Hope, Surrender and Answering the Call: My Journey To Meeting Oprah

“Create the highest, grandest vision for your life. Then let every step move you in that direction.” – Oprah Winfrey

For years as kid I wrote letters to Oprah—lots of letters. Daily letters. Most revealed brilliant ideas for show topics, all coincidentally featuring me. How about a show about a 9-year-old girl who moved to the suburbs, loves green and avoids foods with the word chunk in the title? I have no idea why Harpo folks didn’t leap at that one… Other times, I encouraged her to follow her dreams, because well, she obviously needed that. ;)

Oprah letter

One of my letters, which missed the mail 

Years later, when I began speaking publicly about the eating disorder I’d been diagnosed with while modeling in Paris, I sent her team a press kit. Finally, the pitch wasn’t centered on me; I sincerely wanted to share my story, with hopes of helping others. Not long after, one of her producers called to see if I’d like to appear with three other women in a special on eating disorders.

Then the Columbine High School shooting massacre happened. The eating disorder episode was postponed, understandably. As the possibility of appearing on Oprah’s show diminished, I was disappointed, but—to my surprise—not crushed, figuring it must not have been the right time. I wouldn’t recognize the accuracy of that thought until a year later, when I relapsed. Set again on needlessly shedding pounds, I grew hooked on dangerous diet pills, married someone I barely knew and made plans to move to Miami. There, my life would fall apart in order for me to be made whole again—fully this time.

A decade later, healthy and happy in Los Angeles, my admiration for Oprah remains. When I learned that she would be visiting California on her Live Your Best Life Tour, I knew I had to attend and, if possible, meet her. Sadly, the VIP tickets, which included in-person time, seemed to vanish immediately. Grateful for the chance to attend on a very good, if not the best, ticket, I surrendered the rest: what will be, will be.

Then my beloved bulldog, Zoe, who’d been fighting a rare form of cancer, began nearing her final days. I couldn’t seem to write at my usual velocity, but felt I owed it to Zoe and myself to dream big, doing short bursts of dream-work between rest and her care.

Savoring time with my precious Z

Savoring time with my precious Z

In one of those bursts, I thought, “I want to speak for crowds of awesome women.” Google led me to such an opportunity at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Puerto Rico, the largest feminist scholar conference in the world. When I saw check boxes on the application for PhDs, MAs and other academic accolades, the inner-naysayer Self Doubt echoed, “I’m not enough.” Then I spotted a category labeled independent scholar. I may as well try…

I quickly wrote and submitted a proposal and weeks later, learned it had been accepted. My doctorate in the School of Hard Knocks had been enough! I am enough.

Shortly after Zoe’s passing, I realized that the NWSA event and Oprah’s were scheduled for the same weekend. Heartbroken, I emailed The Life You Want coordinators, explaining my schedule conflict and what Oprah has long meant to me. Given the opportunity, I wrote, I would fly anywhere, even to sit in the furthest-away seat if I could transfer my non-transferable ticket to another weekend. I’d begun to lose hope when they called, asking if I’d like to attend the weekend in Houston as a VIP—which would include meeting Oprah.

At first, I’d blamed my foggy, grieving mind for the earlier schedule confusion. Now I don’t see it as erroneous at all. I probably wouldn’t have applied to speak, had I kept the dates straight. If Zoe hadn’t needed extra care, I would’ve been writing articles that day, rather than scoping out speaking gigs. If I hadn’t applied, I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet Oprah. See how things work out when we “do the work and then surrender?”

I hadn’t thought of it that way until Oprah described the approach as such in Houston this past weekend—an experience I consider one of the most beautiful gifts of my life.

After spending a day mingling with other attendees and entrepreneurs at O-Town, a pop-up, Oprah-themed village, I lined up with other VIPs at the Toyota Center entrance, retrieved my gracious gift bag then found my seat in the fourth row.

When Oprah appeared on stage in an elegant yellow gown, I cried. She may be as human as the rest of us, but to me and countless others, she represents so much more.

Oprah

Oprah

The theme of the event was honoring our calling—our one true purpose in life. As I explained on the air yesterday, I’d sensed mine, to use my voice to help others, by age five, sketching an image of a yellow-haired girl clutching a microphone for a class project.

Later that year, the Oprah Winfrey Show premiered. Throughout my youth, Oprah taught me never to see my dreams as odd or unspeakable. No matter how unusual I felt (which was very and often), I could watch her show and feel somehow validated. Whether featuring makeovers, celebrity interviews, stories of triumph through tragedy or hard-hitting controversy, she brought compassion and light to people and stories in ways that made the world seem smaller, more loving and chock-full of possibilities.

And as she struggled with dieting and body dislike, I battled my own food and body image demons—which, in reality, had little to do with food or weight; I was afraid of living large, and desperate to disappear. Early in my recovery from anorexia, when even my dreams were controlled by the self-loathing-monster ED, her mere existence made my life more livable. For the single hour of the day her show aired, I felt less alone, able to pay attention to something other than my crippling self-talk and fears. During sleepless nights, I’d sit in her virtual chat rooms for obese people and overeaters; we spoke the same language.

Once I learned that I would be meeting Oprah in Houston, I planned to write her a letter, explaining all she’s meant to me—but letters weren’t allowed. How could I possibly, in a matter of minutes, tell her all I wished to say? When I shared my concern with my husband, he said, “Maybe you’re not supposed to be there to give her anything, but to receive.”

