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Thursday, March 26, 2020

take a seat.

Monday morning I woke up cold. 

I didn't need to open my eyes to see the blacked out alarm clock or nearly dead iPhone that should have been charging.  My shivery skin told me the snowstorm had knocked the power out while I was sleeping.  As if life couldn't get any more bizarre these days we had also lost heat, electricity, and worst of all, WiFi.  I did the thing where you lay there quickly assessing options while trying to develop a plan of attack for the moment your feet hit the floor.  Things that went through my mind included:

1).  Pulling the covers over my head and declaring Monday cancelled.

That's pretty much it.  That's all I could come up with.  I knew I had to go out to the barn to start the generator.  I also knew I had carelessly left "old gas" in the generator which had likely separated over the winter rendering it useless.  I also knew I don't really know how to start the generator on my best day.

I wanted to outsource reality.  I wanted someone to peel my orange for me.  I wanted a man to do it. (Yeah I did.  I said it.  Worst feminist ever.) 

I wanted to run but I didn't.  Or more accurately, I wanted to run but I couldn't.

I got up and did the things.  I went out to the barn and fought with the generator.  I turned on the fires.  I cried the appropriate amount of tears and then pulled my shit together.  The power came back on, the coffee got made, the week began with a sigh of relief and a blanket of perfect white snow.  It was okay. 

The power outage isn't really the point...the facing it is.  We keep ourselves so busy that we somehow manage to live life while simultaneously avoiding it, don't we?

We start new jobs, put on additions, coach the kid's sports teams, have dinner parties, have affairs, get on airplanes, join committees, join gyms, buy houses, sell houses, advocate, socialize, volunteer all the while numbing ourselves juuuuust enough with a little bit of (*fill in blank with substance of choice*).  We run and run and run and run.

Then one day there is a germ. 

And in what feels like an instant the universe places a hand on each of our shoulders, firmly applies pressure and whispers in our ear "sit the fuck down".

No more running, no more distractions, no more avoidance.  Just all of us, in this incredibly vulnerable and human time, face to face with the incredibly human and vulnerable aspects of our lives we may have been trying our best to turn away from.  I understand completely why in Mandarin the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one for danger and the other for opportunity.  This is a reckoning in every sense.  We are being asked to return back home to ourselves and tally things up.

Scratch that. 

We are being given the chance to return back home to ourselves...and we are fools if we don't take advantage of the CTRL+ALT+DELETE life has offered us. 

Now is our time to sift and sort.  Now is our time to be together in an entirely different way.  It is our time to sink deeper, listen to our knowing, care for the people we love, and emerge changed.

The things that are happening right now feel so intensely personal and global all at the same time don't they?  We are going through all of this together but more separate than we have ever been.  The dichotomy of it all is almost comical. 

But imagine this.

Imagine we all just collectively take a seat for a bit. 

We all take the time to sort and sift. 

We all do the individual work for the benefit of the greater good and we all emerge better, braver, more resilient.  The aggregate impact of that kind of effort could be (play on words fully intended) just what the doctor ordered for us humans.

Big six-feet-away hugs friends.  I hope whatever is happening under your roof includes moments of pure joy, unplanned play, singing, snuggles and the kind of tears that remind you how lucky you are.

Pull up a chair kids.  We are all in this together.

xo - juli

Thursday, June 6, 2019

pretty girl.

If you’re pretty, you’re pretty; but the only way to be beautiful is to be loving.
Otherwise, it’s just “congratulations about your face". - John Mayer

I will never forget the time I first saw the following study.  The data that validated what I had instinctively known since long before I began my professional career:  the way I presented physically in the workplace didn't just matter.  It was what mattered most.

(*I promise this post is not a pity party for attractive girls, but rather an observation about the "superpower" of beauty in our culture.  Stay with me.*)

It's not just the workplace.  Here's another fun one for you.

By the time this was published I had already been a professional for about 15 years and didn't need a bunch of percentages to tell me what I already knew:  it was easier for me to be seen (and heard) when the people in the room liked what they were looking at.  

