Apr 18, 2016 | posted in Foster Care | 14 comments

* Context offered at the bottom of this post. xo

My dearest A + A and little Lou,

The truth is that something horrible has happened. And so has something absolutely exquisite.

But you know that, don’t you? Because you skipped and trudged and crawled and danced your way through every tragically exquisite moment, right along with us, didn’t you?

That horrible thing and that wonderful one. . .well, they aren’t two things at all, now are they? No, my darlings. They are one. They are the same.

And this one horrible, wonderful thing is something that I wouldn’t give away for all stars in the heavens or all the sand in the sea or any and all of the tiny wonderful things the world has ever known. Do you hear my words? Let them sink to the deepest part of who you are, sweetest hearts. Because never have words held more profound truth.

The pain has been fierce and wicked and completely all encompassing. And yet, and yet. . . always, there’s a yet. . . the joy has been the precise balance to each suffocating pain . . . and THEN—that joy has gone and overflowed a thousand times and a thousand more. 

Because, my darlings, who could I ever be without you? Without having held you to my chest and smelled your sweet chocolate skin pressed against my face. . . without the sound of your incomprehensible, unassuming. . . PERFECT JOY ringing in my ears. . . without my eyes having been blessed by the radiant light of your smiles???

Since I met you, I have fallen apart (and then back together again) at least a hundred times. Nothing about this has been easy, my darlings. BUT EVERYTHING HAS BEEN BETTER.

If you ever find these words, my beautiful Summer Flower, my Glorious Sunshiney Day and my Perfect Stormy Sea . . .please know, that despite the excruciating pain, Mommy will never regret you. You will, forever and ever, be the crowning achievement of our family’s life. Every sacrifice was a raindrop in the ocean compared to the swell of love and light and beauty you brought into our world.

“No matter where you go, Mommy’s love will follow you there.” I hope you can forever hear the soft echo of those words, singing their way through your sweet little ears.

But if you don’t, because someday, you won’t. . . I hope you always know, on the deepest, most sacred level, you are worth it—you are worth everything, you always where, you always will be, you always are. Never have I seen more clearly into the face of the divine than when I looked into your bright eyes. And even when you forget me, even when you stop hearing my voice as you fall asleep at night, long after you’ve stopped hearing my laughter on the wind. . . decades after you’ve stopped meeting me in your dreams. . . I will STILL and FOREVER be loving you, and you will STILL and FOREVER be three of the most beautiful angels to have walked their way across this Earth. . .and parked a while here, in our arms.

And yet, and still, and always, God is real, and He is good. He loves you, my angels. And so do I.

xx,

Mom

 

**Context: As a general rule, I don’t believe a good blog post should require a formal preface.  But if ever there were an exception, I believe that it’s here, and I believe that it’s now. (Though, I still couldn’t bring myself to host said preface at the top of the post, le sigh.)

2 years ago, Richie and I became the adoring foster parents of three of the seven best children ever born on this earth—the other four came out of my very own uterus, and I couldn’t love any one of these seven humans more or less than another if I actively tried.

This kind of love, well, it’s simply ineffable.

We didn’t plan on any of this. When we met the children, we weren’t a licensed foster family. We weren’t even considering becoming a licensed foster family. . . like, ever. Foster care was one of those beautifully honorable things that other people did.

But one morning, we woke up, and there they were. (Believe it or not, I’m being relatively literal here, though unfortunately I can’t go into details of any sort [which has been one of the more challenging and isolating aspects of this entire journey].)

The short of it all is that they needed us. And wether she realized it at the time, or not, their biological mom needed us. And frankly, as we would come to learn, our family needed them too.

They didn’t just need SOMEBODY. No, I don’t believe that for a hot second.  They needed us.  And again, we needed them.  The most pure and precious power of divinity brought us together. And that, is a fact. 

And now, after a two year blogging hiatus. . . after just under 730 days of twists and turns and bends and forks and peaks and valleys. . . and free falls into what felt like the absolute oblivion of time and space navigating our  country’s nefarious foster care system and fighting for these kids—it’s time for us to say, “goodbye.” This, my friends. . . is act one of that goodbye.

Apr 03, 2014 | posted in Breathe, work/home balance, workshops | 12 comments

 I just heard from the hosting site, and there are only a few seats left!
Register now to reserve your space!

IS THIS COURSE RIGHT FOR ME?