Can we say ah-ha moment?

So that’s precisely what I planned to do: receive—a practice I’ve been working to sharpen in other life areas. Baring my soul might have uplifted Oprah; who knows? It would also have taken more of her time and energy at the end of a long night in which she’d already shared hers for thousands and delayed others’ time with her. Spilling my heart would have been more about me than Oprah. Do I want her to know what she and her work have meant to me? Unquestionably. But the greatest gift I can give her, I realized, is making the most of my life, honoring the call.

At the VIP reception, Oprah told us that we were all there because we’d been called to, and she was right. It felt as though we were all on a sort of pilgrimage, which varied in particulars, but bound us together. When my turn came to meet her, I shook her hand, thanked her for who she is and said, “You are so beautiful.” Thanking me, she offered a warm hug, then we turned to smile for the camera. I felt present, joyful and immeasurably grateful.

With Oprah, a dream come true

With Oprah, a dream come true

By attending the weekend, I felt I was doing my younger self good. The phenomenal speakers, attendees, meditations and soul-searching exercises only amplified that good. The experience illustrated to me that while I still have much work to do and never plan to stop dreaming, this life, the one I’m learning and growing through day by day, truly is the one I want.

Me, at age 5

To hear some of my favorite takeaways from The Life You Want tour and an excerpt from a story I wrote about my eating disorder recovery, listen to the latest Girl Boner Radio episode: Meeting Oprah & Overcoming ED.

Much love always,

August

Sexual Trauma & Dating Abuse: Two Thrivers Bringing Hope and Healing

“Survivors of abuse show us the strength of their personal spirit every time they smile.”  ― Jeanne McElvaney, Healing Insights: Effects of Abuse for Adults Abused as Children

Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report being raped, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 1 in 20 adults reportedly experience other types of sexual trauma at some point. What we seldom hear is that an estimated 1 in 6 boys is molested, along with up to 1 in 4 girls. And all too often, abuse of all kinds derives from a trusted loved one.

This week on Girl Boner Radio, I had the honor of interviewing Andrew Ross Long, a writer, speaker and counselor specializing in sexual trauma, and Elle the Author, a novelist set on bringing awareness to dating abuse. While their means of reaching others vary, their mutual message is one of hope.

I started the episode with clips from the Oprah Winfrey Show I’ve never forgotten—Tyler Perry sharing his own struggles with being sexually abused before 200 men in the audience with similar paths. Here is another powerful clip from that show:

Shame is a tremendous and devastating consequence of abuse, yet as Andrew and Elle will attest, there is only strength in doing whatever it takes to heal and move forward. To hear their wonderful insight, visit this link on iTunes:

Girl Boner Radio: Overcoming Sexual Trauma and Dating Abuse

girlboner-101314Andrew Ross Long
www.fiercegentleman.com
Twitter @FierceGentleman
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FierceGentleman

Elle the Author
www.elletheauthor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/elletheauthor
Twitter: @elletheauthor

How have you found healing from abuse? What struck you most about Andrew and Elle’s insight? I love hearing from you! 

Bye-Bye, Ramen: 5 Ways to Make More Money as an Artist

Have you heard the one about the doctor who ate so much Top Ramen, he turned into a noodle? Probably not because A) that’s not really funny, and B) why would a doc dine on 3-for-$1 noodles?

The notion that artists make extremely little, if any, money is a common and damaging myth. If you read my earlier post, Do You Have a Sexy Relationship with Money?, you know that I’ve been working on financial growth lately. Today, I thought I’d share some of the steps that have helped me support myself as an artist for the last 10 years, and continue to strengthen my efforts toward my newest goals.

wealth quote

While there’s no cookie cutter or linear plan for all artists to ensure financial success (however we define it), I personally believe these steps can help just about all of us.

5 Ways to Make More Money as an Artist

1. Believe you can thrive—and see it. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who never said “don’t” regarding my dreams, which is probably a big reason I’ve been able to largely support myself as a creative. What we believe we can achieve we will, given enough time and effort. Changing our beliefs isn’t easy, but striving to is a powerful first step—followed by visualizing it. What would your daily life be like if you’d already achieved the success you dream of? Use that primo imagination of your to see, feel and taste it.

2. Value abundance. I’ve been working on this. I’ve learned that it’s one thing to say, “I will make money,” another to say, “I’ll make enough to get by,” and yet another to say, “I will cultivate financial abundance” through artistry. Rather than deem financial wealth as somewhat negative—as many folks do on some level—or a perk reserved for other professionals, I’m now viewing it as a strengthening byproduct of an abundant life that allows me to reach more people.

3. Prioritize your dreams. A therapist once suggested that to make money and pursue a writing career, I should tend to all other obligations (which at the time involved auditions, acting classes and nutrition work) then use any remaining time to write. I hated and dismissed that plan. One of my most effective habits has long been tending to my dream-work first—whether that work is profitable yet or not. Doing so cements my beliefs about goals, leads to income more rapidly and prevents misery. (If you’re a night owl, you may want to reserve your dream-work for the wee hours; it’s all about prioritizing and using our mental golden hour well.)

