The Worst Times Make Us Who We Are

I can attest wholeheartedly to this truth. Throughout the years, I have learned not to question so much of what we have gone through but to appreciate what it has taught us and what blessings that these experiences have brought to our lives, including having to go public about our situation and Geoff’s health throughout the last 15+ years.

If Geoff had been well, we wouldn’t have found Santa Rosa Beach. We wouldn’t have moved here at the spur of the moment because of a chance that the local health food store owners gave us by hiring me. Geoff would not be singing full-time again and so many blessings would not have happened. That’s just the short version.

It’s better to tell your story to the world and make it a better place than it is to hold it in and be ashamed or worried. Our worst moments do make us who we are.  That is why I have a blog.  It’s not to tell you all about us just because I think we are important.  We’re not at all.  We’re just the McBrides.  It’s to share our trials and breakthroughs so that we can spread the love and hope to those around us.  If one single family is helped by our story, we will be grateful.  That’s our amazing adventure.

Social media makes it seem like everyone has a perfect life.  They don’t.  We don’t. No one does.  I don’t care who you are, your life isn’t all roses.  Things happen.  There are ups and downs and craziness.  We need to get back to real and stop watching “reality” on TV.

Here’s a TEDTalk about this subject of sharing who we are. 

I am in the process of writing more, but I have had to have a chance to catch my breath so that I can delve into how we want to give back to the world as a family from all the love and support we have had, but at the same time we have to look to the future.  This is why I have not posted much lately.  Where will we as a family thrive and not just “get by”?  What do we need to do in order to get there?  How can we help others who are going through similar problems and challenges that we have faced over the years?

We all need to consider how we can help others more and more each day, even if it’s just a smile and a touch of kindness.  Tell your story and do what you can to make the world a more beautiful place to be for everyone.

Life is about love and joy. It’s about giving back and paying it forward.



Still want home-cooked meals

The dilemma I face when we have professional work to do is how to still feed the family real, home-cooked meals while having to meet a rigid schedule on some days.  There are days where we have no schedule besides school or working via home.  Then there are other days of performances, fittings, photo shoots, you name it.  We have to be there on time and ready to go.

We had one imageof those days a few months ago and the photo is what our stove-top looked like at 8:20am.  Not only were all 4 kids in the photo shoot but we also had Geoff coming in from a long trip from Virginia, so I had to make sure that everything was in order before we left.  I started this post that day, but life has been really hard to catch up with lately, so I am finally getting around to completing this post.

I didn’t want to catch lunch on the run.  That’s expensive for all of us and it’s unhealthy overall.  I had everything timed perfectly.  Then, when we had to be there at 1:30 and it was 12:50, Zuri decided she had to sit on the potty for 10 minutes trying to pee.  Thank goodness, I had everything cooked and Hunter had set the table, including all the pots, serving spoons, etc.  He even add the cloth napkins and only the ones that had been ironed!

When we got to the shoot, it was one of the coldest days we had this year in NWFL.  The kids were freezing and had to look like it was summer.  They had fun, but it was a slightly crazy day being outdoors in summer clothes in January.  You can tell by Zuri’s face that she’s freezing her tushie off, but she did amazing and the magazine layout was adorable.  image

For me, it’s difficult to try to plan meals because cooking from scratch does take a lot of time and there are days that are just simply insane with our schedule.  Part of what my goal is to show others that real food can happen with an unpredictable lifestyle.  Much of what I post from now on will be able this subject because it has become important to me to help other families see that real food can happen even on a crazy schedule.

You won’t find deliberate sugar-free, gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan ideas here, but you won’t find a lot of crap in the food and recipes that I suggest.  Been there, done that.  Simple, high quality, real food is what is important.  Local food that has been raised without pesticides is best, beyond that organic food from the chain grocery stores is recommended second.  I’ll have a post soon about what I really think about USDA Organics and what it did to a lot of small farmers who are more “organic” than many of those who sport the organic seal.

What I look forward to sharing are simple ways to create amazing food from simple ingredients.  This morning, we had cinnamon crepes with caramel sauce, not because we are “all that,” but because those were the ingredients that I had in my kitchen and it was that or another morning of muffins.  No one wants muffins every damn day.

I promise to post more. A lot has happened in the last few months and a lot is happening in the near future.  It is exciting yet calm at the same time.  Thanks, for “listening.”

