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Worthy Women, Second Edition: Ginger Che-Howell

February 1st, 2016

Who: Ginger Che

Occupation: Artist, Designer, Private stylist (gingerche.com, chehowell.com)

Location: Malibu, California

I met Ginger in 2001 while I was managing a clothing store in Windansea and she sold her jewelry there. She was hilarious, absolutely stunning, and completely intimidating to me at the time. We became friends, but I didn't get really close to her until 2003 when we both opened retail stores one building away on La Jolla Blvd. We talked daily at one or the other's store, would often share lunch, and went strolling around causing trouble-ya know, the good kind- all over town on the weekends. She talks straight, abhors meaningless chit chat and normally wears heels and red lipstick... oh and you don't want to get in her way.

We always laugh...no matter what is going on, sometimes cry, and it's not unheard of for us to laugh so hard until we cry.

We knew absolutely everything about each other, and I knew her well through many of the events you will read about...taking care of Marvin on her own, meeting Andy in Vegas, then having two children with him and going to their birthdays when they moved to Malibu. But we lost touch a bit with life transitions such as children and moving several locations. I knew of her health struggle and she knew of mine, but I unfortunately only saw her once or twice during these most difficult years. I don't regret many things in life, but this is one of them. But I can vouch for this: when I did see her, she was still wearing red lipstick, looking stunning and being hilarious as ever. She might have been a frailer version, but she was still a radiant Goddess. You see, there are just some people that situations, people, even tragedy can't take down. One of them is my friend Ginger. I am deeply honored to learn and share to all of you her full story...although she truly doesn't need an introduction, and never has. You will see what I mean...

Sat nam,

Elise

1) Who are you?

I am a spiritual being having a human experience. Within this experience I have countless flawless flaws, which I celebrate, embrace and also suppress. For as long as I can remember I have always been in love. My first crush was on my dad (when I was three), then on my uncles (his buddies/bros) when I was four whom I all had promised marriage. Then, my first boy crush was on my mom's friend's son who was seven when I was five. He shared a piece of Big Red gum with me inside his mom's closet while she was cooking downstairs in the kitchen. This was in Taiwan where I was born and lived until I was eight-years-old. He broke the gum in half inside the closet between his mother's blouses and dresses (which smelled like a second hand consignment store). Suddenly, the scent of cinnamon filled the closet. He told me that it was going to taste spicy in a sweet way and that it was his mother's gum from America. He added that we were absolutely not allowed to have it. It was at that moment that I completely fell for him and promised him marriage as well.

There was a skinny slice of light that cut into the darkness of the closet. It shone on the gum's red and silver wrapping paper inside my future husbands' little hand. My new hero let me smell the paper as we chewed on the gum in stereo. Then, he put his little index finger (with dirt under his nail) on the silver paper, wrapped it around his finger and twisted it until it turned into a little wine glass. He repeated that with the other half of the silver paper and "voila!" we had two little wine glasses. Both of them smelled like the gum in my mouth. At the sight of these tiny silver paper glasses I was 100% sure that I would love him forever. We pretended to cheers and drink, and we laughed. Then, a few days later I received a love letter from him through my mother. I couldn't read it as I had not learned how to read yet. I asked my mom to read it to me. She smiled the whole time as she read the words. I, on the other hand, got more and more upset as I listened to her. My handsome husband-to-be wrote that he missed me, that he loved my eye, my hand, and my ear. I couldn't believe it! In an instant I jerked the letter out of my mother's hands, tore it into a million tiny pieces and threw them onto the white marble floor. There was something beautiful and sad at the sight of these little pieces of paper sailing down in slow motion to the ground... My mom, trying to suppress her smile asked "...why are you so upset, sweetheart?" I screamed in anger "WHAT ABOUT MY OTHER EYE???!!! MY OTHER HAND???!!! AND MY OTHER EAR???!!! TELL HIM THE MARRIAGE IS OFF, MAMA!!!".

...That is who I was as a little girl... and that is still who I am today.

