Dear Young Woman Trying to Take on The World:

I see you. I see you when you’re scrappin’ and going wild against your family and calling for better boundaries.

You can’t yell up a generation. You are the future. And because of that, I have faith.

I witness you speaking truth to power and patriarchy.

You might call yourself an anarchist. Running from the Santa Fe art scene and your restaurant dream, determined to lose yourself in the City of Brotherly Love.

I pray you find yourself, your center, your internal, sacred, divine, feminine fire.

Because girl, you’re the next generation. You’re the result of and the reaction to patriarchy overplaying its hand.

You, my dear, are your father’s daughter. You’re your mother’s daughter, too. And, of course, your brother’s sister.

You will shape the future. Don’t let it destroy you. Keep shedding the bullsh*t and breathe deep into your heart, your pure essence.

Don’t let your masculine mind direct you through the toxic masculinity.

This shift is the feminine rising.

Young people like you flex your feminine intuition and ways of knowing.

Please, let the hardness, the stress, and the old systems crash. Let the misogynistic, power-hungry, greed mongers fall to the bottom of the pile.

Find new heroes. Find her in the mirror. I see her in your curly, dark hair, even when you straighten it. I know her in your obsidian-black eyes when you let them go wise and remember all that you know.

I see you reaching, extending, but not pretending you believe in perfection. You know better by virtue of being alive at this time in history.

You feel the shift because it’s happening inside your body. Young woman, you feel everything, but have been taught to resist, repress, and deny. Ugh! Patriarchy!

One day, in the world I imagine, born of women like you, feelings will be appreciated, experienced, and utilized like traffic signals for navigating the world.

When I was your age, my feelings raged like wild horses. When feelings can run free without being stifled, we can learn to saddle and ride them.

I see you, wild horse, bucking, young woman. It makes me proud and proves you’re not broken; you haven’t shut down or given up.

Although you wanted to and you probably will again on some bleak day. If, “F*ck you, life! I want to die!” is your go-to, it’s your kryptonite. At least, it was mine.

On that, I say: stay. Stay to experience the next chapter of your life. New characters. New adventures. New city. New you.

Enter the Philadelphia scene like the woman you intend to be. Leave your baggage in New Mexico.

Travel light. Be young and wild and free. Fall in love. With yourself, your work, and at least one hot-ass lover who touches your soul.

Have fun! Laugh! Play! Enjoy hanging with your friend.

Be in your full, divine-feminine essence. Stay present. Dance.

Be you. Embody yourself, young lady. Learn quicker than my generation or my mother’s.

Know: you are the answer. You’ve got this.

Proposal.

Re: Road Trip Time!

Attn: Carlos the Artist

From: Alice the Author, AKA Gutsy Rose

Darling,

Won’t you join me in cherishing our childhood memories and remembering how we fell in love as adults in 2012?

Let’s not delve into what could’ve been that wasn’t. Your fault. My blessing.

Because after you let me go, the other guy changed my life and gave me sacred love. And then died.

Now, here we are, leaping on the merry-go-round again.

We’re older and wiser, broken, but oh-so-blessed.

Planning adventure together in the summer after the pandemic.

In 2021, let’s travel in a van, without expectation. Let’s sing and play music like life is a love song.

Let’s sleep under the stars, climb mountains, and swim naked—free of society’s constraining mentalities and the muck we’ve picked up.

Let’s burn our baggage in campfires, and greet strangers like the treasures we’ll find in national parks.

I’ll do reiki and you’ll be crazy.

Organically, we’ll grow, nourish, and tell truths that don’t diminish.

Let’s pretend, once again, we’re standing side-by-side in front of our snare drums in 7th grade, when everything was one big parade.

Let’s play!

How Shifting Our Internal Landscape Changes Our Experience.

“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see. ~ Henry David Thoreau

What if we could greet others on their path—wherever they are and however they show up—from a place of peace? From a place of egoic surrender?

What if we don’t meet defensiveness with defensiveness, but with patience and understanding for another’s pain?

Can we, collectively, acknowledge that given different parents, siblings, skin color, education, culture, or upbringing, we too, would think, act, and believe differently?

Imagine playing with curiosity and shushing judgement.

Let’s try to recognize that most of the time, when adults react rather than respond, and especially when grown-ups overreact, it’s because the child in them doesn’t feel safe.

