clare I feel human again”…..she jokingly prompted me to open a wig store……A few months later she was hospitalized and close to death…. I visited her and she asked me to promise her that I would take this into consideration…to open a wig shop….to help women feel whole again…..I was working as a waitress at Shoney’s at the time (Where Applebee’s is now) I was actually Shoney Bear too! hahahahahahaha!It took me some time to start getting it all together…but in 1998…in a tiny room outside of my bedroom…I started with a few wigs on Styrofoam heads, color rings, and catalogs…….Word got out through a few local newspaper interviews and I started….. within a year drawing the Transgender community…it was wonderful to learn and get to know a whole new genre of beauty…I offered a Discreet/safe place to have makeup and wig services… …i then ventured into photography….just wanting to capture these amazing Trans women feeling beautiful in their own skin……feeling fabulous… accepting their beauty without shame or ridicule….! I have two websites…. http://www.wiggoddess.com & http://www.tgnorth.com …….. tgnorth is my MTF transformation website…. such lovely girls and SOOOO much fun my life is…. (That sounded like Yoda said it) I just celebrated (Not really…i need to) 20 years in business! WAHOO! i got my esthetician’s license 7 years ago and started providing so much more to the ladies coming in…..=I absolutely LOVE what I do……It’s not Lucrative financially …. but…that has never been my focus…I’m so fortunate to live in this community…It’s small and full of kindness…In a way this business is quite selfish…it’s healed ME! I TRULY feel blessed in what I do…..I’ve met SO many incredible women through this experience…… Come visit me! http://www.wiggoddess.com/
Director of WVMHS, successful owner of the Stowe Street Cafe, wife and proud mom.
I honestly had no idea of what the universe had in store for me when I left my almost 20-year career in mental health back in September 2014. All I knew was that while I was terrified of walking away from what was otherwise a safe and logical career path in a field that I was absolutely dedicated to, there was something else calling me in another direction. I chalked it up to feeling discouraged by the politics of the job, along with getting married that same month with my 6-year-old son (from my first marriage) and our 5-month-old baby girl. You could say I had my hands full…A few months later, I was volunteering at a holiday market selling chocolate for the alternative culinary program I started 5 years prior (that’s another story!) when a fellow vendor commented that “someone” really should open a space in town to sell local art and gifts and food throughout the year. Well, apparently I could not have agreed more, because even despite the holidays, and the kids, and everything else, by early January my well researched and lovingly organized 40 page business plan for a coffee shop featuring local coffee, food, and art seemed to have written itself, and I was now in negotiations with my landlord regarding the unoccupied space attached to our amazing, local independent bookstore. We pulled together a modest amount of funding, borrowing only from ourselves from our future honeymoon fund and a small loan from the town, and then got to work renovating the space ourselves with a whole lot of blood, sweat, tears, and help from family and friends. The coffee shop will be celebrating its 4th year in business this June and has become a beloved gathering place for a loyal following of regulars and new visitors alike. The incredible core team at the cafe has been there from the start and so, when I recently was asked to consider returning to mental health as the Director of the children’s division where I previously worked for 11 years, my coffee shop family wholeheartedly encouraged me to go for it. So now, after I drop my son off in the morning for school, I zip around the corner to the coffee shop before it opens at 7:30 am to check in, grab my coffee, and take out the trash on my way to the office, but not before sharing a laugh (and maybe a little gossip) with the team. It’s a juggle for sure, and some days I feel like I can’t keep up just like we all do at times, but mostly, I feel very lucky to have learned that in life, sometimes the universe knows exactly what it’s doing before we have any idea. Trust your intuition, take the leap, and the universe will provide the net! Xoxo, Come visit us! http://www.stowestreetcafe.com/
Central Vermont’s very own whimsical Fairy Whisperer , successful owner of Whimsy Barre, wife and proud mama.
