You’re Forever Tattooed in My Heart

The very first ZIZOZU tattoo - a reminder to the wearer of how far she's come and to keep believing.

This week in our private Facebook group, The XIZOZU Sisterhood of Indestructible Women, the conversation turned toward tattoos. How many do you have? What are they of?

It was fun to read how different women used body art to express themselves—they’re philosophies, dreams and sorrows.

So in the spirit of giving I offered a free custom tattoo design to the first eight women who asked for one and was delighted when six women chimed in right off the bat.

One by one each woman shared her story with me privately. A few told me very specific experiences or character traits that they wanted to honor, others told me deeply moving stories about what they were going through currently, others shared their detailed accounts of their pasts and how they overcame emotional and physical adversity. I can’t tell you how many times I had tears rolling down my cheeks while reading their words. The strength—emotional and physical—these women possess is incredibly inspiring.

Using what they had shared I set about finding the expressions that would capture their intention and the essence of their stories. The first one I designed gave me chills as the XIZOZU characters landed on the page instantly; the second made me cry; and the third had me holding my breath as I tried many different angles. Then after one design took shape, I exhaled. I knew that was it.

I sent each woman their custom XIZOZU design and they each sent me back emails saying in their own words that when they saw it, they’d cried. Of course, that made me cry, again.

I posted this to the group:

“Your responses to the XIZUZO Tattoo designs have been more touching than I could have imagined. My heart is bursting.

I still have a few to do but I want to remind you all that the things these XIZOZU express are aspects of the magnificence you possess. Their beauty is in that. I’ve simply given some of your invisible energy and awesomeness a visible shape – made it something you can see. Something you can point to, or touch, and say “That’s me. That’s how awesome I am.” Even on your lowest days. Especially then.

So I hope when you decide where to have them tattooed it’s somewhere you can see, often. When others see them they might think, oh that’s pretty. But you will know…no, that’s fuckin’ beautiful. That’s me.”

And that’s what XIZOZU is: You.

I am in awe of the women who share their stories so they and other women can grow. It’s exactly what XIZOZU was meant for.

Want to see the designs we created? Come over and join the group.



In A world with Octobers

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ―  a famous quote from Anne of Green Gables. It’s a sentiment I share – especially living in what might be the undisputed capital of autumn. Vermont.

As beautiful as it is, October can also be a difficult month around here. It’s national observances include:

  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • National Bullying Prevention Month
  • National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • Pregnancy and Infant loss Awareness month

Plus October 10th is both National Mental Health Day and my father’s birthday who was lost to suicide.

But truth is I, and most XIZOZU women don’t need a day or month to be made aware of these experiences – they are, or have been, these experiences. They have personal relationships with these and many other of life’s most gripping aspects. And we address, support and heal from them all year long.

So we use these decreed month-long banner-waving observances to celebrate the current triumphs of our tribe.

And there is a lot to celebrate! Here are just a few recent member triumphs (used anonymously, but still with permission):

  • one women left an abusive, soul-crushing nine year relationship,
  • another marked 8 years cancer free just yesterday!,
  • another made amends to a family member after years of what she described as alcohol-fueled emotional abuse,
  • another brought her sexual assault to the surface and shared it with her mother for the first time.

So yeah, October can be a mother of a month, but also a triumphant one!

I’ve also read the autumn is nature’s way of showing us how beautiful letting go can be. So keep rocking it ladies.

We are all here supporting and rooting for you! Stay on your path, no matter how difficult, and there will always be someone here keeping watch for you when you need to rest.

XIZOZU Surprises Area Student Activists


March 24, 2018 – Rutland, Vt, area students speak at the March for Our Lives Rally at Main Street Park in Rutland.

March for Our Lives Student Organizers Rutland Vermont Student Activists

When my plans to march in Washington DC were given the kibosh,  I attended the March for Our Lives rally at Main Street Park in Rutland.

After listening to the student organizers’ thoughtful and empowering speeches, I was move to honor them for their willingness to stand up and do the necessary work to shape the future. So when I got back to the studio, I gave them all medals.

These students didn’t just show up. They did the hard and likely thankless tasks involved in coordinating such an impactful event. They researched and wrote speeches and songs. They motivated others.