The study and discussion of physical attractiveness is not a new one.  Conversations have been ongoing since we first saw our reflection in the lake while kneeling to get a drink of water.  

  • What is beauty (and how this definition varies by geography and over time)?
  • How does physical attractiveness change the way you move in the world?
  • What are the perceived advantages to beauty (economic/professional/romantic)?
  • What are we willing to do to maintain our beauty?
...and so many more.

As a woman over the age of 40 I listen carefully as my gorgeous, accomplished, talented peers discuss the task of beauty "maintenance".  

The things we are willing are to do and the money we are willing to spend in the way of exercise (memberships and equipment), procedures (injections/surgery/treatments) diet (collagen powders/supplements/oils etc), cosmetics (endless), and various tools (think a crazy wand you rub all over yourself to smooth out the cellulite) all to keep our so-called superpower alive and well.

All this got me thinking about something I read in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Outliers about the 10,000 hour rule.  The (*debated) rule states the following:

The key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.

Gladwell argues this is how we become an expert.  It's no wonder then, that after spending our 20's and 30's perfecting the art of being attractive, that by the time we reach 40 we have really hit our stride.  We have become experts in the field of our physical appearance.  We have logged enough hours on everything from our false eyelashes to the tips of our pedicured toes (and everything in between...ahem) to reach full pro status.

I'm challenging myself (and you if you'd pressure) to consider the following:

What else could we have done with that time instead, and what areas of ourselves have gone underdeveloped as a result?

We might have studied religion, world history or the origin of language.  We could have learned to play a stringed instrument or speak Mandarin.  

But speaking Mandarin doesn't encourage the guy in front of you at the checkout to let you go in front of him... 

...and playing viola won't get you out of a speeding ticket.  

We can't control the way the world around us works, but we can control the way we react to it.  So here's what I'm thinking.  

Let's start normalizing the topic of looks and the role they play in our lives.  Let's take the conversations from a whispering kitchen full of women out into the open.  Let's start treating the way we look as what it is, just another great thing in a long list of great things about us.  We know it is true that once you recognize something and allow yourself to be vulnerable to it you take the power back.  The thing no longer holds the do.

So let's recognize the role of beauty in our lives, honor it, and then put it right back in our toolbox of gifts where it belongs:  

Somewhere in between being a strong speller and the fastest runner in your class.  

Somewhere between being good at Excel and having a green thumb.  

When we remind our girls (and ourselves) that our superpowers are not singular we redistribute the beauty from our faces into every facet of our being.  That kind of beauty changes the way we move in the world, the way we love ourselves and enhances our capacity to love others.  That kind of beauty shifts the energy in everything we create and everything we do.

That kind of beauty lasts.

xo - juli

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

the crazy ones.

I was recently introduced to Joseph Campbell and his model of the hero's journey. (Let's not dwell on how I made it this long not knowing who Joseph Campbell was but just in case you've been living under this rock with me: here you go).  The hero's journey outlines the common cycle of events that occur within the singular human experience we all share over the course of a lifetime.  

It might be easier to think of it as what it means to be in charge of our own adventure.  This might sound obvious, but Campbell points out that we are all responsible for our own adventure and we have no one to blame but ourselves for the outcome.  But choosing to be our own hero?  That part is not quite so obvious and at first sounds like a whole lot of responsibility...but it is up to us as well. 

Highly recommend the documentary 'Finding Joe' (thank you Mrs. B)

It would be fair to say I am currently in the transformation/transition stage of my own journey.  I am, even as I write this, still discovering, still putting together the pieces of what I've learned, and cautiously peeking my head out of the cave to prepare for what lies ahead.  My greatest teachers these days seem to be fear, courage, pain and love.  The current relationship I have with these four powerful emotions looks something like this:

Fear:  It's okay and normal to be scared.  It's what we do with our fear that matters.

Courage:  Courage is knowing what to do and doing it.  Lack of courage is knowing what to do and not doing it. (Joseph Campbell said this, but I feel like I wrote it with my heart a million times before hearing his words).

