Well, let’s make this official — I’m back, everyone!
Actually, I’ve been back from my sabbatical for a couple of weeks, but in all honesty, these past two weeks have been A LOT. Not only was I plugging back into work, but our family’s schedule and back-to-school circus hit FULL SPEED all at the same time. I know I’m not alone in this either — I have heard from so many of you who are struggling with returns to structure and systems and schedules that just haven’t been on top of us these past months.
Returning to work required me to turn on certain parts of my brain (my mental ticker, if you listen to Glennon!) and I was equal parts anxious and excited to dive back in.
Which leads me to talking about the first project I’ve worked on since being back. It’s actually something that’s been on the docket all summer, but my sabbatical meant it would have to wait until I returned. In many ways, I think both myself and the woman featured in this collection would agree the timing is actually perfect.
It started back in May with seeing my friend JulieAnn’s Insta Story. She shared a shirt design and how it would be something good to wear to chemo, and then, just how she wished she good stuff to wear to chemo. I responded to her story with a simple, “This makes me think we need to create some shirts for you around the idea of being powerful.”
She was in, and the idea was born. What also struck me is that we had never done something like this before — curating a collection inspired by the story of a woman in this community.
Now that I type this, it sort of seems surprising that we haven’t done this before. These past couple of years I’ve been wondering how to connect our apparel collections to something bigger and more meaningful. I don’t always love selling clothes, but I LOVE offering women meaningful pieces and gifts that help honor and celebrate their stories.
It’s never really been about the apparel, it’s been about the messages, mantras and words that bring to life our collective stories.
We’ve also never had a woman and a story quite like this before. In the arch of the Fellow Flowers story, now nearly a decade long, there have been women who’ve come into it and made indelible marks on both me and this community.
These are women who — year after year — continue to step in and share their journey, who offer deeper thoughts and who bring us with them through struggle and celebration. These are also the women who are ever-present in the stories shared by other women. Filling up comment threads with ‘I see you’ and ‘thank you for sharing’ and ‘what do you need right now’ and having this enormous capacity to support other women who’ve shared in our community. (They are the ultimate #tellher ambassadors, too.)
JulieAnn is one of those women. Even as I’ve sifted through our FFCrew community page and read and reflected on the posts, she’s woven into all of it. A steady and reassuring beat that I think myself and so many other women have come to love and depend on.
Her lifting up the stories for others.
Her seeing my story as well.
JulieAnn has been a member of the FFCrew since it started back in 2015. We sort of laugh about how she thought it would be a community that would unlock all the secrets of running. I mean, not that we don’t talk about running, but I don’t know that she fully understood the bigger focus of the stories and reasons why women run.
About a month after joining, she found out she had cancer for the second time. Her running plans went out the window. Turns out this would-be running group she just joined would become a safe space for her to reckon with and work through yet another cancer diagnosis.
Six years ago she was looking for a running group, and she got the FFCrew community. We rallied around her then, and we find ourselves rallying around her again.
This past March I received a text from her that would change everything:
Hi, I have some news to share. Heard back from my surgeon yesterday about a pathology of a recent bone biopsy. Very likely a sarcoma, early stages, currently unclassified. Sample being sent to Mayo Clinic for diagnosis. Follow up with new oncologist and more tests.
A month later it was confirmed. Our FFCrew community held JulieAnn up as she shared with us that she would begin yet another battle with cancer. This time, it would take half her pelvis with it and all hopes of ever running again.
In order to live, she had to give up the one thing that made her feel alive.
Even as I type it, I can’t imagine it.
Watching her redefine what is possible while at the same time fully surrendering to a different identity has been indescribable.
Watching her take her pain, rage and frustration and mold it into a sense of purpose has been breathtaking.
I’ve thought about how I’d react if the things that make me who I am were taken from me — running, my ability to write, the physical freedom to move — and who I’d be without them.
Or rather, who I’d have the courage to become without them.
With JulieAnn being a tried and true #noexcuses Fellow Flower, these past few months our FFCrew community has showered her with purple-inspired posts. We’ve channeled her bravery in our runs and races, her #keepshowingup attitude, and we’ve adopted her cheetah mentality as we take on life’s continued challenges.
The idea for this collection comes from a text exchange between JulieAnn and myself … like, how can we create a big ol’ MIDDLE FINGER to cancer as she kicks its ass?
And here we are … putting the final touches on our JulieAnn-inspired collection. A collection focused on redefining what’s possible, on claiming our power no matter the situation, on being a fighter, on blooming even in the hardest of seasons.
I’m so excited to bring you all this collection. (Watch for the details and link to shop later this week.)
I’m also thrilled to say that we’ve partnered with The Sunbow Foundation, and we will be donating 30% of all sales from this collection to this 501(c)3 organization who will then give all funds directly to JulieAnn. Sunbow has been a longtime supporter of JulieAnn and has been instrumental in coordinating fundraising efforts on her behalf. We are thrilled to show our support and join in this effort!
My return from sabbatical brought with it so many mixed emotions, many of which I’m still unpacking and working through. However, in that time away, I realized that I want the work I do to be part of something bigger and make a difference.
So JulieAnn, thank you for making my first project back one that reminded me of my purpose and helped reignite a spark that felt a little fragile and tender. I’m excited, honored and grateful that, together, we get to give cancer the middle finger and bring some smiles + meaningful apparel to so many women who are here to support you.