That scenario applies to the person in the mirror, too. Holding ourselves with compassion, kindness, and calmness when our egos want to throw blows invites an entirely new scenario, a more pleasurable interior embodiment, which radiates outward, with or without intention.

What if we invite love to stand witness with us?

Somewhere in time, we integrate our brokenness with our wholeness and stand in respect for our soul’s journey—and therefore, everyone else’s.

What if we give ourselves and others a break, just for today?

When a Woman Like America Wakes Up.

“The devil often poses as a family kind of guy.” ~ Marianne Williamson, The Healing of America

America’s jaw tightened and clenched. She ground her teeth.

Her neck and shoulders ached with incessant pain from carrying her heavy, heavy head filled with dread and worry.

Her breath shallowed, then quickened out of control, on the edge of a heart attack.

Rage became her. She even flipped off truth a time or two.

Like many women caught in and committed to a bad relationship, America’s lower self took center stage. She didn’t have the answers or know how to be her better self. She questioned her identity and flirted with denial, as we tend to do when stuck in relationships not yet done.

Then, he crossed the line, threatened violence, and came close to choking her. She had marks on her neck and would never forget that look in his eyes as he hurt her.

His justifications, rationalizations, and blaming her crashed like a floor full of broken glass. America picked up the pieces. She washed the steps he’d taken to find her.

She’d tried her best with him, but lost herself.

America made a new vow, to return to her more soulful, peaceful self. Exhausted from the chaos of a relationship gone awry, she decided within the fear, before she had the answers.

Like I did, when I determined to be done with my husband, but still, I shaved his back that one last time. Change called me before how answered.

America released the relationship, the tangle of truth and lies, the betrayal of time gone by, with her standing by his side. But how?

She knew a man named Joe, an old friend, someone she could trust in her unsteadiness.

As I did in 2011. Considering divorce and desperate to determine my direction, I escaped for 10 days in Arizona at my friend Joe’s resort-like home. Under blue skies and sitting poolside, I redrew my boundaries and excavated my values.

Joe fed me, asked good questions, and listened. He asked if I could give my husband more time to change. I’d given all I could and tried in all the ways I knew. Joe’s girlfriend said my husband would be devastated. She knew him well.

Still, I voted for myself, like America did.

One day, in a new year, America’s shoulders relaxed. Smiles spread, even behind masks. Protective forces gathered. Honor filled the air of America’s lungs. She breathed in safety and her whole body swallowed gratitude like an elixir.

Joe stayed consistent and that made all the difference. He did what he said he was going to do.

America knew her path forward wouldn’t be easy, but like me, she craved authenticity. So, willingness became her, engaged her.

Finding myself suddenly single after investing a decade in a marriage while wanting more, better, different, little things took on new meaning. I walked out of my 500-square-foot apartment in St. Paul, MN. Sunshine sparkled on the sidewalk where poetry was carved into the pavement, on purpose, like a love note from the universe.

Poetry kissed me when I walked the bridge between yesterday and tomorrow.

She kissed America, too—in a way only poetry can do. This time, it wasn’t words on sidewalks. This time, sunshine spilled on the face of the future. America glowed as Amanda Gorman became her new best friend.

Listening to Amanda’s words, America thought: Justice. Just us. We, the people.

Fear descended from her head and heart, down from the frantic fibers of a frayed nervous system, through her blood and bones, confused cells and misaligned structure. Down, down, through America’s belly, hips, legs, and feet, fear fell into the hallowed ground beneath her.

America’s shoulders drew back, her heart forward, and her head high. Unexplainable giddiness coursed through her veins.

Nothing appeared the same, as if she’d awoken from a bad dream. She accepted the call to do hard things.

America still wasn’t sure how, but now, finally, willingness stirred within her. Like me, after years of struggle, America looked in the mirror and got greeted by her own beauty.

She cried.

That night, she attended a party with people she appreciated: Joe and Kamala, Bill, George, and Barack. Tom Hanks held her hand. Jon Bon Jovi and J.T. serenaded her.

America felt held. She felt safe. She felt happy. And the fireworks! LIT HER UP!

For the first time in a long time, America felt free, beautiful, and ready to begin again. Like she’d been waiting to exhale.

That night, America dreamed.

