Archive for the ‘vision’ Category

I met my husband on my 24th birthday. I threw him a 30th birthday party the following month just after we started dating. Eight months later, I learned the truth when I looked at his license and the math didn’t add up. The guy I had fallen for wasn’t really 30, he was 32 (!!!) and worried a 24-year old might not have given him a chance. My husband hates this story, and will probably be annoyed for it being told (again) (online) but it’s a story that belongs to both of us now. The reason I’m sharing it is because I’m having some deja vu with my 30-day blog affair. Today marks the big 3-0 (versus 31)! Last night I was feeling like I failed my own 30-day challenge after not blogging on day 28. Maybe that’s why there were 31 days this month: an opportunity to still hit 30 even with one miss. (Or maybe I just don’t count to 30 so well?) In any case, we celebrate birthdays in our house with a big old ? on the cake instead of numbered candles.

Now that this journey is complete; I want to share some thoughts if you are considering blogging more consistently or taking part in any 30-day challenge:

1. Blogger’s block can feel real, but it is somewhat of a myth. I frequently don’t know what I’ll write about when I sit down to write. I worry what I’m sharing might have no significance. However, it’s really resistance rearing its ugly head (read The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
if you are looking to tackle creative resistance rather than living in procrastination). There is always something to say. I would put pressure on my blog posts to be the most meaningful thing I’d have to say all week – month – longer (which is an easy way to fall out of love with blogging). It puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on a blog post. Imagine thinking you could never speak unless your words were always perfectly articulated and quotable. I would probably be mute. How scary would that be to utter a sound? As a speech pathologist this analogy hits home. It’s okay that a post might not be eloquent or what you want etched on your tombstone. Just writing and posting on a daily basis will change your relationship with blogging.

2. I chose 30-days of blogging because I wanted to have a relationship with my blog again. It felt like a long lost friend after going over a month without posting. I knew I wanted to hold onto it, but my writing felt awkward and forced. There was too much time between posts to just throw out a casual thought or bedtime haiku without it feeling disjointed. After my first week blogging, I found a rhythm. After the second week, it no longer felt like a long-lost friend, but a close confidant. Ideally, I would like to post 1-2 times a week now, but I’m not sure if that will feel too distant initially. I may experiment for a little bit, just like Goldilocks (I use fairy tale analogies frequently with a preschooler at home): too hard, too soft, just right. My blog became home again. It was no longer an afterthought, instead it was front and center. When I knew I had some heavily scheduled days, I wrote an extra post preparing myself for the near future. An editorial calendar for the blog started to sound ideal versus restricting. We shall see.

3. I began to see some themes taking place over the course of this month. Some of the things I blogged about frequently were: breathing room and undoing. This topic just won’t leave me, so more to come…

4. The best part about committing to any journey for 30-days is you take your word seriously. Your intentions become real. You feel on-fire moving through your day. More to come on this as I have a special interview with a friend who coaches others through mental and physical 30 day challenges. She gave me a pep-talk in the beginning of my 30-day blog affair with the advice to just take on this one thing (rather than trying to do 10 things and once). Keep it simple. And to just do it!

5. Any writer will tell you they love acknowledgement for their writing. Comments and followers are great. The more the merrier! I will not pretend to say this doesn’t matter. But writing consistently had me care less about what others thought, obsessing over stats, etc. and just get to work.  This was good for my writing soul. Anyone who wants more blog followers, just write more regularly!

6. I don’t consider myself to be a poet. I surprised myself this month with my Bedtime Haiku post when I didn’t have the energy to write much or for too long. (I loved it, and may bring this in more often. Stay tuned…) I could do this every day for a month (so don’t tempt me, you know that could happen!)