4. Ditch the backup plan. I admire folks who can work a job they dislike and still thrive as artists. I’ve never been one of those people. Regardless, I think it’s vital that if we want our artistry to become our sole careers, a backup plan (such as another career) isn’t a safety net, but a saboteur. Alternate plans to “fall back on” if we don’t succeed take time and energy, and whatever we focus on grows. It can also reflect self-doubt, which is damaging. If you believed with all of your heart that you’d succeed as an artist, would you still have that plan in place? We need to see our success as essential, realistic and probable—not a side gig we only fully indulge in in dreamland.

5. Change your language. What we think and say about ourselves becomes our reality. It’s like dieting. When we continually think and talk about excess pounds we hate, we’re likely to eat poorly, stress more (which can trigger abdominal weight gain due to the stress hormone cortisol), appear less attractive and gain weight. When we embrace and nurture ourselves, focusing on feeling healthy and fabulous, improved weight control happens naturally. The “starving artist” mentality can hurt us similarly. Even if you don’t yet believe you can thrive financially as an artist, start saying that you do; eventually, your beliefs will catch up.

Once our beliefs and values are in place, the action comes easier. We’re creative artists, for goodness’ sake! If there’s one thing we can manage, it’s conjuring up ideas. We start seeing our work through a lens of abundance, which guides us to the best next steps. We also stand taller in our passions and create stronger work.

I’ll share more on the specifics of those action steps, including how I built my freelance writing career, soon. In the meantime, I hope you’re dancing around in happy, hopeful thoughts, believing (or aspiring to believe) that whatever you dream you can achieve. You and your work are worth it!

What are your financial goals? Which tip struck you most? Any suggestions to add? I love hearing from you! ♥

Sexy Pumpkin Cookies and a #GirlBoner Contest!

Contrary to what pop culture suggests, treating ourselves to tasty vittles is extremely sexy! Depriving ourselves, on the other hand, not so much. Even sexier? Courage, wit and authenticity, even (or especially) in the face of adversity.

When I learned that Amanda Kyle Williams was preparing for a second round of cancer treatment,  I wanted to share with her a smidge of the humor and kindness she provides her many friends and fans. (If you haven’t read Amanda’s books or followed her on Facebook, you’re missing out!)

So I did what any Girl Boner-loving improvisational baker would do: baked her a batch of butt cookies.

butt cookies 1

While I’d seen cookies shaped like bums and cleavage, I hadn’t encountered any with healthy ingredients or that celebrated more underwear types than thongs and G-strings. With a bit of experimentation, I came up with Sexy Pumpkin Butts, which provide more fiber, protein and antioxidants than typical cookies, come in many shapes and sizes and have a nice bronzy hue, making them, hmm… either tanned or multi-ethnicity.

Sexy Pumpkin Butt Cookies

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients, then sift them together with a  fork.

2 cups white whole wheat flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium-size bowl, cream the following ingredients together well.

1/2 cup organic butter, softened*
1 cup raw brown sugar, packed
1 cup canned, pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

*For wheat- or gluten- free cookies, use half almond flour, half chickpea flour — or your favorite gluten-free flour blend.

*For vegan cookies, use Earth Balance. The cookies will be softer, and may require a few more minutes in the oven.

Butt cookies 2

Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients, stirring until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Once the dough is firm, roll it out on a floured surface. If the dough is sticky, add flour. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water.

Cut heart shapes using cookie cutters, then cut the tips off to make sexy butts!

Bake on un-greased baking sheets at 350 degrees F. until golden—or about 10 minutes.

Let butts cool, then frost as desired! Makes about 3 dozen 2 – 3″ cookies.

butt cookies 3

If you’d like a sexy dessert recipe designed for YOU, specific to your taste buds and dietary needs, here’s your chance!

I’ve decided to reward Girl Boner Radio listeners for their support by offering monthly drawings for prizes. Anyone who posts a review of Girl Boner Radio on iTunes or Stitcher Radio by November 15th will have their name added to the drawing. If you’ve already posted a review, your name will go in twice!

I’ll announce the winner on the air in late November. Since you don’t have to use your actual name when you post, I’ll read the identifier you use. I’ll also tweet and post the winner’s ID here, so if you miss the episode, no sweat! And no need to get fancy; reviews won’t be judged.

***IMPORTANT: Please don’t post a review if you haven’t listened to the show or pretend to like it! Honest, positive ratings and reviews from regular listeners really help–and those who post them deserve sweets o’ plenty. :)

Never posted an iTunes review? Here are some tips:

How to Rate and Review a Podcast on your iPhone or iPad via iMore.com

How to Rate and Review a Podcast on iTunes (video by Jeff Sanders)

What desserts do you find sexy? What’s your favorite kind of cookie? I love hearing from you!

Don’t forget to tune in to Girl Boner Radio for today’s episode. I’ll be interviewing adult star and professional escort, Sarah Vandella! So excited. :)

The #UnSlut Project: Putting an End to Sexual Bullying

Imagine if after deciding to eat a healthier diet, your peers picked on you extensively, calling you vicious names for eating certain foods you find empowering. Or if after nearly dying from ingesting intentionally-poisoned food, everyone around you snickered and posted photos of you vomiting all over social media. Now imagine all of this happening during your youth, when your sense of self is markedly vulnerable. Seems pretty cruel and ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Slut shaming,” which is really woman- or victim- shaming, makes just as little sense. Countless girls and women are shunned for expressing their sexuality (which is as natural as digestion), for being brutalized by sexual predators or simply for being female. Most cases remain largely hidden, due to the victims’ understandable pain, embarrassment and fear of worse bullying. When we learn about such cruelty through the media, it’s typically due to a tragic outcome.

