The OMHG Community & I Need Your Help

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, Oh My Handmade

 Jean Vanier, Community & Growth 

Lovely friends, I almost wish I was just announcing a new theme with my same exuberance for a fresh month of adventuring with you-at the same time I’m anxiously excited to share some changes for OMHG and I. Today I was supposed to be teaching about community at the Artful Business Conference but had to withdraw because of some major turbulence in my life. I am thankful to so many people but especially to the incredible Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting who took my place at ABC when I couldn’t pull it together. Instead of teaching about connection I am asking for your help getting creative with our community so that we can keep going strong and I can get my strength back too…

I’ve been away from the computer a lot this summer after a really hard time over the Spring/Summer. My mother has been mentally ill on and off for much of my life but the last year has been inexpressibly difficult for all of us as she headed into an ever darker place. To cope I retreated into myself and let so many of the balls I’ve been juggling fall while I tried to keep things together internally. Mental illness and suicide are painful to talk about but September is not only Suicide Prevention Month it also marks 19 years since my dearest aunt took her own life. Her choice started a chain reaction that has been ricocheting through my family ever since, leading to my Nana also taking her own life when I was 16. So when my mother began threatening to do the same it left me completely shattered and I’m still piecing things together.

I’ve struggled with how much is healthy to share publicly with OMHG but have been talking openly in the forums about how difficult things have been. Not being honest feels like shaming myself into keeping quiet yet it is so scary to talk publicly about our deepest pain. Our little family had hoped that August would provide a break and calm patch to catch our breath, get back to myself and toss all my business balls in the air again for September. Though the postcards from camp have been lovely our August has been a whirlwind and I am still breathless. Chris’s dad had a heart attack, Ila got lice at her day camp TWICE, Sela broke the tip of her little finger at school…you know, life. At this point I jump anxiously every time the phone rings! I’m still muddling through how things can go from best-they’ve-ever-been + feeling like everything is unfolding brilliantly to struggling just to get through the day and parent with grace…but that is where I am and trying to pretend otherwise just feels wrong. One thing this time has taught me is that our businesses are directly tied to our confidence and internal stability, the moment I started doubting myself and value OMHG started to stutter-which only reinforces feeling not-awesome.

Mental illness is something many of us struggle to understand and navigate, I know I am not alone in this and pretending the pain doesn’t exist isn’t the answer. I truly believe community is what can help us heal by creating a welcoming place to share stories and solutions, but most importantly by letting us work together so no one person needs to carry everything alone. Being part of a community should mean we don’t have to withdraw into ourselves and maintain some professional front while we are hurting or changing.  Over this summer I have spent more time then ever talking one on one with friends I have made here-every conversation brings home to me that it truly takes a loving village to run a healthy business. Our community has brought so much goodness to my life and connected so many other people, I want it to be stable regardless of how I am doing. Instead of continuing to feel like I am failing it because I am less “myself” I’m trying to chart my way forward by asking you all to help me find equilibrium again and make our community even stronger at the same time. The biggest problem with entrepreneurship is that everything comes grinding to a halt if we are sick or in crisis-but I hope we can prove together it doesn’t have to be this way!

I can’t continue to be a functional parent/person + run & participate in this amazing community + do client projects all by myself. I want to be that person again soooo bad but I’m not there. I need to take time for myself & our family + make sure the community I love is sustainable. Since life went topsy-turvy, everything has slowed down while I focused my limited resources on staying afloat and put my little bit of work time into our member forums and client work to pay our mortgage. The forums are vibrant and full of support, ideas and collaboration- because of this many recent submissions have come from our readers and members. My first step is to streamline OMHG and ask for help by moving our operations into the forums, writing new clear guidelines, charting our themes for a year and opening contributing to OMHG up to everyone who wants to participate.

From now on I will be publishing our themes for one year in advance in the member forums and publicly on our submission page with monthly deadlines and post ideas. If you submit four posts a year to OMHG that are chosen for publication you will receive access to our member and contributor forums, a contributor profile, and the ability to submit your posts from the contributor dashboard. We will use our forums to plan themes, brainstorm, and collaborate on posts together to make OMHG more collaborative then ever!