I am a lifelong resident of Barre, Vermont and just celebrated the first anniversary of opening my own business. For the past 20 years I have been in the medical field. Most recently I was an ophthalmic surgical assistant and manager of a retinal clinic in Burlington, VT. I absolutely loved my job. I loved my patients, my coworkers and my bosses. It was a very successful and rewarding career in many ways, except one. It took too much time away from my family. My morning commute began around 7 am and my evening commute began, roughly, around 6 pm. The commute alone would chew up 2 hours of my day. That meant that I would leave the house just as the kids were waking and arrive back home just after the kids had dinner. It was a constant struggle to find the time to actually have a meal with my family. Managing to attend school functions, sporting events, recitals and doctor appointments became increasingly difficult as the kids grew and their lives became more complex. I thought I was doing what was right by working hard and advancing my career but finally realized that what was actually right was to resign from my position and reinvent myself in such a way that allows for me to be able to spend as much time as possible with the people I love most in this world. It began as a playful conversation between my husband and I over a beer at Mulligan’s. We discussed my ideas about a magical and mystical gift store (many of these ideas I had been storing in a corner of my mind since college). The ideas started flowing and we kept talking about it and it started to take on an identity. After weeks and months of disregarding our chatter just as idle conversation, he looked at me and said “We can do this. Let’s do it.” I was excited, determined and absolutely terrified. This was the day that Whimsy Vermont was born. I broke the news to my employer and gave them 6 months’ notice (also giving myself 6 months to figure out how the hell I was going to do this). After we found the future home of Whimsy Vermont, I went straight to work preparing the space that would be mine. I was working days at my former job and nights preparing Whimsy for opening day. It was daunting at times and incredibly exhilarating at times. We opened our doors on Friday, November 24th, 2017. Come visit us! https://whimsyvermont.com/
Central Vermont’s Very own Jane Fonda: Weight loss Motivational Life Coach and Successful owner of Jazzercise in Barre.
On October 27, 2006 I became the owner of the Barre Jazzercise Fitness Center. Cheered on by my mentors, Brent Campbell and Ellen Sholk, I embarked on the journey of empowerment, strength and emotional and physical health through an amazing workout program. When I bought the center, it offered 7 classes/week in an 800 square foot area. I knew we could offer more and steadily increased classes to 35/week and have grown into a space of 2500 square feet to dance in. I had a mission and it was to help make our community fit both emotionally and physically and have succeeded in touching over 800 people in the last 12 years of ownership. Many have come and gone over the years, but I feel our community is much healthier and happier because of our Jazzercise center! Come visit us! https://jcls.jazzercise.com/facility/jazzercise-barre-fitness-center
Central Vermont’s very own Sobriety coach, Buti instructor and dancer for Life.
The path to becoming my best self yet has been one of many surprises. As someone who is in recovery from substance use disorder, I am reminded daily of the miracle of my recovery. Substance use disorder is a health condition, which requires a multifaceted and holistic approach to healing. Just like a diabetic needs a doctor, a nutritionist, and other specialists depending on the severity of one’s condition, so too does someone suffering from substance use disorder. I knew that if I didn’t stop drinking that I would die. I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol. How would I have fun? How would I deal with those mean voices inside my head telling me I’m not worthy? Where would I get the confidence to talk to people, I didn’t know at social functions? How could I deal with the anxiety that bubbled up out of nowhere? Alcohol was my medicine, my best friend, my ally. I tried everything and I didn’t know how to stop! After night after night of blackouts and trying to put the pieces together of where I had been, why I woke up with cuts and concussions, I would tell myself I would never drink again. But I couldn’t even last one day. I couldn’t stop. I wanted to but I. could. not. The stigma surrounding addiction kept me in the dark for years and years after knowing I needed help. How could an educated, well-liked, middle class woman have this disorder? I felt weak and stupid for not being able to change even though it was destroying my life.Finally, I reached the point of darkness where I was so empty and broken, that I actually became open. I surrendered to all of the “what if’s?” I was finally in a state where I was open to receiving help in any way possible. I knew deep down that I had a lot to give to this world. I wasn’t done yet, and though I couldn’t see the path before me, that didn’t matter—I would do whatever it took to change. The practice of mindfulness coupled with self-examination slowly brought me back to life. Learning how to sit with being uncomfortable, my anxiety, my racing thoughts, my old ghosts, and seeing that they are just passing through and that they don’t define who. I. am. has taught me so much about myself. Of course, I didn’t do this alone. I sought out groups, teachers, mentors, literature, physicians, nutritionists, astrologers, acupuncturists, exercise classes, yoga, herbalists, mountains, lakes, forests, massage therapists, hair salons—anyone/anywhere/ anything that had something healthy to offer that helped me reconnect with myself. ME. Through this path of self-discovery, I have found a life that I could never have imagined. I have peace of mind, peace in my body, I have discovered my purpose, and most of all, I love myself! I needed all of that darkness in order to find my own inner light. And the path continues! I get to continue learning and growing and helping others who struggle from the same health condition. That is all substance use disorder is—it’s a health condition. Instead of shunning and judging those who haven’t found their path to recovery yet—and believe me, there are an infinite number of paths— we need to embrace them. We need to help connect them to resources, and give them jobs, and tell them they aren’t alone. As Johann Hari states, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection”. Come visit me! http://www.lindarivervalente.net/
Central Vermont’s very own Good Witch one spell at a time.