This course is designed for any woman who is committed to realizing her full potential: as a mother, a small business owner . . . and a human being. It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started or if you’ve been running a successful (or not so successful—deep breath, we’ll fix that) business for years—nor does it matter what industry you’re in (AKA: it is NOT just for photographers). It’s not important if you’re single, if you’ve been married for a decade or if you’re a recent divorcée. You may be newly pregnant with your first child, or you may have so many children that you’ve recently lost count. If you are passionate about living your best life—making your greatest impact on your family and the world—this course is for you. Get ready to turn those big picture dreams into balancedengagingpassion-filled, and profitable realities.

STILL NOT CERTAIN THIS COURSE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you can answer “yes” to any of the following questions, The Breathe Intensive is definitely right for you.

Is there a gap between where you are now and where you truly want to be?

Are you unclear about where it is you truly want to be?

Are you overwhelmed by the constant balancing act of business and life?

Are you frustrated because you’re working your little heart out, but you just don’t seem to be achieving measurable or sustainable results?

Is your family suffering because they’re not receiving your best as you focus on keeping up with the never ending tasks of running a business?

Is your business suffering because you can’t seem to find the time or energy to devote to it while simultaneously giving your family everything they need/deserve?

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost sight of your TURE self among all the different roles you play?

Are you less happy with the state of your day to day life than you know you could/should be?

HOW LONG DOES THE CLASS RUN AND WHAT’S THE TIME COMMITMENT? 

The Breathe Intensive runs for 5 weeks.

Each monday, a new lesson will be delivered to our online classroom. Between lesson participation and homework assignments, and depending on the rhythm of each individual student, you can expect to spend approximately 3-4 hours per week “in class.”

CAN YOU GIVE ME MORE DETAILED PARTICIPATION INFORMATION SO I KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT? 

All participation and interaction will take place in a private online forum. (Registered students will receive instructions on how to access the forum a few days before class begins.)

On the first Monday of class, I will share Lesson 1 in the forum as well as e-mail it directly to every student. Throughout the week, as you read the lesson and work through the homework assignments, feel free to post thoughts/questions in the forum space. I will be available to answer questions and facilitate discussions, and I invite and encourage all class members to collaborate and work together to offer feedback and facilitate discussion as well! (Note: I will be accessible via the forum M-F only.)

Each week will follow the same pattern.

WILL I RECEIVE INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION AS IT RELATES TO MY SPECIFIC LIFE/GOALS?

Short answer, YES, ABSOLUTELY! 

I am PASSIONATE about real human to human connection. Not only will I be working to get to know each of you through online forum discussions throughout the duration of the class, I’ll also be sending out a questionnaire a few days before class begins to help me get acquainted with the specific challenges and needs each individual student enrolled in the course. Remember, anything you share in this questionnaire will be held in the strictest of confidence.

I’ll also be hosting four live question and answer calls throughout the duration of our 5 weeks together! Questions may be emailed in advance or asked during the live call. NOTE: calls will be recorded and links provided for those who are unable to participate live. Call-in information will be provided within the forum and via email.

Calls are scheduled as follows:

Friday, April 11 from 10-11am PST

Friday, April 18 from 10-11am PST

Friday, May 2 from 10-11am PST

Friday, May 9 from 10-11am PST.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN TELL ME TO HELP ME MAKE THIS DECISION? 

Look, there are a million different “right” ways to “balance business and life,” but not every right way is the right way for you. I know, because I’ve been where you are. And in my desperation, I turned to mentors, I attended courses, I read books. . . all promising life changing results as it relates to living a balanced, successful, fulfilling life.  In the end, not a one delivered on their promises, because those cookie cutter systems and structures are NOT one size fits all!

Undeterred (in fact, more resolved than EVER to find a way to live the life of my dreams),  I turned inward. I turned down the volume on outside influences, got real, worked hard, and intentionally built—from the inside out—a BEAUTIFUL way of living, balancing and thriving that works perfectly for me (and my family too).

The Breathe Intensive was born of my desire to help guide others along as they do the work to build the intentional life of their dreams—on their own terms.

I am 100% committed to holding your hand and guiding you along as you go through the process of getting clear about what you want and developing a realistic, CUSTOMIZED map to get you from where you currently are, to where you are sincerely meant to be.

This course is designed to empower and guide you along as you build the life of your dreams—a life of intention, balance, meaning and success—in a way that is broad enough to include your loftiest of goals AND a concern for the ultimate (and most exquisite) well being of the people in your life who matter the very most!

WHAT RESULTS CAN I EXPECT?

I can promise you that if you show up with your whole heart and really do the work, together we will define exactly what you’re looking for in terms of business and family life and determine exactly how the two can work together to create the very most powerful ends possible!

The results? A more clearly defined end in mind, increased marketability and profitability, enhanced connection and satisfaction in business, and greater order, happiness, connection, purpose and fulfillment at home!

