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…

Long ways to go…

As a person who doesn’t watch football, I didn’t know about the controversy that transpired over the guy who wouldn’t stand for the National Anthem. 

I started seeing crazy ranting and people dousing his jersey in lighter fluid. Even after I heard what he had done, I still thought,”why is everyone so upset?  He’s making a statement about something he is passionate about.” Apparently, I’m not the norm in my frame of thinking. 

Before you go and assume I’m not patriotic-oh hell-go ahead and call me “unpatriotic”. I don’t care. I’m so tired of people being confused or misinformed or judgmental about what it means to be “patriotic”. 

Whether or not you agree with what he did, we have to ask ourselves a few things about the very notion of what makes us a “patriotic” people. 

If you look at the headlines lately, they’re washed over with football and basketball players and swimmers who have been charged with sexual assaults. Many getting a slap on the wrist by a school, organization or a judicial system based off of their status or financial ability to dismiss their wrong-doing. Last I checked, nobody burned a jersey over these things. 

We have The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution which talk about things like all men being created equal, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and freedom of speech. 

Again-you don’t have to like what he did or agree with it-but when as a society we burn a man’s jersey in protest(yes, you have the right to do so)because he decides to exercise his right to not participate for whatever reason, but we aren’t outraged by the men who play on professional teams who are sexually assaulting women and absolutely nothing happens to them? There is something broken here. Deeply. 

The Second Amendment gave us the right to bare arms. In the twenty first century, that right  also gave us an astronomical amount of blood shed from gun violence. It gave us mass shootings that kill children, teachers and police officers. 

Before you stop and say,”he’s being unpatriotic and should be fired and he’s not an American!”, ask yourselves what the Constitution actually says. Did he break a law? Did he physically hurt anyone? No. 

Yes, our veterans go to war defending our rights as citizens and like it or not-he exercised his right to one of those-without causing harm to another. He made a statement in a peaceful way. You don’t have to like it and you can even hate him for it but if what he did incites more anger in you than the amount of mass shootings we have or the amount of pro football players you pay money to watch who assault women who are never punished for it-then there might be something wrong with your patriotism for your country or the manner in which you express it. 

If we are more angered by this than a man who is running for president who is openly racist, homophobic and sexist and is suppose to be the pillar of what patriotism and being an American is-then there is something wrong with us. 

We have a Congress who has cut funds for our military vets numerous times while continuously sending them to war and we don’t get outraged? There isn’t anything more un-American I can think of. 

We have a long way to go…

Better days are coming…

Sometimes when I stop to write, I often times don’t know what it is I really want to say. Sometimes I have a need to just get my thoughts out and sometimes I’ve thought so much about it I can’t write fast enough. 

Ben just came out and asked what was on my mind. He laughed and I smiled. He knows I’ve had a lot on my mind. 

Sitting in the backyard with my coffee amongst the trees, I’m thinking in this moment how peaceful everything sounds. It’s a nice place to be. 

Over the last several months however, probably like many of you; I’ve been in a place of confusion-huddling between observing the good moments with my kids or friends enjoying summer and watching things unfold that seem impossible to fathom. 

The other night I was catching up on the speeches from the DNC. We had been in Florida that week and I promised myself I would focus on the beautiful turquoise water and the family I had in front of me instead of speeches that I knew I could always catch sound bites on when we got back. 

I already know where I fall on the political spectrum so I didn’t think it were necessary to hear what all the attendees had to say. I had watched most of the RNC. I wanted to have hope things weren’t as polarizing on the other side as I felt they were. 

Clients and friends kept telling me I needed to watch the whole thing. Both of my children sat with me and listened and Britt was even watching Obama’s speech for the second time. She warned me that I would probably cry and grabbed her chest and said,”I’m going to miss him when he goes”. 

I honestly love the fact that we live in a country where people are allowed and encouraged to have differing opinions. I even believe it’s what drives our innovativeness and tenacity to propel us to be one of the best places on earth. 

As I as sat there with my children intently listening, I realized though the words that touch their ears make an impact. A giant one. If racism and fear and bigotry is what they hear from a parent or teacher or friend or politician, it becomes entrenched in their brain. They grow up feeling and thinking those statements are true. They look to us for leadership and part of those lessons implore us to teach not just getting along with others, but embracing and learning from the differences we each have. 

Policy debates on healthcare or foreign policy should be debated. There is always room for improvement in the world. There should always be a dialogue happening on ways to better educate our children. Let those be spirited and thoughtful and progressive. 

This isn’t about what side is right or wrong. This presidential cycle has turned into so much more than that. It has turned into a lesson for our children in dealing with bullies. About turning away hate. About loving your neighbor. Not calling people names. Remembering that the pigment in our skin is the only difference in how our bodies are made. That we all have a place. We all have a voice. That violence is never the answer. 

No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, it is imperative that our children look to a leader that at the very least, has kindness, decency and respect for the citizens that will elect he or she. That they understand the magnitude of their words. The impact with which they deliver them carries weight. 