Pain:  The uncomfortable and often dark experiences that create change and teach us the most.

Love:  The reason.  The "why" behind every choice we make. (*Note: this includes love in every form including self love - not romantic love only).

Lately I have been paying careful attention to living in a way that feels courageous.  Not wrestling a mountain lion level courage.  More like being brave enough to make choices that feel honest and accepting the results.  Making sure I am the hero of my own journey by having the courage to make complex and sometimes hurtful (or unpopular) decisions.  The courage to be in charge of my own adventure.  I have known for some time that this is what I was doing, I just hadn't found the right words for it.

Joe found the right words for me.

So if the hero's journey is so challenging and uncomfortable why would anyone choose that path?  It is human nature after all to desire security and comfort in the reality we create - and there is no shame in that.  The problem lies in wanting that security so desperately that we're not willing to consider if the reality we exist in aligns with our truth. What if the daily life we use to comfort ourselves is actually false comfort?    

Then what?

Well, then we have to do some hard work and take some chances.  We have to enter the cave.  It means seeing ourselves through an honest lens and making change accordingly.  It means honoring our fear but being brave enough to take that incomprehensible first step on a more awakened and thoughtful path.  Many of us open one eye half way, assess our options and decide ---

Screw that.   

And that's fine.  Our lives are our gifts and we have the good fortune of deciding how we choose to spend however much time we are given.  However, the magic that enters when we elect to start living in the light makes closing our eyes again unthinkable - because we don't want to miss a single second of what our life has become. 

I don't claim to have it all figured out friends, but what I am sure of is that the power and peace we give ourselves when we live in the light is more than any fortune could grant us. When we dismiss the opinion of others, own our choices, and stand in our truth there is no telling what a person can do.  With power like that anything and everything becomes possible.

Disingenuous words get lost before leaving our lips.  Relationships that fill our social calendars but leave our souls empty fall away.  As the golden version of us rises to the surface things that aren't serving us in a healthy and authentic way begin to sink.  Suddenly, Laurel from the movie Jerry Maguire makes perfect sense when she claims to be "incapable of small talk". 

Preach Laurel.  

This is where our contribution begins.  This is the part of our adventure where we take what we've learned and share our experience with the people whose lives we touch.  We share ourselves in a way that feels generous and supportive, not judgmental and forceful.  That is our hand written thank you note back to the universe for giving us the opportunity to grow and live an awakened life.  That is our legacy and the marker of how we spent our time here. 

And sure, we may run the risk of sounding a little crazy.  I'm comfortable with that.

The alternative is to turn our heads, close our eyes, and walk in the opposite direction when life is trying to point us toward our truth. And, well...I just can't think of anything much crazier than that.

So in the words of Steve Jobs, "Here's to the crazy ones".

Here's to you and your hero's journey.

Here's to all of us finding the courage to follow our bliss.

...and to the great adventure that is a life lived fully alive.

xo - juli

Brian Andreas for the win (as usual).

Thursday, March 8, 2018

the picnic blanket.

In her book Yes Please, Amy Pohler uses a really interesting analogy to describe a time of major change and transition in her life.  She writes it was as though her entire existence was laid out perfectly on a picnic blanket...and all at once someone picked up the corners of the blanket and sent everything flying into the air.

(Highly recommend on Audiobooks - so much funnier in her voice.)

Amy said she felt as if she was just standing there, waiting to see where all the pieces of her life would land, and the uncertainty was paralyzing.

That feeling.  That waiting.

With the safety of a carefully crafted life lost, what do we have left to hold on to?  There are so many unknowns, and everything feels so terribly out of control.  Where do we go for the answers to the countless questions that won't stop swirling around in our heads?

Well it's 2018.  So I guess we turn to the internet.

The infinite wisdom of cyber-spirituality offers us uplifting bite-sized mantras:

  • "If you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
  • "Nothing will change unless you do."
  • "If you want something you've never had, then you must do something you've never done."
  • "Be messy and complicated and afraid.  And show up anyway."

