Female…

I have the good fortune of having superior female friends. Sometimes they’re a little too bad-ass for their own good. Without hesitation, they’ll tell me exactly what I sometimes don’t want to hear, but need to. 

Sometimes you also run across a set of women you’d like to work creatively with. Not just for wages, but to engage in something bigger. Over cocktails, laughs and lots of truth-telling, you decide to jump off the deep end and forge ahead together without much thought. You only know there are thruths to be told and you need to tell them, together. 

While coming up with a name for the creative thing we’re embarking on, yet to be decided, we started running words by one another. Being that we were three chicks, we pondered the formality of the words “female” and “woman”. Synonyms often amuse me and lead me on the path of word relevance no other person on the planet would dare care about. Off into the grammar-abyss, we’d go and imagine my surprise when one of my girfriends said,”the words for ‘women’ are pretty brutal”. 

Some of them included the following: lush, troubled, tumultuous, anxious and disruptive

I know guys-you’re probably thinking,”someone nailed it!” 

Women-this is total BS. 

Ok-yes, my girlfriends and I partake in copious amounts of wine on the rare occasion or not so rare occasion-no different than an NFL-powered tail gate, fueled with beer. 

This is all in jest, of course, but it leads me to a much deeper conversation that needs to be had. 

As I watch my female friends often apologize for their strong sense of self, their stance on politics, their beauty, their insistence on wanting more from a relationship, demanding more money for the job they’re just as qualified for as a man but have to prove themselves twice as much, their sexuality, their money, their independence, their reluctance to trust who they are or struggle to find love-I want to scream at them all and cry. 

I want to cry because my heart breaks that we walk in fear of our beauty, our strength, our purpose and I want to scream at them because I want to say that they should never let anyone burn their light out. They should never shrink themselves for anyone. They should never apologize for deserving and desiring true intimacy and commitment from every aspect of their life and they should never apologize when they receive less than and walk. They deserve to have their jobs, their spouses and friends rise up to meet them. 

This is not to say we want to shrink a man. We simply want to feel heard, understood and desired, with the intention that when we have feelings that are complicated or intense, we are not labeled crazy, frigid, ridiculous or insane. 

Our bodies, our minds and our hearts are not a sound bite. To do so reduces our spirit. We are no better and no less than anyone else but we are just as much of everything that runs the universe. 

I love men. I really do. Their energy can be powerful and intoxicating but I think that has been part of the problem. As women, we have conditioned ourselves to deserve less and to hide and reduce our expectations. 

I watch my daughter do all she can to be all she can. She knows the things that are coming. Well-we’ve talked about what might come. She hears the news. She knows what our president said before getting elected. She knows the things that are normalized. 

The times that make me the most happy though, are when I see my nearly fourteen-year-old with his girlfriend. As he walks her to the door and I see his chivalrous nature that many forty-year-olds lack, I’m reminded there is hope. Even with his feminist, independent mother, he knows what kindness is. He’s already turning into a good man. I want him to know he can both love and value women and respect their need for sense of self. 

My heart’s been held before, but my true loves are my chicks. My women. My female friends. They know the absolute worst of me and still love me-with the bags under my eyes and all. 

Female energy…I’ll take some more, please. It’s good food for the soul. 

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Into the Mystic…

I remember the first time I came to Montana. My girlfriend told me for months I would love it. She kept saying,”you’ll get the thing that happens there”. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. 

I always thought of myself as a beach girl. Minus the sand you had to strip away from everything once the fun was over, I always felt the pull of the ocean. Take my love of sharks off the table-there was something about the vastness of the water extending forever, that made me feel calm. 

The town of Whitefish inhabits about 6,300 people. The two times I’ve been here, I feel like I’ve met at least half of them. Whether it be the farmer’s market or gallery nights on the square, you’re bound to run into to someone you know, daily, if not hourly. It has a small-town feel without making you crowded. The expansive list of outdoor activities keeps that from being an issue. 

Before coming to Montana, I had never seen the mountains. Being such a water baby, I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with them. The thing about Montana, though, is that it also occupies some of the most amazing bodies of water you’ll ever experience. My favorite Crayola color is cerulean. That color is plentiful here. 