Judging others sexuality

Emily Lindin, my guest on Girl Boner Radio last week, is out to change all of that. Devastated by the suicides of young women who’d been bullied after falling victim to sexual assault, Emily published her diary from adolescence, which details her own experience being slut-shamed, online. The UnSlut Project has since become a place for people of all genders and walks of life to share similar experiences and gain support. She’s also producing  Slut: A Documentary Film, and speaks publicly about slut-shaming and its consequences throughout print media, social media, live events and on TV. I know; how awesome is she?

Tune in to our chat using the following link. You’re going to love what this awesome woman has to say!

Girl Boner Radio: The UnSlut Project: Putting An End to Sexual Bullying - An Interview with Emily Lindin

Emily Lindin_UnSlut

To learn more about Emily Lindin and The UnSlut Project, visit www.unslutproject.com and follow her on Twitter (@unslutproject) and Facebook.

What do you think of The UnSlut Project? What did you enjoy most about our interview? Have you or a loved one been slut-shamed? I always love hearing from you! ♥

Do You Have a Sexy Relationship with Money? On Artistry, Activism and Abundance

And by sexy I mean respectful, beautiful, celebratory and self-strengthening. Mine is getting there, but for years, it was about as sexy as moldy bread wearing stretched out granny panties. I absolutely have no idea where that came from. *clears throat* Moving on…

[No photo. You're welcome!]

Pre-wedding panic

Seven years ago, my now husband took me to LA’s jewelry district to shop for wedding rings. While other shoppers’ eyes sparkled like the rows of jewels, I nearly had a panic attack. Palms sweating, heart racing and dizzy, I had to step outside for air. What the hell? 

I had no qualms about our engagement. After my first marriage (if you can call it that), I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to wed again. Then I met Mike. “I’m not getting married to get married this time,” I told a friend. “I want to share my life with him.” Adventure partners. It had to be. We’d planned a simple wedding—the two of us exchanging vows on the doorstep we met on before our pets, parents and the neighbors who’d played a role in our meeting. It seemed perfectly us, and given the chance, I’d have done it pronto. So why I was freaking out?

The money, honey.

Simply asking myself the question revealed the answer: money. One thing I’ve seldom shared about what I now call my pseudo-marriage is how broken we’d become in all ways before parting. Our financial struggles influenced, but more so reflected and derived from our incompatibility and insecurities. Desperate to salvage the union many people felt we’d rushed into and feeling a strong sense of responsibility (“We’re married;have to fix this.”), we hid our issues from loved ones.

But it was bad. At one point we had $15 to spend on groceries each month, which I stretched by purchasing rice and beans from the dollar store, 3 for $1 candy bars from Walgreens and Top Ramen. He’d been laid off but wasn’t receiving unemployment and I was modeling, which one can’t do well without the ability to buy even the simple bikini every casting in Miami seemed to require. For that and other reasons, my confidence level at castings was on the floor, making bookings few and far between; when I’d finally receive a paycheck, it had to last for months. I still had medical bills to pay from my eating disorder treatment, and we both had school loans outstanding. And then there’s that funny little thing called rent.

Even worse than a shoddy motel

One day the kind receptionist at the shoddy, hot pink motel we’d been living in advised us to move out ASAP, as the owners were beginning to deceptively overcharge tenants. “We have nowhere to go…and no savings,” I said, trembling. He offered to let us crash in the courtyard of his tiny studio apartment. Though it wasn’t locked, clean or comfortable, it seemed worlds safer from the actual street. Even so, we were essentially homeless, steps away from a crack house and its shady regulars. At one point I spotted a homeless woman shooting up and wondered if the primary difference between us was that she spent her minimal funds on drugs, instead of noodles.

Desperate for higher ground (no pun intended), I renewed my nutritionist certification and began consulting individuals at a local gym between castings until I was hired as an editorial assistant at a magazine. Once we could afford to pay for a month plus a security deposit in a neighboring studio, we took it. The small place with warped, partly rotted floors, a broken oven and a refrigerator that had been well-used but seemingly never cleaned seemed like a palace. As we dined on rice, beans and veggies using a cardboard box as a table, I shed happy tears.

By that point, I’d wanted to quit modeling, but my agent told me I’d be foolish not to use my stepping stone to acting, aware it was my dream. He was right. As soon as I had $300 to spare, I signed up for my first acting class and never looked back. As my passion for my acting flourished and the reality about our broken marriage grew increasingly obvious (particularly once we were no longer in desperate survival mode), we separated then filed for divorce. Meanwhile, I began booking modeling, and soon acting, jobs with relative ease.

The very freedom and independence I had feared after my solitary battle with an eating disorder brought incredible strength. So desperate to be un-alone, I had married a man I barely knew. And had we even talked about finances? Nope. We were going to follow our dreams and make it happen! (Now there’s a detailed plan…)

Lessons from Broke-ville

Being completely broke changes you, bringing heightened appreciation for shelter, food and basic belongings. How could you take what you previously couldn’t nearly afford for granted? But it’s also easy to feel guilty or overindulgent when spending money on virtually anything. That was the case for me—likely because I still had emotional richness to cultivate. The first time I could afford to buy much-needed clothing, I roamed around Marshall’s for over an hour clutching selected items in my perspiring hands. I set them down and rushed out twice before finally making a purchase.