So tonight I’m signing off with Blogging Haiku:

Choose Your Own Journey

Is a blogging home for me

A full heart tonight5734_1193154504068_8116_n


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A year ago today we left New Jersey for Ojai. We had a layover in Las Vegas (not recommended when traveling with a toddler who can’t stay away from slot machines). My son was chased by the gaming officials, knowing I couldn’t run after him at 31 weeks pregnant. Life was full of adventure and possibility after relinquishing control embracing the journey into the unknown. Tempted to post: “California or BUST!”  I remained silent virtually, thinking a woman in her 3rd trimester with a doctor’s note to let me on board should not tempt fate.

When we arrived in Ojai late that night, there was a feeling of finally being home. We were welcomed by little things my in-laws left (which felt like such big things) having been unsettled since Hurricane Sandy.

photo (2)

We had been in Ojai a few months before, the same week Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast ravishing Breezy Point, where were living at the time. When we packed for our trip to Ojai in October, I never expected not to return to Breezy Point. It was surreal returning in late November to grab a few belongings witnessing the devastation and life stopping in an instant. My son’s colored teddy bears were on the nightstand beside his bed. The plastic jack-o-lantern remained in the window which my mom bought to entertain Evan and give the house a Halloween flair. There were clues of our life before, erased like the tides.

While I was in Ojai, I learned of the fires over social media. Never really understanding Twitter, I was glued to the page as news about #breezypoint was unraveling before news stations could report. I spent the night fearing the worst to the people in a community I loved for the past 34 years as images of a 5, 6, and 7 alarm fire rang through my mind in areas I knew like the back of my hand. We had only been in Ojai for four days when Hurricane Sandy hit. I watched CNN constantly, in disbelief when familiar faces were being interviewed. I wasn’t sure where we would go when we returned, touched by the kindness of people who reached out inviting us into their homes.

Ultimately, it was a call for change sooner than planned. If not for Hurricane Sandy and that period of uncertainty, I don’t know that we would have made it here. The period between February and June of last year was precious. It was a time of nesting, redefining ourselves as a family, birthing, and community building, to see if this was where we belonged. My husband and I wistfully spoke of returning to California every winter, but there was always something. The further we settled into our New Jersey lives, the harder it became to think about leaving. We had big conversations, realizing we could choose our journey and design our life around our growing young family. I wanted to experiment before Evan was school-age, or feared living with regret. There were strong urges to let go and release our belongings to lighten the load, just as powerful as the urge to nest overcame me in the last days of pregnancy. I trusted things would work out, and ultimately leaped.

I spoke to a friend who I met a year ago (this week). She has been on a similar journey, leaving her corporate job behind in Massachusetts to follow her creative calling and moving to Santa Barbara. When we spoke last night, it was her 4-year anniversary. There is significance in honoring anniversaries, especially ones for the resilient spirit. There is power in honoring the part of ourselves that is scared and called. There is power in acknowledging gratitude for the way life has turned out, bigger and richer than my controlled, practical, and planning mind would conceive. Anniversaries remind us of who we were and where we have gone. There is power in honoring a journey that is now a written chapter of life.

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I am re-purposing today. I wrote the passage below 4 months ago: (9/25/13), just before leaving New Jersey and my job. I write to remember where I am and make sense of it all. It helps me recognize where I am in the present moment, reminding me of where I want to go. Writing is my GPS for intentional living.

Last night I remembered why I like being a speech-language pathologist watching some local therapists run a Hanen program. This was my love over the past 9 years, but I let my programs go after motherhood. I couldn’t find the time with babies of my own, balancing full-time work, adjusting to a less-full time schedule, moving, and figuring out how many hats I could wear (writer, mama, coach, speech-language pathologist) without looking like this:

caps for sale

Could I still wear them all? Did I need to give any up to excel at the others? Was wearing all of my hats causing me to move at a slower pace with this balancing act?

I spoke with my virtual writing group this morning. We spoke of white space and empty vessels. I  require breathing room in order to clear my plate before starting a new dish.

Where do I find joy? How am I recreating myself post motherhood (with two children now in tow?). 