One of the Crown Jewels of Montana is Glacier National Park. The main pass to get into the park is the Going to the Sun Road. A little movie trivia for you-this is the road Jack Nicholson drove on in The Shining, even though the movie didn’t take place here. You’d be hard-pressed to find views like that from anywhere else in the United States.  

Glacier was the first moment I knew the ocean had lost it’s place. The ambiance of the park is like being dropped in the middle of a Bob Ross painting where there are “happy little trees” everywhere. Each moment is like looking at a well-crafted landscape painting. I remember kayaking there and noticing how big everything seemed and how small I was and crying because the significance of anything in my world didn’t matter compared to where I was. It wouldn’t let me care. Time didn’t matter. All I could focus on was the incredible beauty and realizing that I had missed something in my life for a long time-the presence of being. 

I could go on describing the beauty of Montana but you just have to come see it for yourself. 

This trip has been a bit different for me. Even though the picturesque landscape is just as hypnotic, the people have been the thing that stood out to me this time. 

Maybe it’s because of where I’m at in my life, presently, or maybe it’s because I appreciate it more now, but the relationships of the friends and couples I’ve met have been the thing I will take away this time. 

Victor Hugo wrote that, “life’s great happiness is to be convinced we are loved”. 

Maybe being in a place like Montana brings out the best parts of who you are. Maybe it puts you in a frame of mind that allows you to be the best version of yourself. Maybe it gives you a natural high that makes happiness an easy way of life. Maybe there’s less stress or it’s not as hot or the traffic’s not as bad. Whatever it is they all have with each other-I want more of it. In all my relationships-I want more love. To give it and receive it. These people exemplify the nature of all the things I long for more of-peace, sense of purpose and living with intention.

I didn’t know I’d have to come so far to take that away. Standing beneath the trees, looking at the mountains or swimming in clear blue water in the quiet-I didn’t know observing the love would be the thing most beautiful to me, this time. It has been my happy place. 

We all spend our time longing for a place where we feel our existence matters. A place we feel we accomplished something and exemplifies the nature of who we are.  I suppose this place has captured a large part of my heart. I’d love to bottle this feeling and bring it home. 

I didn’t run into a bear on my walks(whew!) but I found some things I lost. This year has challenged me and stretched every part of who I am but as the months go by it has brought me back to a place of wonderment. Montana always reminds me when I’ve forgotten to stop, look and listen. 

When I come back home and it’s a tad too hot and the traffic’s a bit too horrible, I’m going to remember to love the hell out of my life. There’s nothing like falling down to help you remember what getting back up looks like. I’m thankful for my tribe that’s helped me do that. 

Here’s to loving and living fully awake…

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, 

And see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

~Henry David Thoreau

Meditation-hello, old friend…

You ever have moments in your life where you look around and in all the chaos, you realize that it’s all gonna be ok? Ok-I know in our current climate that seems a little daunting at the moment. Maybe the best you can hope for is to make it to five o’clock to get that glass of wine in your hand. 

Watching the news hasn’t made me feel that way much, lately but I started doing something again recently that I had gotten away from. I had forgotten how easy and how difficult it was and how much I needed it and missed it. Meditating. 

For those of you a little fearful of that word or believe it’s some hokey-pokey crap, I urge you to take a moment to open your mind. No, really-meditating will help you do that. 

I’m not the person to walk you through it or to explain what needs to happen for you to reach a place where you forget where you are and even who you are for a moment and why it can be so amazing. There are all sorts of guided meditations for that and books to help you understand the process. For me, it was a little more complicated…

As one who has a slight “type A” personality and whose brain is often like the programs you don’t close out on your phone and it makes it run slowly-I struggled to figure it out. I found my mind wandering thinking about to-do lists I had and when I’d think of something, I’d stop to write it down, afraid I’d forget it later(hello, pretty much every mom I know!). I soon realized I was meditating for no more than about thirty seconds at a time. I felt like I was failing before I even really got started. 

