Woman Crush Wednesday: After This with Claire Bidwell Smith


Welcome to the new website design! I’m still adding some things, redecorating and cleaning things up a bit over here, but you can poke around and take a look. I can reply back to your comments now because I’ve said goodbye to the dark ages which means I’m NEW AGE. Cue the Yanni music. Wait, no, don’t. The spring cleaning bug keeps delivering! But enough about that, it’s WCW.

My friend Claire Bidwell Smith shared a post here a while back about raising her girls as a motherless mother, and I’m honored to have her back today for Woman Crush Wednesday to talk about her new book (out yesterday!), After This, in which she explores questions about the afterlife and fears about what happens to us when we die. Claire is a grief therapist, writer and mom whose first book, Rules of Inheritance, chronicles the loss of her parents. I’m also lucky to call Claire my friend and have learned so much through working with her (Spark Retreat, returning this September and November) and witnessing how she uses her gifts–both as therapist and writer–to help people through their grief and pain. After This is beautifully written, respectfully presents many different beliefs and experiences and is told through relatable stories and feelings of parenthood–worries and questions we all share.

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1. One of my favorite things about After This are the letters to your girls throughout the book. For me, what makes the subject matter (what happens after we die) so critical is buried in those letters–the connection to our kids, the idea that love for our family is infinite. It wasn’t until I had kids that the fear of death–both for me and for them–became something really heavy. We both recently lost friends who were mothers of young children, you lost both your parents–can you talk about what writing this book and the experiences you went through doing so did to calm those fears?

I began writing letters to my daughters before they were even born. Having lost my mother at 18, I have this compulsion to make sure that if I depart their world early I have left behind something that they can turn to. As I worked on the book, and explored my own fears and beliefs about what happens when we die, these letters became more important than ever.

Not only that, but during the course of writing this book one of my best friends died of breast cancer — a 37 year old mother of two children. Watching her say goodbye to her children was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life. But it was also somehow comforting. Here was this woman who I had admired for close to twenty years. As a pair of friends, she was always the more beautiful, the more confident, the more successful one, and she was the one who got married first, and became a mom first. In a sense she had pioneered all these life moments, and then even death. After she was gone, every time I would find myself worrying about what it might be like to die and leave my girls, I would think to myself, well, Abby faced this. And not only that, but she faced it with grace and bravery. It gave me hope in a weird way that one day I would be able to face my biggest fear just as bravely as she did.

But what also gave me a lot of peace during the course of writing this book was simply exploring my own belief system about the afterlife. Prior to beginning this journey I had been afraid to even look at it, to even confront my own notions about what happens when we die. It was too scary. But I found that as I took steps to do so, and then eventually really delved into it, that anxiety eases. I mean, as a therapist, I already know that this is how things work. Talking about our biggest fears, and exploring them, is always what diminishes them. I’m so grateful now that I had the guts to even try.

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2. You recently said in an interview “there are as many ways to be dead as there are to be alive.” I love that–can you expound?

That sentence came to me late one night in conversation with a deeply spiritual friend. We were discussing all the ways people choose to believe in life, all the different religions and spiritualities that people use to understand the meaning of existence. It’s beautiful really, how varied and intricate we are as a species. There are so many ways to live in this world. I believe the same is true about the other side. If anything, my goal as a person, and as a mother, and as a therapist, is to be open to all of it, to be curious and appreciative of all of our experiences.

3. You do a wonderful job of exploring many different afterlife beliefs in After This, from interviewing rabbis and priests to spending time at a spiritual camp. Was there a common thread you found that linked all these together?

This may sound corny, but the common thread is always love and the human connection. I mean, when we strip it all away, that’s always the only thing left. Our love for each other, our relationships in this life. It’s not houses or cars or material things that we will miss when we depart this world; it’s the people. So in every belief system I explored, the common thread running through them was the sustained bond between people — how to hold onto it even in death, how to make sense of our lives when the people we miss are gone.

In many of the western religions I got into there was a real emphasis on being a good person, on living a good life, and on working to make this world a better place than it was when we arrived. I take a lot of comfort in that. At the end of the day, it’s sort of all we can do, isn’t it? Be the best mother, the best friend, the best co-worker or spouse or sibling we can be. There’s a simplicity in that which I really appreciate it.