I am neurotic, that's why I practice zen.
I am impatient, that's why I practice being in the moment.
I am fearful, that's why I act courageously.
I am annoyed by people. I even annoy myself at times.
I am orderly in a messy fashion.
I am spiritual but not religious.
I am critical but not judgmental.
I am caring but not controlling.
I am very proud but not arrogant.
I am honest but not mean.
I am a contradiction but not a hypocrite.
I am sensitive but I am also sensible.
I forgive but I cannot forget.
...I have always wanted to be more than I am,... I have always wanted to know more, see more, learn more, and I have always been excited to discover more... I have always been restless.
I don't like being restless. I like being calm.
I have always been in love with life and I have always been self-destructive. I have always loved everything beautiful.
To me beauty is truth. It is the brutal truth about the human experience in its darkness and in its light. It is the human experience with all its contradictions.
I experience beauty when I am present.
I am most present when I create.
That's why I decided to become an artist of life and create beauty in all that I do.

2) What is the greatest challenge you have overcome/are overcoming?

It's not the first culture shock I experienced when I was eight-years-old (moving from Taiwan to Germany). It's not the second culture shock I experienced when I was twenty-years-old (moving from Germany to the US). It's not the racism I experienced growing up in Germany. It's not living in hardship and not having a childhood. It's not the challenge of learning a new language twice and leaving family and friends behind. It's not having been pregnant in highschool and becoming the talk of town. It's not becoming a teenage mom and not being able to hang with my friends. It's not having been heartbroken by the love of my life with whom I had my first child. It's not having felt alone and homesick for over eight years with my little boy in a foreign country. It's not working multiple jobs and putting myself through school while raising my little boy. It's not graduating university with high honors despite people not believing in me. It's not having my dream job and leaving it for my second marriage. It's not leaving my 17-year-old boy behind to move for my husband's work. It's not two high risk pregnancies in a row. It's not not having uninterrupted or sufficient amount of sleep for over eight years. It's not not having felt rested for over eight years. It's not having to move twenty-three times in my life. It's not not having a father growing up and watching my mother struggle with a new language and culture. It's not going from wealth to poverty and making my way back. It's not losing my father without ever really being able to get to know him. It's not fearing losing my mother several times within a few years. It's not having to leave my little kids behind for months to help my mother recover from her heart attacks and strokes. It's not the worry I had for all my loved ones...

It is the life with the painful struggle of ulcerative colitis. I was diagnosed with UC after my daughter Love was born in 2009. I went to see the doctor after having had blood in my stool for months. The first flare up came a few weeks after the diagnosis. It was the most painful experience I had ever had and it lasted for six years. I had been in pain for six years (sometimes with fevers, sometimes without). The pain had been there day and night and I had been close to death a couple of times. I would get a cold or the flu frequently and it would last for months. Within these years I had seen numerous doctors and specialists, taken all kinds of drugs that they prescribed and experienced horrible side effects that added to my UC symptoms.

I was down to 85 pounds a few times (I am 5'5'), not being able to keep food in and bleeding up to 40 times in 24 hours from my intestines. Sometimes, I would be so weak that I could only whisper, I would have blurry vision, and could not remember certain words when I spoke. With the continuous bleeding I also became severely anemic. I was at times crawling, as I got better I was limping...and then I would have days again where I could not move at all. The stabbing pain in my abdomen was at times taken over by migraines which lead me to vomit until all that came out was green. I developed a stiff neck from the posture that the pain forced me to be in and had constant pain in my neck and upper and lower back. The tension and fear which resulted from my high risk pregnancies manifested in my body over four years would burst out whenever I was alone. The blood transfusions and the steroids had made my body tense and swollen. I would explode in tears in the shower or scream from the top of my lungs whenever I was alone in my car. Being busy with taking care of my loved ones I ignored all my body's and souls' cries for help. Then, at some point, my left arm and hand became numb on a regular basis. The spasms in my lower back became more frequent adding to the spasms in my abdomen. My GI doctor at the time told me "...let's try these and see how you feel. You will vomit for a few weeks and lose your hair but your body will eventually get used to it". I was barely hanging on to life and the drugs I had been taking for the UC had not giving me any relief. "Is losing my hair and vomiting going to get me better?", I wondered...

"...what if it does not work?", I asked my doc. With a friendly smile he said "Then, we'll just try something stronger".

That afternoon I decided to become my own doctor and started researching how to heal myself.