So much has changed since then, but bits remain. I still often feel guilty spending money on myself, but I’ve also maintained the gratitude. Going from broke to independent and pursuing my passions allowed me to move to Los Angeles, work as an actor, meet and marry an awesome man and recognize what I believe to be my life’s purpose—my writing and activism. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to stay true to myself. I think we all deserve that. So does the world.

Moving forward

I’ve been pondering these experiences lately, as my husband and I purchased (and finally moved into!) our first house, and as I work hard to take all-things-Girl Boner to the next level. I had the pleasure of discussing my goals with Rocco, a man who works for Tony Robbins’ company, recently. I told him that while I feel I’ve come a long way in many life areas, I want to go much further—and in order to do so, I need to cultivate commercial success. He agreed and asked me to expand: “What would that look like?”

When I’d finished answering, Rocco paused and said, “I’m going to have you do something really uncomfortable, okay? We’re going to talk numbers.”

I hadn’t mentioned a single number while describing my financial goals. (What do numbers have to do with money? ;)) In fact, I’d scarcely mentioned finances, consistently referring instead to “commercial success,” and making it ultra-clear that “it’s really not about money for me.” True, but still…  It’s not as though he hadn’t heard me the first time. Obviously, some of my ghost-wounds could use more healing. So now I’m going to share my numbers with you all, because I love being vulnerable like that. ;) More importantly, I’m sharing to stand strong in authenticity, move past remaining money-related insecurity hold myself accountable. And who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire a few others to grow similarly.

Side note: Depending on your experience, the following may seem inspiring, impressive, braggy, nominal, relatable, feasible or depressing. Trust me, it’s all relative.

Welp! NUMBERS!

I’ve been making around $30,000 a year through writing for the past few years. In my biggest month stats-wise this year, my blog and radio show had upwards of 60,000 reads/views/listens. As far as I know, 14,000 is the most Facebook likes I’ve gotten for an article, and I’m just about to hit 7,000 likes on my Girl Boner Facebook page. Add all that up and what do you get? Honestly, I don’t really know or care—and perhaps therein lies my ginormous problem opportunity for positive change. (Have I mentioned that I’m a work-in-progress?)

I’m glad I’m not a “numbers person,” and that like many creatives, I value art and outreach far more than money or things. If I want to reach as many people as possible using my skills, experience and passion for greater good, though (and what activist doesn’t?) money can’t be an invisibly-inked afterthought. Financial wealth certainly can’t be something I fear or consider bad or “not typically for artists.”

The whole sexy shebang

When I look back on my life, I see a direct correlation between financial upset and insecurity. When my whole darn life feels sexy, I thrive in all ways—and I know I’m not a rare example. I don’t think I’ve ever fully embraced the idea of financial success for myself, adamantly believing that if you follow your heart and pursue your passions, money will follow. I still believe that and have experienced it repeatedly. I’ve never had a conventional job and have always supported myself fairly well—er, minus my stint of homelessness… What I hadn’t realized until recently is the importance of a truly abundant mindset.

Rocco asked me how I would feel about making a million dollars. “Sounds…fancy!” I yelped. Honestly, I couldn’t even fathom it, unless we were talking Monopoly-ese. “What about reaching a million people?” he asked. My heart did the happy hula. What if to reach a million, I have to make a million, he asked, or at least aim a great deal higher and expect more than I have been? What if I could afford to fly across the country today for a speaking opportunity or to help someone who desperately in need? His point shone in neon.

“Is that level of success doable?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, and meant it.

My starter goal is to double my income within the next 12 months through meaningful work, so that I can reach many more people with my message of self and sexual embracement. This will require intense efforts I’ve already started, most of which is of the heart/mind variety. I have to move past my fear of asking people to invest financially in my mission and dream bigger and bolder than ever before. (I totally dig that last part!) Money isn’t the opposite of a giving, loving heart, I’ve realized; it’s as beautiful or useful as we make it.

So you can make your checks out to… JUST KIDDING! I would’ve hired Rocco or another life coach with Tony Robbins’ company—seriously awesome people and philosophies, but I can’t afford it—yet. (The irony!) So I’m taking it upon myself to kick my own butt, which I’m quite fond of doing.

Toward this end (pun embraced!), I’m aiming to:

♣ Join forces with an awesome, sex-positive sponsor for my Girl Boner brand.

♣ Write for more major publications, broadening my journalism reach.

♣ Land a book contract with a major publisher (with the help of my stellar agent, Jill Marr).

♣ Create and sell empowering merchandize.

♣ Meditate routinely and try yoga. If yoga helps, stick with it.

♣ Continue to give my all on Girl Boner Radio and other shows.

♣ Continue to surround myself and have adventures with fabulous, like-minded people.

♣ Spill my guts on all of this in a blog post.(CHECK! :))

♣ Take a bold step toward greater abundance and financial success Every. Darn. Day.

Abundance is a mindset, not a finish line.

Greatness comes when we live authentically, especially when it requires stepping into the uncomfortable. Sometimes doing so allows us to heal wounds that have lingered for years. When I look at my wedding ring now, I’m reminded of the shimmery treasures that materialize when we never stop working on ourselves or our lives. And when I pass a dollar store or a homeless person, I’m reminded that we’re all more alike than we realize. Money doesn’t make us better or different than anyone else, but it can help us help those who need it.