NOTE: THIS COURSE ISN’T FOR EVERYONE.

If you’re looking for a lecture, this is not the class for you.

This course will require you to step in and do the hard work (read “smart work”) to get exactly what it is you really want (and more often than not, something even better). It will require you to get in touch with your core, the deepest parts of the guts that make you who you really are. This course will require you to answer some tough questions and face some tough facts, and it may require you to change deeply seeded and limiting thought patterns that could be holding you back from living your full potential–as a mother, a wife, an individual and a small business owner. If you’re not willing to grab your life  by the horns, with your entire heart and soul, then this class probably isn’t for you. 

WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

You can register for The Breathe Intensive here, or simply copy and paste the following url into your web browser: http://www.thedefineschool.com/learn/breathe/

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Add to Cart” to be directed to the registration and payment window.

I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU IN CLASS! 

NOTE: Registration opened today for The Breathe Intensive, Online! Register (or learn more) here.

 Wether you’re a “writer” or not, I’m a big believer in writing your way to a better life. (I should disclose that I subscribe to a school of thought that believes— if you are a human being, with a brain that thinks and a heart that feels, like it or not, you are a writer. You may be a writer who doesn’t write, but you are a writer, nonetheless.)

I’ve been journaling consistently since I was a tween, and the process has never failed to enrich my life and bring clarity and peace to my soul. Daily writing has offered me greater purpose, passion, companionship, fulfillment, clarity, equilibrium, connection, encouragement, direction, gratitude and peace (and that’s only the tip of an inexplicably expansive iceberg).

Even through my greatest tears and fears, even amid my most soul crushing challenges, even during the times when there was no hope to be found and despair threatened to overwhelm me completely, writing delivered hope. Writing shined a light on the dark and stormy places in my heart. Writing carried my heaviest fears and lifted my most horrifying burdens. Writing offered me respite from debilitating resistance and searing pain.

The bottom line? Writing will bless your life.

There are no rules. Simply put the pen to the paper, and go. You’ll be amazed by what you find.

Whether you’re new to daily journaling or you’re a seasoned pro, here are a list of 20 prompts to get you started or keep you inspired:

1. Think of a time when you felt deeply centered and connected. Describe that day (or that week or that month or that moment) with as much visceral and emotional detail as you can.

2. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

3. Make a list of inspiration. Include people, places, things, smells, events, colors, activities etc. There are no rules.

4. What are you very most afraid of? What is the worst case scenario if that greatest fear were realized? Would you survive? How?

5. Describe your ideal work day: include as much detail as you can.

6. Describe your ideal personal day: include as much detail as you can.

 7. What are your greatest strengths? How are you currently using these strengths to bless your own life and the world? If you aren’t currently engaging your strengths in the ways you know you could, what shifts could you make in order to engage these strengths more completely in your life?

 8. What are your greatest weaknesses? How can you work to intentionally embrace and/or overcome them?

9. What are your greatest weaknesses? How are you still “perfectly enough” despite of them? How have these weaknesses blessed your life?

10. If you could sit down to lunch with 5 people from any time in history or the present, who would you invite to your table and why?

 11. Who loves you unconditionally, and why?

12. What is the greatest success of your life thus far? What are you the very most proud of?

13. Write a list of gratitude: include everything you have been blessed with, down to the most simple things: like air to breathe in and out all day long.

14. How do you measure your value? What determines your worth?

15. When you think of the word “love” what do you see? and/or What other descriptive words come to mind?

 16. When you think of the word “strength” what do you see? and/or What other descriptive words come to mind?

 17. Describe the natural environment that most embodies who you are as an individual. Example, I am most like a meadow, because. . .  describe the scene with as much sensory detail as you can.

18. How patient and compassionate are you with others? How patient and compassionate are you with yourself? Do you treat yourself with the same care with which you treat others? More? Less? How does this exploration make you feel?

19.  What is the one thing you wish someone would say to you? What affirmation are you most eager to hear? Start with a paragraph if you need to and then whittle it down to just a sentence or two. Write this affirmation at least 20 times in both second and first person, respectively. Example: You are . . . 20 times AND I am . . . (2o times).

20. Project yourself into the future 2, 3 or 5 years from now. What kinds of memories do you hope to have created in your life?  Be as specific as possible. For example: “I hope to have had happy memories” isn’t gonna cut it. ;)

 Happy writing, friends!

xx,

Natalie

Mar 17, 2014 | posted in Breathe, on the agenda, workshops | 1 comment

IMAGE: SLOAN PHOTOGRAPHERS 

Gah! I cannot wait! The Breathe Intensive: making it work for mother entrepreneurs is FINALLY online! And it’s going to be AMAZING! 