Voting for Project of the Year on IndieWire

A friend of ours asked River to represent a teenager with Endometriosis for a documentary that she, her husband and another friend of ours were creating.  This was early last year.

They completed the film and had a preview in the fall, but are not releasing it until March.  Last week, it won IndieWire’s Project of the Month for December 2015 and now it’s up for Project of the Year!

Go vote here:

Voting ends Friday, January 15th, 2016 at 5PM ET!

It stars: Iris Orbuch, MD; Ken Sinervo, MD; Heather Guidone; Tamer Seckin, MD; Camran Nezhat, MD: CY Liu, MD; Hugh Taylor, MD; David Adamson, MD; Mary Lou Ballweg; Linda Griffith, PhD; Marc Laufer, MD; Andrew Cook, MD; Pamela Stratton, MD and more….

It is produced by Shannon & Patricio Cohn and Arix Zalace.

“”Endo What” explores one of the world’s most misunderstood diseases: endometriosis. It affects 1 in 10 women or 176 million worldwide, yet most people have never heard of it. Patients see an average of 8 doctors for 10 years before being diagnosed. In that time, many are forced to abandon dreams of having children, to leave careers they love, to watch personal relationships suffer & to live in unspeakable pain. Because of societal taboos & misinformation, many doctors & even those closest to them tell them the pain is normal or in their heads.”

Here’s more info from their Indiegogo campaign:

We’ve talked with hundreds of women with endo around the world. Strong, courageous women of all nationalities, races, ages, socioeconomic statuses…. and it’s so clear – we all want the same thing. We want more awareness. We want earlier diagnosis & intervention, better treatment options, more informed doctors, motivated lawmakers behind us who fight for more research funding & increased insurance coverage. We want to keep our fertility! We want these things – we’ve wanted them for years, but nothing seems to change – not REALLY. How do we ACTUALLY make things change?

We’ve interviewed the world’s top experts & put together the first accurate, big-picture view of the disease. This film gives you all of the information you need to take charge of your health & change your life.

Don’t just take our word for it.

“This critical film cuts through the vast misinformation surrounding endometriosis. It is an invaluable resource that simply must be shared.”  Heather C. Guidone, Surgical Program Director, CEC 

“A mustsee for every pediatrician, school nurse, gastroenterologist, gynecologist, psychologist, family practitioner, internist, mother, father, sister, brother, husband, spouse, boyfriend and girlfriend….Society must be educated properly about endometriosis and this is the film to finally do it.”  Iris Orbuch, MD, Endo Surgeon

Informativerealistichonest… a must-see for all women AND men so that we increase awareness and understanding of women suffering with endometriosis.”  Marc Laufer, MD, Harvard Medical School

 “Bravo! This film is not only a labor of love but a tremendous testament to women everywhere.” Mary Lou Ballweg, Endo Assoc., President & Founder

“This film, shows that girls & women with endometriosis are taking things into their own hands & changing the status quo.” Camran Nezhat, MD – Worldwide EndoMarch Co-Founder

Go vote here:

The hardest thing I have ever done in my life

We had to go ahead and develop a GoFundMe account after all we have been through over the last 15 years.  We told a bit more of the story there about Geoff’s health but will continue to tell through this blog in the future.

He was in the hospital this morning (12/10) and was diagnosed with more bronchitis and possibly non-smoking related emphysema.  We are awaiting more details.

Update on 1/10/16: We achieved our goal, so I took the account down at the end of December.  We couldn’t have made it through without the help of our community, loved ones and strangers.  The outpouring of love was absolutely incredible.  We are so humbled and appreciate everyone’s help.

We are still waiting on figuring out how to get Geoff’s lungs better.  He can’t be on extra steroids because they stop working and they affect his Addison’s Disease.  He’s just muddling through right now.

The other factor is that health insurance in Florida is not the greatest.  Our plan caused the specialist not to take him before Christmas (although they didn’t tell us that until we called).  Then, instead of seeing him, they referred him back to his primary care doctor.  Honestly, we have been going to a family doctor who doesn’t take any insurance for the last few years.  He can’t refer him to the specialist.  Geoff’s been out of town this week, so we will start working again on that tomorrow.