Last week I had the sheer joy of attending Katy Perry’s concert in LA with one of my favorite people, Sheri Fink. The VIP experience was a luxury I never would have considered for myself years back—and while such sparkly pink adventures aren’t likely to happen every day, we can perpetually have glimmers. Just imagine what would happen if we all embraced and nurtured them. We just might illuminate the world.

August McLaughlin_Sheri Fink_Katy Perry LA

 

Do you have a sexy relationship with money? What related goals are you working toward? Have you ever been semi or fully homeless? Do I ask bizarre questions? LOL I love hearing from you! ♥

#GirlBoner Science: Highlights From My Orgasm MRI

“Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.” ― Jeffrey Eugenides

When I first learned that a journalist had participated in orgasm research, bringing herself to climax in an MRI scanner, I thought, Awesome! Great for her! I also wondered, Why not me? I got over my envy, but never lost my admiration. I pictured myself on a hospital bed, wires hooking my head to machinery, having a good ol’ time in the name of sexual science—a modern-day Masters of Sex experiment, with extremely scrumptious perks, and the chance to see my most important organ doing some of its most important work. Something vital was missing from that daydream, I would learn: the actual MRI machine, which changed just about everything…

"Uh… You want me to do what?"

“Uh… You want me to do what?”

Last Friday, after emceeing North America’s 2nd Annual World Sexual Health Day celebration in New York City on Thursday (an awesome experience I’ll share more about soon!), my sexuality/research fetishist dream came true! I headed to Rutgers University to participate in the orgasm study I’d read about. Led by brilliant researchers Barry Komasurak, PhD acnd Nan Wise, PhD, the study aims to recognize how different areas of the brain are affected during arousal, sensual and non-sensual thoughts, genital and non-genital touch and—assuming I could get there—orgasm.

In the days leading up to the procedure, I learned that my notions of sexy-play on a bed with movable wires were far off and questioned my ability to contribute fully, IYKWIM. I would be asked to self-stimulate on my back, a position I never use for solo sex, in a cramped space many folks find claustrophobic, lying as still as possible with my head secured down in a custom-made brace that’s so snug, I could barely speak.

Here I am, in all of my human colander glory:

And yes, I got to keep it!

And yes, I got to keep it!

As un-sexy as all of that looks or sounds, I ended up finding the experience enlightening and profoundly beautiful. Cozied into the small space full of loud mechanical noise some have compared to gunshots while a crew of scientists sat opposite a large window, a sense of intimacy, challenge, femininity, excitement and exploration set in. I was part of a team, and there was no pressure to do anything other than my best, given the circumstances. If I felt uncomfortable at any time, in fact, I could hit an emergency button and come shooting back out. (Bizarre pun not intended!)

Whew! No tumors!

Whew! No tumors! #NeuroSelfie

Once in the machine, which was remarkably comfortable, it tracked my brain activity and eye movements, capturing countless images, which will be processed to determine which brain areas ignited and to what extent. For each of my two sessions, the screen above me prompted me to rest, contemplate various scenarios, touch various body parts or stimulate myself to climax.

Every so often, I took moments to relish the fact that I was participating in landmark sexuality research and an experience I’d only dreamed of. And while I surprised myself by climaxing—twice and a little too quickly, apparently—I was even more surprised that those moments weren’t the most luscious of the event.

I gained appreciation for aspects of my body and sexuality I hadn’t much considered, such as the value of intentional, sensual mindfulness as foreplay and how my body reacts to clitoral stimulation alone. Fantasizing, it turns out, may be the most powerful turn-on of all (followed closely by nipple stimulation), non-sexy thoughts, such as pondering the speculum used for vaginal exams, are a major buzzkill, and women, including me, can orgasm without fully realizing it. (What?!?)

Team O!

Team O!

I’m happy to say that the while the marks the mask left lingered only temporarily, the memories and lessons derived from my MRI experience will last a lifetime—assuming my brain remains as healthy as my neuro-selfie suggests.  *knocks on laptop*

For more on my MRI-gasm experience, tune in to:

 Girl Boner Radio: Brain Turn-Ons and Orgasm Myths

The episode also features a chat on orgasms with adult star turned comedian, Alia Janine, and an interview with Dr. Barry R. Komisaruk, the professor and researcher who led the fMRI study. I’m also writing about my experience for an upcoming issue of Indie Chicks magazine.

Would you leap at the chance to have an orgasm in an MRI scanner? What other study would you like to participate in? Any thoughts or questions on my experience? If you listened to my latest show, what did you think of Alia and Dr. Komisaruk’s insight? I love hearing from you! ♥

Celebrating Sexual Health: Join us on 9/4 in NYC or LIVE Online!

What does sexual health mean to you? What springs first to mind? Something celebratory, I hope! Regardless, I hope you’ll join me and the incredible crew of the the 2nd annual World Sexual Health Day, North American celebration in NYC in-person or online this Thursday, September 4th.

Over 30 countries will be commemorating the holiday, which is an initiative of the World Association for Sexual Health aimed at broadening awareness and positivity surrounding sexual wellness, with a definition that goes far beyond the prevention and treatment of disease. I can’t tell you how stoked I am!

I’ll be hosting the phenomenal NYC event, which promises to be an evening rich with music, performance art, inspiring takeaways and captivating conversation. Having attended last year, I can honestly say it’s one of the most inspiring, thought-provoking events I’ve experienced.