4. One thing I really admire about you is the way you present these hard topics to your kids. I think we avoid talking about death to kids because we’re trying to protect them. We don’t want them to worry that something will happen to the people they love, but death is a part of life. I’m sure being a grief counselor and having been through loss early in life makes you more comfortable talking about it with your kids. Why do you think it’s important to talk about death with your kids? How can we comfortably introduce the topic of death with young kids (I love the butterfly story in the book, by the way)?

I think it’s incredibly important that we talk to our children about death. When my mother died when I was eighteen, no one had ever really spoken to me about death and I had absolutely zero context for it. It was startling and overwhelming to be hit with it like that. I think if we as a culture start talking about it earlier, it won’t have such a traumatic impact when we inevitably have to face it in our own lives.

I began talking about death very early on with my young daughters, simply because my parents are gone and they constantly ask me a million questions about their absence. Some of their questions are hard to answer though and I naturally turned to my therapist tricks — turning the questions back on them. What do YOU think happens, sweetie? Where do YOU think we go?

Their answers were fascinating and so sweet. I think as adults we tend to make death this very complex and nuanced thing, but kids have this way of parsing it down to something very simple.

I very much want my daughters to feel free to come up with their own ideas and to explore them as much as they want. We’ve read a lot of children’s books about death and my oldest daughter Vera really took to the idea of heaven, in a way that is different from my own idea of it, but I love that she has her own beliefs. She talks to my mother all the time, and even makes me talk to her to with her, which makes me cry happy tears every single time.

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5. What experience/afterlife understanding surprised you the most (considering any reservations/skepticism you had going into this experience) writing this book?

For me it was really just opening up to the idea that there is an afterlife at all. After my mother died I was so consumed with grief and sadness that it somehow seemed easier to believe that there was nothing after this life. All I wanted was to have my mother back, and the idea of her being somewhere else, and not being able to access her, was too overwhelming.

It took me many years to begin to open up to the idea of an afterlife, to allow myself to have faith in something bigger than myself. The process of exploring my beliefs, of exploring the beliefs of so many religions and cultures, and eventually finding that faith, was incredibly humbling and wildly rewarding. It’s a journey that’s not over; I don’t think it will ever be for me, or maybe for any of us. But like that old adage says: it’s not the destination that’s important, but the path itself.


Thank you so much, friend, for sharing this. Your work and your voice bring hope to so many.

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You can order Claire’s book After This on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Woman Crush Wednesday: Nici Holt Cline on Art, Social Media and Leaning In


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I’ll be honest, I saved the answers to today’s Woman Crush Wednesday interview for my own enjoyment like the last pages of a good book–such delicious relatable soul food and from a dear friend who has been inspiring me for seven years now with her art, her words, her love for her family and her tenacious commitment to live purposefully. I traveled to the other side of the country with Lainey and Nella five years ago to meet her in person and she was everything I knew she’d be–real and funny, not to mention her backyard is a painting you don’t want to leave.

Nici Holt Cline is a writer, artist, mother and, to me, a friend I thank my lucky stars for aligning our paths to cross. We talk art, work and purpose over the phone just about every week, and I’ve filed those conversations into very important folders of my brain and heart–folders I refer to often. She writes at Dig This Chick, sells her handmades at Geo but can mostly be found at home, a word that embodies so much of who she is. When I feel lost, I call home…and she’s always there.

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Let’s kick this off. I’m bold, Nici’s fine print.

You know I’d much rather be doing this in your kitchen over martinis with Andy and Brett watching all the kids, right? So since I’m the interview host and I can move the show where we want it, let’s say we’re in your Montana kitchen. Early spring, ski hills are a little bare, garden’s promising, mountains are everything they always are…beautiful (seriously though, your back yard photos!). What are you serving for food and drink for this interview? Nice hostess I am, right? Making you do all the work.