REGISTRATION INFORMATION

What: a 5 week online course for mother entrepreneurs.

When: class begins April 7.

Where/How: The beauty of this class is that you can read, watch, practice, and participate throughout the week whenever it is convenient for you—from any timezone, anywhere you have Internet access, at any time of the day or night. Most students should expect to spend an average of 3-4 hours per week “in class” and/or completing homework assignments.

Sign Up: Registration opens here March 24.

Note: Bookmark the registration page and mark your calendars! Unlike other online courses that simply open registration to an infinite number of participants, I’m limiting class size significantly to ensure I can give you the individualized attention you deserve. 

_______________________________ 

SYLLABUS

WEEK ONE: Cultivation: define the why. Clear clutter, cut fat, purge garbage, and deliberately map the course.

WEEK TWO: Curation Part I: examine existing patterns of work/life passion, purpose and profit and get clear about what’s working, what’s not, and why.

WEEK THREE: Curation Part II: examine the existing environment, support and structure of your work/life—establish your individual Rules of Engagement for balance and success.

WEEK FOUR: Initiation: focus, define and implement a practical and immediately actionable “how” that’s destined for sustainable success.

WEEK FIVE: The Power of YOU (alternate title: It’s Totes Buddha, Yo): stepping in to your authentic artistic voice, maintaining momentum, and achieving (and celebrating!) measurable results.

SCHEDULE

All participation and interaction for this class will take place in a private online forum. (Registered students will receive instructions on how to access the forum a few days before class begins.)

On the first Monday of class, I will share Lesson 1 in the class forum as well as e-mail it directly to every student. Throughout the week, as you read the lesson and work through the homework assignments, feel free to post thoughts/questions in the forum space. I will be available to answer questions and facilitate discussions, and I invites and encourages all class members to collaborate and work together to offer feedback and facilitate discussion as well! (Note: I will be accessible via the forum M-F only.)

Each week will follow the same pattern.

Q and A calls: because I believe real human to human connection is such a powerful thing, I’ll be facilitating 4 question and answer calls throughout the duration of our 5 weeks together. Questions may be emailed in advance or asked during the live call (calls will be recorded and links provided for those who are unable to participate live). Conference call in information will be provided within our class forum and via email, and calls are scheduled as follows:  Friday, April 11 from 10-11am PST | Friday, April 18 from 10-11am PST | Friday, May 2 from 10-11am PST | Friday, May 9 from 10-11am PST.

NOTE: As each group has it’s own unique dynamic, a few days before class begins, I will send out a simple questionnaire to help me get acquainted with the specific challenges and needs of the students enrolled in the course. Feel free to share as much or as little as you would like, or don’t fill out the questionnaire at all. This is your rodeo, partner! Remember, anything you share in this questionnaire will be held in the strictest of confidence.

 _______________________________

IMAGE: SLOAN PHOTOGRAPHERS 

A Quick History

The moment The Breathe Intensive was conceived, I knew the most logical format would be an online course. It is, after all, a curriculum developed for mother entrepreneurs—the irony of requiring time away from family and work in order to learn to better manage family and work was not lost on me. However, I maintained, and still do, that sometimes you have to take a few steps back in order to take leaps and bounds forward. Plus, I feared that the intimate nature of Breathe would be lost in an online community.

However, after Breathe officially launched in 2011, week after week, month after month and year after year I fielded dozens upon dozens—if not hundreds—of requests for an online variation of the intensive. I haven’t turned a deaf ear to these requests. I’ve spent the last couple of years sincerely considering how to make this work in a way that would preserve the integrity of the material—no, the integrity of the entire Breathe experience—while simultaneously allowing participation by those who are desperate to attend yet find it (during this particular stage of life) logistically impossible to do so.

Long story short, we’re finally there, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  In fact, now that I’ve done the work to convert the material to an online format, I’m seeing all the ways this will be an even BETTER Breathe experience than ever before!

I can’t wait to see you in class!!!!

Dec 09, 2013 | posted in Family Portraits | 21 comments

I love this family so much that my face hurts from smiling so hard as I worked on their images! Meet Matt and Angie Sloan (and company). They are the most AMAZING photographer duo, and the most INCREDIBLE friends you could ever wish for. It’s impossible to be with Matt and Angie and their sweet kiddos without feeling totally safe, appreciated and loved. We feel so blessed to have them in our lives!

PS In other news, we leave for Oahu on Wednesday!!!!!!! One month in home sweet Hawaii! Mele Kalikimaka to ME!