How a Big Sister Changes the World

Dear Sister,

If I live to 192, I could never thank you enough for all you’ve done for me as a sister, friend, protector, companion, and an example of how to walk your path in the world while respecting, encouraging, and believing in your loved ones’ journeys.

You’ve shown me how to hold steady and how to let go when you don’t want to. Yet, you never told me, or even implied, that your way of loving, living, or grieving is the way I, or anyone, must emulate.

You live and love with open arms, even though those arms held your everything and fell empty. I know how broken you were when your husband of 33 years died. You climbed out of a steep, treacherous canyon.

I feel like I’m in Havasu Canyon following you up the switchbacks with a too-big backpack, boots with blistered feet, and no water.

You keep saying, “Come on, Alice. You’ve got this.” I’m muttering under my breath about how my feet hurt, I’m tired, and I want to sit down.

I haven’t tied my boots right, so I trip and fall, backpack of crap plunging me onto my hands and knees. I come up covered in dirt, like I’ve fallen face forward into an arroyo of mud and tears.

Although you’ve made miles ahead, you instinctively know. When I look up to see how far I have to go and possibly admit defeat, you’re there beside me, picking me up, sharing your water, and laughing about the mess on my face. You take a few things out of my pack and tell me I don’t have far to go now.

You say, “Just around the corner, the view is so beautiful, better than the Valle Grande!”

I know I must keep climbing, but I don’t want to.

“Is it better than the Great Barrier Reef?” I ask.

You laugh and say, “You’ll have to see for yourself.”

For 56 years, my dear big sister, you’ve helped me see the world for myself. Because of you, I envision a brighter, more colorful and expansive world, and I see the axis of my world spins into balance when shared.

Thank you for sharing the last seven years with me: opening your home, allowing me to be present in your intense grief (a great honor), witnessing you as an evolving, grown-ass woman mom would swell with pride for, showing me the epitome of partnership and generosity, believing in me when I doubted, encouraging me to risk and dive into the most exquisite experience of sacred love, being there for me when my beloved died and I fell deep into the canyon of grief, supporting me and my writing dream without ever insinuating quid pro quo, and always wanting me to be happy, but never at the expense of your own happiness.

I appreciate your honesty and directness, and I’ve become especially fond of the part of you that’s remembered how to play at life. Our now-gone brother Bill throws his head back in laughter, “Finally!” He’s been telling us, “Life’s a party!” and dances when we lighten up.

This summer with you, Sis—the one that lasted seven years—has been my favorite. Better than riding our bikes to East Park Pool as kids, swimming all day, eating green chile cheeseburgers, and getting our noses sunburned.

Today, I gather in my heart the gift of our shared experiences:  Australia, Pies & Pints, Jamaica, Florida Everglades, Bloody Mary Sundays, Outlander and This Is Us, walks around the neighborhood, you calling my dog “Wiggle Butt” and being there when she ate her first hot dog and took her last breath, trips to MI and time with your kids, road trips to NC, NM, and Nashville, beaches, bike rides, and beers, sitting outside at “The Pig,” writing and editing projects, movies and yoga, secrets and reflections of growing up in the 70s in Los Alamos, and 10,000 enlightening conversations helping me grow more whole, wise, and peaceful.

I tie a bow on these memories and wrap them in a blue sky, just the way you like. I decorate them with sunshine, and drop them into your heart with love, hoping they warm you and remind you of what a gift you are in my life.

Sister, you’re a star when my world is dark and the beach when it’s sunny.

I love you and being part of your world. Happy Birthday!

Enter Here.

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.” ~ Anne Lamott

Come in, into the quiet center.

Sit in the darkness, the fear, the fucked-up reality of humanity.

Embrace her. In you. Then, welcome the light of stars in the dark night

and the rise of the sun in early morning. Let her shine on you and in you.

Feel her warmth on your skin. Lift your chin, your arms, your everything to the vast and changing sky.

Let her drama dazzle you. Walk in nature. Study the sway of tree and leaves waving in the wind.

You don’t have to save the world, but someone must.

Traveler from dark to light and all the layers in between, why not you?

Save her with poetry and kindness. No need to be famous.

Be you. Invite deep solace. Begin by going in.

Go in while there’s time.

Go into your body. Connect with your soul.