Once you begin to meditate, you grow to understand that we are constantly inundated with messages and images that keep our brain from processing the true intentions of our thoughts. When you try and quiet all of that or be absent of thought, you emphatically know how crazy all our brains have become. Trust me-the first time you try it, it’ll feel like minutes are hours. That’s how I felt anyway-don’t be judgin’! Sometimes for us to be aware of what we need to do for our bodies and mind, we have to be absent of thought for awhile. Free up some space to get to the good stuff! 

When I began meditating again, it woke me up to something I already knew I was doing-living without intention. Even when I first started again, it felt weird and forced and then I began to surrender to all the crap. That’s when the thing happened. It was like a giant friend showed up to tell me they had missed me and they got this and I didn’t have to be anything but in my own space for awhile. Wow-what a great feeling. To know that the only thing I needed for the minutes I was doing it was the breath in my lungs. That was it! So easy but yet so difficult. 

We’re taught if we’re not busy doing something, we haven’t been productive. We haven’t added value. Sometimes our lack of busyness is when the good stuff shows up. The quiet moments to think or to not think. To be in your space and not need anything except your own body to breathe. It’s pretty liberating. 

Once you learn to let go-you’ll notice something else starts to happen. Things start coming at you. Of course they are because your mind is open to accepting those things now! Ta-da-you’re now living with intention. 

Even the past year that has had moments of complete shit-when I have paid attention to how my body was responding to something sad or enraging, I learned to let it go a lot quicker. Holding onto it only poisons you. The world keeps going. Do I vent to my mom or girlfriends? Hell yeah, I do but then I come back and realize what I need to do to find that space where I can live intentionally. 

Some days are a struggle. I wouldn’t be human if they weren’t-but this year has given me so many gifts. I never thought I’d say that six months ago. New friends, new opportunities, new experiences with my family and when I get a little whack-a-doodle in my brain and it feels flooded and overwhelmed, I find that place where I know the only thing I have to be or do is in my own body and that feels safe. 

This period in history seems very chaotic and sometimes self-preservation is all you’ve got. How are you going to live? Take the time to get frustrated and scream that our Prez is leading from behind his phone in Twitter-land and then go find your safe place. Wherever that is. Go hang out with your mom and have a great conversation with her. Go play with your kids and play like a kid. Drink that glass of wine like those grapes died for you. They did. Drink that wine and savor it. 

I have a sign in my bathroom that says,”Wherever You Are, Be All There”. I’m going to keep working on that. Living and loving with purpose is our only saving grace in this crazy world spinning in space. If you stop long enough, you’ll realize what you’ve been missing…promise. 

Mother’s Day mantra in the time of Trump…

I’m not gonna sugar-coat this. My Mother’s Day stories are normally filled with Hallmark-induced nauseum about how much I love my kids or my mom and sister. While none of that has changed at all, I feel the need to talk about the necessity of women as a whole this year. 

As a child growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I had the emotional and physical benefit of watching women take anchor in a man’s world. We were moving up on the food chain. Enjoying benefits only afforded to the male population for years and years before. My mother was a strong, working woman navigating her way through a pervasive and often unforgiving field dominated by men. Her strength and tenacity encouraged me, as we were much alike but I had a difficult time appreciating the waters she had to swim through before reaching the other side. 

It wasn’t until this election cycle while we were watching the debate between Hilary and Trump that she responded to the “pussy-grabbing” comment with anger and out-loud, that she, too, had been sexually harassed at work. She also reminded me that few women she knew back then hadn’t been sexually harassed in the workplace. 

As I watched the healthcare debacle unfold last week, it made me realize that as a woman, in 2017, pretty much anything that can happen to us is a pre-existing condition.

Post-partum depression after helping to populate the earth? Pre-existing. Having a period? Pre-existing. C-section? Pre-existing. Get cancer and have to have your breasts removed? Pre-existing. Rape? Pre-existing.  Your brain isn’t working right? Pre-existing. Menopause? Pre-existing. You know what’s not pre-existing? Erectile dysfunction. Let that sink in for a moment. No, really. Say it-outloud and see how it feels as it comes out. 