Here is a snippet of my journey 4-months ago in the midst of my biggest transition yet…

I am leaving in three weeks. 

My 26-year-old self returned to New Jersey as a new speech-language-pathologist coming into the profession idealistically bright-eyed, determined to change the world of communication disorders. I am returning to California a 36-year-old mother of two, only wanting to leave the world a more compassionate place.

I am in transition again. I am transitioning from speech therapy to coaching. I am honoring the journey of the last decade.

I am grateful for the Hanen program, making me a better therapist. I stepped into coaching and teaching. I was so scared and so called.

Then there is Mom’s chemo. I am leaving, and my mom is a few weeks into chemo. When I returned a decade before, she did not have ovarian cancer. I had not had a mastectomy, or known I had the BRCA gene. Ignorance was bliss. We are the same, and changed in an instant. Life is fleeting. There are no guarantees. Precious time is slipping away.

I feel called to work with groups. I want others to know we are not alone. We have a story to tell, and we have companions on this journey. We are held. We hold. We are all interconnected.

I wanted to hold my families who wondered if their children would ever talk. My energy held them for so long: after the long evaluations when I’d see suspect Autism, after realizing a child might be deaf, I held their fears close. I wanted to hold all of these families until it became too much, and I felt myself going numb. I felt myself shutting down. There was no room to hold anything anymore. I was ready to throw my hands up in the air and let it all go.

I adored my Hanen families. I loved them for showing up. They had babysitters. They were committed. They were my reason for staying.

They inspired me to teach other professionals, they believed this work had value. I felt aligned with my vision. I felt the call to teach. I stepped into the role even when I felt too small and overwhelmed by life. I taught big workshops then went to the doctor the next day for another biopsy for a suspicious malignancy. My love of this work kept me from losing my mind on the journey. I gave a workshop to a group of 100 teachers when I was 37 weeks pregnant with Evan, scared I might give birth, wondering if the teachers were taking bets on when I would pop. I left for my maternity leave feeling complete.

The system has changed. Billing, logistics, more paperwork, liability, proposed budget cuts. I want to escape it all. I feel constricted yearning for expansion.

Since becoming a mom, I don’t want to be a super-SLP. I just want to be a place of compassion. “You are doing all right. This his hard. I hear you sister. I am not the expert on potty training – my son has taken over a year, and you have no idea how much I bribed him. It is hair-pulling work.”

I bring forth my gifts by writing to understand them. I want to show others I struggle. I am far from perfect, or even good enough on my best days. But I am enough. I don’t need to over-do to prove it to myself and win the busy-game. I am taking a time out. I don’t want to be too busy anymore. I’m not too busy.

I am leaving because it is time.

My family calls me. A next chapter calls me. I am freaking out (scared) and taking a huge leap of faith (called).


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Pema Chodron speaks to my soul. In her book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change she helps me make sense of my life the past 18 months. The book begins: “As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid  ground – something predictable and safe to stand on – seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

I believe we are born in the transitions.

I believe the essence of Choose Your Own Journey is that we are always changing, through intentional choices.

Change is the only constant in life.  

I’m thankful for the chaos feeling my adaptability muscles grow (which have been on over-drive the past year).

I didn't even KNOW the amount of change coming when I picked it~I didn’t even KNOW the amount of change coming when I picked this card

Aftermath of Hurricane SandyAftermath of Hurricane Sandy

leaving a job, and what's next on the path...

And what’s next on the journey: http://www.ellenightingale.com
(still in progress, but slowly putting out my shingle)

And here I stand now, with many new things on the horizon. I often go along my journey quietly, stepping up once I’m feeling stronger, learning to trust myself with each baby step along the path.

Some close friends and family have known I’ve been part of a coach-training program the last 6-months. Coaching as a career has spoken to me for years, but it took me this long to embrace it as part of my path as a creative entrepreneur. It’s where I’m melding my gifts of writing, creating, and putting together some really authentic soul-seeking programs (workshops, retreats, and online courses) in the coming months.