And we think:  

"Yes Pinterest!  You are so right.  This is the truth!  This is what I will do!  I will be messy and complicated and afraid and I will show up anyway...just as soon as I finish this conference call and make dinner." 

Meanwhile a little voice whispers from the smallest corner of our soul saying:  'These words can't help you.  They aren't even your words.  Only you know how to exist in a way that honors your truth.'

So we thank the internet for the solid starting point and dig deeper in search of that honest place.  That place inside ourselves that is so raw and so exposed there is nowhere left to go.  No more stones to turn over, no more self doubt, no more feelings to consider, no more options to weigh, no more fucks to give.  

Exhausted, exposed and scared we realize this is it.  This is the time for change.  And so we grab the corners of the blanket, give it a loving shake...and we wait.

We stay still and listen for direction as we watch the pieces of our life fall one by one back down to earth.  Bearing witness to the sequence of events as they unfold, accepting that we can only affect those things which are in our control.  And the rest...well, the rest will just fall where they will.

We think that by a certain age we shouldn't find ourselves in these situations.  It's easier to believe the blanket has been put down, the basket is unpacked, and that goddamn picnic is staying right where it is.  It's unsettling when someone else's blanket gets tossed because it exposes the idea that nothing is ever certain, that safety is an illusion - that a real life doesn't fit inside the tidy little box we want to keep it in.

Who brings a galvanized metal tub and three bags of ice on a picnic?

It suggests that maybe our time here is not about waiting for the period at the end of the sentence.

Maybe a full life can just be comma, after comma, after comma. 

         After lesson.
                       After lesson.

So long as while we're standing there exposed we are acting with intention, love and grace.  As long as we continue to honor our decisions and stand by our actions.  If we are able to celebrate the uncertainty of a life lived awake it doesn't matter if our picnic blanket gets tossed.

Because we know we will always be right there,

our faces turned toward the sky,

ready to catch everything that matters most to us,

and put it oh so gently back down.

Meg and our girls last summer at the coast.  Tossing blankets just for fun.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

a light in the heart.

So I've got this milestone birthday right around the corner.  I'm not going to say how old I'm turning but it rhymes with forty. 

I should qualify this post by admitting I suck at birthdays.  I am awful with dates and I don't have a birthday calendar so I never remember anyone else's.  I'm the kind of grown woman whose mother has to call her to say "Today is your grandfather's birthday.  Just thought you might like to give him a call" (thanks Mom!).  To make matters worse I'm not so into Facebook lately so I'm not even sending the social media based well wishes these days.  That Facebook never forgets a birthday.

I've found a major perk of having small children is they are always willing to make a home made card for the birthday I nearly forgot.  When kids make the card it's charming and feels more intentional and less like you forgot to stop at Target for a real card.  Construction paper for the win.

The only thing I can say about my tendency to not properly acknowledge birthdays is that the same rule applies to my own.  They come and go.  I don't take the day off from work.  I have zero expectations that anything outside the ordinary is going to happen and when it does I'm always surprised and grateful.  

But this one.  This one is different.  This birthday feels like something.  

I'm going to be straight up with you and say that something about this milestone is shining a light on the physical aspects of aging that are making themselves at home on my body.  I have noticed the following truths about my physical self in the last year especially:

  • I'm on the every 4-5 week plan at the salon these days to fight back the gray hair I refuse to see one centimeter of.
  • My fingernails are getting  inexplicable "ridges" in them.
  • There is this perma-exhausted area under my eyes that I have to cover with concealer if I don't want to look like I've been sleeping in an alley for the last month.
  • My hands on the steering wheel look just like my mothers did when I was growing up. 
  • I have a couple age spots.
  • I get out of bed a little slower than I used to and I'm starting to wonder why.  At first I thought maybe I was just putting on a "Mom is tired because you woke her too early" show for the kids but now I'm starting to think it's for real.
  • I have to exercise hard five times a week or my body reverts back to veal status.
  • I find myself rubbing the "elevens" in between my eyes.  Do I think if I really commit I can rub them right off or something?
  • I have laugh lines that look like I've been laughing...lots.