If you’re in the New York area and would like to join us at the historic Cutting Room, you still can! For tickets and more details, visit ConnectionsABC.com.

To enjoy the event from your own living room, RSVP via Facebook here or simply start watching via Gander TV on Thursday, 9/4 at 7pm EST here: World Sexual Health Day LIVE STREAM

But wait. There’s more!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of interviewing one of the evening’s star performers, Jeffrey Solomon of Houses on the Moon Theater Company, on Girl Boner Radio. To listen to our chat about his work, the WSHD event and developing healthy attitudes about our own sexuality, stream or download the episode via iTunes here: Girl Boner Radio: Celebrating Your Sexual Health

About Jeffrey:
Writer-Performer Jeffrey Solomon is the co-Artistic Director of Houses on the Moon Theater Company. His solo play MotherSON has appeared Off Broadway, on London’s Off West End, in Melbourne Australia, India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and is presented widely as an educational and support tool. MOTHER/SON won the Audience Favorite, Best Playwriting and Best Male Solo Performer at the Columbus National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival and Mr. Solomon won Best Male Performance at the Absolut Gay Theatre Festival in Dublin, Ireland. His other solo play SANTA CLAUS IS COMING OUT premiered at the Bailiwick in Chicago, ran Off Broadway the Kirk Playhouse and has toured nationally including the Diversionary Theatre in San Diego where it won a StageSceneLA’s Best Of 2010-2011 Award for Best Solo Performance. The play also received the Best of the National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival. Jeff wrote the pilot episode and was a staff writer for Jim Henson’s CITYKIDS, an issue based program for youth featuring new muppet characters, which was nominated for an Emmy for Best Children’s Special as well as winning a Golden Rose Award for Outstanding Human Values.
JeffreySolomon1

To stay in the loop regarding the event, follow @sexualhealthday on Twitter and visit the event page on Facebook. I hope to celebrate with you soon!

No One Can Steal Your Christmas Without Permission and Other Lessons From Moderate Stress

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” ― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers

I realize it’s Labor Day weekend, but I’ve been thinking more about Christmas—or more specifically, where mine has gone.

It’s been nutty around here these past few days. Hours before my husband and I were to get the keys to our new home and start loading the moving truck, a goofy paperwork issue worked like a bat to a piñata on our plans. We’re still moving, but not for another week or more—which may not seem like a big deal, but the timing couldn’t have been much worse and the complexities have been fairly immense. I’ll spare you the specifics, but I will share some of the thoughts the ordeal has prompted.

I study my face when I'm in a bad mood, 'cuz I'm weird like that. And yes, I have chewed off my nails.

Here I am, pondering what the heck had just happened–blah, but aware that like the nails I had just chewed off, my joy would grow back. And probably faster. ;)

♦ Sudden stress can be paralyzing, even when it’s not life-or-death important—but we have to let ourselves feel. We’re healthy, still have a roof over our heads and will soon have a beautiful home of our own. All of the recent chaos could be so much worse. And yet, when we first learned of the changes, I dropped from the euphoria zone I’d been living in to somewhere between the South Pole and the center of the earth emotionally. Though I suddenly had more time to allot to prep for my NYC trip, articles I’d been writing and my radio show, tending to it all felt nearly impossible. So, I let myself work less and slowly, traded my workouts for short, meditative jogs at the park and baked some improvisational when-the-cookies-crumble cookies. As a dear friend reminded me, letting ourselves feel is so important, even if it requires a semi-standstill.

There's a reason STRESSED is DESSERT spelled backwards.

There’s a reason STRESSED is DESSERTS spelled backwards.

♦ Challenges focused on a loved one are easier and harder than moderate self-stress. What the heck do I mean? Good question. LOL When my bulldog, Zoe, was sick with cancer, love for her made the experience painful, but also beautiful and precious. Love for others gets us through tough times, even (or especially) when it’s they who are hurting. But what happens when the stress isn’t as serious or focused on another? It struck me the other day that love can get us through ANY stress, and self-love could be the most important kind of all. Not exactly a revolutionary thought, but, I feel, an important one. Caring for ourselves isn’t always as lovely or fun as a spa day, by the way. Sometimes it requires lying around like a sloth and watching creepy-ass movies for a few hours. ;)

Sometimes the creep-factor is oh-so-therapeutic. Watching "One Hour Photo" and counting my blessings.

Sometimes the creep-factor is oh-so-therapeutic. I highly recommend watching “One Hour Photo” and doodling your blessings.

♦ No one can steal your Christmas unless you let them. The only way I could describe the high I was flying on before the moving delay was Christmassy—full of hope, wonder and excitement. Admittedly, I was pretty pissed when those feelings vanished. I also felt a bit selfish and weak; “I should be stronger than this!” Then I reminded myself that I’m human, that feelings are good and if I want to change them, I can choose how to react and where to focus. My decision to feel my way to higher ground and regain vigor seems to be working. My groove is gradually returning. Having an adventure partner who’s willing to talk and feel through this all with me helps tremendously, too. I’m putting up a Christmas tree as soon as we’ve moved in and plan to have a blast in NYC and our move once it happens. (Take that, stress goblins!) I’m also planning a Random Act of Christmas housewarming party I’d love for you all to join—details coming soon. :)

My role model, Via, who maintains a perpetual state of Christmas.

My role model, Via, who maintains a perpetual state of Christmas—and knows precisely when extra love is needed.