What does a coach DO?  (question from my family members)

Coaching becomes a road map during the winds of change. It is a compass when there is temptation to pull off the side of the road and curl up in the covers of the first cheap motel, even though you are called to a beautiful life by the sea. But which sea? And how do you get there when there isn’t a clear map just a vague idea of a body of water? It is difficult to see through the fog of our own thoughts. There is a tendency to want to stay in that motel and “play it safe” even if it is not really where we want to ultimately land. A coach holds onto your vision, reminding you about where you are going and helping you navigate the journey when you can’t see outside the box of possibilities.

I had a huge A-HA moment this weekend when I met with my coaching tribe for a retreat in Sedona. We came together and listened to the stories of who we are, where we are going, what gifts we brought to the table, and who we are called to serve (all of us had a unique imprint too). As I listened to each coach’s story, I experienced my own link between writing and coaching which now makes perfect sense. My gift to the world is how I naturally give meaning to and connect stories, editing and re-writing, and finding the “meat” (or important truth) for each individual. Listening to other’s stories and giving feedback is my superpower. I just never made that connection before.


Beautiful AOFM Coaching Tribe

I have decided to initially offer an exclusive deal to my blog readers who have been supportive since my journey began online in 2009. You are the ones who have kept me going, telling me what I wrote made a difference. THAT is what propelled me to choose my own journey when I would occasionally waver with doubt. I am grateful for every email, comment, or words of acknowledgement. I often still write thinking it’s just my mom who reads these posts, and am surprised when readers share what I wrote affected them.

Because I love my readers so much, and if what I write resonates with you – I have decided to put my first offering here:

I have 12 coaching spots available in the next 4 months which are an exclusive special (50% off my 2014 rates – which will never be this low again) for blog readers.

If you are interested in coming along on this journey, or want to know more – just reach out and let me know. Supporting you with YOUR own journey is truly my life’s work and calling.

“Curiosity about life in all its aspects is still the secret of all creative people.” – Leo Burnet

I’d love to hear what magic you want to create in 2014~

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I can’t believe it’s been a month since leaving home.  We are falling into the routine of gypsy living, and my 3 bridge commute melts away each time I return. There are magical summer days watching the little guy explore beach living:

finally making friends with his shadow

requests for sand pictures of the no-longer feared “Mr. Met”

riding in his chariot with cutie-pie cousin Cakes

Part of me knows there are bigger forces than myself putting me here now.  I am living in the present moment, soaking up these summer days for all they are worth.

And then there are days I question myself.  I wonder if I’m on the right path.  I freak out a bit (tons!), wanting reassurance I’m moving in some direction. I’m learning I’ve always had my answers.  I just need to get quiet and slow down enough to listen.  While on an archaeological journal dig of the last 4 years, I’m discovering clear intentions which have manifested spilled all over the pages. I celebrated a 4 year anniversary with some special people last week.  They are my transformational love tribe.  We’ve celebrated births, (3 babies and 4 grandbabies in the group), gallery openings, promotions, off-Broadway shows, cross country moves, new & old relationships, marathons, triathlons, and our insane good times whenever we come together.  I love these folks (and those with us in spirit!) with my whole heart. Before meeting them, I had an unscheduled hour to myself.  I crossed the street to the hotel where we’d met in a series of transformational workshops.  I did not realize initially how destined I was to be with this group, with big personal leaps on the horizon.

Each corridor of the hotel floods me with memories.  I took a moment to remember the girl I was 4 years ago, honoring who I’ve become on my journey. That girl  did not know she’d have a mastectomy exactly one year later.  She wanted to become a mother, but didn’t understand the urgency of her desire until faced with the possibility of not becoming one.   She became versed on clear intentions and action moving towards vision.  She learned how she was being trumped what she was doing.  She began to value vulnerability and intimacy by sharing from an open heart.  She learned how to ask for support, since she wasn’t created to do it all alone.  She learned responsibility and commitment needed embracing rather than shrinking. How perfect these lessons are flooding back this week, when I need them most.

