People are always so shocked when I tell them that I grew up as a Mennonite. I’m so far removed from that lifestyle they can’t believe it!
But my upbringing has had a HUGE impact on my life. In fact, it’s why I’m here talking to you today!
I was born in rural Pennsylvania under the strict, religious, patriarchal Mennonite culture.
I never felt like I fully belonged.
I wasn’t the quiet, subservient little girl, I was supposed to be. I had a FIRE burning inside me. A fire that was always getting me into trouble.
When I was about 10, I was talking to a boy in Sunday school about baseball. It was just an innocent conversation between two kids. But just because I was speaking to a member of the opposite sex, the Preacher came around and said, in front of the whole class, “Now, now. You don’t want to be one of those women, do you?’
That was the day my fire was (temporarily) extinguished.
I was overcome by this feeling of white-hot shame that didn’t feel fair or just. It made me feel small, powerless, and insignificant. I couldn’t stand that feeling but since I couldn’t shake it, I let it define me.
Through a lucky break I went away to college in Western Pennsylvania to study to become a medical technologist. My college was in another small town similar enough to the one in which I was raised. While I had a good time my college experience didn’t challenge me to grow as a person.
However, when I moved to Philadelphia for my first job that’s when major culture shock set it.
Every time I saw a woman in a short skirt or low-cut blouse I would feel uncomfortable. I’d cringe when I saw posters for strip clubs or even exotic dance scenes in movies (it was the 90s, there were a lot). Now, I never thought of myself as a prude but for some reason when I saw women express their sensuality or sexuality I became very uncomfortable.
I knew I had to face this fear head on.
So, I tried a couple things that I thought would help. I took nude boudoir photographs, I tried writing erotica, but next I found the thing that really transformed my life.
This ex-Mennonite gal signed up for an exotic dance class.
I was TERRIFIED on my first day. Our teacher was an ex-stripper and I found myself immediately judging her for her long fingernails and fake boobs without hesitation.
But then she sat us down in a circle and the first thing she said was, “It’s ok to move your body in any way you want to move your body.”
I BURST into tears. This was exactly what I needed to hear. Something I wish my mother had been able to tell me.
My whole perspective shifted. I felt strong, sexy, and powerful. I discovered I didn’t have to be ashamed for being a woman, in fact, I could feel PROUD. I could enjoy my sensuality, confidence and strength. I was a new woman.
I broke it off with my then fiancé, I began searching for a new career, I even cut my hair short for the first time. I was literally reevaluating everything in my life, and shedding all those negative, shame filled messages I received as a child.
Now, I wasn’t the only one. This exotic dance class grew exponentially and began to receive all sorts of attention. But the day CNN came to do an expose on our class, our instructor didn’t show up. Without a beat, I raised my hand and offered to teach. (Definitely not something I would have had the courage to do before exotic dance!) You can even watch the video
I LOVED teaching. I started traveling around the country, hosting workshops and inspiring women to thrive in their fully expressed selves. The transformations I witnessed were astounding. It really made me question why we shame so many women into not moving in ways they wish! Hundreds of women walked out of my class with their own new-found sense of confidence, and power. (Plus, some seriously sexy hip-rolls.)
Now, during this time I was engaged to a new man who seemed to support my exotic dancing workshops. But just two weeks after we were married, he told me he wanted me to stop teaching because that wasn’t the type of job for a wife and future mother.
All those years of patriarchy inched back into my life and while I did want to be a mother, I fell right back in the roles I worked so hard to escape.
I spent years raising my 3 lovely kids (who are the loves of my life) with the wrong man, doing everything I knew possible to make a failing marriage work.
Finally, I had enough. I packed our bags and left for good.
For the SECOND time in my life, I had let a man extinguish my flame. I felt shamed, powerless, and so, so small. I was determined to never let this happen again.
So, after I made that change, I made a BIG, BOLD, MOVE. I left a man who embodied the patriarchy. It was hard. It was scary, especially with three young kids but I knew I’d never be happy with someone who did not want me to express my own personal power in a way that gave me joy, energy and a zest for life.
Crazy right? Nope. It was exactly what I NEEDED!
I did some really bold things during those days to reconnect to my feminine essence. I walked the edges of my boundaries and I stayed curious and open to the big, wide world around me. (I’ll tell you the full, titillating story some day).
Listen, you don’t need to take it as far as I did. I went to the extreme and then backed off to find my happy place. I can get you there in safe, incremental steps that do not include taking your clothes off in front of strangers. Just trust me.
It took a lot of work, but I finally got my groove back. This time, for good.
And I discovered that I actually had taken very similar steps both times I escaped the patriarchy to reclaim my feminine presence. But the second time it was WAY faster and MUCH easier.
Since I knew so many more women had similar issues I decided that, much like how I had helped others through exotic dance workshops, now I could provide that kind of inspiration in a whole new way!
I decided to teach the mindset and steps towards empowerment I learned through my experiences to the women in my weekly support group at Women In Transition (WIT).
Guess what? It worked for them too!
That’s how, the Femessence® Program was born!
Through a combination of deep-dive tutorials, interactive worksheets, a thriving membership site and science-backed bodywork exercises, I’ll help you cut through your own limiting beliefs and negative programming to get back to a place of feminine power, playfulness, and pride!