When these changes started happening I noticed, and I cared.  I could lie and say I didn't but I did.  Because despite knowing better, there are times we women still feel like so much of our value resides in our physical self.  We are conditioned to believe that beauty is where our power lives and our value diminishes as it fades.  

But our value doesn't diminish.  It grows.  And our beauty doesn't fade, it changes.

By forty we have learned to do something far more important than just be beautiful.  We have learned to create beauty.  We can do magical things we couldn't do when we were younger.  

We can:

  • Create living spaces that comfort and inspire.
  • Treat food (growing it/preparing it/serving it) like art.
  • Appreciate fresh air and outdoor activities as though they are church.
  • Value risk, adventure and uncertainty (mid-life tattoo or nose piercing anyone?)
  • Digest political/national/world news in a healthy way (mostly).
  • Grow and raise beautiful little humans.
  • Pee outside confidently and without hesitation.
  • Own our bad habits and change them if we feel like it.
  • Be the kind of friend that genuinely wants to see her girlfriends happy and successful.
  • Give our time and money and talent away to causes we value.
  • Love harder than we ever imagined we could.

We can do all those things and more.  So this year, for this "something" of a birthday I am going to give myself this gift...

Every time I look at my thighs in disbelief, or use the magnifying side of the mirror to get a way-too-close look at the tiny lines around my eyes I am going to stop, take a breath, and close my eyes.  

And instead of focusing on whatever unimportant nonsense has me tricked into thinking I shouldn't leave the house I am going to remember that I am alive and I am healthy.  That my body is strong.  That so far I have only become happier and more brave with every passing year.  That the date on my driver's license doesn't determine my worth...I do. 

That is my birthday wish for all women, no matter what number you may be turning next.  My wish for us is another year of learning and loving and knowing that beauty is not in the face, but rather a light in the heart.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

the power play.

Feminism isn't scary.  It's enlightened and essential.  

About four years ago I was sitting in the office of my then boss with a couple of peers who were also members of his team.  We were going over a presentation for an upcoming meeting with some VIP's who would be visiting from HQ the following week.  One of the three men in the room jokingly expressed his nervousness about presenting to such a high-powered audience.  To which our boss replied: 

"There's no reason to be stressed.  These guys put their pants on one leg a time...just like us.  Or Juli, I guess in your case it would be they put their lipstick on one lip at a time?"

Ummmm yeah.  Couple of things here.

1.  I actually do wear pants, so the original expression sans modification could easily have applied to everyone in the room.
2.  I highly doubt these middle-aged white men visiting from Milwaukee would wear lipstick.  But if they did I suppose that yes, they would apply it one lip at a time since that is typically what most users find works best.

No.  For real.  WHO SAYS THAT?!?!?

He did.  

I was so surprised by his comment that I just smiled and pretended to understand what the hell he was talking about.  Over the next few years of reporting to this person I watched him minimize, criticize and openly berate the people I worked with.  He had a particular fondness for choosing team meetings or large group settings to exercise his authority and make sure everyone knew he was the boss and don't you forget it.

It was difficult to respect him.
People were constantly uneasy around him.
He made us feel as though we were competing against one another.

It was all a power play.

Working for this person ended up being a career gift.  I learned a lot about the misuse of authority and generally how people react to this bullish style of leadership.  Pretty much his entire team left - including me.

The experience taught me real power comes from giving the people around you respect and the right to be heard.  I adopted a management style (if you can call it that) of functioning more as a coach, advocate and mentor to the people on my team.  I see it as my responsibility to make sure the people who report to me feel safe, supported and valued when they come to work.

I will speak out if someone is shit-talking a coworker who isn't in the room to represent themselves.  

I encourage my team to be the light in a difficult conversation.  

I remind the people who support me professionally how much I appreciate their contribution.  