I am serving something I last-minute curated from my pantry because I don’t plan (and I’m finally 100% groovy with my spontaneity). It’s like 50/50 or, honestly, 80/20 that’ll be a good meal. And if the food is bad, I can distract you with my wit and charm! I sincerely believe in the whole Like Water for Chocolate thing where a cook meditates on the people they are serving, the nourishing feeling they want their diners to enjoy. I swear good vibes can make beans and rice extraordinary. Anyway, you in my kitchen would knead some awesomeness into any loaf I could bake. (go on readers, INFER. *wink*)

It’s an offsite interview, but you still get a song to walk out on the stage to. What’s your entrance song and what are you wearing?


The Pixies “Where Is My Mind” because that song just gets in me in the guts every time I hear it, like I want to cry and run up a mountain with every person on the planet. Or maybe “This Must Be the Place” by the Talking Heads because it played on a juke box every Saturday night at the Union Club in downtown Missoula when I was 19 and dating my husband and we were out with art school friends; it was a giant foreshadowing into the friendships, marriage and place that is my life today. Oh and I am wearing this new onesie (as my kids call it) / bodysuit that I never thought I’d consider for myself. I see them about and think “oh man, that’s cute on people who have small boobs and straight hips” (um, not me). But for whatever reason, I tried this on (with my kids) and they loved it. Me too. But I remained concerned I was delusional so I texted a photo to three friends. You were one and gave me the green light. I am so thankful because it feels like pjs. Yesssssssssssss.

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Look at you. I love it. Okay, business, business, heart, heart. Let’s dive in.

I don’t even know where to start because there are so many meaty conversations we’ve had, about so many topics, that have inspired me. Let’s start with art. We’ll probably end with art too.

Five years ago, you took a huge risk leaving an art job that you loved to pursue a creative dream. I still remember talking to you just weeks before you finalized it. You were confident that your passion and belief in it all working out would sustain your family. And IT DID. Tell us about that journey. Advice for anyone thinking of doing the same?

This is probably my most asked question on the interweb. At the time I didn’t feel brave or worthy of knowing anything worth sharing over my choice but now? Now I look back on my six-years-ago self and think fuck yeah that was so gutsy (My job had a steady paycheck (about half our income) and insured our family. The path I pursued offered a steady heart and insured my family holistically. I have always trusted my gut and I believe we all have that in us. I think we unlearn it. I did. I relearned it sometime after all my grandparents died and before I had kids. The rhythm in my soul is my compass and the more I trust it the more I know it to be true.

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Photo by Linda Thompson for The Missoulian

A few things:

1. Trusting your gut doesn’t usually manifest the way you imagine. It is literally about TRUST. Like, trusting that whatever happens is an opportunity to live bigger, create more beautifully, walk more gently and glean insight into the next thing. But that trust has to come from a trustworthy place. We must get *there* before we can go *there*.

2. Be honest with yourself. I took this leap having some nuggets in the fire. I wasn’t all idea/no reality. My blog seemed to have something that might be something and I made stuff that people seemed to want to buy. Bottom line: AUTHENTICITY + BE SMART + GO FOR IT. Nothing is worth anything in business if it isn’t YOUR thing.

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Dude. Look at Andy. He looks very skeptical of whomever’s taking this pic. 

Use your very own unique skills and proclivities to create your very own thing and people will come. I promise.

Don’t try to grow your readership. Stop asking for people to like your page. Quit reading about online growth models for your store. Just do your thing and believe it will lead you to you next best self. Trust that the people who see/buy/like/endorse you mean it. Deliver on your promises. Keep trying. Forgive yourself, stay true in your intention.

Kind of here-nor-there, but on the same vein really: Nothing drives me more batty then this whole thing about ex-professionals starting an online lawn furniture business and blog because some 1-2-3-get-rich program told them to do it. Actually, many things drive me more batty but I don’t think you are going to ask me about politics, abortion, human rights for gay people, god or contemporary culture for girls. (I’ll call you tonight and let’s talk about them on the phone). Ahem, next point:

3. Only ever do what you believe in. At first I was thinking only ever do what you love but that isn’t quite right. Sometimes things we believe in require a bit of uninspiring activity. I mean, we have to do certain things to afford our lives. So, if your thing feels like a worthy push toward what you want: GO. If your thing feels like a slog toward more of the same: CHANGE. You don’t have time to do things you don’t believe it.