I am also opening up submissions for pitches of 4-12 article series on topics important to our community or that teach techniques + skills. My goal is to have OMHG operate more like a community driven magazine with monthly content planned out and submitted well in advance. I hope to see us continue to use the beautiful website Aeolidia created the way we do our #OMHG chats and forums-as a gathering place to make new friends and business connections, talk out our questions, share ideas, and teach each other as we go. To make our forums accessible to all and gauge the value our members attach to the space our community forums are now a pay-what-you can structure with $7, $10, $15 or $20 monthly memberships.

To make time in my life for these changes I have pulled out of any extra projects, speaking, or travel plans for a year. Oh but that hurt! It is such an honour and privilege to be asked to speak anywhere and I’m still totally amazed at the fact that these opportunities keep arriving but right now I am in no place to be teaching or travelling.  Next year when Sela goes off to school and my days are mine for the first time in 10 years I will re-evaluate. Now I need to focus on building a stable happy home life for myself and family + a solid structure for OMHG before I do any traipsing. My new passport is going to have to wait for stamps though I so very much want to meet and visit more OMHG friends. People you just have to start visiting me in storybook village land! Consider this a standing invitation to my little pink Canadian house 🙂

For all of you who have experienced or are struggling with mental illness-either your own or someone you love, know that you don’t have to deal with your pain alone. If you don’t have close family, reach out to peers, professionals, and even perfect strangers for help. Tell your story until you find someone who you feel hears and supports you. Keep looking for a community that welcomes you until you find it.  Don’t give in to the darkness or sadness or bury your truth under pretending to be okay-you have worth, you are valued, you are loved for who you are. I want to thank every friend who has reminded me of that truth this summer, your words have been an anchor for me when I felt totally adrift. I hope to be back to my cheerful Ms. Handmade Goodness self soon but I am so grateful for the chance to build a community and a business that calls for honesty but never demands perfection.

If you want to be a part of helping OMHG and I get on our feet while building a community that steps up for each other when we need it most, contribute to a theme, pitch a series, and/or become a member of our community. For September our theme is Creative Communities and I invite you all to join in by writing and submitting a post to OMHG that takes us on a tour of a creative space or place in your neighbourhood. Get details and post ideas +  all the upcoming themes until August 2014 right here!  During this transition things might be slower around here or we might have more posts that ask questions that we chat about in the comments. I also might not be as accessible online but you’ll find me in the forums, puttering in my house and in my heart, and visiting every Thursday at #OMHG.

Please share your stories, truths, insight, thoughts or suggestions in the comments-I might not be able to reply to them right away but I promise that this is a safe place to share and that I’ll read every one!

23 comments

  1. Rocajo Studio says:

    Hi Jessica. First of all I’m sending you a big hug. And then another one. Actually, take as many as you need. And give a few to your mom from me. I know I haven’t been around much which mainly has to do with me wanting to enjoy as much time as possible with my family before going back to work in November but after reading your post I knew I had to reach out to you. To let you know that you are loved, that you are needed, that you are doing the right thing and that, with time, all will be well again. xxx Tania

  2. oh, i can so relate!!! and yes, it does feel good to talk about it and feel the support of this amazing community. i have a family that seems quite full of mental illness at times, and i know that when i have talked openly about it, the wonderful crafters and sewists and parents that we get to be a part of have lifted me up. please know that all of our thoughts and hugs are with you and that we do know just how tough and long some days are. hang in there!! you are loved. XO

  3. Karen says:

    Sweet Jessika, thank you again for showing us all the aspects of you, even the frightened parts. I’m here for you, and you must know that this community is strong Because of You and For You, too.
    I think it’s wonderful that you’re reaching out to the greater community for posts and editorial contributions. I know I longed to write for you for Years before knowing how easy and satisfying it would be just to approach you and volunteer. This request of yours comes at a perfect time, too, what with #OMHG chats starting up again and days becoming more free for us work at home mamas

  4. Bee Eastman says:

    Jessika, Everyone gets caught up in their busy life and I’m so glad you reached out to the community you built for some help. I’ve shared my struggle with only one person. I’d like to help you and be support you. I’m willing to do what I can to ease your load. To be honest, I’m better if you can give me an assignment (no public speaking or travel please)!! We all love you and pulling together to get you back on track is the least we can do for our community. Big Hug.
    Bee

