Introduce yourself. Who are you?
My name is Meg Clouser. I’m a wife, mother, crafter, part-time banker, life-long Delawarean. Goofball, writer, bibliophile, dog-lover, tattoo-enthusiast, dreamer, goddess.
What would you say to a 16 year old you?
To sixteen year old me, I would say, “Take the risk”. I spent so much time holding my tongue and hiding my weirdness. I didn’t want anyone knowing the real me. In reality, I was friends with the theater crowd, so I probably could have let my freak flag fly. I didn’t though, I allowed fear to rule my life. I was so sure that no one would ever understand me, I put up a safety net by convincing myself that relationships are cages. To be in one would mean having to constantly bend to the will of another, continue hiding who I was inside. I was sure I would never find someone that would know and accept the true me. To my sixteen year old self I would say, “Just wait. You have no idea what’s coming”. At eighteen, I met the man who was to become my husband. I’ve learned that the right relationship means freedom. Freedom to lay everything bare, let out hopes, fears, every thought and feeling that I used to keep bottled up, and receive only support and encouragement and acceptance in return. Being with him allowed me to finally feel like I could be myself with no worries about saying or doing the wrong thing. His unconditional love makes me feel like I can do anything, because I know I have my safety net, my anchor, my map that guides me back home.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
Every day I struggle with anxiety and depression. I’m very open about it, I feel compelled to be as honest and vocal as I can, be a voice for those who can’t. The most frustrating thing about it is it’s “invisibility”. It’s very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I’ve had OCD my whole life, but never identified it as such until I was in my twenties. It got progressively worse, as I focused intensely on safety issues. Before I could leave the house, everything had to be unplugged, the stove checked several times. Eventually, I started taking pictures of everything with my phone, because I couldn’t trust my memory anymore. I was extremely lucky to be living with someone who noticed that my “eccentricities” were indicative of a worsening problem. My panic attacks became more frequent, manifesting as nausea and stomach-aches. I stopped going out, subconsciously recognizing that they got worse when I was in public or an unfamiliar setting. One day at work I had one so bad I simply collapsed. I couldn’t get off the floor, I was hyperventilating, my heart was racing, I was convinced something was seriously wrong with me. An ambulance was called, the first of my life. I rolled into the ER, convinced that I was either dying, or had some kind of serious medical issue. Describing my symptoms to the doctor on duty, her first words were “Yes, that’s a panic attack.” I could hardly believe that something so physical was actually begun and extrapolated in my mind, causing physical problems like dizziness, trouble breathing, stomachaches, vomiting. She warned me that the more I dreaded these attacks, the more I would have them, and the worse that they would get. I was referred to a psychiatrist, a therapist, took a few weeks off of work to figure it out. Turns out with some work and a surprisingly low dose of medication, I could be “normal” (in that I didn’t have to check that the door was locked six times each night). I have occasional flareups, recently I needed some short-term disability when symptoms got out of hand again, but I’m about back up to where I need to be. Through it all, my husband Gabe was absolutely essential. He held me when I cried, let me talk out all my irrational fears and worries, gave me my space when I needed it. Told me that no matter what, everything was going to be okay. He didn’t let me wallow, he pushed me to do the everyday things that he knew I could handle, he wouldn’t let me sink into uselessness and apathy. For the most part, because of therapy and the proper medication, I am high functioning and able to live my life quasi-normally.
Have you ever had an extraordinary experience?