4. Define success. How does “rich” feel like to you? What do you want with this life? Write it down. Refer to it. Make choices that support it.

We recently had a conversation about what art means to us after we saw something some “stop copying me, this is my art” shit go down from an artist we both admired–it rubbed us the wrong way. I loved that conversation we had. With that said, what does art mean to you? You studied art in school, you embody what a “maker” is in so many ways and–to me, at least–you model so beautifully what an artist truly is. It’s less about being able to say “I’m an artist” and more about…pardon me, this is your interview. What is being a maker and an artist mean to you?

Oh, I too loved that text exchange about art and copying and righteousness.

An artist is her. A maker is her. I don’t do the “capital A-artist” or “capital W-writer.” Being in a creative space is vulnerable enough without feeling like there is a club surrounding who is worthy and who isn’t. I’ve certainly felt like I am part of the worthy and unworthy camps. I find them equally unsettling. I am inspired by people who create and share as it feels right to them. I don’t believe in “creative types” as I think we are all type a, type b, type q hybrids and have learned to squish certain areas to make room for the areas that make us boom with joy. It’s up to us to nurture our creative selves. Let’s all of us choose the thing that makes us boom with joy and love our neighbors’ choices.

Also, I have been copied. Like, literally a few different times people have made things like I make and tried to sell them to my retailers on the hush hush – for less money. Twice, I’ve discovered etsy shops that completely plagiarized my work – from the fabrics used to the item descriptions and policies. I’ve found pieces of my essays on other blogs. I was hot and hurt a few different times but I have learned and grown from it:

There is enough creative room for every single person on this planet.

The only thing we are in charge of is our own choices. We know our own intention. Let’s honor this gift, let’s be pure about it.

Nobody can copy our brains.
Nobody can copy our hearts.

When we, as makers and artists, inevitably find ourselves in a situation of feeling copied or wronged, we have two choices: put up our fists and point our fingers OR take a deep breath, smile (did you know that smiling allows more oxygen into our lungs?!) and know that there is enough creative room for every single person on this planet, the only thing we are in charge of is our own choices, nobody can copy our brains, nobody can copy our hearts.

How has motherhood changed you as an artist?

Shit. How hasn’t it? How has it? I’m obviously still me but I have a different lens. I am more altruistic, more able to feel creative in the most mundane of circumstances, more patient, more ready. Also, numbers 1-4 up there. Trusting my gut, being honest with myself, making choices I believe in and defining success; my kids changed the way I do business – both in career and in relationships. I see more clearly that everything is ABUNDANT: content, creative energy, ideas, love and space.

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How has social media hurt you as an artist?

I often read something I wrote through another’s viewpoint, which is pretty much never helpful in the wanting-to-be-REAL place. I think will *they* think I am too attached to my kids? Will *they* think I am too carefree? Will *they* think my house looks filthy? Will *they* think that sounds self-absorbed or judgmental or crass or……..????? Sometimes I think why share my work at all? What for?

How has social media helped you as an artist?

It is really cool to have regularly scheduled access to like-minded and unlike-minded people. Also, the mediums I choose to engage with – instagram and blogging – are a fun, creative expression.

We’ve talked a lot about social media–the good, the bad, the ugly, but mostly the really beautiful things like friendship and inspiration and supporting women. I mean our entire friendship has social media to thank for it. We’ve had so many conversations about this incredible community but also about those awful moments when we’ve been hurt by mean comments or second guessed something we put out into the world.

Let’s talk about people being mean online first. What have you learned from it?

I get to pick what I listen to. I get to pick what I take home with me. You taught me this, Kelle. Your commitment to not clicking into certain arenas has inspired me to adopt the same policy. Every online conversation we have is a vote for the kind of internet we want. I choose where I get my energy and inspiration and there are so many brilliant sources out there. I can’t help but want to do more, give more. Humans are incredible, powerful sources. I choose the power that uplifts, raises awareness, challenges, progresses and loves.