Yoga, stretching, exercise, bodywork will help with my neck and migraines. Diet change, healing foods, healers, shamans, chiropractic, acupuncture, IV injections with vitamins and minerals will support my intestines and my overall well-being. Meditation, stories of resilience, seminars on self-love and women with wisdom will calm my mind. Sleep will help my body regenerate. I had some good ideas but I was so weak that it took me months and years to implement all the changes while raising my two little kids, creating beautiful memories for them, and keeping up with my life in pain. Many wonderful people tried to help me. Most people didn't/don't know what I was/am going through. I hid/hide it well. Even my kids and my husband have not really seen my pain. I took every advice and tried every suggestion. I listened to every healer, tried every suggested diet and took all kinds of supplements. Everything and everyone helped me in some way. The love from people around me kept my spirits up...but nothing was really making me gain weight or reducing the symptoms.

The inflammation continued to spread in my body despite all my efforts to heal. I started getting stinging pain in my wrists, knees, ankles and toes. My doctor told me that I now also had arthritis. I also started getting rashes and dry patches on my skin here and there. I continued to put on my make-up, my red lipstick, and my smile whenever I could. I took many pictures during those years because I wanted to hold on to every bearable moment as I did not know if those were my last ones. My pain forced me to live from moment to moment with gratitude. I was just grateful to be able to see my kids. With every moment in pain I continued to feel more humble about life itself. I could feel that it could be taken away from me at any moment...any day could be my last...I realized how special it was that my children materialized through my body...I realized how amazing it was that life existed...how magical a flower was...a worm...the dirt, the clouds...the sun...the moon, ...the stars...and beyond into space...I could go on and on all the way back into the worlds of the bacteria in my intestines... I was feeling deep within me, passed my pain how incredible it was that I could experience all this magic through this now painful body I was in. Even though everything I did became extremely difficult and would take me 4-6 times longer than it used to-I felt gratitude. Even though I was always exhausted as I was bleeding my life away I became grateful to be alive to feel the pain...and I learned to live with the waves of my pain day in and day out.

The worst arthritis attack came last June. I dozed off with my neck and abdominal pain and woke up two hours later as per usual. This time it was not just the urge to go to the bathroom, there was a new pain which did not allow me to move any parts of my body. I was not able to even move an inch without having to scream in tears. My pain killers were in the bathroom only 8-10 feet away from my bed. It took me four hours in excruciating pain to get there.

What do I do? Where do I go from here?

There were three things I had not tried:

The chemo pills, colon removal, and FMT.

The answer was clear: I am going to research FMT and try it. The Chinese had been doing it apparently for over 4000 years. Some records show 2000 years...but it's definitely been around for quite a while.

My husband supported me in this decision and we gave it a shot, literally.

My arthritis pain went down by 50% only ten hours after the first treatment. This was on July 1st, 20015. My daughter's 6th birthday was coming up (July 23rd) and she had asked me to be Wonder Woman at her "Superheroes and Reptiles" birthday party. However, the pain was so intense, it smothered my optimism to be able to participate. After the success of the first treatment I believed that I would have enough energy to be Wonder Woman for her. I put on my Wonder Woman costume on her birthday and realized that I was not in costume. This was actually my long lost uniform!

By July 23rd, 2015 I had gained two full pounds (!!!) doing two treatments per week. My cramps became less painful as well. This was the very first time I saw real tangible improvement.

Today is January 23rd, 2016 and I am at 115 pounds, back to the weight I was before my high risk pregnancies. It's been over six months since we started the treatments and my arthritis is almost completely gone. There is only some left in my wrists. Due to five years of neck stretching the migraines have also vanished...the spasms have also left. The numbness in my arm and hand have also disappeared. The rashes are also gone. I still have some of the UC symptoms that handicap me in many ways but I am no longer bleeding or cramping. The stabbing pain is also no longer lingering. I have a new doctor and I will have my next colonoscopy in four weeks.

3) What have you learned?

My near death experiences have enabled me to feel how precious and fragile life is. I have felt that every moment is a gift. I have felt the importance of self-respect, self-honor, and self-love.

