Motivational

Episode 6: The Fire Still Burns

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They say when you have a dream, the whole universe will conspire to make that dream a reality. And at first, that dream can feel SO RIGHT, so seductive, so sure… as in: “YES, this is my calling. THIS is my passion. This is the direction I’m going to take and nobody can stop me!”

Especially when you’re a 20-something know-it-all die-hard rock-and-roller  🙂

But, inevitably, life has a way of throwing around obstacles, and the dreamer is forced to either hold on or grow up.

Diego Del Pozzo is our guest today, and his story teaches us that if a dream really is meant to be, then it won’t matter how much time has passed, because if that inner fire is still burning, we will surely find our way back home once again.

Listen in at ShapingSapiens.comSoundcloud, and iTunes. And shortly on YouTube. xo

Photo credit: Vecna – Metal Band

Episode 5: This is Not About Cancer

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How do you fight cancer? With vengeance? Tears? Love? Determination? Prayers? Blame?

My aunt chooses to fight it with fire.

What you’ll hear today is a conversation that takes place just a few hours after receiving her 6th chemotherapy treatment for her third breast cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t even sure if she’d be up for doing it. But after we got home from the treatment center, she went into her room and came back out, freshly dressed, make-up on, and a bright, colorful hair turban in place and said: “Let’s do it.”

My aunt is the epitome of what it means to be brave and proves that just because you’re going through cancer, does not mean it gets to define who you are.

After we finished recording, she looked at me with eyes blazing. She pointed at our audio file and said: “This is not about cancer. This is about hope.”

I smiled. Because she was right.

Listen in at ShapingSapiens.comSoundcloud, and iTunes. And shortly on YouTube. xo

Episode 4: Mountain Lion Time

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I first met Hope Ruiz two years ago at a writing retreat in the Texas Hill Country. We bonded over our shaved heads and her tale of an encounter with a mountain lion in Colorado. But, that, of course, was just the beginning — the tip of her extraordinary life story. From a life as a young monk to a landscape artist to a love story on the Mexican/American border and the inevitable battle with U.S. Immigration, Hope proves that no matter the plan (A, B, C, D, or E), the next big leap may turn into the greatest, most rewarding adventure of all.

Listen in at ShapingSapiens.com and Soundcloud.

And iTunes and YouTube, shortly. xo

Photo Credit: Jöshua Barnett

Episode 3: #MomLife

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Who knew 10 years ago these two girls would be sitting down together one day to talk about MOTHERHOOD and the relentless pursuit of honoring our teenage dreams despite all the sharp twists and turns of life?!
 
Not I. 🙂
 
In this special Mother’s Day episode of Shaping Sapiens, I get to sit down with the indelible Lauren Halcik and learn all about the last decade of her life from promising opera singer to young mom, wife, feminist, business woman, and now, homeschool “crunchy” mom extraordinaire. Lauren’s story proves that throughout all the detours of life, with enough grit, love, and determination, the road may always rise up to meet you.
 
Listen in at ShapingSapiens.com
 
 
And iTunes and YouTube later today. 🙂
 
The mother in me honors the mother in all of you. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all. xo

Episode 2: Great Expectations

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Have you ever had a friend that when you’re with them, it feels as if you can conquer the entire world together? That anything you can possibly dream really can come true?

I’m fortunate to have a friend like that, and her name is Mechi. Though we started out as polar opposites, she has become one of my greatest teachers. One who was crazy enough to invite me along on a 5,000 kilometer road trip across South America for one of the greatest lessons of my life: a crash course in letting go and learning to let the Universe in.

Now, a year later our story is Episode #2: Great Expectations on Shaping Sapiens! Who knew all you needed to drive across a continent was faith, trust, and a little bit of Mechi dust? 😉 We’re ready for your earbuds on ShapingSapiens.com, YouTube, and Soundcloud. And on iTunes and TuneIn tomorrow.

Happy #TBT, y’all! xo

 

 

When Breath Becomes Air

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Two nights ago, I finished reading When Breath Becomes Air, the story of Paul Kalanithi, a dying neurosurgeon and his quest for meaning through his profound love of neuroscience and literature. Three mornings ago, I also lost of one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever known and had the equal fortune of being loved by.
 