Since I am fast approaching 30 years as a Witch, my mind and soul are holding vaults and volumes of esoteric lore, law, and practice! Though my first genuine and conscious spellcasting was by the water feature at a snazzy Polynesian restaurant when I was about 5 years old, skills up-leveled considerably…Now, I serve clients through astrology, tarot, practical magic, shamanic journey work, shadow work, holistic sexuality education, and more. Following celestial clockwork and sparks cast by Spirit, I am a way shower, a guide. A legacy breaker. Blending botanicals, stones, charms, talismans, prayer and petition and more while being in right relationship to the land and the myriad non-human intelligence we live alongside mean I am That Lady. It is my great privilege and pleasure to be so.
With Magic as our operating system, I have been witnessing to many folks breaking lifelong patterns/addictions/narratives that they had been wrangling in talk therapy for most of their lives. The ecstatic experience of watching someone coming to know themselves fully and of entering play in an entirely new game (one that was invisible to them beforehand) is utterly delicious.
School clinician, home flipper extraordinaire, proud mama & Best laugh in the world.
“Keep going, push through, you got this, don’t stop, this is just an obstacle, this won’t defeat me, I am confident, I deserve to be here”
These are just a few of the things I tell myself on a daily basis.
Am I successful?
I wouldn’t go that far, but I promise you I will be. I don’t have a lot of money and I don’t live a lavish life. There are so many more people out there who drive nice cars, make more money, and wear name brand clothes, not that this defines success because it doesn’t. One thing I will tell you is I work my ass off and I can do anything if I want it bad enough.
I grew up in a small town in VT. I lived in a dilapidated trailer with holes in the floor, water leaking through the ceiling, and ice on the walls. I have parents who love me and pushed me to do well in school. They came to every basketball game and parent teacher conference. When I was in my early 20’s I suffered from depression (self-diagnosed). I was unhappy with my life. I didn’t like my job, I didn’t like how much money I was making, and I didn’t like my body. I didn’t think I deserved to be in certain places like restaurants, different stores, snowboarding, or hotels. I didn’t see value in myself as a human being and thought other people were more deserving or better than me. After a few years of this, I started working out and I didn’t stop. One of the people in a Facebook group I had joined related to the workouts I was doing (which I didn’t think I deserved to be a part of) one of the coaches suggested we read the Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. Positive things really did start to compound for me after I read this. I started reading more books and listening to more podcasts about self-development and business.
My attitude started to change and I started to see myself in a more positive light. I was now on a mission to find a way to make more money.
My partner Derek and I were looking for a single-family house at the time. We decided to move into a duplex rent one apartment out and live in the other. This leap of faith turned out to be the best thing for us individually and as a partnership. We began to work together on a common goal. A goal to improve our lives, invest in real estate, and make money. A year after our first house we purchased a duplex that was in foreclosure. The first bank we went to took one look at the money we made in our jobs and said no instantly. I remember feeling deflated, thinking that it would never happen. We went to another bank and found a commercial lender that would give us a loan to purchase this house. We spend every single penny in our account buying and fixing this property up. A year later we had it rented and running smoothly, and then purchased a three unit. A year after the three unit we purchased another duplex.
Each property has had its own setbacks and we have made many mistakes. We have had tenants call us and move out in one day of moving in because they thought ghosts haunted one of the apartments. In the three unit we purchased we had the seller evict a tenant because of the pure filth they were living in prior to us purchasing the property. One month after we closed on the property one of the two tenants still occupying the building stopped paying rent and then cockroaches infested the rest of the house from the previous tenants who we had move out prior to closing. We have spent over $3,000 in court costs and lawyer fees to evict a tenant who wasn’t paying rent. This same tenant moved out of the apartment one week before the courts required deadline and left all the windows open and the heat turned all the way up in the middle of winter (we paid for heat). We had to sit and wait fully knowing that our money was flowing out of her windows. My partner has stayed out until midnight on the day before Thanksgiving working on the furnace and bleeding air out of pipes to get the heat to work on a -3 degree night. There have been nights that I have laid awake sick to my stomach about a tenant problem or a deal falling through that we were trying to buy. Each time something bad happens it takes me a little less time to recover and each time I endure through one of these disappointing events I grow in strength, confidence, and knowledge.
This is just the start of our investments and the start of our path towards success. Since starting investing in property my confidence has grown, I am happier, my relationship is better, and I have a greater sense of self-worth. I am proud of my accomplishments and I am going to continue to push myself to be uncomfortable and embrace challenges that move us forward towards our goals. Investing in rental property is just a small portion of my identity. I am proud to be a woman and I believe we are strong, powerful beings. I gave birth to my baby at home alone with my partner. This birthing showed me my true strength and power. Caring for our infant showed me my true strength and power. Being a woman is an amazing gift and I will continue to push forward on our path of love, happiness, and success.