I know it does, because as we were finishing up Barack Obama’s speech, Ben said,”do you think I’d make a good President someday?” and Britt looked at me and said,”I finally get why this matters.”

Whatever they choose to do with their lives or whomever it is they vote for someday, I hope it is because they have listened and been thoughtful in their decisions. 

I hear so often people say their vote doesn’t count. Why do we not at least try? What are we teaching our children if we don’t at least try? If we teach them that caring enough to try is half the battle, don’t you think that will transfer to other areas of their lives? 

I know outward expressions of love, kindness and respect might seem too small to fix such large problems but it will help to slowly mend things. I know putting up walls only serves to separate us instead of learning to embrace, blend and celebrate each of us. 

Staring at the beautiful blue turquoise water in Destin, it reminded me how the ocean flows together. There is no separation. What one country puts into the water eventually shows up somewhere else. Pollution flows. Sea life travels and is affected by something someone else on the other side of the globe does. Everything we do has ramifications. 

As one of my clients put it who is eighty two said,”we better get it together and figure it out because this is not what my dad or husband both fought for when they went to war. Shame on us.” 

Yes ma’am. We can do better…

Fear 101…

There are no words to describe the heaviness my heart feels, along with the rest of the world, about the vicious acts carried out against Paris and its citizens.

We’ve been there. The moments after the first plane hit; unsure of what was really happening, we waited with confusion. The moments and hours that followed when the second plane hit, then the third, then the fourth. Everything we knew was shaken to the core. Our security. Our dignity. The land we loved was under attack and we were powerless in those moments to stop it.

We’ve been there. We know the things that shake our faith in everything. The world spins so quickly underneath your feet you can’t find your bearings and for a moment time stops. The slow motion of fear sets in. Reality seems skewed. Confusion disorients us. The stages of grief follow suit.

I also remember feeling that way after Columbine…and Virginia Tech…and Sandy Hook. Some of you will assume that I have absolutely no right to even compare those situations with what just happened in Paris. You’d be right. There is nothing on earth I would ever want to say that takes away the immense pain the people of Paris will feel over the coming days and weeks; even years. Senseless acts of violence against a group or groups of people is the ultimate form of terrorism. I suppose with many questions in my head, I have to ask-where does our perception of terror come from? What constitutes an act of terror?

I am not writing this to take a stance on gun control. Arguing that at this moment would not only be insensitive but incomparable to anything the people of Paris are experiencing at this time. My desire is to possibly create a conversation about terrorism or acts of terror and what we conclude is an actual act of terror. School shootings are just the mechanism with which I’d like to draw a comparison as to how a certain circumstance might gain such a title.

In 2015 so far, there have been forty five school shootings. There have been two hundred and ninety four mass shootings. The FBI identifies a “mass shooting” as four or more lives lost in an incident. One hundred and forty two school shootings have happened since Sandy Hook. The latest large-scale shooting in Oregon, the shooter asked specific questions about religion to his victims before shooting them. If we base an act of “terrorism” as one that qualifies as such because it contains a religious component or motive, would that then be deemed an act of “terrorism” by our standards?

The word “terrorism” by definition under the United States code is broken down into two components-international terrorism and domestic terrorism. The definitions are nearly identical, except for the international acts of terror are outside the U.S. jurisdiction which carry other penalties and violations. They are both considered violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate state or federal law. Acts that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population. An act designed to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

The use of guns or school shootings isn’t the point I’m wishing to discuss. These are both matters I’m beginning to lose hope in the matter of, anyway. I pray that changes, but the discussion I’d like to have or the question I’m posing is this-why do these numbers and these acts not constitute the title of an act of terrorism? They, by theory, fit the definition. Why do we see these things which happen so frequently and not call them what they are? Why are certain groups of people more likely to be called terrorists than others and why do we not refer to our own citizens as terrorists when committing such atrocities? Timothy McVeigh committed the single largest domestic terrorist attack prior to 9/11. We change our Facebook picture in solidarity and we all say we pray for people who experience this, but what are we doing to change the things here that don’t fit the obvious form of “terrorism”?

Please don’t mistake my words for a lack of care or sympathy for the people of Paris. My heart breaks for the people who are still searching for loved ones. For the people who witnessed the violence and will have PTSD. For the first responders who will give their lives to help those in need. There is so much pain still to come for days and weeks and even years. We all know this. We have yet to fully recover from 9/11. I’m not sure we will, entirely.

My extreme sadness as a mother and as a citizen comes from the absolute detachment we have for what triggers our fear. What we think constitutes an act of terror. I know this sounds all preachy and some of you might even hurl curse words at me after saying this, but to me, there is nothing more terrifying than thinking someone could walk into my child’s school while he is trying to learn and the teachers are trying to teach and in one moment there could be multiple deaths and my government knows it could do something to at least try and curb the method and frequency with which these things happen and they choose not to. That is scary to me. It is scary that we will spend millions of dollars on our national security to protect our borders and overseas to prevent another 9/11, but we have nearly daily acts of terror playing out right at our front door and nothing is being done. Not one…damn…thing. We all know it. We turn a blind eye and pretend that it isn’t what it really is. We hide behind our liberties like they will keep us safe, because they’re our rights, after all-but we all know it’s not true.