We can choose to learn and grow from hardship or grumble our way through it. I don’t know about you, but grumbling seems a lot less fun or helpful. Now, to figure out what to wear at World Sexual Health Day, since my dress options from Stitch Fix appear to be floating around in the we-can’t-get-our-mail-o-sphere…. LOL The adventure continues! Wishing you a beautiful week.

To learn more about World Sexual Health Day, tune in to Girl Boner Radio. Today I’ll be interviewing actor, Jeffrey Solomon, who’ll be performing at this year’s celebration. To watch the free live-stream on Thursday night, RSVP on the Facebook event page. For tickets to the actual event in NYC, visit ConnectionsABC.com

What have stressful situations taught you? Any zany moving stories to share? I love hearing from you! ♥

Sex-Positivity: A Parental Superpower for Raising Happy, Healthy Kids

Don't worry - it gets easier! And as my recent radio guest Lea Grover pointed out, sex talk should go well beyond a single chat.

Don’t worry – it gets easier! And as my recent radio guest Lea Grover pointed out, sex talk should go well beyond a single conversation.

One of my favorite questions to ask radio guests and listeners is, “What did you learn about sex as a kid?”  In response, I usually hear some variation of “nothing” or “that it was bad.” Considering the little, if anything, most of our parents learned about sex growing up paired with the abstinence-only and fear of STDs approaches used in U.S. schools and society’s messages about sexuality, these answers aren’t surprising—but they are unfortunate and worth changing, no matter when you start.

Some of the reasons parental sex-positivity matters:

◊  Most kids learn extremely little or countless mistruths about sex throughout their lives, which raises their risk for depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more.

◊  Sexuality is a natural part of being human, from the womb on. Addressing kids’ natural curiosities truthfully, respectfully and in language they understand (but still using proper terms: vagina, penis, etc.) helps ensure body confidence and lets your child know they can trust and talk to you, without shame.

◊  When kids’ curiosities aren’t quelled, they seek the information elsewhere—namely the internet or their peers. This is why mainstream porn has essentially become our youth’s sex education, raising loads of risks.

◊  Talking to your kids about sex and their bodies in respectful, uplifting ways creates stronger child/parent bonds.

◊  Encouraging kids to embrace their sexuality paves the way for positive self-esteem, body image, growth and development and relationships throughout their lives.

It would be easy for me to say, “Come on, everyone! Raise your children with sex-positivity!” but I don’t have kids, and can only imagine just how complex and confusing doing so can become. That’s one reason I was thrilled to interview Lea Grover on Girl Boner Radio last week.

A writer and mother living on Chicago’s South Side, Lea says she waxes philosophical about raising interfaith children, marriage after a terminal cancer diagnosis and vegetarian cooking. She recently added sex-positive parenting to her article library, in a poignant piece published by the Huffington Post. I contacted her after reading it and learned that she’s also a fellow 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year! Her blog is as fabulous as she is.

Writer and sex-positive parent, Lea Grover

Here’s the opening excerpt of Lea’s article, This is What Sex-Positive Parenting Looks Like:

It happened yet again. As I was sitting at the table for dinner with my children, I noticed my daughter’s hand fishing around under her skirt.

“We don’t play with our vulvas at the table. Go wash your hands and finish your food,” I scolded. She nodded, ran off to wash her hands, and resumed picking at her dinner instead.

Small children, they touch themselves. A lot. It’s fascinating to them. And when you’re a small child, you have no sense of shame or disgust or fear of your body. Your body is what it is. It does what it does. And everything that it does is kind of amazing, because you’re not old enough for lower back pain. It’s not sexual, it’s just… fact.

The first time I caught one of my kids playing with their genitals, I said absolutely nothing. I was momentarily paralyzed with indecision. One thing I knew for a fact I did not want to do was to shout, “No!” or “Stop!” What good could that possibly do? Sure, I would be spared the awkwardness of catching my child playing with her genitals on the living room floor, but what kind of lesson is that? To fear or ignore your own vagina?

I thought about it almost constantly for two days, and of course she gave me a second chance to react.

“Sweetie, we don’t play with our vulvas in the living room,” I said. Which sounded ridiculous and strange, but nonetheless true. Why is everything with little kids “we” statements? “It’s OK to touch your vulva, but people are private, and it’s a private thing. The only places where you should touch your vulva are in the bathroom or in your bedroom. If you want to play with your vulva, please go to the bedroom.”

And she smiled and did, without question, because compartmentalizing where you do certain activities makes sense to little kids.

“We don’t eat in the bathroom, and we don’t touch our vulvas in the living room,” became the new mantra. And yes, eventually it became, “We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.” To read on, visit this link.

To listen to our radio chat, click here: Sex-Positive Parenting: How to Raise Empowered Kids

You can follow Lea’s work as Becoming SuperMommy on FacebookPinterestGoogle+ and @bcmgsupermommy on Twitter.

For tips on how to talk to your kids about sexuality, read the post I wrote for the National Eating Disorders Association, Boosting Kids’ Body Image and Self-Esteem by Taking the Taboo out of Sex Talk.

To learn what my mom learned about sex while growing up in the mission fields of India, check out this Girl Boner Radio episode.

How do you feel about sex-positive parenting? What did you think of Lea’s insight—on the air or in her article? If you’re a parent, how does your child’s knowledge of sexuality vary from what you learned growing up? What do you wish you’d learned growing up? I love hearing from you!
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