In my life, the birth of my son was the most extraordinary experience. After trouble conceiving, it finally happened. However, very early on it was discovered I was already dilated and contracting, months before schedule. I was briefly on bedrest at home, then in the hospital as the situation did not improve. I spent from Halloween to Christmas Eve laying on my back at Christiana Hospital. Without my husband visiting me every night to hold me, and the daily support of family and friends, I wouldn’t have made it. Every day was hard, I had nightmares of a broken baby inside me. I counted off days, celebrating milestones that improved the possibility of a live birth, then lessening odds of catastrophic problems a preemie baby could suffer. I went into labor several times, once on my husband’s birthday in November (our son was due Valentine’s Day). Always, a cocktail of drugs stopped the emergency, and I remained pregnant. Harrison was born early January, still a full five weeks before his original due date. My husband, mom, and sister were with me, and it was the single most miraculous moment of my life, to finally see this little boy that I’d been holding onto with every fiber of my being for months and months. Although he was a healthy average size, he was having trouble breathing, and ultimately had to stay in the NICU for 13 days. As much as I went through with him, just finally having him home and in our arms was indescribable.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
Part of the brand that I’m trying to build is that every woman should be free to explore all the sides of her personality, to not feel selfish about focusing on just themselves once in a while, to pursue their passions. I was a victim of it myself, as my son grew up and I became “Harry’s Mom”. Its easy to get trapped in the “mom box”. Mom’s don’t get tattoos, moms always have to be perfect chefs, the children must become the focal point of your life. I love my son dearly, but I’m not just his mother, I’m also myself, and I want to make sure I’m still growing and learning and becoming the woman I want to be. The woman I want him to respect as he grows older. I enjoy a private, adventurous life with my husband, my first love, making sure our relationship continues to strengthen as the years pass, not taking each other for granted, not letting life’s little problems derail us. I want every woman to know that her life is like a garden, the tending never ends. You nurture it, watch it flourish. Learn new things with every season. Find new things to love about yourself, your family. Don’t ever assume you’re “done”. Fall in love with the same people over and over.
What motivates you most?
I want my family to be proud of me, to see me do something I love. The past few years I’ve been trying to build up my little craft hobby into a business with my Etsy shop and doing a few local shows every year. My dream is being a go-to for unique gifts, for wedding and party favors, for creating things that are quirky, pretty, fun, useful, and completely unique. Nothing gives me a better feeling than connecting with a customer, hearing how much they love something that I created, something that I put time, effort, a small piece of my heart into. I want to be my own boss, in control of my own destiny. I want my son to see me doing something I care about every day.
What do you love most about where you live?
Gabe and I are extremely lucky to be surrounded by family. As I went back to work after maternity leave, they jumped in to help so I could work part time, rather than 40 hours a week just to afford a daycare. I was given the amazing gift of being able to stay home with my son half the week, and knowing that he was in the loving care of his grandparents and great-grandparents the rest of the time. As he started school, they again were essential in picking him from school on days when I had to work. Harry is growing up immersed in people that adore him, that take time to teach him and listen to him and play with him. For us, that is the greatest gift, and a debt that we can never repay.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is something I get maybe once a year in the summer. The family convenes for a big bbq, and brings out a bushel of crabs. We spend hours over sheets of newspaper and crab shrapnel, talking, laughing, reminiscing. My favorite kind of party!
Where do you find inspiration?
One of my very first projects, and still a best seller, are my book coasters. I “rescue” books from thrifts shops and garage sales, give them new life with inks and watercolors. I love the idea of taking something that was abandoned, and making it a beautiful piece. Its usually invokes a nostalgic response from a buyer when they see a book they remember from college, from childhood, and are thrilled to integrate it into their home décor. I’m always inspired by beautiful colors, by taking common things and making them into something unexpected.
What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
I was bullied mercilessly has an adolescent. I felt completely out of place, like an ugly little weed in a field of beautiful blooms. My big nose and big hair in particular bothered me, made me feel like I could never be a pretty girl. Once I even wrote into a teen magazine, asking for ways to non-surgically improve my face. (Hey, I was only 12) The advice I got back I never forgot, that I needed to learn to love my own uniqueness. It went over my head as a kid, but now as a 32 year old woman I understand. I love my crazy, wild, curly hair (with the advantage of keratin treatments every now and then) and even though I could “fix” my face at this point, I don’t want to any more. I found the beauty in myself, and relish the fact that no one ever forgets my face. I’ve run into people from first grade that remember exactly who I am. I used to think, “well that’s how ugly I am”, but not anymore. Of course, having someone that tells me constantly how beautiful I am hasn’t hurt.