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Re-claiming what I'd left behind: Learnings from my ancestors

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It’s been almost a full year since I said “yes” to an invitation from my ancestors and began to devote myself to exploring my lineage.  (some back story)

Since then, I’ve been in deep learning and listening mode.  I’ve been discovering things I never knew and remembering things that have always been a part of me but got forgotten along the way.

In a way, I’m fulfilling an inquiry that I recall asking my parents around the age of 8, sitting on the swingset, trying to make a family tree with crayon and drawing paper.  I remember being so disappointed at how many names were lost - beyond my great grandparents, so much was a mystery.

But so much more is happening underneath knowing the names of those who came before me.

I’m recognizing my deep privilege to be able to have access to written records of my family.  I am able to access certain information because in being white, my family’s story was centered in American record keeping.

I’m reclaiming the whole of myself.  I’m finding such magic within the practices of my ancestors - in how they connected to nature and to the divine, in how they prayed through dance and song, in how they connected to the essence of plants and in how they held such reverence for their own personal holy allies.  

Some of these practices I have been lucky enough to catch glimpses of in my own upbringing, and some I’ve learned in my own spiritual studies of the past - but some are completely new to me.  

I’m recognizing that some of these practices got left behind as my great-grandparents shifted their practices to be “more American.” Or, more accurately, belonging to the United States.   

Within that, I wasn’t able to see the magic of these practices clearly, and so I looked pretty much everywhere else besides my own culture’s traditions for connecting to the divine, since my teenage years.

But I’m also aware that a lot of these practices were always accessible to me. While some things I’ve always been aware of, always practiced, and always wanted to learn about...quite a lot of it *I* left behind.  

It wasn’t only my great-grandparents leaving things behind - it was me.  

I didn’t deem the practices as being worthy of being explored - turning against the whole of myself and my whole lineage.  Instead, what ended up happening was perhaps at first an appreciation for other cultures and practices, but in the end, an appropriation.  The more that I explore racism within our society and how I’ve played my part in that, the more I realize this.

I’ve been learning to shift from teacher to student.  I am in deep inquiry, asking a million questions to others, to google, to my ancestors, and to my own DNA and blood.

In this place, I’ve been sort of grappling with how to/if I should share my journey in this space and how it applies to the focus of my work.  

What is personal?  What is just for me?  Is it something I can talk about if it’s not a part of my work (here, being my job).  

Do all of my passions and loves have to pour into my work?  Can I talk about something that is my spiritual work but is not my work right now in this moment to teach to others?  

As someone who has shared so much of my spiritual work with my community, this has been something I’ve been exploring inwardly.

When I ask this question to my bones and to the Tarot, I hear that this is mine to do for me.  

That this is personal and deep.  

That I am to immerse myself in it, even if it is not directly a part of my work (aka my “job”) in this moment.

I’ve found it curious that since this question felt so huge to me, that I haven’t written you all very much this year or shared much on Instagram.  As I’ve been integrating and learning so much this year about not only my lineage but also different social justice issues, I haven’t been very good about putting all of that into words…and it’s honestly taken me awhile to explore the line between the personal and the public.

Am I an advocate for having your work be something you are deeply passionate about?  100%, absolutely, yes.

But what I’ve come to learn from this is that not *all* of my passions need to be what I do for a living.  That works both ways - this means I can pour time into something and have it just be my passion. And that time is still valuable.  

I find that I personally thrive with my work focused on one specific thing instead of being scattered in a handful of directions.


I realize that my confusion about this passion of mine was totally born from a place of capitalism. That it wasn’t worth talking about too much to my community because it wasn’t something that I am weaving into what earns me a living.  It is my spiritual work, it is my deep work, it is what I fill my spare time with, it is how I pray and how I connect to the divine...but it’s not directly a part of what I’m doing with my community in this moment.  Even though my work is very spiritually connected, it’s not 100% what I consider to be the entire whole of my spiritual practice.


Some of that is just for me.  

If you are looking for others to support you on the path of exploring your own ancestry, just a few are Marybeth Bonfiglio, Leesa Renee Hall, Daniel Foor, Daria Antoine, and this current issue of Life as Ceremony magazine.  

I am sending deep love to each of you for being here, for witnessing my spiritual journey, and for supporting my work with your presence.