There are two XIZOZU medals related to protests, one for marching in one, another for organizing one. These students are receiving the latter.

I decided on keychains instead of chokers since these students do in fact hold the keys to all of our futures. And after what I saw at the rally, I’m pretty comfortable knowing that.

My Huge, Little, Tiny, Microscopic Wonderful World


This morning, I went over to my friend Will’s shop to get his opinion on a new XIZOZU product I’m developing. While we were talking, Peggy, another of the shop’s “regular” customers who I enjoy running into there, came in. We invited her into the conversation. Will, who wears a medal himself, explained how I created XIZOZU, and was teaching her how to pronounce it: “SHĒ-ZŌ-ZŪ”. Peggy nailed it, the second time!

Discovering XIZOZU customers and friends

Then Peggy looked at me a little puzzled and said. “Wait. You designed this? But this isn’t something local. Right?”

I was about to answer when she added, “my friend in South Africa posted about this. I remember seeing it on her Facebook page.”

There was the briefest pause and then we simultaneously said “Penelope!?!!”

I got tingles listening as Peggy told me how she and one of my customers from the other side of the world were friends and had worked together in California.

I admit I teared up a little as I shared this memory with her: One evening last summer I was sitting with my husband on our back deck, doing some research on my laptop and, if I may be honest, grappling over what to do with XIZOZU.

Was it something? Would it catch on?

He was being wholly supportive and you know, wonderfully husband-y. I appreciated all his encouragement but, well, he’s my husband. It’s in his best interest to be kind and reassuring.

I returned my focus to the computer and  an email that had just arrived from a women in South Africa which, after reading twice, I read to him.

I will share with you just the ending:

“I absolutely love what you’re doing here. And these pendants are an amazing way for women like myself to feel proud of our will to survive without having to write what happened across our foreheads. It’s a beautiful first step to allowing the world to see our story. For that, I thank you.”

The message brought me to tears and left me speechless and came at a moment when I needed it.

I knew I would keep going. For that I thank you, Penelope (and Peggy and Will) for being a part of my journey!

And thank you.

XIZOZU Global! Now in South Africa!

XIZOZU Medals of Honor - recovery and survivor jewelry that is truly unique

XIZOZU medals, survivor jewelry, remembrance jewelry, sympathy jewelry, are beginning to show up around the world!A customer posted this photo to our Facebook page and and I just had to share! Here you see the first three XIZOZU™ pendants to arrive in South Africa, the cradle of humanity.

Thank you Penelope for sharing your love and support for XIZOZU™!

I can’t help but feel a little warm inside when I realize that XIZOZU™ medals of honor are helping people throughout the world honor and express parts of themselves in ways that are moving, sacred, and secret.

Missing the Bluebirds

How to deal with the loss of a loved one

We enjoyed hosting two separate broods of nesting bluebirds in our bluebird box this season. The first one came in early spring, the second moved in soon after the original tenants departed.

I glimpsed them often as the parents tirelessly fed, cleaned house, and protected their families from predators. Like small blue drops of glee, they flitted through my world and I smiled inside. It was all so marvelous and, I knew, temporary.  Continue reading “Missing the Bluebirds”

Aaaah Grasshopper.

How mentoring pays off.After the phone call ended I sat on the steps of my back deck thinking about all the topics we’d just covered: internet commerce, SEO, website design, form & function; then art and making stuff; and finally, and just briefly: relationships, motherhood, and divorce.

Ultimately I steered my thoughts back to the first part of our conversation—the intended part and purpose of the call. I replayed the ideas we brainstormed to workout production bottlenecks. I re-heard the parts where we discussed platforms and approaches; matrices and wireframes. Out-sourcing versus hiring. Avenues for growth.

Then it struck me.

The voice on the other end of the line wasn’t the voice of that sixteen-year old who had repeatedly knocked on my design studio door begging—no really—badgering me for an internship all those years ago. It wasn’t the voice of the young woman who later worked for me during web design’s most excruciating yet exhilarating years. Those voices, while still hers, were only faint whispers in my memory. Hers was the unmistakable voice of a peer—offering solid, energized and implementable ideas.

A warm smile spread across my face as I put my phone in my pocket and headed toward a flower garden that I’d been neglecting all summer.

The day your mentee mentors you, is a very #XIZOZUDAY.