Women are often led to believe that if we want to be fully respected we need to create a professional persona that only demonstrates our more "traditionally masculine" qualities.  But the truth is the most powerful qualities we can bring to work are our human qualities.  The genuine pieces of our personalities that make us approachable, trustworthy and real.  

The power play is not focusing on who in the room has the power (even if that person is you).  It comes from taking the high road every chance we get.  By refusing to minimize or judge.  It comes from encouraging the people around us to challenge themselves and grow.


That's the real power play.

(A few closing words from my girl Sheryl.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I haven't been able to write anything interesting for a while now. And when I do write something it's total crap to the extent that I can barely read it silently to myself for editing purposes (*See Exhibit A:  My last blog post)  

No really, you don't have to be kind.  I can take it.  It was total crap.

I'm not even the kind of writer who is a perfectionist or thinks every word I write needs to be relevant or inspiring.  At best I'm an aspiring part-time blogger who has the lofty goal of getting her thoughts out into a little corner of the internet and maybe making someone else smile while I'm at it.

I set the bar so low for myself I'm practically tripping over it and yet I STILL can't write.  And I know why.  I am all talked out.

For a few different reasons.

1)  I changed companies.

Taking a new job with a new company required more talking than I expected. First I had to explain who I am, what my experience has been, why I am qualified and what I planned to do in the position if given the opportunity.  

Then when I actually got the job I had to explain my thoughts, my approach to the work and my decisions to every person whose path I cross throughout the course of a day.  I am a stranger to 95% of  my can they be expected to understand who I am or what I'm about?

There's only one way...lots of talking.

2)  The Presidential election and the horror that followed.  

We Americans were, and continue to be flooded with everything from fear mongering to endless SNL sketches and everything in between.  

It's been a very you-can-run-but-you-can't-hide time for the media in our lives.  It's everywhere you look and seemingly all anyone wants to talk about - and I'll admit it.  I'm guilty.  I jumped right on the talk bandwagon.  

Anyone who knows me well knows I am not shy when it comes to my political beliefs or opinions about our elected officials.  I realize there are two "untouchables" in the rules of polite conversation and they are a) religion and b) politics.  I figure since I rarely discuss religion that politics should be free game (or maybe I just don't like rules).  

It's possible I have nothing left to say on the topic of American politics.  Or I've just surrendered to the idea that what's done is done.  Or all the energy I put into the reading/watching/thinking about the topic finally took a toll on me. 

Either way, I'm spent.  Too much talking.

3)  I'm almost 40 and overly socialized.  

I've been fortunate enough to live a life filled with good friends.  In the last decade however, with the introduction of little humans, the socializing really kicked into high gear.  There are girl's nights out to take a break from mommy duty.

There are dinner parties/holiday parties to take a break from adulting, and let's not forget, my personal favorite... "play dates" that involve kids running around destroying the house while moms day drink. 

then the next morning I'm all like...

I don't mean to sound Grinchy...the 30-something social scene has been and continues to be a blast.  I still enjoy being social, having a cocktail or three and laughing until I cry with a group of friends.  

It all just requires a lot of well...talking.

These days I am feeling...

Like actions speak louder than words.

Like maybe not everything we think needs to make the journey from our brain to our lips.

Like we all have a chapter of our life we don't need to read out loud.

Like someone can tell you more with their eyes than they can with words.

Like maybe if what we're about to say isn't rooted in kindness, love, or a genuine desire to bring about positive change then we should just say...


Our voices are important and we shouldn't be afraid to use them, but we also shouldn't overlook the important interactions that happen in those times of silence.  Those times when we aren't debating or explaining or gossiping or disagreeing or fighting for air time.

When we are quiet we give ourselves and the people around us a chance to reflect and breathe.  When we are quiet it means we are watching others, or listening to someone besides ourselves, or better yet, doing something for someone.  

The peaceful times in between the noise are when we have the opportunity to really see someone else, and for them to fully see us.

Because there is beauty in that space in between.

There is peace in that silence.  

And because we all sound the same when we're speechless.

Be well friends.  xo, juli