I remember writing about Sandy Hook in 2012. I remember then thinking that we’d all be so infuriated and fed up that we wouldn’t take it anymore. We’d demand change. I remember feeling so scared and helpless and that I couldn’t honestly tell my kiddos they were safe at school anymore.

I know there are bad things that happen. I even believe evil exists. I also know I can’t shelter my children from every bad thing in the world. We teach them that terror looks like men getting on planes and flying them into buildings. We teach them this because we show it over and over again every year on the anniversary of 9/11. We remind them that evil looks like this or that and these certain groups of people are the scary ones. “These are our enemies”, we say.

For the first time writing this blog, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say, really. I just know I’m angry. I’m angry that we live in a world where we teach our children that the things we don’t necessarily understand have become the things we fear the most. We haven’t taught them that the liberties we often times have entitled ourselves with might be the very things that actually kill us. Sometimes the things we can even do something about but choose not to because it’s too difficult or not popular.

I know me saying this doesn’t change anything. I know we’ll still all watch Paris from across the ocean from our choice of electronic means. We’ll pray for them and empathize because we’ve been there. We’ll even pray that it doesn’t happen here again. We pray the evil stays away and doesn’t come for us again. The problem is, some of the very worst days we’ve had are actually circumstances that keep happening daily and we turn a blind eye. I believe it’s because if we really stopped for a moment to  look at the actual numbers, it would scare the hell out of us.

It even pisses me off that the acts in Paris will work their way into the presidential campaign season as a soundbite. All the candidates clamoring for votes by declaring they’ll be tough on foreign policy and will be the most viable candidate to keep us safe, domestically. Little will be said about the numbers I mentioned because unfortunately, there are people much higher up than you and I that have too much power preventing anything from changing. It will happen again and again and again and life will go on. We’ll keep forgetting each time it happens in our schools and we’ll pretend everything will be ok. We’ll keep praying the big, bad boogey man stays away and we’ll hope it will all be o.k.

Yes, I know this was dark. I’m usually not a, glass-is-half-empty sort of girl, but tonight I can’t sit with these thoughts and not be angry. Not be sad. Sure, there will always be situations out of our control. There will always be things completely out of our hands. I just think we have to adjust what we perceive terror to be. I think choosing to not shift our point of view on this subject is keeping us from surviving that which we can actually help change.

I pray for the people in Paris. I pray they find peace after this senseless tragedy. I pray that we find ways to end senseless acts of violence everywhere. I wish tonight it were all just a little more simple. I wish we could all just be good humans. No matter what nationality or religious affiliation or sexual orientation or gender-I really, really wish we could all just be good to one another…

Phase two…

Yep…damn it. It’s almost here. People keep asking me how I feel. Honestly-I don’t know how I feel. 

I keep seeing articles about “letting your children go” and “how to take back your life when your children go to college” and I just honestly feel…numb. Not in the numb kind of way, like I need a bottle or a box of wine to help me through it, kind of thing, but in the way that I just didn’t know it would be here so fast. 

She made me a mom before I should have been. I wasn’t even close to ready. Without my own purpose, she gave me one. I was terrified and elated and confused but there she was-this little bundle of energy that thought I was the greatest thing in the world. 

She would wobble back and forth with her toddler stride, nearly falling, with Goodnight Moon in her hand and say,”read”. Even then she was definitive with what she wanted. When I was done she would say,”again”. “Again” became her favorite phrase. Whether it was watching my poor attempt at juggling or reading her favorite story, I would happily oblige. That smile was the greatest thing in the world. 

Am I sad she’s going? My friends keep waiting for the catastrophic breakdown. I think I’m honestly good. Next week might be a different story. 

She has been a part of my adult life since before I even knew how to be one, but that’s not what makes me sad. I sincerely love her. Not just because she’s my daughter, but I love the hell out of who she is. I love the thoughts she shares with me. I love that she encourages me to write and be brave, even when I’m suppose to be the one doing the leading. I love that she makes me see things in a different light. I love that I had the good fortune to become her mom and I am so blessed that I get to see her begin the next phase of her life. Watching her become who she was always suppose to be is the greatest gift I have ever had. I love that she has known she wanted to serve families and babies since she was one herself. 

Next week will be sad. Me and Ben will have to find our new normal as we settle in to only seeing her long, sweeping hair and tiny hands maybe one day a month. With that, comes a swelling in my heart I haven’t known since the day she was born. She is about to fulfill her life’s purpose and I cannot wait to join her on this journey.  

Thank you to the countless teachers, family and friends who helped her get to this place. It does take a village. 

Letting go is hard, but watching the dance is pure heaven. 

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