Also, I am sensitive and I don’t fucking care to change it. I feel it. I am not going to get “thick skinned” and I don’t really want to.

SISTAH! Preach it! (I should also tell you, congrats. You’ve officially dropped the f-bomb for the first time into ETST, and I’m okay with it. Let’s move on.) The friends you’ve met online? The community you’ve been a part of? The inspiration? What have you learned from it?

That love is endless and abundant. That kindness and honesty win. There is so much gumption, intelligence and momentum in the pulsing, growing community of people who want to give back, give in and feel what we feel. It isn’t about branding or hits or traffic. It is about being a part of the thing we want our kids to be a part of – and I’m talking way bigger than onlineness here.

I want to make art. I want to write. I want to be involved in all these big conversations that are happening around me. I have professional goals. I have talents. I want to be out there making a difference. But I also want to be home and make breakfast and tie shoes and not feel like I’m left out of the “leaning in” club. Marry these halves, please. In a few sentences…

Oh sister. I believe I have time to be other things when my kids are older. Or I won’t have the time – I can’t control that, but I am in charge of this season of my life. Right now I very intentionally choose to lean in to my family.

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I know I won’t regret it because this feels right, now, and will lead to the next thing that feels right. But, yo, that doesn’t mean I don’t have regularly scheduled bouts of insecurity about my choices. You wrote a best-selling book and are working on another! And you have three more children than me. Every time you tell me to just open my document and type BOOK PROPOSAL at the top I feel twitchy. Every time an art colleague asks me if I’ve been in the studio I feel defensive. Every time old co-workers ask me if I’ll get back into arts advocacy work I feel I like I’m letting them down with my answer.

I cannot marry the halves as they are already one. Our professional goals, talents and desire to make a difference can happen WHILE being moms, not in spite of being moms.

I love you. Can I just say that? Okay, there’s an overused word that’s been stretched to define so many different things, but I can’t help but use it in describing who you are as a friend, as an artist, as a writer, mother, community member, thinker, human being. You are authentic. What does that mean to you?

Overuse away! I love that word. Pretty sure I’ve already used it a few times in this conversation. It means honest, always. Actions speak louder than words. In the non-fiction online world it means the person you bump into on the street is the person you already know.

The way you love the where you live (both in terms of geologic place as well as figuratively, this “place” in your life) has so inspired me to appreciate where I live and this sliver of life. How do you do that so well?

I practice. I believe the deep appreciation and intention I have/strive for is a work in progress. It is available to all of us. We are complex and untidy. But our muse is available in all things, through a gentle attention to detail. I try really hard. You do too and I am so inspired by your drive.

And some fun questions for good measure–favorite nightly routine after a hard day?

Just my immediate family. Music, good food, wine, walk after dinner, early to bed where I cuddle and talk about boring stuff with my husband.

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Five songs on your kitchen dance party play list?

Can I please share some of the dance videos you’ve made? Ok good. Please don’t edit them out.

Very funny. Um, no.

Why is this so hard for me? I have three that immediately come to mind. Fill in my other two.

1. Icona Pop, “I Love It”

2. Kid Cudi, “Pursuit of Happiness”

3. Katy Perry, “This Is How We Do”

4. I’m going to say Justin Timberlake and Madonna’s “4 Minutes.” It always makes me think of you. We’ve had a few high-on-life moments together with that song. 

5. Some weird instrumental song that called for weird interpretive moves because I have a feeling you’d rock that out.

You’re a damn good cook and kitchen goddess. What’s the one kitchen item you can’t live without?

Immersion blender

Last best book you’ve read?

Just finished The Long Winter with my kids. I am amazed with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ability to stay honest, relevant, interesting to me and appropriate for my five year-old.

Best suggestion for something to make with your kids?

Bread. Easy, hearty, healthy. Science + art. Process + intention. Conversation + down time.

Your heart is big, I love you. Thank you for being you. There is no one alive who is youer than you.

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Woman Crush Wednesday: Carin Cryderman (pssst…that’s my sister)


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Alright, time for something new. It is spring after all. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. With a growing list of women I admire both on and offline, it seems only natural in sharing bits of my life—things that inspire me, things I’m curious about—that that would include one of the greatest influences for women…other women.