Horse & Autism whisperer, Proud Wife & Mama who has mastered the art of domestic engineering wearing many hats: Business partner, special needs advocate, allergy/nutrition specialist and homestead extraordinaire.
I was raised with horses and began giving lessons about 18 years ago with a few children on the autism spectrum. I graduated from college with a degree allowing me to be a Veterinary Technician, which I did for a few years however my heart pulled me in another direction. I then became a behavioral interventionist for Washington County Mental Health services in a program called PDD supporting children on the autism spectrum. I worked there for many years being a behavioral interventionist all while giving lessons on the side. When my son was born with life threatening medical conditions and the need for me to be home, I made changes 10yrs ago now I run my husband logging business and give horses lessons to children. My background of being a behavioral interventionist allows me to offer horse lessons to all children. The joy I get out of seeing a child no matter what the background/ challenges are for them be able to bond with a horse is nothing short of amazing and brings joy to me in every lesson I give.
Co-Owner of Green Mountain Cross Fit, proud wife & mama breaking one WOD record at a time
My life before CrossFit was definitely active. I played sports in high school and rowed on the crew team in college. I managed a fitness center after grad school with a masters in Health and Exercise Science. I was introduced to CrossFit by a great friend and have managed to create many more strong friendships along my own path of gaining strength thru my participation in CrossFit. Owning a CrossFit gym has provided me an opportunity to introduce CrossFit to so many individuals. It has enabled me to distribute my knowledge from my education in exercise to our trainers and our members. Watching our athletes build strength in their bodies is only part of the reward though. Watching them build confidence in their entire being is the best part! The cool thing is that I too know the feeling and it’s pretty awesome to see happen day after day!
Executive Director/CEO at Vermont Center for Independent Living, Fellow Twin Mama, Wife and PTO mama extraordinaire
I started in the disability rights movement back in 1997, after answering a job ad for the Vermont Center for Independent Living. I had no idea that my life would be forever changed by getting a job there. During the interview I heard about the independent living movement. This was a movement that had stood up for those with all types of disabilities- physical, sensory, developmental and psychiatric. I was hooked. I had been living on disability social security benefits and not feeling like I really fit into the world. A young woman, living in subsidized housing because I had a psychiatric disability and couldn’t work when the symptoms were worse. I felt worthless and embarrassed that I was not contributing in the same way others my age was. I was applying for the job because I wanted to test the waters again and see if I could do the work. By the end of the interview I was filled with anxiety and excitement. My world view had shifted and I knew that I needed this job and to be part of this movement. I was not born with a disability. I developed it as a result of experiencing sexual trauma for many years in my childhood. That trauma led me to mental health diagnosis’s and into the mental health system. I was first exposed to the hospitalization system fresh out of my first semester in college where my symptoms were in a place that was making it impossible to function in day to day life. I became aware very quickly that the hospital system was a place in which people were there to keep me safe. I was given very heavy psychotropic medications, and when the medication was not sedating me enough and I “acted out”, I would be restrained or put into what was called a “quiet room”- a space that kept the quiet in the room so others didn’t have to deal with you. My sense of choice and autonomy was stripped away. I was scared and did what I did best at that time, escape into myself. This seemed strange to other people, which would cause me to be restrained more, physically and with medications, but for me it was a place where I felt most comfortable.Eventually, it was decided by my parents and doctors that I move to a group home and that’s how I landed in Vermont. I was to learn skills with the hope that I would eventually move out on my own. I eventually got my own apartment and a job as a preschool teacher. I loved my job and I’d like to think I was good at it too. And then, one day the people at the school learned about my diagnosis and they fired me. I was devastated! It was clearly discrimination based on my label, but at the time I did not understand my rights. Everything seemed to come crashing down from that and my case manager took me to the social security office and we filled out the forms for disability benefits. Six months later I was approved and then moved into subsidized housing. I was grateful for the programs, but devastated that my diagnosis had taken over my whole being and was now defining who I was as a person. I learned to accept it, and lived as best I could. I was in my early twenties, poor and suffering daily with pain I could not escape. But I continued to try. My trying looked like pushing it down deeper inside, trying so hard to be happy and appear normal.I ended up meeting the man who would eventually become my husband. I started thinking about my life and wanting to eventually have children. I wanted to work, but was not sure if I could handle it and I really didn’t want to fail again. I was also stuck because I had convinced myself that everyone else was right and I couldn’t work. I put so much power into the doctors, therapists, case managers and social workers. It would take me another almost twenty-years before I would let go of some of that power I had turned over