Paul’s story helped me to find the words to honor my aunt, and in his words, “In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”
 
My Tia Ada, who was also my godmother and the only grandmother figure I’ve ever really, really known, passed away at the young age of 81. Though, I have definitely, definitely shed a torrent of tears, I am surprised by how peaceful I feel with her passing. Of course, the guilty part of me feels like it’s unnatural to be so… ok… and I can feel the tempting pull to join the chorus of the bereaved and declare that “the world just got a little bit darker…”
 
… but almost like a gymnast on a balance beam, I righten back up to my center, and I find that I really, truly, am GLAD for her… happy even… in awe of her new birth into the other side. My days don’t feel darker; they feel brighter!
 
Because I feel more connected to her than I’ve ever felt before.
 
Two nights before she passed, I was cooking dinner and listening to the Oldies station on my Pandora radio. Usually, the station plays a really nice diverse mix of songs. But that night, every other song was an Elvis song. My aunt LOVED Elvis. She had Elvis memorabilia all around her house, even had a Elvis wall clock that would play one of his songs at the top of the hour, every hour. When I realized Elvis’s familiar croon kept coming back, I knew it was a sign. She had been at the hospital in Dallas for a week at that point, and her kidneys were failing, was suffering with high fevers, and was no longer able to speak. Maybe she was already floating out in the abyss and came to let me know that her time was coming to an end.
 
You guys, she was the jolliest, loudest, wittiest, most loving soul I ever knew. I think I even learned how to laugh from her! When she laughed, she BURST like a starburst, showering everyone around her in contagious merriment.
 
GOD, I loved her. How my heart aches knowing I will miss her every day for the rest of my physical life.
 
Thank you, Paul Kalanithi, for living, for searching, and for writing your book. Because what I have learned is this: The way we view Death is how we, ultimately, live Life.
 
And my Tia Ada, that pistol-packin’ Texas girl… she definitely LIVED.
 
xoxo

Shaping Sapiens: My New Podcast Series!

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It is with great pride and a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hair grease, that I am pleased to officially announce the launch of my new podcast series: Shaping Sapiens! Currently available on Soundcloud, YouTube, and this RSS feed. And coming (very) soon to iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and TuneIn, and other podcasts stations near you.

I won’t promise it’ll be great. I won’t promise it’ll be the podcast to end all podcasts. But, I CAN promise it will be real. As real as I can possibly be, featuring some of the greatest humans to walk the planet. If you’ve liked anything I’ve written, or like me even just a little, then you may like “Shaping Sapiens.”

Every once in a while, you come across a person who has a story that is so extraordinary, it feels like they’ve lived a life destined to become an Academy Award-winning movie. Last September, I had the honor of hearing Barbara Abelhauser tell her story at Fresh Ground Stories in Seattle and, immediately, HAD to meet her afterwards. Lucky for me, she became my friend, and it was because of her encouragement and trusting spirit that this podcast is even a thing. Thanks for being my first story, Barbara, and thank you for showing me how a life lived outside the ordinary is a life that is always worth pursuing. Her story is featured as the very special, very first episode: “Comfort Zone.” Now available for your listening pleasure at ShapingSapiens.com.

To find out more about Barbara, follow her blog, The View from a Drawbridge.

Thank you for joining me here, friends. And I hope you’ll join me on this new storytelling adventure, too. This is me, doing my part, to make America Great Again.

love, Love, LOVE. Always.

Amelia

To the Fathers Who Refuse to Clip Our Wings


Malala Yousfzai and her Father, Ziauddin

Featured: Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin / Credit: John Russo, The Guardian

In the spirit of thankfulness, I wanted to share this letter I originally wrote a year ago to Malala Yousafzai in honor of her Nobel Peace Prize win and inspired by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai’s, 2014 TED Talk. Today, I dedicate this piece to my own father in honor of his birthday and his ever-adamant refusal to clip my wings:

Dear Malala,

Back in October 2012, my dad called shortly after the news broke of your attack and asked if I had heard about you. Annoyed, I said, “Papi, you know I don’t watch the news anymore.” At the time, I was on a serious spiritual development path, strictly limiting my intake of world events since the beginning of the year. My radical and desperate need to unplug and detoxify was brought on by years of severe addiction to every news media outlet. Frustrated, he responded: “How can you live in such a bubble? I can’t understand how you haven’t heard of Malala by now!” “Who is she?” “Look her up,” he answered.