As I parent my kids, I often think about my mom’s journey of motherhood and womanhood. I love to hear stories about when we were little—not so much for information about us but for stories about her. Were you happy, Mom? Did you feel overwhelmed? What were you passionate about? Her answers are gold nuggets, pieces of her story that I cherish and from which I learn. The greatest difference between my own journey in my thirties and hers is that—while, yes, she had friends and books—I have access to so many more women. The Internet allows us to connect and expand our perspective and ultimately feel less alone by presenting more women’s stories to which we can relate, more ideas, more encouragement, more sisterhood.

Jumping on the #wcw hashtag—Woman Crush Wednesday—I’m going to be sharing some interviews with women whom I admire–women I both know and wish I knew who inspire me with their story, their words, their style, their ideas, their art, their talents, their kindness and their example. Some have blogs, some don’t; some are writers, artists, moms, friends, well known, lesser known but all well-loved for their unique story. And everyone has a story. Women interviews are usually the first thing I turn to when I buy a magazine, and whether I “know” the person or not, I love and learn something from a good interview, especially when another woman is asking unique questions.

So there you have it—Woman Crush Wednesday, a new interview series I’ll be occasionally sharing here.

To kick this off, it was clear who’d be my first interview, the woman I look up to the most for her strength and resilience—my sister.

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I always imagined we’d live in the same town and raise kids together, trading strollers and dropping off cousins for sleepovers, but we took different paths. Carin got married when she was 18 and had three girls before I graduated college which means they were my first loves, my prerequisite courses for motherhood. It also means that with my introduction to parenthood came an invaluable handbook, an experienced “phone a friend” for every hurdle I’d cross. But right when my life dreams started to take off–getting married, settling in a home, having babies–hers starting crumbling. After losing herself to many years in a marriage that wasn’t allowing her to be her best possible self, she chose to do what’s right for some–leave. And she had nothing but a job paying little more than minimum wage, a new lease on a small apartment, and a hope in a new future.

It took years and so many tearful phone conversations to get where she is today. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard to make their life better. I’ve never known any woman to read as many books as she did–anything she could get her hands on to inspire her to be more. Rock bottom was a dark pit for her, but she was never afraid of it. She simply climbed, little bit by little bit to get out.

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Today Carin is the mother of three amazing girls who are strong and confident and funny and loving–one who’s off to college next year. A little over a year ago, my sister bought her first house. Her unwavering “You Can Do This” approach to life is fierce–so full of spirit, so backed by passion that you can’t even call it advice. Advice is just words. “You Can Do This” is her life mantra, and when I need strength and a reminder of my capabilities as a woman, I am so lucky to have my sister to call. And lucky to have her in this space today, so carry on, shall we?

To keep it straight, I’m in bold from here on out, and she’s in light.

Okay, if this was a real stage interview like James Lipton, I’d need an opening song for this series. What should it be? 

Am I allowed to request Ira Glass?

I’d have to lose a little weight and the beard, but okay. Oh, wait. We’re celebrating women. I’ll be Terry Gross. What song is playing? And, what are you wearing in my imaginary WCW stage chair – your usual You’ve Got Mail inspired classics? 

Ugh, these song questions are killing me – so tough to narrow down. I think Irene Cara’s Flashdance – I’d enter the stage in dance wearing a leotard and off-the-shoulder shirt. Then at some point, I’d change into a crisp white button down and navy.

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I think when anyone in our family thinks about you, we immediately think of resilience, strength and hard work because those have characterized your journey these past several years. In the last five years, what was your lowest low and how did you rise above it?

There were different lows as I struggled to get back on my feet – money woes, car woes, lonely woes. But, I think the lowest lows were those early days of adjusting to 50/50 custody. I had been a stay-at-home mom and had never been away from any of my kids for very long. Not to mention, so much of my identity was exclusive to motherhood. So, watching my girls pack bags like gypsies each week was painful in so many ways – almost like I was losing them along with a part of my self. How did I rise above it? I took care of myself. I distracted myself with healthy things–I signed up for classes, I ran races, I went out with friends, I read books, I wrote. I also knew they’d be okay no matter what. I knew that as long as I was okay, they would be too. So I set out to be the best version of myself because it was one part of their outcome that I could control.