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Integration

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For the next two weeks, those who have joined me in my current offering of Squarespace Sovereignty are in a period of integration.

This space is carved out for them so that they may really sit with the space of their website that they are crafting and explore what desires to come forward for them without ingesting any new material.

It’s two weeks of them and their online spaces, listening, exploring, visioning, playing, and celebrating all that has unfolded and all that is to come.

I have been in what feels like a period of integration this year myself as I sit in inquiry with my ancestors in a place of listening and learning.

I pulled The Hanged Man for a client recently - a card of pause, of rest, of integration - and she spoke of how it seemed that the bat in this card was embraced in a blanket of wings - a little cocoon of growth and transformation.

I love the wisdom in this card and in what my client saw in this cute little 🦇. Sometimes the deepest flashes of wisdom come from the stillness and pause within. From that place, we can take action - when the time is right.

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I took a month off! Here's how it happened.

 The Hermit illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

The Hermit illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

Hello love,

I’m just coming back to the online world after a full month off. I had a couple of minor but very needed procedures on one of my eyes in early June, and I feel so blessed that I was able to carve out that time needed to fully heal, to rest, to be present with myself, and to integrate some inner explorations that I’ve been working through since late last year.

Taking a swath of time off in this way is not something that comes easily to me. I love the work that I do and I can find it difficult to step away. I know that a part of this is from a true joy in my craft - my whole being lights up playing with design, teaching, and Tarot.

But I also know that some of this is internalized from my past, my family, my lineage, and society. 

Both as a self-employed individual and as someone who held multiple jobs, I’ve gone months and months without a full day off.


My family members who have held multiple jobs and worked upwards of 70 hours a week have instilled in me that over-work is something of which to be proud. Many of my ancestors come from an area in Italy known as “Terra di Lavoro,” which translates to “Land of Work.” While the word here “Lavoro” is actually in reference to the name of ancient peoples who once inhabited this land, the energetics of labor is present nevertheless.

Here in the States, there is this essence of wearing a badge of honor for hours worked. In corporations, people take pride in arriving first or leaving last - or perhaps they feel pressured to do so on account of societal expectations. Just yesterday while I was on a walk to get some tea, I overheard two programmers talking about how soul-crushing their strenuous 60-hour work week was, but yet, they felt pressured to participate in that system.

I fully honor that, as a fault of our society, sometimes it is necessary for an individual to work multiple jobs and many hours in order to secure housing and food or to pay to medical bills. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about how health insurance is tied to certain kinds of jobs, and then to think about what happens when one becomes ill and loses that job.

I realize that sometimes, we need to do certain things in order for our own wellbeing or for the wellbeing of our loved ones.

But I notice within myself and within other entrepreneurs a certain addiction to work. We feel that we need to do it all. We feel like it’s expected of us to answer an email straight away, no matter the hour. It’s expected that we will respond to a comment on social media, or we feel obligated to bend our boundaries in order to feel like we are doing good work for our clients.

With this programming, it can be especially difficult to take time off - whether on vacation, as a sabbatical, to go on a spiritual pilgrimage, or to nourish one’s body, mind, or heart. There’s also taking time off on the weekends, holidays, or on planned days to just enjoy life outside of the work that you do. Your work may be your passion (I’m so lucky that mine is!) but a scheduled break is necessary for creative flow and energy.

I knew that one of my pieces of inner exploration during this time off would be to really allow myself to fully lean into a feeling of surrender.To trust that my clients would be okay, that my systems would run smoothly, and that people wouldn’t forget about my upcoming offerings. To know that my business manager would be there if anything came up. I may have been forced into that a bit with the fact that I couldn’t see very well and reading small print was difficult - but this space was so crucial for my own healing.

During this time off, I was also able to be more present for my fur-child when he wasn’t feeling well, and to have more connection time with my husband. When his family came to visit, even with my eyes healing, I was able to spend more time with them than in past years.

At first, I felt guilty for taking this time off. I know this space for healing isn’t something that everyone has access too. I feel very fortunate and grateful that it worked out in this way. I witness that this is a privilege.

I also believe that everyone has a right to boundaries and rest within their work day. I wish that was accessible to everyone.

If you are an entrepreneur thinking of taking some time off ...