I won’t get started on the crappy healthcare system.  I just wanted to update this post.  Happy Sunday!


My last post was about the effects of low income (in our case the roller coaster effect) on the education and health of families. For our family, it also puts our lives under the microscope for us to show us what is really important and what is just junk.

I can bemoan the last decade of living at the beach as pure hell, but it hasn’t been.  It’s given us moxie to know that we can push forwards through anything.  In the long run, the ups and downs have also taught us that we have each others’ back.  I realize that we have always had love but there is more to marriage than just love.  Anyone who has been married more than a month knows that, so I won’t tread down that path today. I can say we both had a lot to learn, as we married and had children very early in our relationship, so we had to discover about our strengths and weaknesses while getting to know each other and raise kids.  I am so grateful that we made it through the hills and valleys of the last 15 years.

Our family is truly the center of our lives.  Seeing them grow up into the people they are destined to be is amazing.  Listening to them breathe while they are sleeping is heaven. Even when we are arguing with them, there is love and dedication.  Feeding them good, wholesome food, while sitting around our table talking and laughing is the best feeling ever for me.  Geoff and I laugh that we have raised a bunch of nerds because of all the debates that go on at the table during our meals.  We love it.

imageThis time has also shown how we want to create our future and also progress in our careers.  In regards to Geoff’s music, it’s time to transform his sound.  Here, at the beach, the need has been for cover songs.  My dyslexic husband, who said he could never learn lyrics, has conquered his inability to remember lyrics.  He has a notebook that is 5+ inches thick of songs that he now performs.  That seems like nothing, but for those with dyslexia, learning that many songs is a gigantic accomplishment.  Without that, he would have never been able to even tryout for NBC’s The Voice.  Even then, he did not use his battle with Addison’s Disease, severe eczema or his dyslexia as “his story” that shows like The Voice build around their contestants.  He did not want to say a word about any of those challenges to bring focus to himself.  One day, he will publicly talk about it when it is the right time for him.

For me, this pressure that makes “diamonds out of coal,” is changing and returning me to my love of natural health and healing.  I am not going to be peddling anyone else’s wares from now on, unless it is a product that is complementary to what I am creating in my own work.  As I delve into my studies of Aromatherapy, I realize how much I already know from my past experience in working in the natural body care industry.  So, look out for new and exciting things coming from me regarding Aromatherapy and Herbalism!  And by the way, diamonds really are not made from coal.

All in all, new chapters are starting for our family.  Geoff is working on reinventing his sound. I am working on my love of natural health.  The kids are doing great in school.  The 9 chapters of “Life at the Beach” look to be coming to an end.  It is time.

Ebbs and Flows of Income and the Impact on Life, Health and Education (personal reflection)

This is my reflection on events in my personal life at this point and American society as a whole as it comes to the importance of education and health and the impact of income.  This isn’t some statistical post about how socioeconomic status can effect the health and education of people.  It’s personal. Nor do I provide solutions besides an opinion of what should be available to the public as a whole.  It doesn’t solve everything.  It is just my opinion.

The education and health of my children is incredibly important to me.  It’s why I, as their mother, have made certain choices that go against the grain of American culture.  The kids know that their education is key to their success.

We also focus on their nutrition because what goes into their bodies is as important as what goes into their minds.  It does not meant that they don’t get junk food or convenience food at times, but it’s rare that I don’t cook one or two full meals for them a day. Our largest meal is at lunch-time, for time’s sake, the ability to have everyone at the table and to eat at the best time so that we don’t go to bed with heavy food in our systems.  We don’t buy that many processed foods. Tortilla chips and crackers, plus sandwich meat are probably the most purchased process foods.  I bake everything from muffins to bread and croissants.  You can see on my Instagram how much value we place on good, homemade food in our home.

When the girls were in public school, they did not eat school-provided lunches.  I sent lunch with them every day.  I wanted to make sure that they were fed well and they had no desire to eat what they saw on their classmates’ trays.

Beyond love and security of family, giving the kids a good start on their health and education is critical in my mind.

As a self-employed, artistic family, Geoff and I are constantly working.  I write contracts for private events and confirm gigs while cooking lunch.  I am constantly on email or social media from my laptop or smartphone.  My “office” is in the nook next to the kitchen and about 3 feet from the living room. I am in school and helping with their school, chasing a toddler and so on from the time I get up until I go to bed. Multi-tasking is just a normal component of my life, so is being there for our children.