And your highest high?

Before I answer this, I want to go back to the last question if that’s OK, Terry. As painful as that was (50/50 custody arrangement), it, in time, became our new normal. While it may not have been my ideal custody situation, my girls are incredibly well-adjusted today. Plus, it has allowed me time to recharge and explore my identity outside mothering – something I believe is so important for women. I didn’t want to end that on such a morose note for someone who might feel the need to leave, but hindered by the fear of such a custody agreement.

My highest high in the last five years was undoubtedly buying my house – specifically, walking in the front door just after the closing. It was late afternoon – the house was empty, immaculate, and bright – visible sunbeams beat through the windows and onto the hardwood floors.

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I was alone and mindful of every step it took to get to that point. I walked through every room and opened every closet. I walked out to the backyard and picked tomatoes from the garden. It was honestly like a movie moment.

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Every good movie moment has a song playing in the background. What was the soundtrack for that moment?

The Weepies “Comfort”.

What’s the hardest part of raising older kids?

They need you less.

What’s the best part of raising older kids?

They need you less.

What’s the hardest part of raising kids as a single mom and a split home?

There’s always so much in my head – like changing the furnace filter and getting my central air fixed before summer. And then finding money for stuff like summer camps. I get tired from all the stuff in my head.

What’s the best part of raising kids as a single mom and a split home?
I set the tone of our home. I set the mood. I can do projects whenever I want – like paint a couch and not have any nay-saying. I have time alone to recharge.

What mantra/quote do you hang on to right now?
For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else. (Emerson) What I’ve gained is so palpable that I honestly think little of anything I’ve lost. Sure, there are moments that trigger sadness sometimes, but the good outweighs the bad. It also helps to remember no one is doing this thing right – whether you’re a single mom or a happily married mom – we’re all fumbling along, figuring it out as we go.

There’s a woman who thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She feels she isn’t enough, can’t do it, will never make it out of the mess she’s in. What do you have to say to her?

You can and you will make it out. J.K. Rowling said rock bottom became the solid foundation on which she rebuilt her life. Take 24 hours to cry and feel sorry for yourself. Then get to work making things better. One thing will lead to another which will lead to another. You’ll figure it out. Keep dreaming.

I love that. It reminds me of a quote I recently saw in the blog world: “Nothing will make you feel better except doing the work.”  (Paul Ferney, I believe–I think I saw it on Oh Happy Day

Okay, tell me about these things and their role in your life and survival through the hard stuff: Creativity, friendship, books and music.

I wrote more during my hardest days than I ever did on good days. It cost nothing and was therapeutic. I have always felt like I could create my own joy – if I didn’t have the money to go on vacation or if I was feeling lonely, I knew I could sit down and write something or paint something or even move the furniture around and feel better. I’ve always felt that improving my life was within my control – even if was just creating beauty in one way or another.

After I told my husband at the time I was leaving, I sat in limbo for a while; I was so overwhelmed by what it was going to take to really get out. Not to mention, I didn’t know how I was going to financially retain an attorney. Then during a girls’ night at a friend’s house, one of them got up in the middle of a conversation and wrote me a check. Then another and another until I sat there with the retainer fee in my hands. I’ll never forget it. Throughout those five years, I also met new friends who were single, in particular – almost as though they were placed in my life just when I needed them.

Books and music
Books and music became my lifeblood. There are times when you’ve already called your friend in tears ten times and your family is in a good place. Even though I knew I could always call, I also wanted to respect the fact that my friends and family had their own problems. And, if they were at a good place in life, I didn’t want to bring them down. So, books and music became like friends and family to me.

Compare these two things: Your view of yourself ten years ago and your view of yourself now.

When I look back at my 28 year old self, I see naivete and codependency. I know I was strong, but it was dormant – along with a lot of other stuff. At 28, I thought that life and identity were more fixed than they really are. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious thought, but more understood. I was who I was and what I felt – “Oh, I’m not driven” or “Oh, I’m not athletic”. I’d look at people I admired and think they were just naturally that way when really, they were likely the person they were because they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and became who they wanted to be.