Get out of your mind and the mayhem.

Stay on your mat.

In your chair.

Home.

Drop into your heart and be the peace you’ve been praying for.

How I Dance with Grief.

Grief is a force of nature, like the ocean. She can be calm, the waves gentle, just a noise in the background, as she’s been for me over the last several months.

Four years after my beloved died unexpectedly in his sleep, I drew another line goodbye. Kevin died March 4, 2016. That day this year, I visited his home state of Florida. I emotionally kissed him goodbye. I meant it this time!

By the grace of God, the gift of time, and sheer will, I released Grief’s grip on my being. I regained a sense of self, strength, and quieting of the incessant internal screaming. The ocean waves blew soft.

Now, it’s August. Grief threatens my calm. She’s not mean, but she’s present, reminding me my two truest soul connections in my 55 years on earth no longer inhabit this place. Queen Obvious!

My soulmate dog Phoenix, a lover in a Black Lab body, died last year after 11 spent glued to me. Of course, I grieved her, but I also used my brain to dismiss the pain since her death made sense in a way Kevin’s didn’t. She lived a full life.

Now, she’s back in my dreams, standing by my bed, staring at me with her caramel-brown eyes stirring me awake, nudging me into yesterday’s grin. But she’s not there.

Logic and grief get along like math and poetry. I know, that’s a thing, but not for me.

Grief aligns as the ultimate juxtaposition—the truths we resist and those we cling to.

My sister Jayne and I both started dating new men in 2014, after losing our husbands to death and divorce, respectively. In early May, I visited a friend of double decades and let’s just say, it was on. Walls crumbled, hearts opened, and Kevin and I became Fire & Ice.

In December of the same year, my sister went speed dating and met her mate, Dean. They danced and tripped over baggage and learned to step toward rather than away in ways that work for them.

Dean was in our home that day in 2016 as we all awaited Kevin’s arrival. The guys would meet for the first time. We had reservations at The Melting Pot. I don’t know if we ever cancelled.

I know I was worried when Kevin, king of communication, didn’t call and was late, so out of character. Dean said, “Everything will be okay.” He lacked my experience of death whispering on the wind before she’s announced. Everything was not alright.

The police went to Kevin’s house and found him “unresponsive” in his bed, with his bag packed, the sweater he intended to give me inside. One last surprise from the greatest gift God ever gave me.

I grieved the loss of my Fire actively. Like a mermaid, I dove to the depths and found the treasures. Four years later, “I’m fine” found truth in me.

Here’s the juxtaposition. Well, one of many. My sister’s love with Dean has progressed naturally. I prayed for her to find a special relationship again after Grief almost crushed her under the weight of losing her husband of 33 years. So, I celebrate her engagement.

This morning, sitting alone at the kitchen table that currently sits in the home I share with my sister, while she stays with her fiancé, Grief joined me for coffee.

Like a frenemy, she asked: What if Kevin would’ve lived and Dean would’ve died? You’d be planning your wedding. Grief can be such a b*tch!

No, I wouldn’t want that, either. Grief persisted. Look how happy Jayne is!

It reminded me of Kevin insisting, “Sometimes it’s good to put yourself first.” He said, “Icey, if there was only going to be one book contract, wouldn’t you want it to go to you?” I gave in. “Yeah, I would.” That’s not how it works, though.

Besides, this thought is different. It invokes shame in its existence. It screams to be suppressed. Jealousy over my own sister’s happiness? I want to spit it out like a cockroach on my tongue.

Still, I recall after Jayne’s husband died, she found it difficult to be in the company of other happy couples, even her children and especial my friends. Bittersweet is the taste of what you lost staring you in the face.

I’m a Scorpio. I turn into pain, not away. Truth nourishes my soul. So, here it is: I’m jealous my sister gets to marry the man she connected with in 2014 while I still grieve mine.

In my 20s, I would’ve suppressed that truth into the bowels of the earth and walked away. Or ran.

Maturity is the ability to hold two truths—or five. I’m honestly giddy for my 60-year-old sister getting to plan a wedding for the first time in her life. I’ve gotten to do it twice. Her first vows were spoken at the Justice of the Peace.

Now, my heart flutters with the same butterfly-joy Jayne emanated when I married my second husband—the sure bet. On that day, my sister’s Great-Barrier-Reef-blue eyes reflected what I felt in my gut.