...maybe a scheduled Friday Fun Day for yourself (I try to take at least half a day off from doing client work on Fridays, usually a full day)
...a weekend of not checking your email
...a week of being off the grid
...or a full month of luscious self care and play

I've got some ways to support everything in falling into place so that you can really rest + restore and be present for your time-off adventures or healing.
 

1. SET UP AN AUTO-RESPONDER.

This is something that I feel both sets my mind at ease and sets energetic boundaries between myself and anyone who may be saying hello in my inbox. In fact, I used to have an auto-responder set up for the weekends in order to let people know that I would be looking forward to replying to their email on Monday, but after a while I felt like I didn't need it any more.  

I set up an auto-responder for my month off. It included:
+ a little bit about what was going on
+ when I would be back
+ information about my business manager, who may respond for me (more about this in a minute!)
+ details about what I'd be offering once I was back

If you're wanting help with creating a clear + helpful auto-responder, check out this set of templates from Alexandra Franzen.
 

2. FIND SUPPORT.

If you're able to...I highly recommend hiring a Virtual Assistant or Online Business Manager, even if just for the time that you have carved out to be away if it's for an extended period in time. In this way, your VA or OBM can respond to any inquiries or important messages in your inbox + social media for you while you're away.

If you don't have a VA at this time, one way to support yourself is to take Alexandra's suggestion above for auto-responders and provide answers to any questions that are general but that you would deem important. For example, I may share details on my upcoming design schedule, or direct people to an intake form to get started in the process for my mentoring work.


3. RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO SNEAK BACK INTO WORK-MODE.

Have you heard of the notion of "work creep"? It's what happens when it's 8pm you are settling in to watch Queer Eye on Netflix and then you notice that your gmail tab shows an unread message. "What exciting news could that be?" you ask yourself, clicking over to that tab. Then before you know it, you're diving into a project that probably could have waited until tomorrow.

If you're able, really give yourself that time off. Whether it's an afternoon or a weekend, a week or a month - know that the space you create for yourself is supporting you in fully showing up when you are scheduled to return.


4. SHARE YOUR PLAN WITH AS MANY OF YOUR CLIENTS AS POSSIBLE.

While the need for unexpected time off can't be helped, if you know that you'll be taking time off, share that with your clients. For example, if you desire to take every Monday off, bring that up in on-boarding conversations and write it into contracts. If you have a week-long vacation coming up, share what you'll be up to with clients who will be working with you during that time frame. For my month off, I tried to let my design retainer clients know as far in advance as possible, and I did some re-scheduling in advance for my 1:1 mentoring clients and my group offerings.

I felt *so* supported by my community when I shared my plans and everyone knew what to expect.


5. BLOCK OUT YOUR CALENDAR AS FAR IN ADVANCE AS POSSIBLE.

Again, sometimes things just come up and you aren't able to block off time in your calendar. But, if you are planning something in advance, blocking off time on your calendar supports you in multiple ways. For examples, for my Fun Fridays, in order to ensure that I dion't have any 1:1 calls or Tarot Readings on that day, I have it blocked off in my calendar as "Busy." But also, when I see that notification coming up on my phone or calendar that it's Fun Friday - my whole energetic system remembers that it's a day for me to play!

SO YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING:: WHAT AM I UP TO, NOW THAT I'M BACK?


During this time off, I haven't been able to see well and I've been *itching* to do some design and coding. I'll be starting off my time back in Drawing Within by doing some personal creative projects with logos and coding, and plan on carving out "play" time blocks within my work week.  

I'm also gearing up for the upcoming round of Squarespace Sovereignty, which starts in August! There are just 2 spots available for those who would like full logo design, and 3 spots for those who already have their own logo. If you're interested, click on the link above and we can set up a time to connect on a call to talk more about your website vision!

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Celebrating the mystical and the technical

create your own site in Squarespace

When I designed my first website in 1997 or worked with my very own first tarot deck in 2006 - I never would have guessed that these two passions of mine would have intersected in the way that they do today.

Creating a personal website was my first art form. A couple of years after I created my first website, I designed my first "professional" website - it was geared towards educating people about environmental issues. I set up a super low-tech newsletter (there was no Mailchimp then!), and I was delighted when my website was used for an educational program at a university in California.