To have a baby and possibly need a cesarean section is a pre-existing condition under the new healthcare plan but erectile dysfunction is not. Please dudes-don’t think I’m picking on you! I know it must be incredibly debilitating to not be able to get it up. I can’t imagine the sleepless nights you’ve had or anxiety surrounding it. I feel for you. I really do. Periods, cramps, childbirth, post-partum, infertility, pap-smears, mammograms, birth control and menopause-sheesh-we got nothin’ on erectile dysfunction!!! 

Yes-I’m being facicious because when you say those things out loud, it not only SOUNDS ridiculous-you realize how truly far we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. So far, in fact, the Mad Hatter is beginning to look normal. Poor thing, though-if he presented with all of his syndromes in this day and age, he’d be a pre-existing condition, too. 

If as a society, we are measured by the success and health of our people, then what have we become? If we have decided as a nation, that we are no longer expected to care for our women, children, elderly or vets, then what is the standard with which we measure everything against? 

It should not only be a privilege but a right and responsibility to take care of one another. A nation only successfully functions when the sum total of its population decides their quality of life matters more than what its governing parts have allowed. Only then can we change the outcome, because this-this is unacceptable. 

Women are not a pre-existing condition. We are the connection to life. We are strong. We are beautiful. We are smart and funny and sarcastic and driven and we are bad-ass. We are NOT a pre-existing condition. We should not accept that our bodies have become a chess piece. A sound bite. Our health and our mental well-being are not a pre-existing condition. 

To my mom-thank you for teaching me that I matter and that I had the power all along. To my daughter-I hope I have shown you the way. To my girlfriends-I feel humbled to be in your company. 

Go out there and fight like a mother!

International Women’s Day and why it matters…

I know there are many who don’t understand the necessity of it. Or don’t care why. 

As I seek to grasp how we went from a sweet spot of feeling like, as women, we were on our way to the top; to feeling like we’re being kicked down a spiral staircase, slowly-I fail to wrap my head around any of it. 

It seems like just yesterday I was raising this little girl with pigtails, telling her she was strong and she could do anything she put her mind to. Now I watch her in college, hoping the boys attending don’t decide she’s nothing more than a pretty girl and try and hurt her. Or when she ventures out in the working world, her boss will find her worth equally as valuable as her male counterpart. These are the things I worry about now. 

It’s easy to say that “locker-room” talk was so casually dismissed in our presidential election. Or that female reporters are still mocked about their level of hotness. Our current commander-in-chief rates women on a scale of 1-10 or if he’d be willing to have sex with them, at all. This has become the norm. For our boys to hear. For our girls to hear. For the world to hear. 

But we’re the lucky ones. If you look at other places in the world, we are far better off. As of 1998, we only have 17.7 million women who were victims of an attempted sexual assault or completed rape. In other countries the numbers are much higher. That’s not including the staggering statistics of sex-trafficking. 

We’re the lucky ones? And if anyone dares to wonder why this year’s election struck a chord with so many-this is just a small fragment as to why. 

The years of women who have come before us to fight and work and protest that our bodies are not ravaged, that our minds are free to think and spirits aren’t broken by another-this is why it all matters. 

The numbers tell a small story but it can’t translate the nuisances of what grief feels like. The pain that comes from fighting for change. The struggles of fighting for something you know you might fail to gain. 

My mom was and is a strong woman. She always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. She reminded me there would be times I would fail, and fail miserably, I have-but she also taught me how to pick myself back up and keep going. She taught me to fight for those who couldn’t and to put up a fight when I knew I was doing the right thing. 

As women, we have often been taught to be ruled by shame. Shame of the fear of not doing enough or being enough. We’ve let shame rule our limitless possibilities, halting our own progress, at times. We can no longer allow that. Going back to the way things once were or accepting what is, isn’t the future we’re meant to have. 

Progress is a staggering course. It was never going to be easy but it will always be worth it. 

We have today as our day, but let us use our days with strength and courage to go forward with all the might in our hearts to continue the work that needs to be done. For our girls. For our boys. For all of us. 

On this International Women’s Day, I’d like to thank my mom who taught me that women are tough and sweet and sometimes a little scary when they get worked up about something they believe in. 