Recently, my sister and I donned our masks (hello 2020) and ventured to her appointment at David’s Bridal. I stood on a stoop below, witnessing the dresses doing their number on my sister. Facing herself as the glowing bride in the mirror, she sparkled.

I took in the show and captured photos. Jayne tried on gowns until she found the one. A surprising smile rose from my belly into a balloon expanding in my heart with its string tied to my tongue.

My sister shown like a sunbeam. Our (deceased) mom’s presence floated in the air like perfume.

Yes, to the dress.

Yes, to love, wherever we find it within life’s juxtapositions.

Welcome present moment, with all your messy, authentic, bold, and beautiful feelings. I celebrate and anticipate Jayne and Dean’s upcoming spring wedding. You can bet I’ll be dancing.

How I Let My Mind Go Blank.

“We’ve been conditioned to turn away, to not feel.” ~ Sarah Entrup

My kundalini yoga practice consists of a nervous system overhaul set, which requires lying on my back, raising my legs to 90 degrees, and crisscrossing while doing breath of fire (equal breaths in and out through the nose). Then, more sets with leg lifts, crisscrossing, and sit-ups with legs still in the 90-degree position.

At the end of the set, my instructor Sarah tells me, via video, to lie flat on my back and completely relax. I do.

Until my throat tightens.

The neckline of my shirt pulled down my back makes me claustrophobic. In my mind, I see George Floyd and imagine a knee on my neck, although I’m face up.

Halfway through this resting pose, called corpse pose in some yoga, Sarah says, “Let it all go. Let it be a reset. A death. A completion.”

I remember in the now-embedded-in-my-mind video, Mr. Floyd said, “I’m through.”

In my practice, on my mat, I let go. My mind goes blank for this one moment each day.

Later, I think of how he said mama. I choose to believe she was there with him in his final moments, that he said it to the sight of her and a gang of angels greeting him.

I don’t think about that during my practice. I let the moment be a letting go of all thought.

Then, as instructed, I do what George Floyd could not. I move my wrists and ankles, bring my own knees into my chest, and roll up into easy pose to begin my next set.

It’s called subagh kriya and I’m told it helps me align with my destiny.

I like to believe in the big picture, and that maybe George Floyd, the knee on his neck, his tragic death, meant something along the lines of his soul’s destiny.

Not that the man George Floyd would choose that, but Jesus… May George Floyd’s destiny serve our great awakening.

The Spirit These Times Require.

Same thought, different reasons.

Alice in Authorland

So, my dear,
you’ve learned to cry.

Not just reactionary tears,
earnest ones born of
your brave heart.

You see the darkness and refuse
to disrespect yourself
into denial.
Bravo.

Welcome to the juxtaposition:
No one asked you
to lay down
your joy.

Claim it again.
Be a warrior, enlightened.

To fight for light,
enter the darkness
dancing.

Let them hear your laughter.

Flash your smile
like a peace sign
as you pledge to do your part.

In one bucket, carry the problems.
In the other, the spirit with
which to transform them.

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How to Transform a Heart.

“After all, most people see no reason to question their own beliefs, much less solicit yours.” ~ David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

Fire, Water, Mother Earth, God, Angels, transform me.

Rebirth me. Pull me from the ashes. I welcome the metamorphosis.

I do not resist. I do not go numb or deaf or die. I awaken.

I’m a seedling under the cement—screaming to bloom.

I’m parched for water and sunshine. I seek the light with my every cell.

In this black night, I see the stars. I’m enchanted.

I feel angels hovering over us, making way for breakthrough.

Everything is different now: my brain, health, vision, belief, expectation…

The sky sings lavender tanzanite. Clouds dance the purest white.

Our voice, tears, and physical presence shift. We stand hearty.

Present for the party of the people, hangover and all.

Learning to be. Remembering to listen.

Seeing anew.

Walls fall. Boundaries clarify.

Scars expose themselves without apology.

Dreams arise, not from the mind, but the heart.

Time ticks precious. Moment by moment. Intention for joy: everyone’s.

Acceptance of pain. Connected. Alive. In all the messiness.

All that it means. What no longer matters.

Beauty to behold. Unafraid. Unattached.

Free to embrace what comes next.