My view of myself now?

When I look at myself now, I see strength and independence. Little by little, I’ve rebuilt my life and I’m incredibly proud of that. I know what I can do and have a pretty good idea of who I am. At 38, I realize life and identity is much less fixed than I used to think. It’s not likely that I’ll be Christiane Amanpour, but it’s completely likely that I can be a runner, I can be driven – actually, I am a runner; I am driven. I also see a great mom. I am deeply proud of who my girls are becoming and I know that my choices have played a big part in that.

This was right after I separated I think. Those orange Patagonia boots symbolized a lot. I loved them. I think they were the first thing I bought when I started handling my own money.
 photo carin 1_zpsaui1f0ia.jpg

Worst thing someone said to you when you were rock bottom and needed support.

God still loves you. The “still” added just the right amount of condescension to make me feel horrible. I hadn’t even considered the idea that he might not. It was pretty revealing about how people view divorce.

Best thing someone said to you when you were rock bottom and needed support.

They listened. Simple as that. They showed up and listened and they didn’t go away.

I so believe in signs, kisses from the Universe, that tell us–especially when we desperately need to be told–that everything’s going to be okay, that we’re on the right path. I know we’ve both had so many of them in our lives, but one of my favorites is your June. Can you tell us about June in one paragraph? Hard to do, I know.

Yes…tough to limit the June Jacobson story in a paragraph. I thought I had found the perfect first house for me a couple of years ago, but the deal didn’t go through. I was so disappointed. Then I found this house. A woman by the name of June had owned it–she was the only other woman who ever lived in this house and had recently died, so her sons were selling it. I knew I was buying her estate, but that was about it. I googled her one day in between faxing paperwork over to my realtor. She had raised three sons in the house after divorcing a traditional husband who preferred his wife subservient. She went on to practice social work – counseling women in a home office (now my bedroom!) and helping them heal from domestic abuse. I had quit believing in “more”, but couldn’t help be comforted by what seemed to be such a sign.

So…back to walking through my front door just after closing–cue Deb Talan, the soft guitar, sun beams on the hardwood floor–it was like June led me there.

Random, but fun. Finish the following. I hate when…

I hate when I pull paper towel from the dispenser at work and it comes out in tiny pieces.

I hate when I’m out of half & half.

I hate when people interpret kindness as warm and fluffy weakness.

And, I love when…

I love when my neighbor Jen across the street puts the bat call out for wine and conversation.

I love when I make my dad laugh.

I love when I get a package or letter in the mail.

I love when the house is clean and the theme from House of Cards begins to play.

I love when my girls are all home for a slow Sunday breakfast with Bach on the speakers.

Three of your favorite woman crushes…

Kristin Wiig
J.K. Rowling
June Jacobson

Favorite easy meal you make for your girls?

Pork carnitas if I prepare. I throw boneless port shoulder or enough chops in the crockpot with onions, chicken broth, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper. At the end of the day, pull apart with fork and serve with corn tortillas, lime and cilantro.

If I don’t prepare, pasta pomodoro with goat cheese on top. Saute a few garlic cloves in olive oil, add a few cans of blended diced tomatoes, basil and salt.

Okay, and also a Hot & Ready from Little Caesars.

If you had to get a tattoo right now, what would it be?

Two words, one on each wrist: More & Enough because life is always a balance between the two. There’re times in life when you need to remind yourself that you are enough and there are times when you need to push yourself to be more.

We speak in music, so let’s end this interview with an important question. 
It’s been a sucky day. You decide to take a run by yourself. What five songs are on your playlist while you run?

“Stronger” – Kelly Clarkson
“Help Me Lose My Mind” – Disclosure
“Dreams” – Cranberries
“Lose Yourself” – Eminem
“Sweet Disposition” – The Temper Trap

Ah, Sweet Disposition does something to me every time.

Thank you. Love you.

You can see more of Carin at @carcryder on Instagram. You’ll probably be seeing more of her on this blog too.