In this week of anniversaries, I’m honoring her.  I’m honoring her for taking these steps and laying the foundation for taking flight into the unknown again, and remembering her wings on the way down.

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Last Saturday we had a garage sale.   The week before was tense, tiring, and emotional as we navigated through our things which were near and dear but ready for a new home.  I held onto my vision of simplicity, letting go of anything keeping me moored versus moving me forward.

Early morning was iffy with a downpour the night before, but it turned into picture-perfect garage sale weather.

We were off to a bang with some earlybirds: one of our higher priced pieces sold for $35 along with a Jack Daniels statue from the pub for $2.  The buyer of the JD statue was sad it wasn’t made of marble (really???) but decided a styrofoam Jack would be perfect in his home.

Then came the hagglers and my inner gang-busta came out.  Let me preface this: I love humanity and believe in the goodness of humankind.  I was selling children’s books at $1 each.  (I would have taken 50 cents, but learned to price higher so the hagglers could haggle).  One woman told me she shipped books to Africa, so I cut her a deal: 5 books for $1.  We went through the bin of 65 books for $13.  She started yelling at me, “Ten dollars!  Ten dollars!  Ten dollars!”

“Thirteen,” I was firm, turning away from her and returning to the friendly folks who found our stuff to be steals.  (True comment from a garage sale shopper: “You are having the best garage sale in town.”  Did I mention it was town-wide garage sale day?)

The woman’s frantic yelling about “Ten Dollars!” escalated, and my husband (garage sale good-cop) let her have ’em unaware of my 80% knock down already.  BTW: I am sure my children’s books are in a swap meet this weekend rather than en route to Africa, although if I am wrong, by the grace of God, and those $3 made a difference – so help me.

Next neat moment was seeing my lunch room aide Laura from elementary school.  She was young then (nearly 25 years ago), and does not look a day over forty.  She was the fifth grade aide when I had my notorious hair cut, a spiked-feathered-bang “fix” by the barber after cutting my own bangs.   What I remember about Laura was her kindness (pity?) after this incident.  She genuinely cared about my classmates giving each of us an ornament for Christmas.  I shared my recollections dropping other lunch-aide names to place my era, since I’m no longer the fifth grader with spiked bangs, and she has worked in different schools for 25 years.  (This all happened while being yelled at by the haggler above).  And by the way, do you know what Laura bought?  (I say “bought” for $2, because she refused to let me give them to her).  Supplies from my arts and crafts bins for the kids she sees now.

Next up was a garage sale angel.  I was excited to host a big clothing swap the night before, but became overwhelmed and canceled it (twice).  I noticed this woman who had incredible taste picking through my clothes.  She is opening her own urban style clothing resale store next month, and loved my style.  With armloads of things, we went on the porch and came to a fair price on each item.  (So different from the book haggler).  This was such a win-win.  She walked away with TONS of “SO Ellen clothes”, and I had a few hundred dollars in hand.  I loved my style taking on a life somewhere else, and can’t wait to shop there when it opens.  As I checked out her website, I saw this – which totally sums up my attitude.

Bye clothes!!!

Some other things I let go of:

Tina Turner wig: (I truly feel my inner-Tina daily without needing the wig anymore as a reminder.  Also, this wig has given my son nightmares as he shrieks every time I take it out of the closet.)

Dominatrix belt and eye covers: sold to this lovely woman who teaches Zumba to seniors, and thought it would be fun to do her routine in costume!  I LOVE!!!

Okay, so here is the biggest beautiful moment of the garage sale.  I put out this book, about breast reconstruction – but felt guilty about doing so.  I really wanted to give this book to a woman going through a similar journey.  A woman browsed my books.  I didn’t notice her holding the Breast Reconstruction book until she said, “Excuse me.  Can I ask you – did you have cancer?”