  5. Jessika – I’m sending truckloads of love to you right now. You are such an inspiration to me and to this entire community. I’m so thankful to know you and to be a part of this place that feels like a second home. I have you to thank for building that! I think you are incredibly brave and this post is a strong testament to the brilliance and depth of your character. I’m here for you, whether it’s for a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or to help take a load off. I know I’m not the only one. If there’s anything tangible I can do to help ease your workload, please let me know…I mean it! Big BIG hugs! Rockship sized (for all the inter-space sparkle). Love you, friend!

  6. Darice says:

    To the endless possibilities + the beauty that I know can be found even the dark. Sending so much love + peace + healing to you all. Thank you for sharing yourself so freely – you are an inspiration (even if you don’t feel like it.) <3

  7. Amy Moroni Quarry says:

    Oh Jessika. You are so loved and supported. Sending lots of hugs and virtual support and anything I can do you know I will. This is the beauty of community – it will rise up to support you when you need it. you are such an inspiration to so many – big love to you and all of your family. xoxox

  8. Yvonne Rhinehart says:

    Jessika, big hugs and lots of love your way. Seriously I know that it’s never easy to deal with any of this, but you are definitely being strong by sharing your struggles. All in all I think it’s important to remember that we are only human and do the best you can to move forward each day with both your life and your business. I know that both will come out strong. If you need anything, I’m always here.

  9. Bev F. says:

    Oh, Jessika, I can only imagine what you and your family have been through. I know these stories are hard to share, but mental illness is something I think as a society we need to be more open to discussing; thank you for sharing your story, as difficult as I’m sure it was. I am so sorry to hear what your mom has been going through, and the toll I am sure it has taken on you and your family.

  10. Jessika, my thoughts (and hugs) are with you and your family. Thank you so much for sharing and reaching out. We are all human, and can only do our best – so when the load becomes too much, and you know that you need help, it’s the right time to reach out to the very community that you’ve built to ask for a helping hand, where so many lovely and creative people will are willing to help. I hope you manage to navigate these tricky waters (with some help form the community) and come out the other side stronger than ever!

  11. April Heather Art says:

    Dear beautiful, fragile, strong, smart, and powerful Jessika–thank you. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your vulnerability, Thank you for your honesty. Truly. I am moved and am in awe. My loving prayers of health & peace go to you and your sweet family, and your loving, courageous momma. Each and every day. Blessings to you…and to this incredibly rich community. You’ve created a life boat here at OMHG–I swim out to it knowing I am reaching safety, and will feel the embrace & warmth I crave. May it continue to offer you the same “life boat” security as it does so many others. And on a side note-LICE SUCKS. Been there darlin. Hang in there–xoxo

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you x infinity for your willingness to share your stories, your friendship, support and loving words-here & also in the forums/email/texts/calls. Each of your messages lighten a bit of my heaviness & lets me know that it is totally okay to tell friends exactly what is going on and how it feels. Maybe it isn’t the smartest business move but going by the way my heart feels it was the best ever personal move. I am feeling much better able to navigate a way forward knowing that there is a crew of sweet friends who aren’t scared if the waters get choppy or storms threaten. It might take some doing but OMHG is going to pull through just fine with a little help from our friends 🙂 Thank you for being the best friends and crew mates any person could ask for!

  13. colleen attara says:

    Oh Jessika…Count on me. I am here for you and this community that means so very much to me. Thank you for all the magical people and opportunities you have put in my path. Thank you for setting an amazing example that honesty puts us in the light and allows us to be true and lessen the load. A huge hug Jess. Yes, there is darkness that we all carry. Watching you makes the path brighter and less heavy for us all. I am so proud of you and all you do. xoxoxooxooxoxoxoox

  14. Jessika,
    My heart goes out to you; I can only imagine what you’re going through right now.
    I discovered OMHG less than a month ago and have completely fallen in love as I’ve read current and past posts. The community you’ve created here is wonderful and is a true testament to the kind of person you are – full of character, strength, and genuine-ness.
    Thank you for sharing and for everything. Sending you all the love and support I can muster,
    Anne

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