When I learned your story, that you had survived and were recovering in England, my spirit soared. I couldn’t believe it. I cried out and cheered you on as you progressed over the following months. “What an incredible human being! She is here for a reason,” I often thought. I gingerly plugged myself back into the media stream but only to tune into your journey. Soon, you appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and recounted how after you learned of the Taliban’s threat on your life, you would think about what you would do or say if they really came after you:

I started thinking […] that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But, then I said, “If he comes, what would you do, Malala?” Then, I would reply to myself, “Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.” But, then, I said, “If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that […] harshly. You must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.” Then, I said, I will tell him how important education is, and that “I even want education for your children, as well.” And I will tell him, “That’s what I want to tell you. Now, do what you want.”

My jaw dropped with Jon and everyone listening to you that day. Since then, I have striven every day to find that same love and compassion for everyone I meet, as well.

Though our backgrounds are different, we actually have much in common, especially our fathers who championed our education. My father was raised by a single mother in poverty-stricken Mexico City in the early 40’s. He grew to understand the importance of education and raised my two younger sisters and I to be strong, educated, independent women. He also named me after his mother.

When your father took to the stage last year at TED 2014, he spoke of people asking what he did to make you so successful. He responded, “Don’t ask me what I did – ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.” I watched his speech with my father, and with tears streaming down our cheeks, he wrapped his arms around me, saying: “That’s exactly how I feel. No clipping of no wings! If anything, I wanted to give you extensions so you could fly faster.”

My hope is that this extraordinary measure can be replicated in every home and in every classroom. You are most certainly doing your part, and I vow to beat my wings right along with you. The flights of future generations of children and of our humanity most certainly depend on it.

Onward and skyward,
Amelia


My father and I on his birthday

Featured: Amelia and her father, Roberto / Credit: Chaveli Torres

Skipping Stones

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Last Thursday night, I had the honor of speaking at Fresh Ground Stories​ here in Seattle. The theme was “Comfort Zone,” and to prepare for the event, I DID NOT PREPARE A DAMN THING. I got up to the mic without knowing what I was going to say, hoping divine inspiration would cut me a break and take pity on my blind willingness to challenge myself as a storyteller. As I gathered my nerves and opened my mouth, I could feel all the stories in my head lining up at my mind’s door, clamoring to be heard. This is the story that shoved its way out:

People have asked me, “What is the most surprising thing about your journey so far?” And, the truth is: I am amazed by the kindness of strangers, and perhaps by my own ability to trust them back, as well. No matter where I’ve stopped along the way, unfailingly, there are always people who are ready and willing to help out in any way that they can.

After I came back from South America in April of this year, I quickly realized Austin was no longer the right place for me — a feeling that totally jolted me. But, I trusted it, and within a few weeks, I sold all my things, and packed up my car and headed west. I made my way across west Texas, following the Rockies up through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Canada, then over to Seattle, and down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco and Los Angeles, before making my way back up to the Pacific Northwest, which is where I’ve been playing for the past few weeks.

When I reached Glacier National Park in Montana, I came upon a lake as clear and still as glass. As I took in the majesty of the place, I noticed some splashing and ripples on the other end. Curious, I followed the shoreline. A family of four was there: a mom, dad, and their two young daughters. They were skipping stones. I laughed and smiled, and asked if they could teach me. The girls said, “Sure!” and handed me a stone. “It’s all in the wrist,” they said, “And when you pick out a stone, make sure it is light and as smooth as possible. Then, just flick!”

I took a breath, feeling the weight of the stone in my hand and set up my wrist to flick like they instructed. Then, FLICK — *pat*pat* — my stone skipped twice before gliding underneath the surface. INCREDIBLE! I had never skipped a stone in my entire life! I picked up another. AGAIN! Another successful double skip.