For the past 9+ years, we have been living in a tourist, beach town.  It has been a blessing in the fact that Geoff began singing full-time again.  Although there are tourists almost year round, there is a definite period where live music has a higher demand.  During March and half of April, life is super busy with music.  Then from Memorial Day to mid-August, it’s crazy busy again.  Other than that, it’s pretty slow, besides a number of private events in the fall and holiday season.  During the slow times, we struggle to keep things going and during the busy times, we play financial catch up.  By the time we have caught up, it’s the end of the season.

Honestly, it feels like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  Lots of people will comment, “You live in paradise, how can you not love it?”  Well, besides tourist industries and the military, there is not much here.  And then there’s the thought expressed, “Well, Geoff got a lot of press from The Voice, so why can’t he just get booked anywhere else?”

Booking takes money.  Agents take money.  If we are constantly playing catch up and slow down, there is no wiggle room.  There is no breathing room.  There is a lot of talent is this world that doesn’t get noticed because there is no financial backing.  This is a subject for a book, or at least another post.

When it gets really stressful, which it does, my focus on helping the kids focus on school simply is not there.  My focus is on keeping the bank account in the green and a roof over our head.  Our son needs our help the most.  He is in 4th grade and at a make it or break it point.  We have just switched him from public virtual school to “homeschooling” virtual school (still under Florida Virtual School), which means that for now, he doesn’t have the high-stakes testing until we move him back into the public version sometime in middle school.  The girls are more on an independent basis, but monitoring where they are in their studies is key.  Also, making sure they are taking the right classes each semester takes a lot of time and research.  Either way, I need to have the focus and energy to be there for our kids and their education.

Last night, it really hit me how so many people deal with this on a constant basis and they are expected to be able to focus on the education of their children.  I can say that we are better off than a great deal of people and so I cannot imagine being expected to push my children in their education if this was my reality 100% of the time.  I felt humbled and more focused after that realization that this was not going to happen anymore to our children.  I am also more sympathetic to those that don’t have a choice.

I have kept up my focus on their food and health, but the greatest impact I have seen has been on my health.  The stress of the ups and downs of living here and dealing with the roller coaster ride of income has really caused me to become very unhealthy.  I am horrified and disgusted at the effects the stress has had on my body.  And it’s not as easy and just take time out for exercise.  When life gets insanely stressful, there is no extra time for yoga, walking or a bike ride.  Don’t mention taking PureBarre classes to me.  I don’t have the time or the money.  (Honestly, I don’t like classes anyway because I am an introvert on many levels.  Yes, I’m one of those extroverted-introverts.  So is Geoff.)  I am working to find ways to reduce my cortisol levels in my body, which is the core of my health-related issues right now.

Again, I feel for those who are stuck in this hamster wheel of lack of income and have no way to get out.  For the most part, they do not have the time, energy or money to take care of their health.  They are just trying to keep food in everyone’s bellies, so the quality does not matter on many levels.

I wish that our country would finally realize that we need a stronger education system and not one that is federally mandated but then left up to the state and county levels to work out the details.  I do not have the answers as to how to do this, but something has to change.  I do feel that the U.S. is too large, as a whole, to answer the education problems.  It will most likely be regional answers and that doesn’t bode well for certain geographic areas of our country.

We do need single-payer healthcare and not the system that we have now that focuses on illness management for a profit.  Real health needs to be focused on.  Get rid of health care that celebrates “pink ribbons” for “non-profits” that make a few people a lot of money and do not find cures.

We also have to look at our food system.  Many countries in the world have banned the very foods and ingredients that are making Americans ill.  When are we going to realize that you can’t put just anything into your body and still be healthy?  When does real food become more important that the profits of companies? Our digestive health affects the health of the rest of our body.  So does the level of stress in our lives.

If people did not have to worry about the basic necessities, it wouldn’t mean that everyone was the same, had the same income or had the same opportunities, but it would mean that we would have more stability in our personal lives and our society.

So, there.  No specific solutions to the societal problems, but just one woman’s hopes for her family and for the families of the U.S.

For me and my family, it’s onward and upward.  We have goals we are working very hard to reach and we will get there.  Time to get out of “Groundhog Day.”