That experience showed me the potential of digital design, marketing, + images - and the reach that your work can have when it is in virtual form.

In college I started working with other forms of art - poetry, painting, and photography. I designed a portfolio for myself using HTML entirely in notepad - which was so fun and rewarding for me. The experience of coding in that way felt just as magical as moving paint around on canvas - it lit me up. 

In college I also started exploring spirituality and my intuition in a more focused way. I was drawn to work with the Tarot with the deepest sense of inner attraction. As I met the archetype within each card, it felt like meeting a new friend - and also, meeting a different part of myself. 
Now, with my work, I feel as though all of my passions: creativity, teaching, and spirituality combine in the perfect way here. It delights me that these components of myself can play together to fully.

Ultimately, I believe that the essence of your business should be reflected in the visual imprint of your online home.

Design and clarity leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

When I combine my eye for design with my intuition, a certain sort of alchemy happens. Your brand's energy transforms, and your audience is able to ground into your important work. 

I have officially opened the doors for Squarespace Sovereignty - a journey towards creating your own website with confidence with heaps of support and mentoring from me. See my Instagram stories highlights to learn more - we begin online in Aug. or join me live in PDX in Nov.!

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Where I've been dwelling

This is where my heart has been since Samhain, when I received a clear call from my ancestors to listen.

I have been combing through decades of century’s old Italian script, in a quest to find the thread of birth, union, and death, to find the names of those who came before me, to fill in the blanks of the stories that I have held dear since childhood.

I have been walking the streets of villages that my DNA has dwelled in for centuries though the cosmic powers of Google Maps, learning the names of the streets dedicated to roses and saints, to Goddesses and Hazelnuts, to the bodies of water, to the towering mountains. 

I have been learning their language, studying verb tenses and singing their songs, allowing their words to pour over my tongue like an elixir, leaning on my love of Spanish like a temple pillar.

I’ve been finding patterns in the naming - my ancestors honored Saint’s Days, the names of the village churches, remembered those who came before them, adored the great Mother. 

I feel privileged to know more names, to find neighbors, to celebrate, to mourn the losses of the loved ones of my loved one’s loved ones. I know not everyone is able to access this information. 

I remember being about 8 or so, sitting on my swing set, and asking my parents to name their ancestors for me, as far back as they could go. Making a map of aunts and uncles, great grand-parents and maiden names, cousins and speculations on where each part of the family was from.

I remember going to the Historical Society as a teenager, looking through dusty old books, finding addresses where my people had dwelled before they lived where I knew them to be.

And over the past 5 years or so, I’ve had the power of internet databases by my side. I’ve been piecing the mystery together. Finding naturalisation records, birthdates and village names. 

But there were pieces missing within my family tree. Until last month - I have found out so many names last month, my whole being is illuminated with joy. I recite these names like a prayer.

On Mother's Day, I visited a sacred place in Portland dedicated to Mary. As I’ve been connecting with my ancestors, I asked them what they would want me to do to honor the women who came before me on this day and that’s where they directed me to go. While I was there, I purchased Saint's Medals for each of my great-grandmothers names to honor them on this day. 
On that same day, when I got home, I found the birth certificates of 4 of my Great-Grandparents - even one who I had no hope of finding more information about. What's amazing about that is that I had the wrong birth year for her and happened to click on the records in a random spot in the year prior and there she was…

What's wild is that I had been looking for this information for about 5 years, & in a really focused way for about 9 months. But after buying these saint's medals, the information just sort of appeared in the same places I had been looking for it for a while.

So I’ve been time traveling, going back to the 1800’s, translating documents, witnessing the cycles, and digitally walking through the neighbourhoods of those who came before me, looking at the land from their perspective. I’ve been thinking about what has been passed down to me - my nose, my thighs, my jawline, my shoulders. How it’s all been passed down, little hints and glimmers of those who I don’t have photos for, but of those who’s names I now know.

Feeling them so much right now. It hasn’t all been comfortable. It hasn’t all been clear. But as I’ve been unpacking what is mine and what isn’t within my own personal practice, this is what is true for me, in this moment. 

I have never been to Italy, but when I studied abroad in Southern Spain, I felt so oddly at home and at peace there, in the Mediterranean, with the curved red tile roofs and the smell of warm olive oil drifting through the streets.

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