There were many moments throughout these pain ridden years when I wondered what I was being punished for. I would go through all the events in my life to look for something horrible I may have done which I may be paying for. As I could not recall or find anything I wondered if it may have been something from past lives I may not know about. It wasn't until I let all these thoughts of self-doubt go that I became one with my pain and felt gratitude for life. I learned to be happy with my pain. It wasn't until that moment when the universe gave me more pain. When I felt all this pain in every part of my body, from head to toe... I decided to try something I thought I would never try when I first heard about it years ago.

I also learned something new about love.

I grew up adapting to the people around me and adapting to my environment. This was my way of showing love. I knew at an early age to watch my father's mood swings, to watch his eyes, his body language... and adapt to him. I always knew how to be around the different loved ones in my family and how to make them feel good and comfortable. I somehow just knew how to make everyone happy. This is one of my characteristics which I noticed when I was only three-years-old. I have always wanted to make everyone smile. I have always wanted to hear everyone laugh. My mother is that way. She may have passed it down to me.

When my current husband and I met we had an incredible spiritual experience which was undeniable. My friend read a poem to him which became the beginning of our souls connecting:

She Buddha
by Ginger Che

Silence is within her
She cultivates herself
She educates herself
Giving birth to dreams, hope, and faith is her duty
She knows that nothing is stronger than love
She floats on the flame of life
She leads and she follows
She is nothing and everything
She is no one and everyone
Find her and feed her
Take your precious time
For she is within
YOU

We got married seven weeks after. To show him my unconditional love I closed my gallery/boutique to work with him and went through two high risk pregnancies to have our family. My first son Marvin, 15-years-old at the time and my new husband were not getting along. My mother came to live with us for a year to recover from her heart attacks and strokes and to help me with a soon to be newborn (my second son True). My husband and my mom had a language barrier and I found myself translating their conversations to help them connect. I was in the middle of the three people I loved most, trying to connect them as much as I could. Unable to make them all happy I started feeling pain in my stomach and in my throat on a daily basis. I was also dealing with the in and outs of my high risk pregnancy. I just wanted to give all my love to my loved ones and make everyone feel great. I became so radical in my way of showing this love that I slowly excluded myself more and more (which I believe was the result of the high risk pregnancies). This behavior set the stage for high expectations, resentment and eventually led to self-induced pain. I denied my soul and my body of their needs because of what I thought was "the ultimate act of love". In all my effort to love I had also completely ignored and forgotten about

She Buddha.

This pain I created for myself ultimately led to dis-ease.

What have I learned?

I have learned to remember to include myself as one of my loved ones and to never disregard myself again. I have learned that I am the only person responsible for my happiness. I have learned to never disrespect myself again. I have learned that making myself small in order to make someone else feel bigger has nothing to do with love. I have learned that this behavior was an act of dishonor to myself and that it was the root of my disease.

All that being said I have to add that I have no regrets. I have no regrets because I have always followed my intuition. My intuition took me down this path so I could learn my lesson. Even though, it's been such a bumpy and painful ride... somehow, deep in my soul I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and learning what I am supposed to learn. I believe that I was given this lesson so that I will not pass this behavior down to my children. This behavior that may have lasted for many generations before me ends right here.

Amongst all the wise women who have cheered me on in my struggle there has been one Wonder Woman who sent me a book one day out of which I took a small paragraph and made it my mantra. Every time I read it it brings tears to my eyes. I had been trying to find out why these words made me cry (and they still do). I came to the conclusion that my tears reflect the fact that I had mistreated myself in a million ways.

Here it is:
In this world and all others,
I know that I'm cherished beyond measure.
Within this bright light of awareness I allow myself,
my natural gifts to rise to my consciousness,
and provide healing to myself
and all beings throughout the universe.

It is true what they say: "No pain, no gain".

The universe dropped some heavy duty growing pains on me.

This Wonder Woman has gained.

For all you fellow undercover Wonder Women out there: I cheer you on!!! I cheer you on to be strong. I cheer you on to love yourselves. I cheer you on to respect yourselves. I cheer you on to honor yourselves. I cheer you on to forgive yourselves and I cheer you on to see the beauty in it all. You are worthy. You are important. You matter. YOU ARE the MANIFESTATION of
LOVE.