to these “helpers”. But when I accepted the job at VCIL in 1997 as an assistant (working 8-16 hours per week), that was the first step. That step gave me supports of peers with disabilities. People who had experienced the systems that are set up to help but had failed them. People who had decided to work with each other and fight against that oppression.At first returning to work was hard. I was making $100 less per month then I had on benefits but as time went on I took on more hours and started to make a bit more money – enough in which I was able to move into a non-subsidized apartment. I went back to college earning my associates and then moving onto my bachelors and masters in Human Services, Organizational Management and Leadership. With each step I gained more abilities and more confidence. But my real surge of disability pride came when I spoke at a national forum about my experiences being locked up in hospitals, followed by a protest against the state of Tennessee taking away payment for ventilators that would land folks with disabilities back in nursing homes. The rally landed me my first arrest and an eye opening experience that direct action can help change systems. In case you’re wondering they ended up paying for the ventilators again. About nine years ago, I became the executive director of VCIL. Serving in this position has been one of the greatest honors of my life.I eventually got married and have three amazing, spunky children.Professionally, I used my experiences to help fight within a system that has failed so many people and dove into politics and advocacy. I teach a class on it at Springfield College. I decided to become involved at the national level and am currently serving as the Vice President of the National Council on Independent Living which has opened up even more opportunities and this past year I travelled to Japan and shared my experiences as a psychiatric survivor and spoke with leaders and groups throughout the country and with government officials in Tokyo.Sometimes I step back and take stock in the amazing opportunities I’ve been given in this life. And, I look for times like these to share the difficulties I experience every day because the life of Facebook can give an impression of ease and glossiness.The struggle of living with psychiatric disability can be brutally difficult. There are days I feel extreme pain of the experiences I’ve had to the point that I want to die. I’m triggered regularly and have a hard time sleeping at night. I worry, I stress, I hate myself, I eat too much, I yell, I escape. But, not always. I also laugh, experience such joy and love from my family, my children, am stretched in my work and with my students.I see my “treatment” now as my life and my recovery – not as something someone gives to me but as something, I give to myself. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was scared but was given the incredible gift of seeing how much love and support I have in my life. When I was a child being raped, I did not know the world would ever offer me so much hope and so much love. I believed I did not matter. When I was a woman screaming in the hospital being restrained and forced medication, I believed that I was damaged and would never amount to anything. I did not know the world eventually would give me so much opportunity and life. The difference today is that I believe that I matter and when I don’t, I work on it. The difference today is I make a conscious effort to work into the problems instead of running away from them. I do still have behaviors that some think are destructive or outside the norm, but I also know these behaviors are survival skills and help me live. They are also what make me unique.I hear other people in my head. I know they exist because they have been with me since I was a child. They helped me escape and feel safe when I was experiencing awful abuse. Sometimes I can’t concentrate because of the others. Sometimes I can’t remember things because I go in very deep. I also have times of incredible anxiety because I’m scared and sometimes, I feel like I can’t handle anything and should just die. It is hard to explain this to people who don’t have the same experience. Some people are scared and don’t want to be around me when I share about my experiences because they seem “crazy”. I live in fear that other parents don’t want their children to hang out with mine because I have these experiences. Some doctors and helpers still want me to be “fixed” and not have these experiences any longer thinking that will help me have more of a normal life.Well I finally decided that I don’t need to be fixed. I get to make the choice of looking at my experiences and deciding instead of moving away from them, to move into them. Feel my feelings, live my life and when it’s fucking hard, I keep doing it. (Oh, I swear too).So many people live with the effects of sexual abuse and trauma. So many people do not have the same type of supports I’m so lucky to have. A family who cares deeply for me, two therapists- who I see very often to work on becoming more enlightened and develop my practice of recovery. A job in which I can fight for the injustice that is still happening today within the mental health systems from children to adults and fighting against practices that bring more harm and more suffering to those who have experienced trauma. And, my peers. People who have had similar experiences and are willing to talk about them openly so that others may not have to face this all alone. My practice changes daily and over the past month, I have been working so hard on self-compassion and I developed a mantra for myself. It’s a long mantra full of hope, empathy, kindness and forgiveness. My ending is the favorite: may I seek and acknowledge my moments of peace.
As I wrap up the ending of a wonderful Christmas day, children sleeping, gearing up for what lies ahead, may I seek and acknowledge my moments of peace.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty”.