We had the good fortune of connecting with Alisa Tongg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alisa, what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your children?
My kids were very little when I went through a divorce. During that time, more than any other thing that I was concerned about, was not wanting to “mess up my kids.” When I was growing up I’d always hear how “So-and-So came from a broken home that’s why they didn’t have a healthy concept of family or partnership or self-worth or that’s why they struggle with addiction.” I was desperate for this not to be my kids’ story so I would spend hours deep diving into papers and articles about parenting, happiness, divorce and psychology. One night I came across an article that showed that the biggest determining factor of a child’s well-being and development was the life satisfaction and happiness of the mother. That study gave me clarity, a mission and permission to build and nurture a satisfying and fulfilling life for myself. To go on the offense instead of just defense…to take responsibility and ownership of my life and experience. More than a decade later, I’ve started my own business, created a community, and pursue projects that are genuinely interesting to me, it makes me feel good to know that I am not just doing it for myself, I am creating a model for a fulfilled life that my children can look to as they navigate and find their place in the world too.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a Life-Cycle Celebrant, trained to compose and perform ceremonies for couples, families and children. The majority of ceremonies that I create are interfaith/intercultural love-story centered marriage ceremonies, but I also do a sprinkling of baby blessings (Glistenings!) and thoughtful Funerals and Memorials too. Everything is centered in story and inclusion.
The ceremony I am most proud of to date was the ceremony I created to induct a young man into his birth-mother’s family. As an expert in ceremony, there were a lot of examples and best practices available for adoption ceremonies or entrustment ceremonies, but I could not find anything that spoke to reunification as adults. This gave me the freedom and the responsibility to create something uplifting, healing and hopeful for the participating family. We gathered in the woods outside of Seattle, I told the story of his conception, birth, placement up for adoption, the powerful re-connection with his birth mother twenty years later, and their hopes for how they wanted their intertwined future to be. The birth mother made vows, and then the family passed around their tartan plaid around the circle and the grandfather placed this symbol of family identity over the young man’s shoulders. It was a powerful and transformative experience for everyone present and I believe that that very authentic, full-of-risk ceremony is exactly what the world needs more of.
Inclusion and celebrating others is at the core of everything that I lend my energy to–whether its a ceremony I create, one of the fabulous get-togethers of my Bacon & Lox Society or a project I take on. Last year in the height of the pandemic and shifting in the Supreme Court, I pulled together a bunch of other wedding industry folks and we created Equal Dignity Pop-Up Nuptials–a day of free beautifully styled, legal civil wedding ceremonies for All, especially LGBTQ+ people.
Perhaps, the most fulfilling part of my life is the community I’ve created through my Bacon & Lox Society, an interfaith celebration congregation for artists and creatives. At the heart of every gathering is a meal shared at a communal table (often outdoors in some amazing nature location- on a mountaintop, on a frozen lake or in the middle of a creek); our guiding principle is to “bring something to share”, whether that’s a special recipe, a family tradition, a story or an expression of your art- it’s about being open and generous with the things that you hold dear. That overall life goal for me–to have a fulfilling, interesting life that my children can find inspiration in for themselves– guides every single gathering we create as a community, from themes and messaging, to the artists and creatives who are invited to join us at the table.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I don’t live in LA, but when I visit, I always stay at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in the West Hollywood or The Beverly Terrace Hotel. I love the modern design and views from the hills.
On my list for must visits next time I am in LA are:
a concert at Hollywood Bowl
and I’d love nothing more than to do a multi-day taco crawl through the whole county.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A couple books re-wired my brain:
Daring Greatly, Dr. Brene Brown–this revolutionizing look at how people who live wholehearted lives navigate shame, vulnerability and courage in their relationships gave me a toolkit for real world applications for bravery in my life. I gave this book to so many friends because it was such a profound AHA for me. One example that I took to heart was when she looked at how we all feel when a friend shares something they are insecure about or need help with, with us. It feels great to have someone trust you with this information and most humans, when trusted by someone like this, are feeling compassion, understanding or mobilizing to help–research showed that we are not nodding our heads thinking, “Yep, I knew it, you’re a weak person and bad friend.” So, Brene Brown asks the question: If we admire and respect someone when they ask us for help or are vulnerable with us, why do most of us believe that if we were to be vulnerable or ask for help, that our friend will perceive us in an uncompassionate way? This book and her research is a call to all of us to be courageous and put value in the opinions of others who are brave enough to also be in the arena. 10/10 absolutely recommend. Love you Forever, Brene!
Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip + Dan Heath–I not only read this book, I listened to the audio book version as well. Brilliant! The Heath brothers, through story after story and case study after case study, show that the only way to make effective change is not by identifying the problem and then fixing that problem but instead by focusing on the things that are working (they call these “bright spots”) and figuring out how to replicate that. Early in the book, they told the story of Feed The Children organization’s efforts to defeat childhood hunger in a small village of Vietnam. The solution was counterintuitive, inexpensive, non-bureaucratic and long lasting. I highly recommend this book and all of the work The Heath Brothers publish for corporate culture, community efforts and personal betterment.
Three Cups of Tea, One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, Greg Mortenson–the part where he is sending out letters to celebrities and influential people seeking support and is typing each letter from scratch because he didn’t know about copy and paste???–That part stuck with me. It reminded me that we don’t have to know everything, be completely polished and packaged up to act and try to start or create something.
Instagram: @alisatongg, @baconloxsociety
Alison Conklin Rob Yaskovic Renee Dee Photography Redfield Photography We Laugh We Love Bradley Lanphear Sharyn Frenkel Photography With Love and Embers