Worthy Women, First Edition: Jessica Cure

January 14, 2016

I met Jessica on the, ah-hem... throat clear, internet. It's not what it sounds like, but it is true. And we are now real friends. Social media gets a bad rap for too many selfies, superficiality, comparison, and many other things. But just like everything else, it is what you make it. I see it as a conduit to share whatever is important to you, and that means different things to different people. Over the summer, I had a conversation with my good friend Cyrus who helped me get really clear about what my intention and purpose was on social media. I want to help, inspire, comfort, and be authentic. Ever since then, I have discovered some of the most dynamic and encouraging people I have ever "met" on the internet and made countless meaningful connections. Jessica is one of them. In fact, I had my idea of Worthy Women for awhile, but when one of us starting following the other on Instagram and then connected through DM and then a phone conversation... I knew I had to start the blog. She was my Worthy Women muse, if you will ;)

So thank you Jessica; you are a Warrior Princess... kind, graceful and creative- yet unafraid and raw... everything a woman inspires to be :)

Sat nam,

Elise

Who: Jessica Cure

Occupation: (Cure Design) creating healing spaces

Location: California/Colorado

1) Who are you?

I am perfectly flawed – in my perfection I have the power to succeed and in my flaws I have the power the inspire.

2) What is the greatest challenge you have overcome/are overcoming?

This is a tough one because I feel like there have been multiple challenges that all have seemingly intertwined themselves into one. I believe it started with the idea that I needed to strive for the version of success I was told I was headed for. I was a perfectionist to the T, growing up with the sub-conscious beliefs that these collection of perfect skills somehow made me good and valuable. Although learning and setting goals for myself have been great for my life, it was the goals I had that were off course. These needs I had were disillusioned by the world of consumerism, media and the “perfect” looking woman.

I had my first flare with Ulcerative Colitis when I was 15 years old. I remember taking my AP World History Final while running between the bathroom and lying on the classroom floor. I struggled with pain early on and thought I just would learn to live with it, not putting much thought into what was making this pain worse. Fast forward ten years where I was living a life towards these “ultimate” goals, with the beautiful home, fancy car, regiment workout and eating schedule to keep myself looking a certain way, which would facilitate more success in a very dissatisfying lifestyle. I began to get sicker and sicker both mentally and physically. I was so sick with Ulcerative Colitis that I ended up passing out making my bed, and was rushed to the hospital where I was pumped with drugs and sent home only to get worse. I was flown back to California, where I am from, to be admitted to a hospital with a severe C-difficile infection screaming in pain. Looking back on this it almost doesn’t seem real, but this moment changed me forever.

Deep down I had always known I wasn’t meant for that sort of living. I loved nature, art and travel. I wanted to help others and share. I wanted to follow a path with deeper purpose and connection to the earth. I was looking around me stuck in a hospital bed in isolation feeling like a science project gone wrong. How could this be what life was meant for? It wasn’t! I started researching and reaching out to anyone I knew with guidance and answers. I suddenly realized the people that had come into my life, who I had always felt a deep connection with, were the healers… and then went to them for support. I looked to the internet and found some great mentors such as Christine Roseberry, Just Glowing with Health, who sent me the book The Live Food Factor. I started to chip away at my life and began releasing what wasn’t good for me and trusting that the answers would come. I remember crying in yoga class every day, as I told myself to let go of this or let go of that. Asking for guidance of what to do next and feeling very alone. THIS WAS THE HARDEST THING I EVER DID AND AM STILL WORKING ON. TRUSTING. Trusting that letting go and following my intuitions was going to be ok, was major work for me. I had a lot of toxic relationships that needed walking away from, but one day I left it all behind. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew everything in my life had to change.

I moved to Colorado alone, very sick and very tired. I ended up in the hospital again on steroids because I was so scared of losing my colon, not making it out of bed, not being able to live or meet someone who could love this broken version of me. It was all so fear-based, just writing this brings tears to my eyes. After the hospital I began this new journey of self-love and self-care. I was walking to the park just to take off my shoes and wiggle my toes into the earth, I was creating the most wonderful sacred space just for me, where I would make healing and healthy meals, take long nighttime baths, diffuse calming scents and play music where I could just be me. Fully present. Fully letting go. Shedding the layers of an old belief system and connecting with ME.