I now noticed her and her short hair and sparkling eyes.

“I have the BRCA-2 gene,” I shared.

“I have the BRCA-2 gene too,” she said.  Time momentarily stood still.  We spoke about our own paths, mastectomies, doctors, and family histories.  She shared what it was like finding out she had BRCA after breast cancer, while I shared what it was like finding out before having children.  She didn’t know many others with BRCA.  I knew a whole slew of women from FORCE, and others whose life stories sit waiting to be shared on my computer.

The past two years, I’ve wanted to let go of writing about this, wanting to write about anything other than breasts and cancer.  But each time I encounter someone like this woman, I wonder if I’m withholding stories that can change lives.

Now I’m reconsidering.  I’m holding on jut a little bit longer, not letting go, and taking this lesson from the day.

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I loved that this was our first home. It was a fluke I found it. A family I worked with saw the rental sign telling me to drive by. I had never been down this road before, and I stalked it for days until we met. I loved that you wanted us to live here, feeling like we won some sort of best renters contest. We were getting married the following month and had a sweet dog Journey who would be happy here. You wanted us to be happy here. All I wanted was to be happy here.

I loved that you allowed us to make your home our own: pulling up orange shag carpeting, polishing the hardwood floors patiently waiting to be unveiled. I loved removing wallpaper: especially peeling a whole sheet at once with the squirt of a spray bottle. This was cathartic for my pre-wedding nerves, focusing on painted rooms and beds for out-of-town guests, rather than the cumbersome details better left to someone else.

I loved watching the transformation of the library become my dressing room then a writing room then a writing/meditation room once friends created an altar after a home-cleansing. The coolest transformation was to a deer inspired nursery. Mike picked the decor because of frequent deer visitors in our back yard. He planned telling our son a personalized fairy tale of them coming to his window waiting for him to be born, with Journey reporting nightly the time had not come. Journey began sleeping in the nursery days before my son arrived, and I wondered if the fairy tale was coming true.

I loved entertaining like real adults in a space I was proud of. We loved the basement pub. While the rest of the house was cute, the pub was killer. It was filled with many celebrations: surprise birthday parties, World Cup tournaments, Scrabble games, impromptu karaoke/dance nights, poker rounds, and Mike’s favorite activity – relaxing and listening to his ever-growing collection of records.

The topic of our sunken tub always comes up with new visitors gathering in the bathroom to eye it in disbelief. I am shocked no one has fallen into the tub (knock on wood) in the 6 years we have been here. I spent many nights soaking in it, learning to relax and meditate, practicing extra self-care in the days leading up to my mastectomy. That sunken tub made “bathing” a favorite hobby.

I loved the patio in spring, summer, and fall nights, and BBQs with friends. On nights we hung on the patio together, Mike and I watched the stars, dreaming of our future in a home like this.

I loved the front porch. It was my sanctuary with sun streaming in the windows’ Southern exposure keeping it toasty regardless of the season. I loved journaling and reading there on rare rainy summer afternoons, where there was nowhere else I would rather be.

I loved the azalea bushes that bloom every year in early May. I loved the roses that are still blossoming even though I went too hedge-happy one year. Mike will probably say he loves the yard, and mowing is his favorite chore, with manly pride coming from a fresh-cut lawn.

Our friends who visit call it a happy place. “It has a tea and crumpets feel – like an English cottage,” one told me. I love that my cottage-style vision took form over the last 6 years.

I could go on and on about what else I loved: the neighbors, daily walks around the figure-eight loop of our block, and proximity to Quick Check during Hurricane Irene. I will miss it here. I wonder if I will continue to drive by with curiosity – or take an alternate route to avoid missing it. I am not sure how I will be after finally saying good-bye. Six years have never flown so fast, but I’m grateful time here was part of my journey.

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