Sharing in my delight, the mom asked me about my journey, and I relayed my story. Seemingly impressed, she asked if I had anywhere to stay that night. I told her no. I had been in the practice of just allowing the Universe to take care of me and steer me in whatever direction it felt I should go. “Something will show up,” I shrugged.

After a beat, she said, “Well, we’re staying at the KOA down the road, and we paid for a tent space, but we’re not using it, because we’re in our RV. You’re welcome to pitch your tent there. We’re also having tacos for dinner and a chocolate mousse cake I’ve been letting thaw out all day. You’re welcome to join us!”

I stared in disbelief. In the past, I probably would have declined such a grand invitation, not wanting to impose. But, before I knew it, I heard myself saying, “Yes, I would love that,” the words rolling out of my mouth freed from somewhere deep inside my being.

“Great!” she said, “We’ll be eating around 7:30. But, don’t have too high expectations on the tacos. We’re from Minnesota. ”

I laughed and thanked her, and told them I’d meet them there. I hung back after they headed back down the trail, watching the lake once more turned to glass. I left the park within the hour and made my way to the KOA, thanking my absolute lucky stars.

We ate dinner and played games. Apparently, one of the daughters was usually a quiet gal, but for whatever reason she really opened up around me and told me all about her love of mermaids. She even had a real mermaid tail attached to a slip-on spandex suit, which she promptly put on and demonstrated how to swim in it. I laughed until my belly ached. I hadn’t had that much fun in such a long time. I forgot how much I loved playing games and sharing in that young schoolgirl mindset.

As the night began to wind down, the dad asked me how big my tent was. I told him it was a small two-person tent. “Perfect,” he said. “That should fit just right outside in that gravelly area next to the RV.” I nodded, ready to make my way back to my car to start setting up. “You’re welcome to set it up out there,” he continued, “Or, if you’d like, you can stay inside with us.”

I stared again in disbelief, a smile spreading across my face. I thought of all the yes’s and no’s I had ever uttered in my life that led me to be so lucky in that moment. Where would I have been instead had I not said yes that night? Where would I have been had I not said yes to to Mechi​ and our South American roadtrip earlier this year?

Who knows. It didn’t matter.

“Yes,” I said at last, “I would absolutely love that.”

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

Amelia holding a skipping stone

In Praise of The Ugly Pants

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The following is an extra special contributor post from my divine writer-friend, Elspeth Eckert. She constantly inspires me to befriend my inner goddess, and in this piece, she gives a fresh new spin to notion that “it’s what something is made of that really counts.” May the all “Ugly Pants” of the world find their perfect fit to love them just exactly as they are.

“In Praise of the Ugly Pants” by Elspeth Eckert

I bought a pair of ugly pants yesterday. They hung there forlorn, clearance tags thickly plastered from repeated failed attempts to entice customers. I looked at them in that way I sometimes do, trying to puzzle out if I liked them (the pattern is kind of fun, and I like the colors in theory) or if this garment was indeed truly hideous. Only one way to find out.

In the fitting room, the pants revealed themselves to be remarkably unflattering, more so than I could have anticipated. My rear seemed to balloon to elephantine proportions with every jiggle exaggerated. The banded legs seemed by turns either too short or too long to suit any style. The pattern didn’t line up, leaving the edges of those vibrant horizontal stripes warring along my pelvic girdle.

But there were roomy pockets at just the right height. And the fabric was soft.

I considered the pants and what it would say about me if I wore them. Would I be “letting myself go?” Opening myself to mocking judgements? Would I be one of THOSE women (and what does that even mean anyway)? I looked. I imagined and considered. I undressed carefully and returned the hopeful pants to their hanger a little straighter than I’d found them.

As I exited the dressing room, I experienced a transformative moment of clarity: I know who would wear these pants. People who don’t take themselves too seriously would wear them. And finally, at great long last, that kind of person was me. With a deep breath and not a shred of regret, I bought the ugly pants. And this simple gesture has made me ridiculously proud of the woman I’m becoming.

May I be reminded each time I slide into the comfy embrace of my ugly pants that life is not always so serious and taking myself less seriously can be the most liberating act of all.

Photo credit/Featured: Elspeth Eckert
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