This doesn’t mean it wasn’t or isn’t still hard, but I now have so many tools I can use. I remember being in a yoga class while on steroids, looking in the mirror and feeling very horrified by the face staring back at me. The effects of yet another drug making me feel so unbelievably sad and alone. These dark and sad moments changed me, they made me more gentle, more caring for others and more understanding that we all have these moments. They need to be felt, they need to be released and they need to be shared.

3) What have you learned?

I have learned that I will never be done learning. Life is beautiful in this way. I’ve learned to wake up every day and choose love and happiness, while releasing fear. I’ve learned that this isn’t always easy and it takes work. I have learned to trust what the universe is giving me and how this has been the thing that has set my soul free. I have learned that trusting in nature and natural healing practices are a better choice for me. I have learned that I can create my own sacred spaces and create the energy I need to feel connected. I have learned that this makes me happier and healthier. I have learned that there are waves of ups and downs, but that is part of life’s beauty. Everyday I am learning from relationships, trying new ideas, working with my passion, Cure Designs (www.curedesigns.com), and connecting a web of loving souls along this journey.

Monthly Worthy Women Post: Starting this month!

January 12, 2016

I LOVE women. And like the great Chris Dennler said, “All women are beautiful.” I can whole-heartedly see what he’s talking about. But I have to admit this honor and respect for the female did not always exist in me how it does now. Unlike a lot of little girls, when I was little I wasn’t into “girly” things. I had a major aversion to pink and was a tom-boy, always outside and dirty, and kicking and screaming most of the time when I had to wear a skirt. Admission: I am still a tom-boy at heart, and often dirty and outside at 38 years of age. That part hasn’t changed.

I have always had good girlfriends that I really loved and trusted, but in general much preferred the direct no “b.s” way that boys had about them. But as I grew older, something started to shift…my friendships with women became more sacred, and this continues to develop today. My “tribe” has become women that I look up to and am inspired by because of who they are…they come in all shades and with different personalities and preferences. They do not all know each other personally and some are extremely different from others, especially on the outside. Some live far and our correspondence is few and far between, and some live close and we check in several times a week. But that is not what this is all about. It’s that connection with a woman that usually happens instantly when you meet her, it’s almost like that same spark when you meet a love interest, just a different kind. Of course it can also happen where your relationship with her unfolds over time and you realize this later. But when it happens instantly, I have rarely been wrong. It’s that women’s intuition thing, as trite as it sounds.

That is what I have come to understand as the foundation and beauty of the love of women for other women. We feel each other and know things without saying them or hearing them. We check-in and support each other. We talk about all the details, I mean every.single.detail when even the best man might be snoozing with boredom. We tell each other we are beautiful. Men have their own special ways of connecting with each other and with us too, which is definitely inspiring to see and cherished as well. But this is a blog for women celebrating women, so that’s what I’m focusing on here :)

Women are mysterious and intriguing, and I love to watch how many of them choose to navigate their way through this ever-changing world. We are all, men and women, going for a paradigm shift; that’s not easy. And we are all certainly going through our own personal struggles. I am going to talk about the women that are evolving from the struggle with a special flair. At first I worded it as ‘making the best of it’ but that’s not exactly what I mean. Not grinning and bearing it-but having the courage to actually go THROUGH instead of around to get to the other side. These women might be working through a challenge zone most every single day; you might have no idea. These women are the women that have the bravery to make their life about the lesson and the learning…and eventually the looking back and smiling on it all for happening, no matter how hard it was. Because there is always an offering of joy beneath every test. We just have to find it.

I have decided to feature these women, my every day heroines and inspirations. Some I have known for years, some new friends, and some I have admired from afar… I will pick every one of you women out there if you give me time, because I see something beautiful in every single one of you. But I am purposely going to pick from a variety of career, purpose and style. I’m also going to allow it to flow and change if that feels right, but for now I will feature one woman a month in the same format, asking the same three questions to all the women and share their answers, un-edited:

Who are you?

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome/are overcoming?

What have you learned?

(Simple questions aren’t always easy to answer).

My hope is that this monthly recognition of the full range of the Feminine inspires you, enlightens you, and maybe even comforts you in some way, whether you are a man or a woman.

Sat Nam,

Elise

 

*the term Worthy Women was inspired by and is credited to Betsy Finkeloo