Let’s stay a little worked up, ladies…

The night owls…

I remember when I was little, my mom would say a thousand times,”go to sleep, Kelli”. My mind wandered aimlessly as the sounds from crickets outside or a creaking in the house kept me imagining what things were stirring. There I’d lay, in the dark, begging my mind to rest. Sometimes I’d think about the tomorrow or the weekend and soon I’d be drifting once again. 

Tonight I sit, listening to the slightest snore of my nearly thirteen-year old dog. She twitches every now and then and as I watch her, I’m jealous at the ease with which she slumbers. It’s funny to watch her nose twitch and I wonder what she dreams of. I’m jealous, too-wishing sleeping came that easily for me these days. 

I’ve read numerous stories of creative people finding their most inspiration in the quiet of the night. When nothing is moving. There’s no noise. The absence of sounds lends an invitation for creativity to dance in the mind. I use to think there was something wrong with me-that when everyone was sleeping, I’d dare to dream-only with my eyes open. 

Pain does the same thing. I keep hearing that I need to get more rest. I need to sleep. While I’m sure this is true, the quiet also helps to heal. It tells the soul that there is peace in the absence of chaos and if you listen, you can begin to hear your heart pumping like it’s suppose to. You can remember the way you once saw things. You can feel the spark begin to ignite again. 

Being alone doesn’t have to feel lonely. Nighttime doesn’t have to be scary. It can be the best moments of true awakening before you sleep. There’s something calming about watching the house sleep peacefully. 

My wandering thoughts I once felt frustrated by, are the very things that remind me of the beauty the night can bring. The quiet. The ability to fully think. The possibility of a night full of wonderful dreams and a new day to start all over again. 

This year has felt heavy. I’m embracing it. I think some really creative things come from unexpected conundrums and insomnia. Or that’s what all the great artists say, anyway…

Normally the titles of my blogs come easily to me. This time…I got nothin’. 

Sometimes when your entire world gets turned upside down, you have a severe absence of thought.  Your brain freezes. Your body becomes numb. Nothing prepares you for your life unraveling. The one you just had moments ago. 

Maybe it’s a bad dream? How do you do something about something you can’t really do anything about? How do you make the pain stop? You can’t, unfortunately. I’ve been down this road before and you have to just go right through it. 

There are moments when you are putting things back together, you feel strong. You feel powerful, in fact. “I can do this again”, you think. Then the pain comes in the form of a song or a moment you remember and it hits you like a train. It takes your breath away and you float between trying to move and trying to wake up from this thing that still feels unreal. 

The funny thing about grief is you figure out who your tribe really is. It’s easy in the good times to relish the laughter and dancing with your people. It’s not until the tidal wave hits and you are collapsed on the floor or in the bathtub and can’t move, that you realize who the rocks are that help build you back up. When you have to pack and start over. When you have to paint and you cry, sitting on a ladder because your nephew plays a song that absolutely breaks you but tells you, you are stronger than you know and you’ll be ok. When your girlfriends rally around you like warriors. When your mom and sister become the protectors of your heart daring anyone to invade. When your children wrap their arms around you and remind you that they are the reason you’ll be ok. 

I hadn’t read over my blog in a long time. Hearing my own words of things I’ve thought through the years and places I’ve been emotionally, reminded me we are all broken at times but my words comforted me. It was like visiting an old friend. Someone who knows me well or has observed my life and is here to tell me that,”it really will be ok.”

2016 was a year full of some of the best moments of my life and some of the worst. Like for many of you, though-it summoned me to a place in my heart and mind where I felt I had gotten a little off track. 

One thing I’ve learned this year is that you should never doubt or lose your convictions. Hold steady and true to them. They will keep you going in the darkest of times. Even when it means giving up something in your life that was once so big, nothing is worth sacrificing who you are. The people who love you will never ask that of you. They love you because of them. 

Life doesn’t always turn out like we imagined but sometimes it turns out even better. Right now, my mind feels like a giant storm but this too shall pass. It always does. 

I hope for all of you in 2017, you find the peace that you need. I pray that you share love and receive love and if you lose your way-have faith you will find it again. As corny and cliche as this sounds, the moments I have been the most lost are when I have found the greatest things in my life. 

Peace and love for the new year. Love to you all…

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